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Making a Risk Management Plan for Your Business

It’s impossible to eliminate all business risk. Therefore, it’s essential for having a plan for its management. You’ll be developing one covering compliance, environmental, financial, operational and reputation risk management. These guidelines are for making a risk management plan for your business.

Developing Your Executive Summary

When you start the risk management plan with an executive summary, you’re breaking apart what it will be compromised of into easy to understand chunks. Even though this summary is the project’s high-level overview, the goal is describing the risk management plan’s approach and scope. In doing so, you’re informing all stakeholders regarding what to expect when they’re reviewing these plans so that they can set their expectations appropriately.

Who Are the Stakeholders and What Potential Problems Need Identifying?

During this phase of making the risk management plan, you’re going to need to have a team meeting. Every member of the team must be vocal regarding what they believe could be potential problems or risks. Stakeholders should also be involved in this meeting as well to help you collect ideas regarding what could become a potential risk. All who are participating should look at past projects, what went wrong, what is going wrong in current projects and what everyone hopes to achieve from what they learned from these experiences. During this session, you’ll be creating a sample risk management plan that begins to outline risk management standards and risk management strategies.

Evaluate the Potential Risks Identified

A myriad of internal and external sources can pose as risks including commercial, management and technical, for example. When you’re identifying what these potential risks are and have your list complete, the next step is organizing it according to importance and likelihood. Categorize each risk according to how it could impact your project. For example, does the risk threaten to throw off timelines or budgets? Using a risk breakdown structure is an effective way to help ensure all potential risks are effectively categorized and considered. Use of this risk management plan template keeps everything organized and paints a clear picture of everything you’re identifying.

Assign Ownership and Create Responses

It’s essential to ensure a team member is overseeing each potential risk. That way, they can jump into action should an issue occur. Those who are assigned a risk, as well as the project manager, should work as a team to develop responses before problems arise. That way, if there are issues, the person overseeing the risk can refer to the response that was predetermined.

Have a System for Monitoring

Having effective risk management companies plans includes having a system for monitoring. It’s not wise to develop a security risk management or compliance risk management plan, for example, without having a system for monitoring. What this means is there’s a system for monitoring in place to ensure risk doesn’t occur until the project is finished. In doing so, you’re ensuring no new risks will potentially surface. If one does, like during the IT risk management process, for example, your team will know how to react.


franchise business plan deca guidelines

Writing a Business Plan

franchise business plan deca guidelines

While it may be tempting to put off, creating a business plan is an essential part of starting your own business. Plans and proposals should be put in a clear format making it easy for potential investors to understand. Because every company has a different goal and product or service to offer, there are business plan templates readily available to help you get on the right track. Many of these templates can be adapted for any company. In general, a business plan writing guide will recommend that the following sections be incorporated into your plan.

Executive Summary

The executive summary is the first section that business plans open with, but is often the last section to actually be written as it’s the most difficult to write. The executive summary is a summary of the overall plan that highlights the key points and gives the reader an idea of what lies ahead in the document. It should include areas such as the business opportunity, target market, marketing and sales strategy, competition, the summary of the financial plan, staff members and a summary of how the plan will be implemented. This section needs to be extremely clear, concise and engaging as you don’t want the reader to push your hard work aside.

Company Description

The company description follows the executive summary and should cover all the details about the company itself. For example, if you are writing a business plan for an internet café, you would want to include the name of the company, where the café would be located, who the main team members involved are and why, how large the company is, who the target market for the internet cafe is, what type of business structure the café is, such as LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, what the internet café business mission and vision statements are, and what the business’s short-term objectives are.

Services and Products

This is the exciting part of the plan where you get to explain what new and improved services or products you are offering. On top of describing the product or service itself, include in the plan what is currently in the market in this area, what problems there are in this area and how your product is the solution. For example, in a business plan for a food truck, perhaps there are numerous other food trucks in the area, but they are all fast –food style and unhealthy so, you want to introduce fast food that serves only organic and fresh ingredients every day. This is where you can also list your price points and future products or services you anticipate.

Market Analysis

The market analysis section will take time to write and research as a lot of effort and research need to go into it. Here is where you have the opportunity to describe what trends are showing up, what the growth rate in this sector looks like, what the current size of this industry is and who your target audience is. A cleaning business plan, for example, may include how this sector has been growing by 10% every year due to an increase in large businesses being built in the city.

Organization and Management

Marketing and sales are the part of the business plan where you explain how you will attract and retain clients. How are you reaching your target customers and what incentives do you offer that will keep them coming back? For a dry cleaner business plan, perhaps if they refer customers, they will get 10% off their next visit. In addition, you may want to explain what needs to be done in order for the business to be profitable. This is a great way of showing that you are conscious about what clear steps need to be taken to make a business successful.

Financial Projections & Appendix

The financial business plan section can be a tricky one to write as it is based on projections. Usually what is included is the short-term projection, which is a year broken down by month and should include start-up permits, equipment, and licenses that are required. This is followed by a three-year projection broken down by year and many often write a five-year projection, but this does not need to be included in the business plan.

