1. Tidy up your personal finances before applying for a business loan.
Pay down loans, clean up any bad debts, collect some business-related equipment and save some money.
2. Bring some equity to the table.
Save money, sell some toys, borrow some love money, create something for your business, or get a second or third job for a while.
3. Prove your business case to yourself and to those who will read your business plan.
Persist in your market research efforts until you become ‘the expert’ for your business. Talk to people, ask questions, search the Internet, take courses, read books, listen to tapes, and subscribe to trade publications. You will feel more confident and have an easier time convincing your readers that you know what you are doing.
4. Listen and learn.
Listen to those who agree with you AND to those who do not. Listen to all who shoot holes in your business idea, they might just be pointing you toward success. When you think you’ve heard it all, listen harder!
5. Be honest… and thorough… and accurate.
Missing information or inaccuracies definitely invite questions and send the wrong message. Putting in wrong information or conveniently leaving out some of the less obvious, non-flattering financial information (like unpaid long overdue taxes) is a sure way to turn off potential investors.
6. Answer the basic business questions.
Who? What? Where? Why? When? How? A proper business planning system will provide you with a framework in which to place the confusing array of information you will gather. Choose a system and use it.
7. Provide a professional presentation.
There is no reason in these times, for a poor presentation. Use a proper business planning system, ask a friend, or pay someone to proof. Get someone to keypunch the plan if you need to, but do a professional job on it. Demonstrating that you care will increase the odds that a lender might care also.
8. Keep your language clear, simple and to the point.
If you must use technical jargon, provide an explanation of potentially confusing terms.
9. Write in the third person.
It is important to separate your business from yourself and to think and write about it as a separate entity.
10. Use charts, graphs, pictures and bulleted lists where appropriate.
Make sure your numbers match what is being stated in the narrative part of your plan. Keep the business plan brief, 20 pages or fewer, but be sure to make pertinent information available in the Appendices.
11. Be realistic in your expectations.
No matter how lofty your financial aspirations might be, know that businesses are rarely profitable in the first few months or even years. Estimate your sales conservatively and your expenses a bit higher than you think they will be. Keep that cash flow realistic and be sure to include ALL expenses and some contingency money.
12. Get into a business about which you know something, preferably a LOT…