I wrote my first business plan over 20 years ago in college, and I have learned a lot of things along the way helping companies to win as a former financier and now a business consultant. In my business plan book, I cover over 100 business plan mistakes and have just as many tips. Here are 10 of those important tips when developing and writing a business plan…
Tip 1: Have a business mentor who has a lot of experience in your area of business read your business plan and critique it.
Tip 2: Business Plans do not need a lot of fancy graphics and art work to be effective. Simplicity and straight forwardness are more important than a bunch of pretty graphs. Many modern business plans lack substance and have lots of flash. Add some flash and graphics to the plan after the substance of the plan is completed and only if it aides the understanding and comprehension of the written substance.
Tip 3: What is the most effective way to build a business plan? For each section of the plan, write out questions prior to writing the section. Pull the questions from your experience, your team’s experience, your mentor’s experience and published business planning books and software. Answers to the questions will build out that particular section. Order the sub-sections in a logical, building block order.
Tip 4: After you have developed your Comprehensive Business Plan, you should develop business plans of shorter length and format (usually no more than 20-30 pages in length) for various purposes: Funding Business Plan, Investor Plan, Joint Venture Business Plan, Marketing Business Plan, Strategic Plan, Customer Plan, Supplier Plan and so forth.
Tip 5: A Business Plan is a technical document – a business document. It should be written as such. It should not be written like a novel or a book. It should be concise and utilise outline organisation versus long, windy paragraphs. However, it should also be written for its audience.
Tip 6: The business plan should be realistic and believable. It should contain facts and figures to support the “believability factor.” For instance, just stating in your Marketing Plan that you will achieve 5% market share is not enough. Your Strategic Plan in combination with your Marketing Plan should carefully illustrate how you will achieve 5% market share.
Tip 7: A Comprehensive Business Plan serves two purposes typically: a dynamic tool to run your company, and to start, acquire or expand a company, backed by the targeted business plan formats (i.e. Funding Business Plan).
Tip 8: A Business Plan is never static. It should be dynamic and easily adaptable to changes in the market and opportunities which arise. It is a “living” document used to run your business on a daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.
Tip 9: Understand that business planning is a high commitment process (i.e. takes a lot of work) but the payoff is your very best chance at success. This is a great trade off!
Tip 10: An Important Consideration- Should you hire somebody to “write” your business plan? The answer is Yes and No. You initially probably do not want a business plan writer or technical writer to write the business plan. You can use these writers after the business plan is built to make it more professional (i.e. adapted for a Funding Business Plan). However, hiring an experienced Business Plan Consultant can be quite advantageous when building and developing a business plan. A great business consultant will take the time necessary to get to know the business owner, the business and people who work in the business. The consultant will issue you important questions for you to consider and answer, which when fully analyzed, will effectively build out a very effective business plan. No one can write a successful business plan for a business by themselves with out the business owner and its people fully involved and engaged in the process. The business owner knows the business better than anyone. The business consultant in turn harnesses that knowledge and shared information by asking the right questions and building out the business plan section by section. As the planning process unfolds, the business consultant can share his/her experience and expertise to ensure the business plan is effective for its intended purpose.