The appendix is the last section and contains all the supporting documents and/or required material. This often includes resumes of those involved in the company, letters of reference, product pictures and credit histories. Keep in mind that your business plan is always in development and should be adjusted regularly as your business grows and changes.


franchise business plan deca guidelines

High School

Franchise business plan.

The purpose of the Franchise Business Plan Event is designed for participants to present a comprehensive business plan proposal to buy into an existing franchise. The participant seeks to become a franchisee.


Written entry page limit, appear before a judge, present plan, interview time, sponsored by:.


Essential Elements

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franchise business plan deca guidelines

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The Pre-Med That Could

The Brutally Honest Thoughts of a Pre-Med

Franchise Business Plan – DECA Written Events

Franchise business plan.

Franchise Business Plan, or EFB, is a DECA entrepreneurship written that requires the creation of a strategic franchise plan for an existing business. This can be any type of business as long as the competitor provides a logical explanation for why said business should be franchised. Of all the entrepreneurship events, this one seems to be one of the less popular, right above business growth plan, probably due to the complex vocabulary and depth of research one has to conduct in order to devise a viable plan. Sometimes, information for a certain business can be impossible to find.

As part of my DECA series, I’m going through some different written event types and sharing my two cents on them. As the chapter president, I was able to support a lot of members with their different written events. Here’s a guide for beginner DECA members. Remember to use your chapter officers as a primary resource for questions and advice on your project! This guide is intended to help you start your report.

First and foremost, FOLLOW the guidelines:

Guidelines → Follow these or else you’ll get penalty points. The only way you’ll win in DECA is if you score more points than the other competitors in your category, so you don’t want to risk losing any points to avoidable penalties.

The Goal:  Develop a strategic franchise plan for an existing business.

How to make an awesome franchise:, step 1: brainstorm ideas.

In order to create an awesome franchise, you need an idea. If you already have that million-dollar idea, you can go ahead and skip this step.

If you’re still trying to think of what to propose, try to come up with a list of 4-5 different ideas that you can play around with.

Step 2: Why Franchise This Business? And to Where?

In order to convince the judge that your franchise plan is well thought out and a winning idea, you need to be able to explain why the business should be franchised. For each business on your list, think of relevant reasons why your franchise is needed and where that franchise would operate best. It may be helpful to find a city with similar demographics to one where a branch of your chosen business already exists.

If you can’t come up with a strong “this is why we need this franchise” or “this business would be successful in xyz city because” explanation, then maybe consider another business.

Some reasons why a franchise is needed:

Step 3: Narrowing Down to One Idea

From  your list, CHOOSE the business that has the STRONGEST reason.

A strong franchise is one that is in HIGH DEMAND and does not already exist within the vicinity of the area you are expanding to. Also make sure you research the chosen business and are able to find supporting financial documents and history on the business that you may need to add to your report. Sometimes, smaller businesses have less data available which makes it very difficult to continue building a franchise plan. The less financial and historical data you have to make up or guess, the better.

Step 4: Write Your Written

Again, you want to make sure you follow the guidelines provided on DECA’s competitive event page and cover everything listed. The breakdown I have below is according to the 2019-2020 guidelines so be sure to review the new rubric for any changes.

The Executive Summary

Do the Executive Summary last. Here, you want to capture all the key points that you wrote in your plan. The best executive summary is one that allows the judge to understand your complete idea with a 5 minute skim. I like to use visuals in my executive summary but I know tons of top reports that have used block paragraphs instead. Use what works for you, but don’t bore the judge either.

Business History, Background, Objects

This is where you introduce your proposed existing business to the judge; make sure to cover all the key points (A through E) listed in the guidelines in detail.

USE TABLES/CHARTS/GRAPHICS to engage the judge for each one. It’s best if you include examples and statistics (research, research, research!). You want to convince the judge that you know this business inside and out. This is the first time the judge will get to truly read about your business, so you don’t want to leave out any key points.

History can often be very boring, at least to me, so I suggest you use an engaging format and maybe even several headers to break up each section.

Business Environment

In this section, you want to honestly explain how your business is currently doing and how you predict it will perform in the future. Again, this has to be a completely honest review of your business:

Again, this is a lot of information, so take advantage of charts and diagrams!

Products and/or Services

Here’s your opportunity to introduce what exactly your chosen business sells. Make sure to explain each of the products or services in detail and include any relevant information (pricing/popularity/seasonal changes/etc.)

Be strategic about the order you list your products/services in if there are multiple. Maybe list the most popular or interesting sounding first?

Present Market

Here’s where you explain WHY you will franchise to the location that you are. This section is basically the same as describing customer segments for a new start-up business plan. You want to ask yourself to whom are you selling, or in other words, your target market, and why you chose that specific location to franchise in. Make sure to include real potential risks and also cover ALL of the sections (A-D) in the guidelines with at least a paragraph or table each.

Here are some details you probably want to include when describing your target market and how they match the demographics of the location to where you are franchising:


You want to identify SPECIFIC companies that pose a competition to your business, not just broad categories. Explain why they are a competition, what they do well and not so well and explain how your business is different → make sure to break it down into categories as listed in guidelines (A-C). It might be helpful to make a chart or check list here.

