How do you make your business plan really stand out? Business and finance expert Jo Haigh investigates.
One of the most important components of a business plan that is to be used to persuade a funder to invest in your business is not, as may be first thought, the cash flow (although of course this is important) but is the executive summary.
Because of the volume of requests, funders receive and the resources they have available to review such proposals if this part of your plan is not engaging the funder may not even get to the cash flow.
Although this part of your plan goes at the front of your document it is clearly the last part of the plan to be written as it must summarise succinctly the rest of the document.
At most such a summary should extend to four A4 pages, and that is a long summary, but there are a few elements that can really help you get noticed.
Consider for a moment your last visit to your local book shop, the choice of titles is dazzling, time is short, perhaps you have a plane or train to catch, what attracts you to that book? Could it be the author, someone you have read before perhaps and enjoyed?
The analogy for a business plan is, if the funder knows the advisor who has supported the document they may be more inclined to pick it up rather than if it has come from an unsolicited source.
Next the cover, was it the colour, the design, the text size. Although a colourful front cover may not be entirely relevant in a plan, lots of white space and a minimum of size 10 or 12 font text is easier to read, as are wide margins.
So now you turn to the back cover of your book, you want to get a feel for the story. This needs to engage and interest you quickly, ideally leaving you itching to find out more.
The executive summary must therefore make it quite clear;
- How much money you require
- What you are going to use it for
- How you intend to repay it
- What security you have if any
The reader, if interested, will then be able to get more detail in the body of the plan.
I have, over the years, seen numerous executive summaries with no indication of the funding levels required let alone payment plans. They have been written almost as if it is assumed the reader will know this.
So now you pause but you still may not purchase, perhaps the sheer size of the book puts you off, this either being too big or even too thin.
Business plans themselves should never exceed 30 pages, anything above that needs to be in an appendix and this should be well referenced so that the reader doesn’t feel overwhelmed before they even start.
Finally don’t forget the odd graphic or picture, this can break up the tedium of too much text and help maintain interest.