Here’s The Style Of Business Plan You Should Write
Should you go all-in on a 20+ page business plan?
The first big project many new entrepreneurs take on for their new venture is the business plan.
Having written a lot of business plans over my career for myself and my clients, I have a strong opinion on 20+ page business plans and their lack of necessity for most entrepreneurs.
The majority of startups can do just fine with a 5–10 page business plan.
The key to taking the right business plan journey is to define a clear intention for your plan.
A lot of entrepreneurs dive into creating a business plan but don’t put any intention behind it. What ends up happening is that they write this long, multi-hour document and then never glance at it again. Without a clear intention, I’ve seen many business plans get abandoned after the finish line push.
Sounds like a waste of 30 hours.
Tip number one when it comes to writing a business plan: get clear on why you’re writing it.
Is your intention to use the business plan to:
- Pursue investment from investors who would like to see a business plan?
- If not, what is the purpose of the document? Will you use it as a roadmap to be followed by your team members? Will it help you clarify your thinking process behind the business?
Here are some tips on the business plan style you should pursue after you become clear on your plan’s intention.
Business plan as an investment document
Do you think it’s worth starting on a 30-hour business plan if no one will read it but you?
Committing to writing a business plan once you have some soft yeses from potential investors seems logical, writing one with the hopes that a cold lead will respond is a bit far-fetched.
I prefer not to start on a 30-hour project unless I have some investors in the pipeline.
This is why I recommend that business plans should not be prewritten before solid investor interest. You can create an outline and a writing plan in preparation, but that’s about it.
Once this pipeline is primed, the timing of writing the business plan has to be perfect. In other words, you have to get writing and deliver that business plan as soon as you can to investors, while the coals are hot.
(It’s important to note that some investors also won’t care to see a long business plan. Some investors are okay with just seeing a pitch deck and detailed financials. Know your audience and plan accordingly.)
A substantial business plan for investors should be about 20+ pages long and include thorough market research not only for your industry but from a zoomed-out perspective of external market factors that will affect your business. You should also possess a solid, thought-out strategy for all major arms of your business and realistic financial projections.
Some entrepreneurs trust their ability to write a full business plan in a short period of time. Others who are not as well-versed with writing can hire a business plan writer to turnaround a business plan in a short period of time. Good places to find writers like these are on platforms like Upwork.
Business plan as a roadmap or for clarity
If you’re not planning on taking any investors and are crafting a business plan to use it more as a roadmap, I recommend that you opt for a shorter business plan, coming in at around 5–10 pages.
You can also use an alternative like a business plan canvas to create a more succinct business plan.
Even though a descriptive, well-researched 20+ page business plan can only be useful — in my experience, I’ve found that business plans made during the ideation phase age very quickly. I’ve seen some business plans become obsolete as soon as 6 months because of changes integrated after the testing/implementation phase.
In a business plan used for the purposes of providing a roadmap, or to clarify one’s vision for the business, I recommend that you strongly focus on the positioning you’ll be using to define your business’ mission and vision, its unique value proposition, and the data and research defining your target customer’s shopping behaviors.
Utilizing this approach, this document can act as a reference for your business’ copy and voice on its website, social media and other consumer-facing channels.
The purpose of this document will be to help your business hammer out its unique angle and key plays when it comes to appealing to its audience in a compelling manner.
This central pillar can be a useful document to share with collaborators such as marketers, designers, business strategists, and more.