Marketing plan

Again, making sure to cover points A and B, describe specifically the marketing plans that have been working for your business. It may be helpful to include graphics like posters or advertisements the existing business has been using and how you will incorporate those into the future.

franchise business plan deca guidelines

Management and Organization

This section is all about the logistics of the current business and a skeleton of the one you plan to franchise. Start by explaining the current structure of the management team and touch on what is and is not doing well with that structure in place. Then address how you will use that information to model your new franchise’s management structure. Again, make sure you cover all the sections A-D.

I’ve seen lots of people make a flow chart style to help judges really see who reports to who. That might be something to consider.

Business Resources

Here’s where a lot of people will slack and you can have an advantage → BE SPECIFIC!!!!!

If you can’t find a specific list of things through your research, brainstorm what you would logically need to run your business. Hit each point completely and with examples if applicable. If you believe it, the judge will too.

Detailed Financials

This part is the longest, most dreadful part of the entire project. The hardest part is trying to understand what each section is trying to ask of you and estimating costs and income, especially if data from existing locations isn’t readily available to you. I wish I could help you here but I feel that my numbers aren’t even correct so the best way to go about this is to look at some examples online and maybe download some templates (at least that’s what I did) and try your best to sound believable. If you have the access, be reasonable in your projections using sales and profit trends from other branches of your business to predict your own.

Make a pitch for the amount of MONEY that you want from the judge. This can be in the form of a long-term loan or capital. Make sure to include the interest rate and why the judge should invest in your business. Ask for any amount of money you want as long as it’s reasonable to your business.


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Andrew Weatherman

Aug 16, 2017

The Ultimate DECA Written Event Guide

Recently, I was asked by a few DECA members for written event competition tips. After scouring DECA Direct for advice, I realized that there is no leading document full of tips, so I decided to author my own. This guide will outline the process and framework I used last year en route to DECA Glass.

Hi there! Before we get started, I think you should know a little bit about me. My name is Andrew Weatherman. I wrote this article to assist members along the difficult journey that is competing in a written event. At the 2017 ICDC in Anaheim, California, I placed 2nd in the International Business Plan category.

When I wrote this article, I was serving as the State President of North Carolina DECA. Additionally, I served North Carolina DECA as a VP and a voting member on the Board of Directors. Following my term as state president, I was elected as the 2018–2019 DECA Inc. Executive President. I am now a sophomore at Duke University, double majoring in Public Policy and Economics. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram — @andreweatherman — or send me a LinkedIn connection .

Important Updates for the 2018–2019 Year

For the 2018–2019 year, DECA updated the general written event guidelines, and with those updates, some important changes will be implemented this year! Information regarding the phasing out of the Marketing Representative Events and the implementation of the Integrated Marketing Campaign events will be discussed in the Stage 0 section of the guide.

Written Event Length:

The double-spacing requirement for “major content” was deleted. And as a result, the written event page lengths were adjusted.

All written events must be printed single-sided.

Presentation Visuals:

March 31st Edit: Top Tips for ICDC

First of all, if you’re reading this in preparation for Atlanta, then congratulations on reaching ICDC! Qualifying for ICDC is no easy task, so you should be proud of your accomplishment. If you’re serious about competing in Atlanta, then go ahead and read these tips (and the guide, if you haven’t!). As ICDC nears, I have received a few questions about presentations and how to make your paper stand out. Here are a collection of my top tips for ICDC!

Like the rest of this guide, feel free to take my advice as just that — advice. I don’t know your project; I don’t know your presentation strengths; I don’t know what works for you and/or your group. I’m just a dude behind a computer. You do you, but these are my suggestions.

If It Ain’t Broken, Don’t Fix It

If you didn’t know, you can make edits to your CDC paper before you submit your ICDC paper. (You bring your paper to ICDC and submit it at conference.) However, this does not give you the green light to haphazardly edit your paper. If you received a perfect score on your Executive Summary section, and you believe the score was not by fluke, then why edit your paper?! (This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who do this.) Though, if you received a poor score on the Financials section, then I’d definitely recommend editing. Also, I recommend giving your paper a read through and fixing any grammatical errors that hinder comprehension and flow and double-checking penalty points.

In short, if you received a good (read: perfect or near-perfect score) mark on a section, then don’t edit it before ICDC! If you make too many changes to an essay, then the paper reads inauthentic and losses its power; likewise, the quality of an excessively edited DECA paper holds an inverse relationship with the number of frivolous edits.

What’s Your Ideal Presentation Method?

A quick stroll through the holding rooms at ICDC will reveal troves of high-tech, colorful presentation boards. (Like, seriously, there should be a who’s-board-can-include-the-most-iPads competition.) To some, this may seem intimidating. Personally, I was rocking a PowerPoint and a clicker, so I was scared out of my mind that these elaborate light-up boards were going to embarrass me. (In Nashville, one guy used a rolling clothes hanger and a life-size roll of toilet paper in [read: as ] his presentation.) But, they didn’t — quite the opposite, really — and here’s why:

If you’re working with one of these boards, then great! You have the perfect opportunity to impress your judge with a solid pitch and great aesthetics — making you difficult to forget. If you’re like me, though, and rolling with a simple, non-animated PowerPoint, then get ready to give the best pitch of your life.

