Sumner Douglas is an expert in growing and funding entrepreneurial ventures and is currently managing partner of VCPlans. Sumner has worked on business plans for a variety of new business ventures and has assisted dozens of clients in securing funding for their new businesses.
Where did the idea for VC Plans come from?
Once I began working in the business plan writing industry, I realized that most companies were not producing plans that met clients’ needs and could actually be used to obtain funding. I wanted to give clients a much more legitimate product using my background in venture capital.
What is your business model?
We take on a limited number of clients in order to spend high quality consulting time with every entrepreneur. These sessions help them hone a solid business model and get their best shot at obtaining funding. Good communication also allows us to knock the business plan out of the park on the first draft.
One of the essential aspects of our model is finding strong market research that can serve as a case for the company and create a firm basis for the financial model. Our financial model is designed so clients can use it to obtain funding and use it for managerial purposes on an ongoing basis. The final punch is the visual appeal we give every plan through custom design.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m constantly on the phone with entrepreneurs of all kinds—some who are already very successful and others who are just learning how to apply sound business principles to achieve their dreams. I take sales calls in between consulting and get to hear a crazy range of ideas.
How do you bring ideas to life?
At VC Plans, we are in the business of helping clients bring their ideas to life by prompting them to visualize their goals and showing them how to execute. By encouraging people to envision their dreams with detail, we essentially build the framework of a business together and set them up to make smart finishing touches on their own.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
With ecommerce taking off, people can become serial entrepreneurs quickly and reach consumers around the world more easily than ever. The web has enabled virtually anyone to start a business, and that’s pretty awesome.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Goldman Sachs. I was executing trades behind a computer all day and I wasn’t passionate about it. I didn’t want to work for someone else, no matter how good the job was on paper. I realized I couldn’t settle for less than my own dream.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have started my company straight out of college instead of getting experience with other companies first. I have always been a natural leader, and embracing it was inevitable.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Continually innovate and push the limits of the product you’re creating. As soon as you become too comfortable, you take the risk of letting your product and passion stagnate.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Harnessing the value of a solid online marketing campaign that includes organic search engine optimization to reach clients around the world on a sustainable basis.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I had settled on a disorganized marketing plan and it kept the company from having a steady flow of clients. To overcome it, I implemented a full-steam online marketing campaign to get the clients I knew were out there. Sometimes you will have problems reaching consumers, and the problem isn’t that they don’t want the product, but that they cant find it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A website where consumers can purchase TV channels a la carte rather than paying for expensive bundles they don’t even want.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I like to relax by making impressionist paintings.
What are your three favorite online tools, software or resources and what do you love about them?
Basecamp is an organizational lifesaver because it allows us to manage several projects on one platform and mutually access our files within the company.
Flipsnack is great because presentation is key. This tool allows people to view our plans as professional flipbooks that do justice to the plans’ visual elements.
Google is our best friend because knowledge is power, and research is essential in so many ways. You can find the answer to virtually any question if you look hard enough and know how to search well.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’m thinking of two that are excellent. Banker to the Poor: Micro-lending and the battle against world poverty, by Muhammad Yunus illustrates the effect of microloans and how they create and empower entrepreneurs. Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat is also a must read because it explains how societies’ decisions have resulted in significant successes and failures.
List three experts who have helped you as an entrepreneur who you think other entrepreneurs should follow. And why?
Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffet. Because they have been wildly successful, and not by accident. One of the best ways for us to learn is by getting into the minds of people who have achieved great success and know how to talk about it.
What did you have for breakfast today?
Coffee and quiche. Like a boss.