Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. This truism is applicable to all aspects of life, including building a successful enterprise. As such, putting together a comprehensive business plan is an essential preparation tactic.
The best types of business plans are those that convey a clear story of "what" the organisation wants to do and "how" they intend on going about it.
As we all know, the number of startups that fail in their first year are high, so having a business plan is a great tool. It provides a much-needed safety for entrepreneurs to test out the feasibility of their venture, identify flaws and unrealistic projections, and thoroughly analyse the competitors.
As you go about writing your business plan, here are some vital things to keep in mind:
1) Customise your business plan for different audiences
Just as you would with your C.V. and cover letter, you need to ensure that you have different versions of your business plan that is tailored to individual audiences.
A poignant error that most aspiring or green business owners make is that they don't have an intimate understanding of the reader they're writing the plan. As such, to avoid rejection, it is vital to know who your audience is and customise your plan accordingly.
2) Don't exaggerate your financial calculations and forecasts
In the financial portion of your business plan, make sure that your figures are not miscalculated or misrepresented - this puts you in a disadvantaged position.
While you might get an enthused reaction when you present bloated figures to bankers, financiers and even employees, it is more expedient, in the long run, to get people excited about real numbers that are attainable.
3) Make sure every claim you make is solid
You business plan is a direct reflection of you, and for that reason, you want to come across as analytically rigorous as possible.
So, ensure that all your claims and projections are supported with up-to-date statistics and relevant facts. Don't forget, your credibility and the trust of key influencers are at stake here.
4) Remember that your plan is subject to change
Think of your business plan as a living entity - one that is subject to morph and takes on an entirely different shape after it is written.
Many successful entrepreneurs who have turned their start-up enterprises into financial behemoths often allude to the fact that a business plan is only as good and useful when it responsive - meaning that it is contextual and relevant to a particular point in time.
Bottom line: expect that you will have to review your business plan often and make updates and changes as the need be.
5) Presentation is everything!
Most business plans are lengthy documents to read and tough on the eyes of whoever is reading it. As such, you want to make sure that you pay attention to the format of the document.
For text pages, break up long sentences, incorporate infographics, graphs/charts, use easy to read fonts, etc.
The goal: make the reading experience as easy and enjoyable as possible.
Written by Sandra McLeod @Locomote