Your business plan serves as the ultimate blueprint for your business, and it will set the tone for your interactions with partners, employees, investors, and even clients. If it leaves a favorable impression, it could help you secure funding, attract new partners, and ultimately build a better business. But if it falls flat, it might cause you to lose out on some otherwise impactful opportunities.
Thankfully, there are many steps you can take to make your business plan more impressive.
How to Make Your Business Plan More Impressive
These tips can improve your business plan overall, and make sure it leaves your audience with the right impression:
- Acknowledge your weaknesses. One of the most notorious job interview questions in existence is “what are your weaknesses?” That’s because most people don’t want to talk about their weaknesses, and if you try too hard to spin your weaknesses as strengths, you’ll appear arrogant. In a business plan, acknowledging your business’s true weaknesses is a good thing; it shows that you understand the drawbacks of your business model, and that you’re prepared for them. Just make sure you identify an action plan or strategy to compensate for each of these acknowledged weaknesses.
- Plan your finances conservatively. Too many new entrepreneurs get excited at the idea of turning their business into a money-making machine. They ambitiously forecast incredible revenue growth, and assume everything will go right; they also want to make their company look more impressive in the eyes of investors. But oftentimes, it’s better to forecast your finances conservatively. It’s both more realistic and reflective of a tempered mind.
- Prepare contingencies. Every business is going to encounter difficulties and challenges, even with a near-perfect vision of future growth. Skilled entrepreneurs—the ones best poised for future success—recognize this, and already have contingency plans in mind. Consider adding a few of these contingency plans into your core business plan. What will you do if you suddenly encounter a tough competitor? What if market conditions change? What if you’re not able to accomplish X goal in time?
- Professionally print and bind the plan. It’s a small touch, but an important one if you want to make a stunning first impression; get your business plan spiral bound printed, professionally, and preferably with a high-quality cover. It shows you’re willing to invest in your own work, and makes all the content inside your business plan look that much better. Make sure you print extra copies as well; that way, you’ll have some available for surprise meeting attendees, and future meetings (if needed).
- Emphasize the human element. Most angel investors, venture capitalists, and other savvy businesspeople are just as interested in the people behind a business idea as they are the idea itself. After all, it doesn’t matter how good a business plan is; if the founder trying to run it is incompetent or unskilled, the business isn’t going to succeed. Spend some time in your business plan explaining who you are and how you plan to lead the business, and detail the personal profiles of people you hope to put in skilled positions. At this point, it’s valuable to have a few partners and/or employees already onboard.
- Inject your personality. Business plans are professional documents that should be taken seriously, but they can also get stale—especially if you’re reading many business plans every week as part of your job. That’s why it’s a good idea to inject some of your personality into the writing of the plan. Use your natural voice. Tell a few jokes. Keep people interested. You’ll be amazed how much of an impact it can have.
- Prepare to answer questions. Even great business plans have holes, missing information, or opportunities for elaboration. When presenting your business plan to new people, make sure you’re prepared to answer follow-up questions. If you’re caught off-guard, it might reflect poorly on you.
If you’re not sure whether your business plan is good enough, or if you think it’s missing something, consider seeking feedback before you start showing it around. Talk to other entrepreneurs, mentors, and seasoned business owners in your industry. What do they think about your plan? What was their first impression like? Which sections were most effective, and which ones were lacking? Use this as an opportunity to tweak and polish your plan to perfection.
Even a “perfect” business plan is no guarantee of success. The partners, investors, and other professionals you speak with might be looking for something different, or they might flat-out disagree with your ideas. If this is the case, don’t be discouraged; keep searching for a good fit, and improving your business plan further along the way.