5 Simple Rules for Writing Solid Business Plans
November 17, 2011
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 and 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 and 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 breaking the plan down by each target you wish to attract. Are you trying to recruit a business partner, attracting new customers, or applying for a loan? Regardless 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. Additionally, lenders and potential partners alike have no interest in flowery phrases or winding word patterns. If you can’t tell them in a few short and direct sentences what you’re trying to accomplish and why they should care, not only will they not take you seriously, they’ll quickly move on to the next proposal. And don’t forget the business plan’s executive summary, which lends your plan legitimacy because it shows how you are your team are qualified.
Acquire a Business Template
Sometimes, project managers and lenders like surprises. It shows creativity and gumption. However, while it’s important that your business plan stands out from others, its written structure absolutely should not. Every industry has a set procedure and 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, certain headlines, and categories that follow each other in a precise manner. Basically, they don’t want 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. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s template is a great place to start.
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. But, 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 that your audience may have in mind and get you thinking about how to answer those questions and soothe potential fears before they even come up. Thus, you’ll be one step ahead in both research and response, giving your plan the potential to move quickly from presentation to execution. For a list of ideas and resources for business plan consultants, check out Entrepreneur magazine.