Five lesser known expert tips for writing a business plan
Need to write a business plan but not sure where to start? Here are five lesser known expert tips for writing a winning plan.
Entrepreneurship is an exciting path to take, and coupled with a killer business idea, it can change the course of your life. However, it doesn’t matter how rock-solid your idea is, or how determined you may feel, you need a plan – especially if you are considering the need for further funding or investors.
A carefully crafted business plan may be all that is between you and the next exciting phase for your business – so it’s well worth investing time and effort into perfecting it. But just what are the essential elements that need to be considered when putting this all-important document together?
The two formats for business plans
Firstly, before you dive into the content, you need to decide which style to choose. Traditionally, there are two primary formats for business plans.
1) Traditional business plans
Traditional business plans are usually a dozen or more pages, including detailed analysis and any applicable supporting documents – permits, licenses, contracts, credit histories etc.
These plans take considerable commitment up front to create, but, done well, they leave you with a highly effective document providing a thorough outline of your business – its viability, its vision and its future direction.
2) Lean startup business plans
Lean startup business plans are summaries that span only a page or two, outlining the key elements of your business strategy. Essentially, they may cover all the aspects of a traditional plan, but significantly condensed for a concise overview as opposed to a deep dive into your business.
Lenders and investors usually request a traditional business plan, however, if you are expecting any significant changes to your business, covering the fundamentals in a lean startup plan may suffice.
Five expert tips to help you write a winning business plan
Whichever format you choose, incorporating these lesser known expert tips will ensure that you create a compelling business plan to take your vision to the next level.
1) Keep it real
Dreaming big is probably what got you to this stage, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when it comes to your business plan, keep it real.
Position yourself confidently amongst thorough research and realistic goals. Investors and fund managers are not impressed by lofty goals without substance – they may admire your ambition but nevertheless decline to back that admiration by risking funds.
Don’t inflate your financials or overestimate your projected revenue – accountants state to formulate realistic and accurate financial forecasts to build trust in your vision.
2) Work backwards
It may seem counterintuitive, but when creating any kind of plan, it can be much easier to start with your ultimate goal and work backwards. So start by thinking about where you would like your business to be in, for example, 12 months’ time.
In order to reach that goal, what would need to be achieved within six months? In three months? In one? That is why it is important to figure out what your staggered goals would need to be and work these milestones into your business plan draft – you will soon see your plan taking shape with a logical series of steps that you can elaborate upon.
3) Don’t complicate it
There are few writing forms that benefit from concise, sharp writing more than a business plan. Your business plan’s job is to keep its readers engaged, informed and crystal clear as to the intended message – so, edit and re-edit for any signs of replicating points or general waffle!
If this is a daunting task for you, or if perhaps you know that writing is not your strong suit, you can always hire a writer/editor to help you – and for a reasonable price, too.
Freelancer sites like Fiverr offer many good quality services – just make sure that you do your due diligence and opt for services offered by high rated sellers with lots of positive reviews.
4) Understand your competition
Taking the time to demonstrate that you have carefully considered your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses is an attractive trait to potential investors – so long as you refrain from speaking disparagingly about them!
Obviously keep it within the realm of respectful analysis regarding what they are doing well and not so well – and how you can use this information to further improve your offerings. It is also vital to identify your own unique selling point (USP). How will you stand out from the competition? What is it that will set you apart? Why would consumers choose you?
5) Understand your customer
It doesn’t matter how much you want to sell something – you need customers who want to buy it. The more deeply you understand what problems your customer is trying to solve, the more effectively you can solve them.
And the more thoroughly you have identified your specific target audience, the more easily your potential investor can envision the success of your business.
What is your target demographic? Why do they need your product/service? What are the emotions that relate to their purchase? Why might they pick you?
Ready to write your business plan?
These are just a few of the ways that you can ensure your business plan lives up to the expectations placed upon it. There are thousands of online resources available to guide you through crafting a winning business plan – and it is well worth doing your homework.
It’s amazing how easily we can transform something from good to great with a little diligent research. So, get googling and commit to creating an irresistible business plan that converts into the funds you need to take your vision where it deserves to go.
Need help writing your business plan?
Our Business Plan Masterclass guides you through each section of your business plan.
The online class includes a Word copy of the Talented Ladies Club business plan template. During the class we’ll explain why each section is important and what to write, and give you finished examples to guide you.
You also get a copy of our class slides, so you can read through the examples we share in more detail as you complete your own business plan.
So, after watching this class you’ll be able to confidently complete a business plan for your own business – whether you choose to use our template or another.
Antoine Bechara writes for The Society of Speed.
Photo by Gift Habeshaw