You know you have a great idea for a fabulous business. You’ve secured a bank loan for your business. Now, it’s come to the part where you need to put it all down on paper. Why? Because doing so will help you gain clarity about your brand’s prospects, put you and your team (if you have one) on the same page, and you’ll have a better chance to win over investors.
Let’s keep things simple. When crafting your business plan, there’ll be plenty of revisions and pages upon pages documenting your company’s dealings, stakeholders, business model, and so on. Regardless of whether you’re still in the early stages of drafting your plan or not, the same rules still apply.
Here are three things you definitely don’t want to neglect when crafting your brilliant business plan.
Keep it short, keep it simple
Avoid any and all unnecessary acronyms. In the world of business, there are plenty to choose from. Do like good editors back in the used to do: Get a highlighter or red pen and circle all the acronyms in your business plan. You’ll then be forced to come up with better, simpler alternatives.
If you’ve outsourced your market research and business plan development, it’s also not unusual to get back a stack of papers almost an inch thick. If your plan is more than 40 pages long, it’s time to trim it down, according to Entrepreneur.com. The sweet spot in length will vary, of course, but you’re looking at somewhere between 20 and 30 pages.
Remember that your goal is to convey your information as clearly and concisely as possible. Anything else is best left for an appendix at the end of the plan.
Use relevant images to break it up
You know how in high school and college, inserting images into your book report was a way to cheat the page count? When crafting your business plan, good use of imagery is actually key. Not only will it help to break up the two dozen or so pages of text, but a good infographic can convey information much more quickly than words can.
Again, clarity is key, here. If your pie chart or table has too much information in it, it’s no good. Simplify your images by sticking to two bars, instead of three. Use color when appropriate. Have appropriately marked endnotes to refer back to the text and so on.
Have a clear executive summary
You know that elevator pitch you’ve been so carefully practicing? This is it, but in writing. This is where you’ll briefly outline your company’s value proposition. That is, you’ll detail what it is that your business brings to the table that no other company does.
What is that you offer (whether that’s a product or a service) and why will people be willing to get it from you(versus from your competitors)? Other questions to consider: Are you a traditional business? An e-commerce business? How will you achieve your goals? How much funding will you need to get started and how long will it take before you expect to bring in a profit? Be conservative in your estimates.
Size up your competition
This part is related to your overall value proposition. You’ll want to dive into the market you’re trying to break into. What other companies exist in this space? How much room for growth is there? What challenges do you face as a newcomer? Conversely, what advantages do you bring to the table? Do you have an executive who’s known in the industry?
You’ll also want to make mention of potential competition further down the line. That is, what businesses currently undersell in the market but could, in theory, become challengers down the line? Having this information will not only show you’ve done your research to investors, but it will show you’re problem-solving ahead of the game.
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