Section 3--General Plan Guidelines
General Business Planning Guidelines
In addition to the main sections of the business plan as discussed previously, there are several other items all effective business plans should have. The first is a cover and title page. The cover should have the name of the company and all contact information on it as well as the date of the plan’s issuance. Inside the front cover should be a title page repeating the cover page information.
Following this should be the Executive Summary and then the table of contents. The table of contents should identify the titles and page numbers of each major section of the plan. It is important to note that for a long time in preparing documents with a table of contents I would make them by hand and if the page numbers changed I would have to update it accordingly. Microsoft Word allows a person to automatically create a table of contents that automatically updates the page numbers whenever you make changes to the document. Since I found this option, it has saved me many tedious hours of editing work. I will show you how to do this later on.
Finally, at the end of the document you should include appendices which would include resumes of the management team, articles of incorporation, and any other supplemental documentation that will benefit the reader.
Every aspect of the document you present to potential investors should indicate that the person proposing the venture (you) are competent, professional, and able to treat the investment carefully. In other words, form is as important as function. Even if you see yourself as a laid-back casual person and that is what you desire to emulate as you run your business, when you are asking for money, you must “act” for a moment as if you are a stuffy business person.
The document itself must look attractive and professional. The binding—yes the business plan should not be stapled or paper clipped together—and the printing should be done by a professional, not on your home inkjet. Pages should be number and headers should be included indicating the title and section of the document. Footers should contain page numbers and perhaps the date of printing. Finally, all references you cite in your document should be either included as a footer or end notes at the end of the document, but prior to the appendix.
If you do not consider yourself a writer you should start by putting together a rough draft of the document and find someone who is. This may even involve paying a professional, or you could use a family or friend that you consider a professional writer of business documents. Some universities also offer services to fledgling businesses trying to put together business plans; they may be a good resource as well. The important thing is that you are consistently communicating in your document that you are competent and professional—good writing skills and grammar is important to these ends.
You business plan should provide all the information necessary and feasible for a potential investor to determine whether or not they should invest in the business, however it should not be a tome. The document itself should not be more than fifty (50) pages, with forty (40) being the ideal. Any longer and it becomes too much of a chore for an investor to thoroughly read through the document, and it therefore loses it’s effectiveness. The content should be thorough, but the language concise.
In the following installments of this crash course in business planning, what I will do is go section by section and provide real-time examples of each section as I create them for my own catering venture I am trying to get started. Hopefully a good discussion will ensue as each section is presented. This may take a considerable amount of time, so please bear with me.