Last week I gave you 10 writing tips to keep in mind while writing your business plan. Here are 10 more tips for the wide-eyed business planner.
Remember, when you are ready to sit down and write, just do it. Choose a method that works for you and a time when you will be left alone without distractions.
With any text element of your business plan, the first step is to write your rough draft, concentrating on your ideas and all the information you need to include. Don’t worry about grammar and spelling or any form of editing in the rough draft, you can polish and refine during the revision process. This first draft is not the place to be concerned with perfection.
Read the following list of suggestions prior to writing your business plan. You might also consider copying this list and hanging it in a visible location wherever you will do your writing.
11. Choose the right words
Avoid double-edged words – words that can carry an undesired connotation. Also vague or pretentious words, coined words and unnecessary intensifiers should be replaced or deleted.
12. Eliminate awkwardness
Awkward writing can make it more difficult for the reader to understand your message. To smooth your writing, keep the sentences uncomplicated and eliminate excess words.
13. Correct all typos and grammar errors
The errors that result from carelessness have a tendency to stand out to a reader and sabotage the reader’s confidence in the writer’s ability. Make sure you scour your document for the obvious embarrassing errors like misspelled words and missing commas. It is wise to have someone proof the plan for you.
14. Create a visual format that is easy to read
Use a mixture of text, tables and bulleted lists. Keep your paragraphs short to break text into smaller bites and make it easier for the reader to read.
15. Use appropriate pictures and diagrams
Use pictures or diagrams only where they compliment or simplify your message. Avoid using eye candy simply to impress your reader, unless your business plan is for a graphics-related business. Overuse of pictures can dilute your message and create the impression that you’re not serious.
16. Include your sources for key information
If you use tables from the local census archives, state the source. If you quote an article from a credible trade magazine, provide the name of the magazine and the article, as well as the date. This helps the reader build credibility and confidence in your research and your business plan.
17. Include important detail in the Appendixes
Whereas it is important to include a brief biography in the body of your business plan, it is more appropriate to house your complete resume in the Appendixes.
18. Refer the reader to related information
For example, at the end of your biography you might state, “See complete resumé in Appendix 6.”
19. Ensure numerical information matches text statements
A common mistake in business plans is to state conflicting information in different sections or elements of the business plan. For example, stating a different sales total in the executive summary than that shown in the financial section. Go through your plan and double check for this kind of discrepancy – before it gets into the hands of your reader.
20. Build a Complete, Cohesive Communication Package
As a business planning coach, I will often write up a list of questions and comments for a business planner. Invariably, the writer of the plan then responds with a list of answers to my questions. Over the duration of the business plan development process, we will sometimes do this half a dozen times or more, resulting in a half-baked business plan and up to four lists of responses filling in the holes. This is the raw material, not the finished product.
A finished business plan is one complete, cohesive communication package, with any important detail attached in the Appendixes for reference. Rather than submitting a half-baked plan with a tangle of disjointed responses to others’ questions, create a full plan with all the information included.
As you create your business plan you should involve others to critique and provide feedback. As the champion of your business plan, take control of this valuable process. Assess all feedback and questions for their value and relevance and then incorporate the useful information into the plan. View questions and feedback as gifts, as opportunities to clarify and strengthen your business plan.