Your business plan is the blueprint for your business, and you’re likely going to use it to attract investors, partners, and even clients to your venture. Accordingly, it needs to make a fantastic impression on your audience if it’s going to be successful.
So what steps can you take to make your business plan more impressive?
Do Your Research
First, you need to do your research. This should go without saying for any business plan, but it’s surprising how many entrepreneurs skip this all-important step. You need to be familiar with your competitors, your target market, the cost of raw materials, operational expenses, the size of your current market, and dozens of other variables. What’s more, you need to have concrete data to support your claims about these areas. Your business plan will be much more impressive if you have some kind of objective proof of your claims.
Some entrepreneurs think that the best way to make their business plan impressive is to showcase the best-case scenario in all conditions. They want to project millions of dollars of revenue their first year and practically unlimited growth – and they’ll fudge the numbers a bit to do it. However, overly ambitious business plans are often met with skepticism; it’s sometimes taken as a sign of immaturity or lack of familiarity.
Instead, it’s typically better to estimate conservatively. Provide realistic financial projections that your investors will actually believe.
Show Off the Team
Investors often make the numbers their biggest priority; they want to make sure that the business can be run profitably. However, their second biggest priority is often the leadership team responsible for making the business plan a reality. Spend some time highlighting the past experience and accomplishments of your team members. What makes these people qualified to run the business? What are their core strengths? How are they going to work together? Remember, this includes you, so be prepared to sell yourself in your business plan.
Provide Backup Plans
“Business plan” is a bit of a misleading term because it should actually contain multiple plans. If your main operation fails for one reason or another, what are you going to try instead? How can you adapt to new circumstances and continue making money? Robust backup plans will help your case tremendously.
Polish the Executive Summary
The executive summary is usually the first thing your audience will read – and it’s meant to capture your entire idea. Spend some extra time polishing it to perfection. You can start by giving your readers a kind of elevator pitch — a short, concise statement meant to “hook” your audience and introduce your business concept as quickly as possible. Make sure you hit the major points of what you’re going to cover in the full plan, including the current state of the market, your target audience, and your competition, then close with something that will capture enough interest to encourage your reviewers to keep reading.
Print and Bind the Business Plan
Once your business plan is finished (to an extent), make a plan to print and bind the business plan in a professional way. Like it or not, your audience will likely form strong first impressions about you and the business based on how the business plan works. According to PrintingCenterUSA.com, one of the best upgrades here is wire-O binding, since it will give the document a sturdy spine while still allowing your audience to turn the pages easily. Plus. investing in sturdy paper stock with a thick cover page can give your document a more impressive, professional feel.. It’s going to make people take you more seriously and give your business plan the prestige it deserves.
Tailor the Plan to Your Target Audience
Mass printing your business plan may not be a good idea, especially if you’re shopping it around to different audiences. Instead, it’s likely better to make small tweaks to your business plan to make it better suited to each audience group. For example, you can change the executive summary to appeal to investors, or tweak the financial projections when pitching your idea to partners or vendors.
Be Prepared to Present
In most cases, you won’t simply hand over your business plan and wait for the other person to read it. Instead, you’ll be presenting the business plan in person – or at least answering questions about it. Accordingly, you need to be prepared to present.
There’s a lot of important ground to cover here, but we’ll keep this section brief. Make sure you polish your public speaking skills, including:
- Keep good posture. If standing, try to remain standing straight with your shoulders back. It will make you look more confident and help you project your voice.
- Make occasional eye contact. Make eye contact with your audience throughout your speech to drive your points home.
- Take your time. Don’t rush through your presentation; take your time to minimize mistakes and simultaneously look more confident.
- Gesticulate sparingly. Using your hands to punctuate and emphasize certain points can be powerful, but you also don’t want to flail around onstage. Film yourself practicing to get a better feel for how you look when you do this.
You’ll also need to be prepared to answer the toughest questions you can imagine. You don’t want to be caught unprepared.
Get Feedback and Make Changes
Finally, make sure you collect feedback and make changes to your original work. Talk to investors, potential partners, and even your peers to see what they think about your plan – and what needs changing or updating. And if your business plan remains in limbo for a prolonged period of time, be ready to update your statistics and facts with new information as it becomes available.
With the right commitment and a solid idea, you should be able to write, revise, and polish a business plan that will blow your audience away. Even with a great business plan, there’s no guarantee your business will be successful, so be prepared to make sacrifices and adapt as you learn more about your business environment.