Starting a new business is a risky venture. A lot of capital might need to go in before any comes back in return. Even the most successful startup will go through spells when the future looks decidedly uncertain, before establishing themselves as a profitable enterprise. In order to find sufficient investment to succeed, the entrepreneur needs to convince potential investors and financial institutions that the new company will establish itself and start to make a return within a reasonable timeframe, and with an acceptably low risk of failure.

Graham has spent many years in the catering business and, having spotted a gap in the regional market for selling kitchen equipment to the general public, decides to set up in business. He's certain that Gourmet Gadgets will prove to be a great success, and has spent a great deal of time analysing supply and demand in the market, researching opportunities, and assessing likely costs. However, in trying to obtain the investment that he needs, merely possessing data that points towards a prosperous future isn't enough. He'll need to be able to share this information with would-be investors, in order to convince them of the positive future he already believes in.

To get this information across and promote his plans in the process, Graham is using Microsoft Excel. He used Excel initially to collate the data for his own purposes - he maintained a spreadsheet of forecast statistics, such as projected income, expenditure and growth. He can easily share the spreadsheets themselves, offering investors a detailed breakdown of the data. But if he wants the information to be more appealing and persuasive, Excel gives him many options for making his plans appear more professional and effective.

Graham can easily enhance the appearance of the figures themselves; rather than simple black numbers in row after row of white boxes, conditional formatting allows individual pieces of data to be highlighted as Graham sees fit. For instance, lines that are expected to be more profitable can be marked with a brighter or more distinct colour than those which are projected to produce lower turnover for the company. Alternatively, differing prospective scenarios can be indicated with clear and comprehensible graphics, such as traffic lights or stars.

A clear, visual impression of how the business is expected to progress can be formed through Excel's wide range of professional charts and diagrams for every purpose. Projected changes in revenue or costs over a period of time; expected sales of certain items in proportion to one another; expenditure divided up according to percentage of the total - any information that needs to be understood can be illustrated stylishly and engagingly. By putting the key details across in an appealing and easily understood manner, Graham's plan can be that much more persuasive.

Excel can also produce 'business dashboards' for Graham to share with potential investors. These dashboards are concise, accessible summaries of the most critical data, with comprising charts, figures and reports of the vital statistics, and provide an easy way for Graham to present the central points of his plan and projections, and for investors to better understand his intentions and methods.

Graham doesn't just want to provide the information at a meeting, though - he needs to be able to leave a copy of the proposal with the hoped-for investors. Of course, spreadsheets and charts in Excel can be printed directly, but a much more professional and appealing result can be obtained using Microsoft Word. Anything he creates in Excel, in whatever form, can be inserted at the touch of a button into a Word document, and placed within a stylish and effective statement of his plans.

With Excel, Graham can be sure that Gourmet Gadgets will cut the mustard, and that his plans for the new venture will convince investors of a tasty future return. In order to get the most from Excel - and the best for his prospects - a short training course would help him, as it could help you. If you're planning a new business, or simply looking to progress an existing enterprise, it's time to let Excel help you carve yourself a slice of a prosperous future.