5 Simple Rules for Writing a Solid Business Plan
November 17, 2011
A great business plan is like a map: It helps you put theory into practice.
Feedback on your idea has been nothing but positive and you’re feeling ready to set sail into entrepreneurship. But wait, now it’s time for the business plan. Where do you start?
Your goal is to develop the brilliant ideas haphazardly scribbled in your mental notebook into an eloquent and concise document that leaves your client hungry for more and ready to sign.
First, take a breath. Then mull over these ideas for assembling a bulletproof biz blueprint:
Do Your Research
Before you begin the process of convincing your audience that your business is the latest thing – make sure it is. Inc Magazine recommends writing a detailed outline that more or less summarizes the “story” of your business. Find out who your competition is and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
By comparing your ideas to those already in motion, you can quickly assess where your own plan excels and falls short. This way, you can improve your business before it even begins. Once it hits the market, you’ll be ahead of the game!
Identify Your Key Audience
One major element to writing a top tier business plan is tailoring the plan for a specific audience and telling them what they need to know. Inc advises carefully breaks the plan down by each target you wish to attract. Are you trying to recruit a business partner, attract new customers, or apply for a loan?
Regardless of the audience, ensure you have included detailed cost and ROI projections that are measurable and realistic. Especially in the case of lenders—they’ll want to know that you’ve considered the practicality of your plan and aren’t relying on wishful thinking and unlikely gains in the market.
Summarize Your Ideas
Another headline for this section could be, “Get to the point.” First of all, it’s important that you summarize your ideas for yourself – this indicates that you have a solid grasp of your plan and are thinking critically about the steps you have to take to ensure your success.
Find out who your competition is and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Additionally, lenders and potential partners have no interest in flowery phrases or winding word patterns. If you can’t tell them in a few short, direct sentences what you’re trying to accomplish—and why they should care—they’ll move on to the next proposal.
Finally, don’t let your business plan’s executive summary fall by the wayside. It lends your plan legitimacy by showing how you are your team are qualified.
Follow a Business Template
Sometimes, project managers and lenders appreciate surprises. It shows creativity and gumption. However, while it’s important that your business plan stands out from others, its written structure should be steadfast.
Every industry has a set procedure—and that procedure should be honored. If you make up the rules, you’ll be banished to the bench and labeled a rookie. Your audience will be expecting certain industry jargon, headlines and categories that follow each other in a precise manner.
In essence, they don’t want to have to guess where you’re going, or feel as if they have to thumb through the pages to get to a certain topic. They expect to know from the get-go.
Becoming familiar with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s template will come in handy, and is a great place to start.
Need More Help with Your Business Plan? Consult Industry Experts
At this point, you’ve probably done enough research to cover your bases. You’ve considered the financial risks, you’ve identified your intended audience, and you know exactly what you aim to accomplish and how. You’ve even read the business plans of similar business, just to make sure there are no surprises.
That being said, it never hurts to get a second opinion. Experts have been where you are hundreds of times and they’ve encountered every surprise – including the ones coming your way. They can give you solid advice on what to remove, rework, or reinforce. Best of all, they can ask the types of questions your audience may have in mind. This will get you thinking about how to answer those questions, and will soothe potential fears before they arise.
In the end, you’ll be one step ahead in both research and response, giving your plan the potential to move quickly from presentation to execution.
This is an optimized post and was originally published on the FreshBooks blog on November 17th, 2011.