How to Finish a Business PlanYou’ve got all your business plan ducks in a row—you’ve analyzed your staffing needs, nailed down your financing options, and set your business goals—and your partners are on board. Now, it’s time to put pen to paper. Well, hopefully fingers to a keyboard because even though most business plans have gotten much shorter than they used to be, they’re still pretty detailed documents. However, as Palo Alto Software President Tim Berry points out, “don’t confuse your business plan with a doctoral thesis.” He suggests you “rein in your prose” by using:

  • Simple and to-the-point sentences

  • Clear, easy-to-understand language (i.e., no jargon, buzzwords, or acronyms)

  • Bullet points for easy scanning

In addition to keeping text simple, Berry also recommends you do the same with numbers by using business charts. Just be sure to place your source numbers near each chart, reference each chart within the text, and include:

 

  • Bar charts for annual sales, gross margin, net profits, cash flow, and net worth

  • Two dimensional charts because they’re easier to read

  • Stacked bars to make totals easier to see

  • Pie charts for market share and market segments

  • Horizontal bars to display tasks and milestones (labels on the left and dates along the top or bottom)

And finally, make sure that your overall plan is “simple and inviting.” According to Berry, you can do so by using:

  • No more than two fonts (a sans-serif for the heading and a standard text for the body) in size 11 or 12

  • Page breaks to separate sections, charts, and tables

  • Plenty of whitespace (i.e., less text per page)

  • Spell check and a proofreader (consider reading your business plan aloud to check for sentences that don’t make sense)

Follow these experts’ advice and you’ll have one heck of a well-written, well-polished business plan. Now the only thing left to do is start businessing—ahem—practicing. Bring on the clients!

Have stories you’d like to share about setting up your own business plan? We’d love to hear them! Regale us in the comment section below.