Side note: A hybrid of the two methods I will discuss exists and is likely what many will use. Instead of thinking of this as an explanation of the extremes, consider this with the mindset of outlining how to achieve perfection in your mix .

Generally, a fancy board will take away from your speaking. If you aren’t the best public speaker but a great designer, then go for an extravagant board! Likely, your judge won’t be able to take their eyes off it. That said, though, you must make your board effective . You have a solar panel built into your trifold board? Cool. I don’t care. You have a tricycle mounted on a board (true story)? Awesome. I don’t care. Get the jist? A fancy presentation board is a great way to get the attention of your judge and for them to remember you. But, don’t go overboard: a profilgate board is the death of a great project. Further, a high-tech presentation board does not — and will not — compensate for a weak pitch. That said, if you’re going with a presentation board, follow these tips to make it effective :

Generally, a plain presentation (a PPT, pretty much) will not blow your judge’s socks off; that’s a given. How do you impress them, then? Give a great pitch. If you fancy yourself a strong public speaker, then definitely consider going this route. An intricate presentation board pulls attention away from your pitch. Better yet, if you can include an opening that calls on pathos, then this is definitely the best way to go. Though, it does not come without its pitfalls, too. Namely, this method will not leave your judge with the “wow” factor (besides your verbal pitch) that many competitors who go the latter route will have. Further, this method places sole dependence on a great verbal pitch. If you fault at this, then your project is likely toast.

What presentation method is best for you?

Then go with a expertly designed presentation board. Although the judge may lose focus on you, your effective board will provide them with all of the information they need to supplement their “selective hearing” while impressing them with your design skills. Options range from a trifold to a life-size toilet paper roll on a rolling clothes rack. The choices are limitless .

Then go for a traditional PowerPoint presentation. Although this option may bore some, you are confident that your speaking skills will leave a lasting impression in the judge’s mind about your impeccable project.

(Wow. That sounded more like a BuzzFeed quiz…)

Bring Your I.D.

Okay, so 2017 was the first year I competed with a written event at ICDC, and NO ONE told me you had to bring your I.D. when you went to turn in your paper. (S/O to Dylan Heneghan for running to the hotel to get it for me.) So, just a heads up, you must bring photo identification with you when you go to submit your paper at ICDC, or you have to go back to your hotel, grab your I.D., and wait in the super long line — again.

So, How Do I Reach Finals?

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t really sure how competition at ICDC works. At North Carolina’s — and many associations’ — CDC, we don’t have preliminary rounds. At ICDC, however, these rounds exist, and there are two stages separating you from that coveted DECA Glass.

The first stage is the preliminary round. During this round, you will compete against 19 projects (give or take, depending on your event). To advance out of the preliminary round and be recognized as an international finalist (a blue ribbon medal), you must be one of the top two scoring projects from your group. In each event, there are around 160 competitors; again, depending on your event, 16–20 projects will advance to the finals round. International finalists will be announced during the achievement awards session (which is the morning of Grand Awards).

If you are a voting delegate and reach the finals round, then your competition time may coincide with the Business and Elections session, so make sure you have someone on call that can fill in for you and vote (or however your association handles that). Also, it is possible that your competition time will be very, very close to the conclusion of the achievement awards session. If your event is one of the final events to be announced, then I recommend skipping the photo-op and running to check your competition time: photos can wait; you don’t want to miss your presentation time, and you may want to run through your pitch one final time.

In the finals round, every project presents to the same judge. That said, it is even more imperative that you give a killer presentation. Out of the 16 or 20 projects in the finals round, only ten will be named Overall Finalist (a large red, white, and blue ribbon medal with an advisor pin), and called on stage. Out of those ten, three will be awarded DECA Glass.

In everything, confidence is key, and this is especially true at ICDC. If you go into your pitch thinking you have the worst project ever, then, likely, you’re not going to do so hot. Contrary, though, you astronomically raise your chances of getting Glass by, simply, believing. (This is 100% supported by thorough scientific research — without a doubt.) Jokes aside, however, judges can sense if you’re apprehensive. While it’s okay to be nervous (it proves you actually care ), try your best not to a) show it and b) let it get to you. Before you step into the blue curtain, take a few breaths, relax , and believe . You’ll do great.

Competition. Isn’t. Everything.

This is, without a doubt, my most important tip.

I said this in my Presidential farewell; I said this at chapter meetings; I say this when pitching DECA.


That said, enjoy your time at ICDC: meet new friends, explore exciting cities, make a memory that will last a lifetime! Don’t sit in your hotel room religiously rehearsing your script. Take advantage of the DECA-exclusive events that occur at ICDC. This conference brings over 19,000 people from all fifty states and multiple countries to one city. You. Will. Not. Get. This. Opportunity. Again. I guarantee that if you walk around the Georgia Convention Center for fifteen minutes and try to meet new people, you will walk away exposed to unprecedented amounts of varying culture and personalities.

