You’ve worked hard to create a document that reflects the planning and projections that make your business great. But before you put your business plan to work — with potential investors, lenders, and other interested parties — there are a few more steps to strengthen this crucial document.
Use the following tips to improve your business plan.
Understand Your Tools
Spreadsheet templates can be a useful starting point in developing your own financial projection. Make sure you understand how the template works, including its financial logic. You don’t want to base your financial model on calculated assumptions that aren’t realistic for your business.
Hire an Accountant
If you want to make sure your financial projections make sense, get an accountant to look them over. The review should include both the printout included in your business plan and the software application that created it. Have your financial expert play with the software model, change a few of the figures, and recalculate the results to see if they still hang together.
Hire a Writer
We’re not all blessed with superb writing abilities. If you aren’t confident in your writing skills, consider asking a professional editor with experience in business plans to polish your words. Even professional writers know they need an editor.
Be in Charge
Some consultants offer to take on the complete responsibility for preparing your business plan. This is not the best approach; someone from your business should drive the process. You can use assistance as required but don’t outsource the whole knotty problem to a stranger. Let’s face it, no consultant, no matter how knowledgeable, has the same experience in the trenches running your business as you.
Check the Length
What’s the right length for a business plan? Enough to tell the story but no more. Business plan summaries, touching the highlights, typically run under 10 pages. Full-length business plans can run 100 or more pages. You can prepare both for distribution to different readers.
Develop a Verbal Pitch
Set down in writing the points you should include in a quick verbal outline, your business plan in a minute. Develop a succinct 60-second “elevator speech” of the rationale for your business and the investment required. You never know who you will bump into in your rounds of meetings. It’s good to have a polished pitch you can launch into when you meet a good prospective investor.
A business plan is not just a document to get you through this year’s budget or fund-raising. It’s essential that you consider it a living document, one that is updated and reassessed regularly. Since most businesses work on an annual budget cycle, you should update and reassess your business plan annually.