Writing a Business Plan
Most business people write business plans to help them raise investment money or strengthen their applications for business or commercial loans. It’s not unusual for entrepreneurs to write business plans to provide some assurance to their partners and themselves that they have considered all the issues before launching or growing their businesses. They know that they run the risk of only considering the factors that are likely to support their vision and ignoring the threats.
In either case, working with an experienced professional to write a business plan helps ensure that business owners an management teams consider ALL the issues. Further, a business writer can capture the issues in a document that is easy to read, compelling, grammatically clean, and comprehensive. Anyone who has tried writing a plan on his or her own understands the difficulty of this initiative all too well.
In order to ensure that we cover all the issues in a form that serious investors can relate to easily, we use a template to guide our efforts. If our client has a template that he/she prefers, we’ll use it. Otherwise, we use the template described in Rhonda Abrams’ book Business Plan in a Day. This template usually leads to documents that are about 30 to 40 pages long. The appendices, of course, add a lot more detail and background but are not included in the business plan page count.
Business Planning vs Business Plan
Our clients have thought through most of the issues they need to address in their business plans. We’ve never worked with a client who has addressed all the issues in advance.
In these cases, we work with our clients to think though these missing issues. We see this as a collaborative effort. We propose various ways of handling each of those issues and explore the pros and cons. This usually leads to quick resolutions. Working these issues through usually takes more than half the effort of writing the business plan. Other writers generally fall short on this issue: They see themselves as business writers, not business people. We work with our clients not just to draft a document, but to plan a business where all the parts fit together.
Our Plans Address Both Sides of the Brain
It’s common knowledge that our brains are divided into two hemispheres. One side is rational, logical, and fact based. The other side is intuitive, creative, and graphic. Most business plans are written to appeal to only one side of the brain.
Our plans speak to both sides of the brain. They use photographs, charts, schematics, logos, and any other image that will help drive the points home. These graphic elements can consume 30% or more of the real estate of the final document. This also makes our plans easier and faster to read as well as far more credible.
Numbers, Numbers, Numbers
If the financial plans don’t work, the business won’t work. Because the numbers are so critical, we work with our clients to build spreadsheets that project revenues, investments, capital expenditures, operational expenses, interest payments, investor payouts, and cash flow to ensure that each business is viable.
We develop our spreadsheets in a way that is easy for entrepreneurs who are not financially savvy to grasp easily. They can see the interplay among all the financials. We work on our financial projections together and then rework the timing of various initiatives to make sure the venture prospers.
Accountants can take our projections and translate them into industry standard financial reports in only a few hours. In fact, preparing those financial reports is essentially a matter of reformatting the spreadsheets we’ve developed together. We have an accountant on our team who can prepare these financial reports quickly.
NGOs and Charities Need Business Plans, too.
These non-profit organizations are generally led by charismatic, hard working visionaries who are committed to their causes. They know they need business plans, but have trouble convincing themselves or their management teams that they need documented, comprehensive plans. Their Boards, however, often know they need these plans and demand them.
Aside from satisfying their Boards, executive directors can use business plans to accelerate the process of preparing grant applications. Grant writers who don’t have the luxury of a business plan ratified by management will need to either think through the answers to grant application questions themselves or grill their management for answers. The first alternative runs the risk of not being perfectly aligned with the Board’s vision; the second slows down the grant writing process considerably.
The Advantage of Using a Professional Business Writer.
The advantages of using a professional business writer should be clear: The writer understands the level of depth required, can translate a rambling conversation into a well crafted document, and can provide assurances that the final plan will cover nearly all the issues investors and bankers are likely to ask.