No matter the results in Atlanta, you made it, and that’s no easy task. Congratulations, and I wish you all the best!

Stage 0: Finding The Right Event

Let’s start out by addressing the elephant in the room: written events aren’t for everyone. They’re a super fun and different way to compete, but they sure aren’t suited for the average member. Written events are a process, and they require months of preparation, all-nighters, and a lot — a lot — of research. If you love solving a challenging problem on your feet, then I’d advise staying away from written events (go for role plays!). However, if you like having a prepared plan and the opportunity to rehearse, go ahead and try a written event!

Awesome, so now you’ve (more-or-less) decided on whether or not to compete in a written event. Before we begin planning out our paper, we must decide which event to compete in! The great thing is that DECA’s Competitive Event series offers a plethora of exciting events to chose from. Unfortunately, you can only pick one. In my opinion, choosing the right event to compete in is the most overlooked but vital part of the competition process. DECA breaks the written events into four categories: Business and Operations Research Events, Chapter Team Events, Entrepreneurship Events, and Integrated Marketing Campaign Events. Below I will summarize the DECA competition poster attached and provide slight commentary on each category. To learn more about a specific event, go to DECA’s competition section of their website , and the link for the guidelines of every event will be attached when the event is first mentioned.

Business and Operations Research Events (BOR)

Events in this category have a maximum page limit of thirty pages and allow for a single competitor, a partnership, or a team of three. There are five events that fall under the BOR umbrella: Business Services , Buying and Merchandising , Finance Operations , Hospitality and Tourism Operations , and Sports and Entertainment Operations . BOR events provide you the opportunity to conduct research with a local business/organization and present your findings to a judge at competition. These events follow a topic that changes from year-to-year. The 2019 topic for every BOR event is as follows: The 2019 topic for each career category is the development of a cause marketing campaign. Participants will collaborate with a local business or organization to analyze current customer perceptions of the company or organization’s corporate social responsibility. Participants will then present a strategic plan to create a cause marketing campaign that aligns to the company or organization’s core values. BOR events are a great way to connect with local business and understand how they work! If you like business research and strategy, BOR is a great fit for you!

Chapter Team Events

In my home association of North Carolina, Chapter Team events are the Holy Grail; if you want to prove that you are the best competing chapter, a great way to do that is to tackle the Chapter Team events. Like BOR events, Chapter Team events have a maximum page limit of thirty pages and allow for a single competitor, a partnership, or a team of three chapter representatives. There are six events that fall under the Chapter Team umbrella: Community Service Project , Creative Marketing Project , Entrepreneurship Promotion Project , Financial Literacy Project , Learn and Earn Project , and Public Relations Project . Chapter Team events provide the amazing opportunity to engage chapter members in school-wide/community-wide activities that cover the specific event. Many chapters already put on amazing school/community activities, and the Chapter Team events allow you to showcase your chapter’s awesome outreach/impact! I always recommend chapters of any size to pick an event and go for it! If your chapter is up to the challenge, you can do all six events! If you like event planning and management and want to have a tangible impact on your school or community, try a chapter event!

Entrepreneurship Events

My favorite written event category, entrepreneurship events give you the opportunity to “explore entrepreneurial concepts from idea generation, business planning, to growing an existing business.” Unlike BOR and Chapter Team events, however, the events that fall under the Entrepreneurship umbrella have different rules from one another. The Innovation Plan and Start-up Business Plan have a page limit of ten. While the Franchise Business Plan , Independent Business Plan , Business Growth Plan , and International Business Plan have a maximum page limit of twenty. Unlike all other written events, though, the Business Growth Plan has strict rules on who can compete; since this event involves crafting a detailed growth plan and strategy for a business owned by a DECA member, all competitors must be “documented owners/operators of the business — a parents’ business does not qualify.” All events, though, allow for a single competitor, a partnership, or a team of three. Having a budding affinity for the world of entrepreneurship, I instantly gravitated towards these events. My sophomore year I competed in Start-Up Business Plan, and my junior year I competed in International Business Plan. If you have any interest in entrepreneurship, I highly recommend looking into these events!

Integrated Marketing Campaigns

The Integrated Marketing Campaigns will replace the Marketing Representative Events, effective during the 2018–2019 DECA year. As these events are new, not many tips exist for them. Per DECA’s website, these events “provide opportunities for members to develop an integrated marketing campaign of no more than 45 days in length for a real event, product or service and present the campaign in a role-play situation.” Much like the events they are replacing, IMCs are a hybrid between traditional written events and series events: while you still present a paper to a judge, you/your team must also take a career cluster exam (marketing cluster). If you are competing with multiple people on a team, you take the test individually, and your score is averaged. There are three events under the IMC umbrella, and all three allow for a single competitor, a partnership, or a team of three.

