You need to write a great business plan because a mediocre one just will not do. Not any more. Not in this turbulent financial time.
Banks are stingy. Venture capitalists are stingier. And angel investors are probably the stingiest of all. Approaching any one of these entities without having a great business plan in hand is absurd. It just won't fly.
So what makes a business plan great?
Well, starting at the beginning, the basics need to be covered. These are the items you will find outlined on every business plan site in existence. These items include:
History of the company
Identifying your market
But if your business plan included all of these things, it still has less than a 10% chance of being funded.
What are you missing? Pizazz.
Pizazz means more than filling out an outline and handing it in. Pizazz means presenting yourself and your company as the absolutely best choices on the market. It means you have the ability to navigate through tough times. It means you have marketing skills beyond the ordinary. It means you can use the tools of the web world to capture more business than other businesses in your field.
More than anything else, you need the ability to take the tools that are available and make them your own, much like a great actor makes a role his own. Everybody sees the same words, but some people have the ability to see beyond the words.
And it means that you can present all of this with style and grace.
Well, we never said that writing a great business plan would be easy. It is not.
But all the work is definitely worth it. A strong business plan opens doors than would otherwise remain slammed shut. Even if a particular bank or venture capitalist or angel investor is unable to fund your project, with a strong business plan in hand you are far more likely to get the referrals that you need to succeed.
Going through the process is half the battle. Researching, writing, re-writing, honing your message ... all of these are essential to really examining yourself as an entrepreneur, and your vision for your company. A "vision statement" just doesn't cut it. Your vision will be presented throughout your whole business plan. The style, the outlook, the growth pattern, the people involved all contribute to defining your vision.
And once you have gone through the process, having the skill to put it all into a concise, persuasive sales tool called a business plan is the other half of the process. And, yes, it is a sales tool, not a declaratory statement.
For top ideas on how to present your company, look to annual reports from established companies. These are sales tools too. Should anyone be thinking of buying even one share of stock, they can receive this whole sales package. It has articles and graphics and photos of key people and marketing information, and nearly everything that a strong business plan has. And it is designed to sell, just as your business plan is designed to sell.
The payoff? You can stand proud when you stand in front of your banker or your angel investor, knowing that you have indeed done your homework. And you are the best.