HOW TO WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN
It’s more than a fancy tool that you will use to get funding. Think of it as the road map to your business’s future.
It’s an essential tool to understanding your business. Use it to monitor progress, hold yourself accountable and control the business’s fate.
Taking the trouble and time to write your business plan forces you, the business owner, to review everything: your value proposition, marketing and competitive assumptions, operations and staffing plans, and of course your financials. By spending this time on planning you will spot things you might have missed in dreaming. And as you’re the founder, you have to be accountable to those results daily for you, your staff, investors, customers and suppliers.
Let’s dive into some detail; if your sales plan projects 15,000 customers by year-2 but your staffing plan provides for two salespeople, that forces you to ask how can two salespeople generate 15,000 customers? The answer might lead you to form partnerships or a referral programme, or to focusing your marketing on low-hanging fruit, your sales people on larger scale opportunities and start developing business to achieve bulk-sales from large companies.
When you write a business plan make it easy to read quickly, with good projections and solid analysis. Editing to the core issues is more important than ever. People are busy (and sometimes lazy – heh, don’t shoot the messenger!), and you can’t change them but you can change the way you approach this task. Be concise, well written, and if you have less experience in that area then seek help from people you trust and who write informatively and concisely. There are plenty of business plan templates available, but be careful to ensure you tailor these to our needs and don’t just complete sections because the template states you should. Again, research will take time but save you mistakes.
If you want people to read your business plan, then our MADAdvice to you is keep it simple. Don’t confuse your business plan with a doctoral thesis or a lifetime task. Keep the wording and formatting straightforward, and keep the plan short.
The reason you’re keeping it simple and short isn’t because you haven’t developed your idea fully. You’re keeping it simple so you can get your point across quickly and easily to whoever’s reading it as they might not be experts in your new formed business.
When you’re crafting your plan, remember these four tips:
• Don’t use long complicated sentences. If there’s a complex point to make, edit until to as few words as possible. Short sentences are fine, and they’re easier to read. Long words and long sentences lose their meaning and you’re not writing a thesis
• Avoid buzzwords, jargon and acronyms. You may know that NIH means “not invented here” and KISS stands for “keep it simple, stupid,” but don’t assume anybody else does. NP…
• Use simple, straightforward language, like “use” instead of “utilise” and “then” instead of “at that point in time.”
• Bullet points are good for lists. They help readers digest information more easily.
Polish the overall look and feel. Aside from the wording, you also want the physical look of your text to be simple and inviting. So take my advice:
• Stick to two fonts for your text. The font you use for headings should be a simple sans-serif font, such as Arial, Tahoma or Verdana. For the body text, you should probably use a standard text font, like Times Roman or Book Antigua
• Avoid small fonts. Only a few of the more readable fonts are fine at 10-points; most of them are better at an 11- or 12-point size. Even consider a 14-point as, when viewed on a page, this makes it easier to see where your words need editing
• Use page breaks to separate sections, separate charts from text and highlight tables. When in doubt, go to the next page. Nobody worries about having to turn to the next page
• Always use your spell-checker. But always use your education too and don’t rely solely on technology. Proof-read your text carefully to be sure you’re not using a word that spell-check states is correct, when it’s not. Double check your text numbers match those in your tables
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