How to write a good business plan
A business plan is a formal document describing the characteristics and the financial forecasts of a commercial venture. In this, special attention is given to the company’s primary goals, and to specifying how and when they will be achieved.
What type of business plan do I need?
If, in the past, a business plan had to be long and hyper detailed to be taken seriously, a more recent trend regards these kinds of “old-school” documents no longer as the best choice, especially for small startups. Of course, this does not mean that business plans are no longer useful or that you don't have to be accurate when you write one, but the reasons why, when, and in how much detail you will have to write it now vary largely.
However, if the stage of your enterprise calls for this moment to get your business plan in order, here are some tips for writing a catchy business plan for startups that doesn’t give up on concreteness.
Clarify your ideas
Before you start writing, you have to make sure that you clarify your ideas and verify them. Thus, do your research: collect information about the market related to your startup, the competition that you will face, your potential customers and, above all, how you intend to make your venture profitable.
Be aware, if your idea is really brilliant, it is highly likely that someone has already though about it. This should not make you give up, though, because competition is not only good for the market and customers, it also gives you the advantage of being able to learn from your rivals in order to make your company more effective and innovative.
Organize the structure
A good business plan is easy to read and – especially for startups– should not exceed twenty pages. Thus, in order to optimize the drafting of your document, it is best to first lay out the structure. Make an index with a title for each paragraph, you can simply use headings and subheadings for this, so that whoever will read the document will immediately understand the highlights of your plan.
If you need some examples to get you started, search online for prefabricated templates in your industry that you can modify according to your specific needs. If you need some inspiration, on the other hand, have a read through business plans of accomplished companies that you aspire to be like. You can also use our list that we drew up specifically to detail all the main sections that a good business plan must incorporate.
Take care of the aesthetics
Do not underestimate the esthetical look of your business plan, because the font, margins, and pictures of your business plan can be much more important than you might expect them to be. The most common text editors such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs offer a wide selections of fonts – the design of your lettering. Choose one that is not too banal or – even worse – pretentious or odd. For a long time, “serif” fonts (fonts with small strokes added to the letters that make them easy to read on paper) have been mainly employed for the body of the text, while “sans serif” fonts have been used for headlines. Yet, the spread of internet and the possibility to read documents on screens has fostered the preference for sans serif fonts also for the body of the text. Given this premise, Helvetica, Arial, and Proxima Nova are all good font choices.
Don’t forget to pay attention to the margins too, because if you make them too narrow, your document will be hard to read and if it’s too wide, your document will have too many pages. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to use explanatory figures, models, and tables. Finally, especially for the more technical parts of your business plan (e.g. the financial plan or your market researches), giving visual insights can make your plan both clearer and more appealing to read through.
Refine, edit, and then… refine and edit again
Once you have written your business plan, keep in mind that this is not a document engraved in stone and that it is not meant to be preserved as a first draft for eternity. So, mentally prepare yourself for having to revise it many times, and having to modify and rewrite certain sections every time that the type of audience (e.g. collaborators, angels, banks, or the municipality) that it is geared toward changes.
Finally, keep in mind that in order to add new experiences and accomplishments or to define the new goals of the company, you will have to update your business plan document periodically anyways.