The simple act of writing a business plan is the first step toward turning your entrepreneurship dream into a reality. It helps you think through your idea and ensures you aren’t just winging it when starting up your business. A quick Google search will show you endless results on what needs to go in a business plan, but just having the components doesn’t necessarily mean your job is done.
Here are some coveted business plan tips that will allow you to create a plan that will bring your business's vision to life and also serve as an easy reference document for the years ahead.
10 Expert Tips on Creating a Business Plan
Looking to create a bulletproof business plan? Use our 10 business plan tips that will elevate your plan and make it a cut above the rest.
1. Learn from Other Entrepreneurs
There are many templates and tools for writing business plans, but the best way to improve your plan and create one that goes beyond the surface level is to read business plans written by other entrepreneurs.
Get your hands on as many business plans as you can from online sources or networking, and identify areas that can apply to your business. You can definitely benefit from their expertise and experience.
Here’s what you should look for:
Level of detail
Graphs, charts and exhibits — can anything similar be used in your plan?
Build your business plan by identifying the best practices from all the plans you’ve read and referenced. Also, you don’t need to do it all alone — you might not have all the answers and that’s absolutely okay!
Business Plan Tip: Did you know SCORE provides free mentors, as well as templates for you to get started? Incfile’s Business Plan Worksheetcan also help create a sizzling foundation that can be used to target investors, banks or other partnerships.
2. Don’t Skimp on the Four Essential Sections
A business plan has several components to it and you might feel some parts aren’t necessary. While there is no hard-and-fast rule of what should and shouldn’t go in the plan, don’t skip over the four essential sections.
So what are the four essential parts to creating a business plan? The four must-have sections are executive summary or background information, marketing plan, management overview and financial projections.
3. Have a Brand Plan
One of the four essential parts of creating a business plan is a marketing section, but just stating how you’ll go to market and having a SWOT chart isn’t enough. Go beyond and include a brand plan in your business plan.
A brand plan will detail how you’ll set the messaging of your brand across the website, social media channels and other outlets. It will also aid in creating a robust content marketing strategy that will support your business’s growth.
4. Highlight Data References
It’s one thing to make a claim that the landscaping industry will grow in the next five years versus providing a document that actually shows the figures. Having hard-core data for your claims on market size, growth prospects, competitors and costs will not only impress potential investors and funders, but it will give you credibility and provide you with a very accurate understanding of your business.
5. Include Supporting Documents
Don’t be afraid to include resumes of potential team members, detailed customer personas, product prototype images or even marketing software snapshots in your business plan. All these extra details will again paint a very realistic picture of how your business will operate and allow you to iron out any kinks.
6. Don’t Make Amature Financial Predictions
Many newbie business owners think the financial component of the business plan should just have any numbers and unfortunately, the majority of numbers entered into the template are quite lofty or overly optimistic.
Here’s what we recommend, even if you’re drafting a micro business plan. Spend some money and work with an accountant to get realistic or as close as possible numbers for your cash flow and financial projections.
Also, provide context to the numbers. If you have included interest rates or product costs, explain why you are mentioning them and their relevance to your success.
7. Write for Your Audience
Go a step further and create several versions of your business plan for each specific audience group. A venture capitalist might be seeking something completely different from what a potential vendor or banker will be analyzing.
The entire document doesn't need to be redone, but some tweaks and adjustments for each tailored group will increase your chances of achieving your goal, whether that’s securing funding or finding a partner.
Business Plan Tip:Anticipate the questions a partner or franchisee might ask and address those specifically in the business plan for them.
8. Build a Strong Executive Summary
Yes, the executive summary might be the first thing and perhaps the only thing many will read in your business plan, but it’s the last thing you should write. This can be an opportunity and a challenge.
Some ways to boost your executive summary are:
Write the summary last so you can quickly summarize the other details.
Be as concise as possible — this is not the place to give long, drawn-out explanations. The executive summary should capture the audience’s attention so it can persuade them to read the specifics detailed in the rest of the plan.
Highlight the business's USPs — "unique selling points."
9. Avoid the Jargon, Keep the Language Simple
You might think using industry jargon will build your case, but chances are it might just do the opposite. Avoid using industry-specific jargon unless it’s unavoidable so your business plan can be as accessible as possible for all potential stakeholders.
Also, use a clean layout and simple language.
Business Plan Tip: Use graphs, tables and charts to make the information easy to digest and bring your concept to life. Just numbers and words can get overwhelming.
10. Allow the Document to Evolve with Business
Remember, your business plan doesn’t have to be set in stone. The document should be allowed to evolve and get updated as your business grows and changes. Feel free to rework and revisit the business plan as necessary to reflect the current status. Having a plan in place, even if it changes a bit, is always better than no plan.
What to Do After Creating a Business Plan
Hurray! You’ve created a roadmap upon which your business can thrive — but what next? It can get confusing. For most entrepreneurs, the next logical step is to acquire the required funding.
Incfile’s Business Plan Worksheet can help you get the necessary funding required to launch your dreams. The worksheet not only highlights the must-have details but allows people to know and invest in the person behind the business — you!
Swara Ahluwalia is a freelance content writer with experience in the technical, B2B and SaaS domain. She also has curated content for various lifestyle brands. In her downtime, you will most likely find Swara training for her next marathon or spending time with her two daughters.