Wow! That’s a lot. Is it really all necessary, and how do you even begin?
Let me suggest that, as with every other aspect of your business, strategy comes first. So, in order to answer any questions about the style or content of your small business plan, you must first answer the same question you must ask about every other part of your business: “What’s the strategy?”
Defining your target market is always a useful approach to begin developing any business strategy, your business plan is no different. In other words, who is it for?
Are you writing a business plan for bankers and conservative investors in order to obtain financial backing?
Are you creating a business plan for collaborators who are interested in the vision of the company and opportunities for creative expression?
Are you writing it for yourself as a way to put ideas on paper so you can evaluate their potential and be sure you’re not overlooking any obstacles?
When you begin asking these questions, it quickly becomes apparent that you need to skew your small business plan depending on the target audience. In fact, you may need several versions of your small business plan.
For example, let’s imagine we're writing a business plan for those conservative investors. For this group you should prioritize financial analysis, projections and ROI forecasts. You might emphasize graphics, tables and charts, You might work closely with an accountant while writing it. Your writing style may be more conservative, less colorful, more precise.
On the other hand, if the purpose of writing a business plan is to have a tool to encourage collaboration with other entrepreneurs, you may appeal more to the dreams and aspirations of that group. Your writing style could be more relaxed, sprinkled generously with words and phrases that ignite imagination and enthusiasm.
When creating a business plan for your own use, a looser or tighter style will be appropriate depending on your preferences.
Let me say that in every case, your small business plan must not omit details, or be manipulated in any way. We are not talking about misrepresenting your business idea. We are talking about writing a business plan so that it is weighted toward the reader’s interests, and presents all the information in the most enjoyable form for that reader.
I remember when, many years ago in one of my university film directing classes, the subject of writing a film ‘treatment’ came up (a film treatment is essentially a brief summary of the film used to pitch the movie when seeking financial and other support).
Many of the students in the class were certain they had just written their first future Oscar winning script and were eager to learn the formula for writing a treatment, so the professor read us treatments that were used to promote two different feature films. Not only was the content of each treatment different based on the content of the movie, but the style used to write each one was completely different.
In fact, writing a small business plan is no different than any other part of your business because every part of your business is marketing; therefore, every part of your business is strategy. That includes your small business plan.
You can find articles (some on this website), books and even software to help you with the specific content of your small business plan. But however you put together the nuts and bolts of it, recognize that you’re writing a business plan as a marketing tool and that when creating a business plan, the rules of marketing apply; number one: strategy first.
-by Andrew Sokol