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What Does a Great Business Plan Look Like?

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If you’re looking for a controversy that ranks as high as some of the best debates in American history you’re going to have to look somewhere but what we have here is a controversy none the less. Some experts believe that every business startup should have a business plan. Not only is it good to have for potential investors but it also serves as a way for the entrepreneur to formalize their vision.

When we’re forced to write something down, it refines the vision that has been in our head. It puts a border around our ideas and forces each element to fit in to the vision like a puzzle.

Others aren’t so convinced. Venture capitalists and angel investors receive a lot of funding requests and because of that, reading hundreds of business plans with twenty or more pages isn’t a good use of their time. An executive summary detailing the business might be all the potential investor needs to determine if a meeting with the owner is the next step.

But let’s put the controversy aside and assume that a business plan is a good idea. What should you have in your business plan to make it look professional and well-crafted?

Executive Summary– This is likely the most important part of your plan because the person reading your plan won’t read further if they aren’t enticed by your summary. Spend the most time on this area of the plan and if you can, hire a quality copywriter to word it in a way that compels the reader to continue.

Overview– List your products and services as well as anything that makes your company unique. (Patents, proprietary technology, etc.)

Mission– Why are you doing this? What’s your passion? This is the area where you pour out your heart. (Without getting too sappy, of course)

Competitive Analysis– Who else does what you do and how are you going to become the best and most successful?

Marketing– Remember the four P’s: product, price, place, and promotion. How are you going to turn leads in to money?

Organization– Consider making a chart with short explanations of the roles of those involved.

Other items might include, bios of your management teams, risk analysis, and financial projections.

Bottom Line

A business plan can be as helpful for you as it is for others. Even if nobody sees the entire plan, having your idea laid out in a readable form can help to solidify your idea. Finally, don’t be caught off guard if a potential investor or partner asks you for a full business plan. Having these documents ready might land you an opportunity you weren’t expecting.