Ten Tips To Jump Start Your Business Plan
By Brian Hill
1. Rome Wasn't Planned, Funded, and Built in One Day
The process of putting together a coherent business plan will probably take longer that you estimate (an incoherent business plan on the other hand can take as little as 20 minutes). Along the way you will probably stop and say, "you know, we haven't really thought our strategies out very well, have we?" or "we don't really know our competition as well as we thought we did," and you will take the time to hone your strategies and get up to speed on the competition before you finish the plan and present it.
2. Smaller Bites Are More Digestible
Start the plan with an outline. By breaking the large task down into smaller components, the task will not seem as daunting. A business plan can be viewed simply as the answers to a series of questions.
3. Style Points Count, Too.
The visual aspects of the document should not be overlooked. Color charts, tables of data to break up the text, paragraph headings, varying the typestyles--all of these contribute to making the plan easier to read, and to more clearly explain the business opportunity.
4. To Write A Plan, Read A Plan.
People who write novels are generally those who have read many, many, stories. They learn their craft by studying the works of their favorite authors. You need to do the same thing. Look at examples of business plans to get in your mind the writing style, the sequence in which the ideas are presented, and the parts to a plan. Sample plans are available on the Internet at sites devoted to assisting entrepreneurs.
5. Pick A Section, Any Section
If you have never written a business plan before, you may have difficulty getting the project started. It will seem as though you have an awful lot of blank pages staring back at you. To get the plan moving, start with the section that is easiest for you, or of most interest.
6. Spend Quality Time With Your Plan.
People often underestimate the effort and energy it takes to write a business plan. They try to write it at night or when everything else at work is finished, in other words, when they are mentally and sometimes physically exhausted. A better approach is to write the plan when you have energy available to put into it: go in early and think and write for an hour before the phones start ringing.
7. First Drafts Are Always A Laugh.
The first draft of your plan will undoubtedly resemble incoherent ramblings--jumbled stream-of-semi-consciousness ideas that look nothing like what you had hoped it would. Don't be disappointed or frustrated.
8. You Deserve A Break Today.
Put the draft away for a few days, come back to it fresh, and begin revising and rewriting. Magically, after several more revisions, the ideas will all come together and the language
of the plan will flow.
9. The Plan Is Your Baby--It Needs To Look Like You.
The business plan should reflect the personality of your management team, and the type of company you want to create. As the reader goes through it, he/she should get to know the people involved in the company, their vision, their objectives, and their enthusiasm for the company and the industry. Tell the story of your company in your own voice. A plan for a music production company would look much different than a plan for a medical device manufacturer.
10. Not Everyone Has A Flair For Fiction.
Business plans are essentially works of fiction--documents that talk about what you imagine, plan and hope may occur in the future, not what has already occurred. This type of writing is difficult for everyone. You've heard of "writer's block". The problems you are having keeping the words flowing are precisely the ones faced by the great writers, except many of them have to keep going because the publisher has given them a unreachable deadline and they've already spent their advance, but you of course, having read tip #1 Rome Wasn't Planned, Funded, and Built in One Day have allowed plenty of time to finish the business plan--so there's no reason to feel pressured. Right?
Brian Hill is the co-author with Dee Power "Attracting Capital From Angels: How Their Money and Their Experience Can Help You Build a Successful Company" 2009 and "Inside Secrets To Venture Capital" 2001 available in bookstores nationwide.
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