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Business Plan Advice - Do Your Homework!

I was talking to a potential client the other day about their business plan. I was happy to hear that they had a plan, but then learned it was over 100 pages. Anyone out there want to read 100 pages? I didn't think so. Thinking on what a business plan should contain has changed over the years.

Business Plan Insights

  • Build a plan that keeps the customer problem front and center. Prove in your plan that your customers see the problem as real and worth money to solve.
  • Keep the length to under 20 pages if possible. If you have a lot of technical data or research, put that in a separate document.
  • Focus heavily on explaining how you will gain customers. Most people fail on this point. What is your sales funnel that converts the potential market for your product to happy paying customers? What is every step in the funnel?
  • Be honest about the competition. First, there is always competition, it just may not look like your product. For example, the most common competition for event management software is a spreadsheet. Second, be clear about how your product will solve the problem your customer has better than the competition.  
  • Write a one page executive summary last. You write it last to make sure it represents your overall plan. I read too many business plans where the executive summary does not match the plan itself.

Another good source of business plan information is an article by Peter Cohen in Inc. Magazine titled "The Anatomy of a Killer Business Plan." In it, Cohen lays out some solid advice.