Since these events are new to everyone, I will list out the the umbrella of IMC in more detail:

Marketing Representative Events

As of the 2018–2019 DECA year, these events are no longer offered and were replaced by the Integrated Marketing Campaign series. The events that were under this umbrella and phased out include the Advertising Campaign, Fashion Merchandising Promotional Plan, and Sports and Entertainment Promotional Plan .

So Which Is Right For Me?

Now that you have familiarized yourself with the numerous written events offered, you are probably overloaded with potential options and don’t know which to pick. Surprisingly, this is a great problem to have! Unfortunately, there is no binary solution. No formula, advice, etc. can make that decision for you. Go with your gut; ask teachers and fellow members, but the end decision is yours, so own it.

“Choose something you are passionate about. The less passionate you are about your topic, the less productive you will be.” — Ben Smith; Wisconsin DECA VP of Event Managment.

When I decided to compete in a written event my junior year, it was a no-brainer: I love presenting and researching, so of course, I had to go the written route! The tough decision, though, was what event to pick. I knew I had to go for an entrepreneurship event so that automatically narrowed the field. The previous year, I competed in an eleven-page event, and I thought that limit was too restrictive, so I had to go for a thirty-pager. Honestly, the decision was only between two events — Independent or International. Like I said, I love researching, and I really wanted to squeeze the most out of this event as I could. That said, I chose the International Business Plan because it gave me the opportunity to research the culture and business/entrepreneurship environment of another country.

Stage 1: The Core

Now that you have a better understanding of what written event you’d like to compete in, we can move onto the skeleton of your event: the core member(s). This is the stage that you DO NOT WANT TO SKIP . You can slack on any other stage and produce a winning project, but if you chose to slack on this stage, then you can kiss your Glass hopes bye.

Team or No Team — That is The Question.

Every DECA written event allows you to compete solo, as a partnership, or as a group of three. Like every project or idea, the team is the backbone and will make or break everything . Choosing your team, or not choosing one, is the single most important decision you will make during your project. Your partner/group members, though, must be from your home chapter.

Flying Solo — Pros and Cons

If you are the type of person who wants absolute control over every aspect of your project, this is the route you need to take. Personally, I chose to fly solo. If you lack innate self-initiative and are a weak presenter, I urge you to not even consider this option. Flying solo feels great — you never have to deal with conflicting schedules, you can work on your own time, and you make every decision. But, that also opens you up to some pretty (potentially) devastating negatives. When it comes to presenting, you have the full load of work; you can’t rely on someone else to cover certain parts. When it comes time to make a decision, you have full say, so if you don’t consult outside help, you’re getting a very biased view. You have no one to hold you responsible to any deadline, and if you start to lose interest, you will have to find a way to reel yourself back in.

Teaming— Pros and Cons

If you have a strong core of one or two chapter members that possess wildly different (applicable) skill sets and mesh well, forming a team with those members is a great way to go. From the paper standpoint, the team route (when executed well) decreases the workload and dependence of all members. From a presenting standpoint, each member can cover certain parts of the pitch, which should allow for better (and impressive) flow and transition (plus you can wear matching outfits, and that’s pretty cool). However, this route also opens itself up to (potentially) devastating negatives: team communication has to be at maximum level during the project (I recommend Slack if you have a team of three); arguments can break out over trite team decisions; stupid high school drama could wreck your team. If done well, teaming can be a perfect option, but any slip up during the project could spell doom to all of your hard work. Tred with caution.

I recommend setting aside a few weeks at the start of school to survey new DECA members and observe returners (summer changes some people). If you take this step early, there is absolutely no reason to rush to rash and impulsive decisions. If you decide to form a partnership or team, take a week to just talk — doesn’t have to be about DECA. No matter the skillset or promises offered by anyone, you must mesh well with your team (this isn’t necessarily a start-up; no need to be a Steve Jobs). Also, a word of wisdom: I’ve gotten burned by (looking back) ludicrous promises by teammates. Don’t be blinded by outlandish promises; they are almost always too good to be true.

Stage 2: Planning and Research

Lemme be 100: if you don’t know how to plan well and conduct sound research, you better start learning. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT , think you are too good or too smart for planning and research. If you have that mindset, stop reading right now. Even though I have harped on the importance of research and planning, I have purposely left this stage relatively empty . I hate when people tell me how to conduct research or how to plan, as I have my own weird methods, so I don’t want to waste your time telling you how to do your thing. Find the methods that work best for you/your team.

I’ll be honest — I’m the most unorganized person you’ll ever meet. I never plan for anything. That said, I still had a rough sketch and timetable for my event. It wasn’t much, and it doesn’t have to be much. A simple print-out of the event guidelines, a few dates/ranges scribbled here and there, and that was it. I’m a driven guy, so I could count on that drive and desire to win to push me. If you need a little more planning (this works well with teams, but can also work well for a single person), try Trello — a free online to-do board where you can collaborate with others, assign tasks, set due dates, and add notes (see below). I’m not a big fan of agendas, but many groups find it very helpful to set a meeting agenda whenever they are going to be working on the project.

