There’s been an exhilarating lightbulb moment, everyone’s full of excitement for the future of this shiny new business… and now it’s time to tend to the business plan and get it all down on paper. As tedious as it might seem, a business plan is an invaluable tool when it comes to seeking out investment and attracting potential partners.
So, how much detail does one really need to go into?
What should be included in a business plan?
When setting out a business plan, there are some essential bases to cover, though this is by no means an exhaustive list. Anything that helps potential investors realise the unchartered-goldmine nature of a venture is worth including. Just don’t overlook the bare bones that anyone reading a business plan expects to see:
- Full financial projections
- Balance sheets and cashflow statements
- Analysis of the current market
- Details around any trademarking or patenting
- Relevant competitor analysis
- Overview of your existing customer base (if any)
- Marketing plan
- Strategics, logistics and project management plan
How long should a business plan be?
Go for quality over quantity, because page length isn’t the main quantifier of quality here. A business plan can vary wildly from one sector to another. Don’t fill pages and pages full of words for the sake of producing a hefty document that could have been produced in half the word count (and half the time). If everything is covered in concise detail in 20 pages, then leave it at that.
How should a business plan be structured?
Be strategic with structuring a business plan, and ensure it’s easy to navigate. The reader may take the whole thing in one sitting, but then needs to be able to easily find points of interest. Break the document down with a contents page, an executive summary, clear sections and subheadings, graphs, images, maps and a clear conclusion so that all of the information displayed is easily digestible.
Explain the reasons for being vague
Be explicit about any vagueness, which might sound like a bit of a contradiction. But, when it comes to business plans which contain sensitive or confidential information that can’t readily be shared, it’s important to keep in mind.
If the nature of a piece of information requires vagueness on account of confidentiality, make this clear to avoid the reader confusing it for a lack of substance or knowledge. If investors do request more details, consider asking them to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to protect the information.
Give it to a critical friend
To ensure a business plan covers all bases without being over-complicated, get somebody neutral and non-biased to read over it. Honest, critical (but not withering) feedback helps fine tune the document before any investors get their hands on it.