Who wants to see your Business Plan?

It is always important to remember that the people who will look at your Business Plan do not want to be entertained.  They want to see a serious document that describes a serious business.  They do not care if there are colors or artistic formatting.  They are probably more comfortable looking at a Wall St. style Business Plan than at a document that looks as though it has been produced by an advertising agency.  It is always a good idea to use a serif font like Garamond (the Wall St. favorite) or Times New Roman.  If you use a non-serif font, Ariel is best.  Your document and headings should be left-justified, and you should use an outline-type numbering system (see sample plan) for your headings so that the reader can easily know where s/he is and can refer to a specific section in communications.

You will find your Business Plan document is extremely useful for a variety of things, so you might want to prepare both a ‘private version’ and a ‘public version’.  Do not title your files using ‘private version’ and ‘public version’ because you will probably be sending the document out in digital file format via email.  So, unless you want the attorney you are planning to hire asking you what ‘public version’ means and why you didn’t send the ‘private version’, simply call the public version ‘Business Plan’ and the private version that will be given to investors ‘Venture Plan’. 

You will be showing it not only to employees of The Bank, Angel Investors or Venture Capitalists, but you will also be showing it to your attorney, your office landlord, your equipment leasing company, your business consultant, your accountant, your new managers, your Web developer, your marketing guru, and anyone who needs to know about your company.  It can be edited to provide copy for your marketing materials.  It can be expanded into an Operational Business Plan.  It can be cut up, annotated and given to your managers as a ‘things to do’ document.

Today, a Business Plan is an ordinary document.  It saves time and money when you are breaking in a new consultant or provider of professional services such as an attorney or accountant.  Any new manager will want to see your Business Plan before deciding to come to work for your company.  Because so many different people will be looking at it, you should write it to be as simple and informative as possible.  Do not use obscure technical terms or archaic academic prose.  Even the most sophisticated reader of Business Plans will drop your document at least to the bottom of the pile, if not into the trashcan, if it takes any effort or time to read and understand.