For a Glass-worthy paper, you will spend twice the amount of time researching than you will actually writing the paper. That said, researching is uberly important. For example, for my IBP event, I have a folder on my computer full of PDFs from research, paper revisions, audio from meetings and calls, charts and graphs, etc. I even found an amazing e-book with a few chapters especially pertinent to my paper, emailed the publishing company, and received a hard copy (free of charge) in the mail a couple of weeks later. When I conducted research, I always brought a notepad with me, so I could jot down any tidbits, figures, etc. that could’ve brought potential benefit to my paper. I get easily distracted, so to combat this during my paper time, I went to my local library to do all of my work. I think this helped a ton when it came to getting stuff done in an efficient manner, and I would recommend you/your team to find a quiet “paper place,” somewhere you all meet when it’s time to finally get down to business.

“Thoroughly document your [research] while it’s going on. You won’t remember everything you did when trying to write about it.” — Lena Kellogg; LV DECA President

Stage 3: The Paper

Ah, after weeks/months of planning and researching, it’s finally time to start seriously drafting your paper. A word of advice: don’t get too attached to your first, or second, or third (you get the idea) draft; it will suck. I know an advisor, we’ll call them X, who has a particularly harsh way of letting you know that your paper is complete garbage: X will call up each team, one-by-one, and ask to see the draft. X will start making small changes, and if they believe that they have made too many adjustments, they will simply CNTRL+A and DELETE your work. Tough love. But, that’s so crucial in the drafting stage — of anything, DECA paper or college essay. As a serious competitor, you need to channel your inner X; try to read your paper through the lens of X and make changes just as a harsh third-party would. That’s how winners work.

A quick pro tip, no matter if you’re working alone or as a group, enlist the help of your advisors, friends, trusted family, and outside sources to give you feedback on your paper. For example, I enlisted the help of several business professionals and an advisor that wasn’t even mine. However, make sure to explain to them that they need to be 100% honest in their critical feedback. People you know will often give you sugar-coated advice, and this will do more harm to your project than good.

“Make sure that you have someone other than yourself go over [your paper] and make sure it meets the guidelines in every way it needs to.” — Brian Josephson; Oregon DECA President

How Important Is My Paper?

This is an awesome question. After all, your paper isn’t the only thing that is scored. Depending on your event, your presentation can count for as much as 50% of the overall score, meaning your paper also counts for 50%. However, the paper in a thirty-pager will count for 60% of your score, making the paper that much more important. Attached is a chart presented at a 2016 Power Trip workshop by Ms. Annie Hulse from Oakton DECA, so all credit goes to her.

Even with the recent changes to the written event guidelines, the graphic below still stands (just ignore the page length headers)!

Executive Summary (ES)

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR PAPER! Many judges won’t have time to read your entire paper, so they will read your summary in-depth and skim the rest. Therefore, it is paramount to have a killer ES. I can’t stress this enough. Start with a bang, sell the problem and solution (but hit hard on the problem), and focus on what makes you stand out (UVP). When writing the summary, which should be the last thing you write , imagine that your ES is the only thing your judge will read (which it could be), and you need to sell him on your idea with that ES.

“Your ES is the most important feature of any written [event] that you compete with.” — Secundino Garcia (Cooper); Michigan DECA Member

Let The Score Sheet Be The Blueprint

I don’t care if you’ve written hundreds of business plans in your life. I don’t care if you’ve taken Entrepreneurship XXX and know the components of a solid business plan by heart. Do not think that just because you were told that a certain section isn’t important that you don’t need to include it in your paper. Oh, by rearranging these sections, I’ll certainly stand out! That’s a common thought, but erroneous in every way. Marry the guidelines of your event! Know them better than the writers. This is a competition, and the guidelines were provided for a reason. Judges are sticklers for judging a paper off the guidelines. A super awesome thing to do at this moment would be to print out the guidelines of every event that you are considering (see below for where to access the guidelines). They are that important. In your paper (and presentation, but we’ll get to that) be certain to include the exact vocabulary from the rubric and guidelines in your writing.

Content or Appearance

An age-old debate between research hounds and perfectionists: should my paper be content heavy or aesthetically pleasing? Personally, I have seen more success from a hybrid. Include the most important details, and be thorough on those details, for every section and elaborate on the vital portions (consult the rubric for point values to determine these), but don’t slack on the visuals — make your paper pretty ! No judge will read — or even skim — a paper that is 95% black-and-white text. Include meaningful, colorful graphs to ease the reading. If you can, substitute text for bullet points or flow charts. Once you decide on a logo and font, maintain a consistent color scheme and font usage. For example, I included my company’s logo as the center header on every page, and the footer with the required page number was in the color scheme of my company. Make sure, though, that you aren’t adding visuals just to add them. They have to add substance to your paper. A respectable content-to-visual ratio for every page (that isn’t financials) is 75:25.

