Sample Business Memo

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March 18, 2010

TO:Jeff Zalla, Diatom Ventures


RE:Increasing deal flow through low-cost, high-impact activities

All private equity firms have money to invest – what makes a private equity firm unique is the investors, through their guidance, expertise, and commitment. However, in order to turn these skills into a competitive advantage, it is necessary that, 1) you have a clear and consistent message, and 2) that the message is heard. This memo offers recommendations to increase the credibility and visibility of your firm, increasing deal flow through low-cost, high-impact activities.

1. Judging a book by its cover: the importance of website design

Because people will so often judge a company by its website design, simple aesthetic website tweaks would be a low-cost way to improve the company image. Some suggestions are:

▪ Rely less on bullets for communicating information. Though useful for quickly conveying ideas, too much reliance on bullet formatting makes the website less visually appealing. Instead, utilize flow charts, tables, and diagrams and expand important concepts into short paragraphs with key words or ideas highlighted. ▪ Not all fonts are created equally – using more condensed fonts like Georgia or Arial are easy ways to make the text automatically look more sophisticated. These fonts also appear to be more commonly used on financial firm websites. ▪ Utilize images more effectively as they are a quick and compelling way to present your message. The images of the earth are a good start as they tie in well with your tagline, “Building businesses that benefit the world.” However, the earth can’t tell the whole story, and the exclusivity of those images make Diatom appear to be environmentally focused. You’re looking for a broad range of investments, and your images should reflect that diversity.

2. The devil in the details: specificity is key

“Social responsibility” means different things to different people, and can range from corporate greenwashing to unwavering commitment to social change. In order to demonstrate that you are serious about social responsibility it is important to fully communicate your values using very specific language and examples.

About Us
In your “About Us” section of the website, I suggest you transition from statements to a story. is a great example of an organization successfully communicating not only what they believe, but also why they believe it – in separate sections they describe, “the challenge, why charity alone isn’t the answer, why the marketplace alone isn’t the answer,” and finally “changing the development paradigm.” The reader is able to follow a clear, linear explanation of why Acumen Fund believes in social enterprise to address global poverty, making their purpose credible. Diatom must sell the idea of social responsibility as an economically viable business strategy. Adding a case study would help make the section more compelling. For instance, Chiquita, through radical transparency, among other things, was able to revive their brand and improve its finances, making it a relevant and compelling example.

Investment Criteria
Just as the GRI index helped define and legitimize Corporate Responsibility reporting, so standards and guidelines would help strengthen your credibility as CSR-minded investors. Expanding the criteria from a socially responsible purpose to socially responsible and measureable practices would show dedication. Do you have pollution limits or salary standards? A code of ethics or product guidelines?

If defining exactly what constitutes a socially minded enterprise seems too limiting at this stage, having examples of companies you find admirable would also help explain your criteria. Especially as you don’t yet have a portfolio to serve as an example of acceptable companies, highlighting other practices would be advisable. One way to do this...
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