Writing a Business Plan: The Conclusion

This is the 9th and final post in our “Writing a Business Plan” series.

See… isn’t writing a business plan easy?  Well, it probably wasn’t that easy.  There are just a few more things to touch on now that you have your plan written out. First, you’ll note that I didn’t say “finished” or “done” in that last sentence.  For full disclosure, I have to tell you that a business plan is never actually complete.  You’ll hear the term “living document” tossed around because your plan will never really stop changing and growing.

Things change that will necessitate updating your plan. Often they are assumptions that no longer apply, but they can be caused by just about anything: changes in the marketplace, competitors, technology shifts, funding possibilities, customer requests, new partners–anything really.  So, be prepared to go in and change your plan.  You can consider this version as “done,” but you should already be working on the next version.

What You Get

You’ve finished all the sections, so now is the time to go back and finish the executive summary.  You’ll have a complete and appropriate summary of your plan.  From now on, every time you change part of the plan, you’ll have to go back to the summary and see if the changes affect anything. It can be a pain, but it’s a useful process to keep on top of the changes in your business.

Your new plan is now also the basis for two other business documents.  You can now generate your Pitch Deck and your One-Pager. Both of these documents will use parts of the business plan as their base.

With your completed business plan you can earnestly start talking with investors.  When you’re asked for a business plan, you can say “I’ll email it!”  Don’t start blanketing the world with your full plan though. Receiving multi-megabyte files that you didn’t ask for is more annoying than anything else.

What To Include

You’ve gone back and updated your executive summary.  I can’t stress that enough. Do it constantly.  Of all the sections, that’s the one that needs to be correct.

A tip that I recommend is to have a separate one-pager in addition to the executive summary.  The executive summary tends to run long and can be a bit bland. It’s usually in the same format as the rest of the plan and a bit standard.  That’s not a bad thing when you’re including a full plan. 

But when somebody wants an introduction to your business, and they ask you to send them an executive summary, send a one-pager AND the summary.  The one-pager is an “infomercial” version of your summary. It’s got flash, style, a call-to-action, and some formatting to make it interesting while making the exciting bits stand out.  Include highlights from the summary, a few images, and your logo.

A pitch deck is another very useful document to have ready to go.  But the trick is to have several versions prepared and ready to go.  I like to have at least 3 different versions.  First, I’ll have a “cold intro” version. The “cold” version assumes that the reader knows absolutely nothing about the company. It will have a lot more words, information, and descriptions. This is what you’d send to your cold calls and brief introduction contacts.  The second version is the “presentation” version. 

This version will have practically no text – it’s all highlights and images.  This is the one used for presenting to potential investors.  I recommend having no more than 12 words on each slide, with 8 being better. Keep the audience interested in your pitch and use the slides to reinforce your message. 

The third version is a combination of the above.  Keep the slides short and informative, but not overwhelming. It’s a multi-page version of the one-pager.  Once you have those ready, don’t be afraid of making individual versions for each situation or investor.  Take the time to customize the deck to match the audience; doing just a little research can make a huge difference.

For all of these documents, I recommend keeping a version number in the file names.  To not get too technical, my version numbers tend to be the date of the last edit.  You can also add the date to the footers or title pages. It will help you keep track of differences.

And lastly, it’s rarely helpful and usually unhelpful to include an NDA with your plan.  First, I’ve never met an investor that would sign one, and second, your plan shouldn’t include any secretive or proprietary information. If you have some, get a patent.

What The Reader Wants

The reader of your business plan wants to know you can create a successful business with the money they could invest. That’s it.  Get that point across to make them believe it as much as you do.  The plan is a way to get your passion conveyed to the reader. Make it do just that.

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