“Use charts and graphs in your paper (especially in the ES). It’ll make [your paper] easier to read for the judge.” — Allie Barry; Missouri DECA President

Penalty Points

Penalty points will literally ruin everything. In my state, if you get more than ten penalty points on your paper, you probably aren’t medaling (top ten). Please, please, please, please, please, PLEASE quadruple-check your paper for penalty points before you submit it, and enlist the help of a few classmates. Some common mistakes that lead to penalty points are as follows: exceeding the number of pages, leaving out a section, not having all pages numbered, not using current, up-to-date guidelines (see, I told you guidelines were important). Penalty points are awarded for “stupid mistakes,” and they’re very easy to avoid, if you pay close attention (see below where to access penalty points).

Stage 4: The Presentation

Ah, my favorite part of DECA competition: presenting. No matter how good your final paper is, the presentation will be the single factor that differentiates you/your team from the competition, so spend ample time on it. As with many associations, your paper is (probably) due a few weeks before your state conference. If this is the case, work like heck on your paper until the due date — don’t even think about your presentation. Once you’ve turned in the paper, turn your full attention to the presentation. However, for ICDC, your paper isn’t due until you actually get to the conference, so you could theoretically make changes to your paper while in a hotel room, but I’d advise against that.

Script or No Script?

A big question with presentations is always should I script it or not? Honestly, this is a personal decision. It is often said, though, that if you are going to memorize your presentation all the way through, you need to have it down to the “Happy Birthday” level, where you are comfortable belting out your script in the most stressful situations. At the ICDC level, don’t bring notecards to a pitch; this will show that you take the pitch seriously. If you are going to fall at around the 2 level on the flowchart below, at least memorize the general structure. Personally, I scripted a dramatic, effective introduction and closing (and tried, futilely, to script the rest).

Make your presentation aesthetically pleasing! Create engaging and visually appealing materials. Like your paper, make sure to incorporate the same color scheme and font use through your visuals. A nice tool to use to create materials (if you aren’t fluent in Affinity Designer, Photoshop, or AI) is Canva. At competition, you’ll find that PowerPoints are the outliers. A lot of competitors opt to go the trifold, or more obscure, path. However, the time you take to set up and take down your materials counts against you, so practice setting up and taking down before showtime. While different visuals definitely can help, make sure that they are appropriate and engaging. When presenting, be sure to interact with your visuals. If you are using technology, don’t count on WiFi or outlets! A lot of convention centers’ WiFi is sketchy, and your presentation booth will rarely have outlets; charge everything the night before! When I presented, I used a traditional PPT and a clicker (if you’re going to use a slide deck, make sure to have a clicker). I also made business cards with my name and company logo, and I handed the judge a card before I wrapped up. Nice touches like this definitely leave an impression on your judge! If you are going to provide handouts, which could allow the judge to more easily follow your pitch, make sure to print and bring backups. It’s far better to be proactive than reactive! To hear more tips from an ICDC judge, click this link .

2018–2019 Update: DECA updated the general written event guidelines, and with that update, new rules regarding presentation visuals were implemented. Only visuals that are able to be hand-carried into the presentation will be allowed! This means no wheeled carts or other items that assist in carrying your visuals will be allowed. If you can’t hand-carry a visual, don’t bring it! Additionally, no “alternate power source,” such as a small generator, will be allowed.

Judge’s Questions

You have fifteen minutes to give your pitch. However, you should not take up that whole time presenting. After your pitch, the judge(s) will have a few questions they will want to ask you. These questions are not meant to trick you. The judge will usually ask for clarification on parts that you glossed over or will ask in-depth questions on a certain topic, and while you’re not obligated to leave time for questions, it’s always recommended. I ran tight on time during my final IBP pitch at ICDC, and I honestly think that was the deciding factor between first and second — oh well.

Don’t be nervous when answering questions! You are the authority on the subject. No one should know your problem area, market, and solution better than you. A way I prepared for questions was to practice pitching to friends and family and field questions from them. Often times, a part of your presentation/paper may make perfect sense to you but is confusing in the eyes of an audience member. When answering questions, give a concise but full answer: don’t spend too much time on any one question, but make sure to completely answer the judge’s question. If you aren’t completely sure of the answer, just say something in the ball park, but sound confident; the judge will believe you! And please, have a respectful tone when answering. I know, you probably covered that section that he is so confused about very well, but don’t have a rude tone while answering. It’ll show.

Team Presentations

If you are teaming up for a project, there are some specific presentation tips that I’d like to give.


Please, give your judge a handshake before and after the presentation. That’s the polite thing to do in every situation — in DECA and out. A simple handshake will go miles. A couple years ago, I developed a killer handshake technique that uses a DECA acronym:

Stage 5: Game Day

It’s finally here! After months of hard work and preparation, it’s finally time! I have only two tips for this stage:

Give It Your All and Have Fun!

Seriously! You have nothing to lose. Go out there and crush it! You’ll do great!! And…RELAX! It’s okay to be nervous; you should be (after all, you spent months on this paper), but don’t present nervously. Take a few deep breaths before your section is called to present.

Eye on the Prize!

Throughout it all, don’t lose track of your end goal: DECA Glass. Glass is super hard to win, and you have to earn it. No matter if you win or not, be proud of yourself! Many members don’t dare compete in a written event.

More from Andrew Weatherman

2018–2019 DECA, Inc. Executive President of the High School Division | Duke 2023

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