Tips for Writing a Business Plan
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A business plan describes your company's future. This essential document usually looks ahead for three to five years and sets out the methods the company plans to use to grow and increase revenues. It's important to use the right data when creating it. Exactly what information you must include depends on who your target audience is. Here are some tips for putting together a business plan to be proud of.
Keep Your Audience in Mind
Calling a business plan the road map for your company's future is the truth, but not the whole truth. A business plan helps you to see where you're about to go, but it can also serve to entice banks, venture capitalists or others to invest in your company's future. It can also convince other companies to take part in joint projects with you.
Keep your audience in mind as you start creating your plan. You may need separate business plans for each group, tailored to accomplishing a particular end and specifically addressed to the people who will be reading them.
Make Conservative Claims and Offer Proof
It's far better to give conservative estimates and announce later that you exceeded them than to start out being wildly optimistic and have to backpedal. Potential investors appreciate enthusiasm, but they won't like it if you're totally off base. If you win 65 percent of the market share in the first year, that's fabulous news ... unless you've wooed investors with promises of 85 percent.
And, just like fiction writers, your rule must be to show, don't tell. If you say your head of operations is first rate, provide info about her education and experience. If you project your business to be a leader in its field in the first year, provide the data to back that up. Otherwise, it just looks like a pipe dream.
Beef Up Your Team
A company is only as good as the team that manages it, so make sure you have good people on board with excellent credentials and lots of experience. You'll need to sell your team members in your business plan. If they don't have experience in your company's precise activity, relate their prior jobs to the skills your venture requires for success. If your team isn't quite up to the task, bring in an advisory panel of experts or board of directors. The U.S. Small Business Association recommends that you should also include their business background, “positions, extent of involvement with the company and historical and future contribution to the company’s success” in your business plan.
Edit Out the Fluff
You know better than to use meaningless terms like "awesome," but read and reread your plan draft to get rid of other fluff. Redline superlatives like "the very greatest," and avoid dramatic adjectives, like "outstanding," "amazing" and "fabulous."
For the same reason, eliminate overly optimistic projections and time frames. In fact, hire an accountant to do the financial projections, so the numbers look conservative, professional and serious. Nothing says "amateur" like unprofessional number crunching.