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Top 10 tips on Business Plans

I have made this point before on the message boards here but thought I would start this thread to coincide with the launch of my new website last week that promotes the benefits of a good Business Plan.

Here are my 10 tips on Business Plans to get you started:

  1. Make sure you have a plan.  Why? You are more likely to achieve your objectives if you actually have some and remember the old adage that those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
  2. Write it down; don’t just keep it in your head.  Why?  It really makes you think your business through and clarify more precisely what you want to do.
  3. Try to write it yourself, don’t just ask someone else to write it for you.  Why?  It will be so much more meaningful and personal and you are more likely to own it and achieve the objectives in it.  If you don’t have the time, skill or patience to write it down clearly, then do as much as you can and then get someone who knows what they are doing to edit it and shape it.
  4. After you write it, get someone else who can objectively assess it to go through it and give you challenging feedback.  Why?  Sometimes you can be too close to something and with your Business Plan, it is good to have an independent assessment from someone not too close to it so you can hear the good and the not so good from another angle.  This helps to shape direction.
  5. As you write it down, think about who the reader will be – just yourself or also a bank, an investor, a potential partner or a government funder?  Why?  The reader has to understand it and you need to write it with them in mind, not just yourself.
  6. Make sure it has a ‘Start, Middle and End’.  Why?  This way it will have a good flow so that the reader will be able to understand where you came from, where you are now and where you want to go.
  7. Don’t make it too long or leave it too short – tailor this for the reader.  Why?  Too long will leave them bored, too short will not give them enough information.  For a standard plan, aim for about 10 pages, with 5 more for Appendices, but as I say, tailor this longer or shorter for the reader and the type of business.
  8. Use clear headings, bullet points, lists, charts, tables, graphs, pictures – in fact anything that summarises the data or shows trends.  Why?   It gives the reader a much clearer visual explanation of the business and makes it easier to read and more interesting.
  9. Make it a live and useful document by developing from the plan a separate ‘Practical, Time-bound Action Plan with built in Milestones’.  Why?  This way you won’t waste the effort you put into it by leaving your plan to gather dust.
  10. Finally, don’t postpone it any longer.  Why?  If you take just one small step today and then another each day, you will eventually have a first draft that you can show to someone to help you get it finished.  Then implement it.

The above list is not exhaustive but is based on my experience reading, writing and reviewing Business Plans.  Feel free to offer your own views / experience as this is not an exact science.  Please also check out my new website and let me know what you think.