When you first think about writing your business plan it can really be intimidating. It’s your first time writing one and you have more questions than answers. The questions you might have will likely not be about what you actually plan to do, but with the business plan itself.
Here are some questions you are likely to be asking and some practical advice to follow:
Who Will Read My Business Plan?
This is probably one of the first questions you need to ask yourself. In other words: is your business plan for internal use or to attract sponsorship, funding or investment?
Each one of these considerations will define how you write your business plan. Or, it might not make a difference at all, it depends on the situation, but knowing before you start helps.
If it is for internal use, then the document is really just a way to maintain the direction of the business. It’s a document that you change as your goals and objectives change.
If it is for sponsorship, funding or investment you will need to focus heavily on the reason why your business is a good choice for them – that might be by explaining how your business helps your industry in a new way, or how your product is innovative (solving a new problem or challenge in your industry).
Are All Business Plans The Same?
The short answer is: no.
Because not every business is the same. There are different considerations and research that will be required for different businesses, so there are no two business plans that are alike.
It might be that your business does more than just one thing. Maybe you are selling products and services. Maybe you are serving more than one market. The structure of the business plan is a guide, but like anything, you adapt it to what makes most sense to the goal of the document.
How Long Should My Business Plan Be?
In the same way that no two business plans are alike, there is no set length that a business plan needs to be. It also depends on who is reading your business plan. Some investors or funds that you will apply to have very strict formats and structures in which you will have to submit your plan – and it will be one of many documents that you will need to submit.
Your executive summary might be half a page long if you are starting a small business. But if you are looking for investment to start a large business your executive summary alone could be up to five pages long. It really depends on the industry you are in and what your business does in that industry.
Do I Need A One Year Plan or a 5 Year Plan or More?
Again, this depends on who is reading.
If you are purely using your business plan to help yourself stay focused and on track, you might decide to only have the business plan be for the next year, and that in six months you will update it. In this way your business plan becomes a ‘working document’ that you adapt as your business grows and changes.
If you are looking for investment of any kind (sponsorship or funding included) it is most likely that they will ask you to detail what the plan is over the next two to five years. This often will include your financial projections for that time. This is important, because when you get their money you aren’t making any, so you need to show them how, over the next two to five years, they will get what they want from investing with you.
Should I Hire Someone To Do Write One For Me?
This is really up to you.
If you are starting something small (meaning just you or you and a friend) you can write it yourselves.
If you have written a business plan before and you are relying on the research and the plan itself to get your start-up capital (the money you need to begin your business and to run it for a year or two to see if it works) having a consultant (someone with experience who helps you) is very useful.
There are also business that provide the service of writing your business plan for you if you aren’t totally confident about doing it yourself.
We hope this helps you understand how to make your business plan work for. As always, if you have any questions, you are welcome to ask in the comments below.