Making the Business Case (with Lauren Stefaniak of Victoria's Secret)

Lauren Stefaniak

Lauren Stefaniak
Director of Creative Operations
VICTORIA'S SECRET

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Podcast Episode 68

Summary

There is an art form to asking your company for money or resources, and while business lingo changes and evolves all the time, right now that art form is called making a business case. It might not be a surprise to you that this skill generally doesn't get taught in photography school nor is it wisdom passed among stylists while setting up the next look. It's a skill that really gets developed on the job, and the opportunity to practice doesn't always come up before your thrust into the hot seat. Lauren Stefaniak joins Daniel on the podcast to help you learn how to make that compelling business case, and hopefully prepare you for a new phase of your career.

Key Takeaways

  • What does it mean to make a business case?
    • At its simplest: preparing, developing and presenting an informed point of view in an effort to persuade decision-making in your favor
    • They can seem daunting but on a micro level we do these every day
    • ("what do you want for dinner")
    • Most people focus on the presentation, but that's the smallest part of the whole
    • Iceberg metaphor
      • Preparing - 70%, 10 hours
        • Research the hell out of what you're talking about
        • Look internal
          • Who is your company today, tomorrow, yesterday
            • Can you tie your request to the company's mission or values?
        • Look external (same & different industries)
      • Developing - 20%, 3 hours
        • Distill it down into the most relevant & compelling info - 1-pager
          • Format that works best for me:
            • Current State
            • Request or the Change
            • Benefits
            • Requirements/Key Enablers
            • [Short-term Recommendation]
            • [Long-term Recommendation]
            • Known Open Questions
        • Use language that a friend or family member outside your industry would understand
        • Try to predict what questions you might be asked based on your information; assume someone will ask something you're not prepared for
        • It can be hard to temper the desire to "show your work" but the details will drag you down & make your presentation less effective
        • Put the most relevant details into an appendix, 2 pages max
        • Make the document simple, use visuals as needed (must be pretty)
        • Present & gut-check your work with mid-level partners for their feedback & buy-in ahead of the formal presentation
        • SEND A PRE-READ 48-24 HOURS IN ADVANCE
          • Remember: you've spent many hours in this detail & even more hours living this; for some of your key stakeholders, this will be entirely new info for them. Your presentation could fall apart if leaders are caught off guard when they'd prefer to be prepared
      • Presenting - 7%, 1 hour
        • Enter the room with this mindset:
          • This is not life or death
          • This is not personal
          • These people are someone els's family & friends
        • Ask to hold questions until the end - some questions will be answered in your presentation & Qs won't derail the whole thing
        • Speak slowly & leave time for your audience to digest the info & what you're saying (silence is okay)
        • Allow time for questions & be open, honest in your answers
          • It's ok to not know the answer - you can say "that's a great question, i'll find out that information and get back to you"
        • If you're doing it right, the best metaphor to describe you is a duck gliding across a pond (graceful on the surface, paddling like hell under the water)
      • Commit to following through - this is when the real work begins
        • Send recap notes & next steps following the meeting

Links & Resources

James

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