A business plan may be the first impression investors have of your business, so it is important for your business plan be written professionally. Many small business owners don't realize the importance a good business plan, but those who do often know that avoiding the following common mistakes can help you make the most of your business plan software and improve your chances of making a great first impression.
- Not taking the time to spell check. This is a mistake often made by job seekers and business plan writers alike. Misspellings and other simple errors make the worst impression to potential investors. These errors say, "I don't value my company enough to even take time to spell check these documents." No one expects you to be a perfect speller, but with spell-checkers built directly into word processing software and most business plan software, typos in a professional business plan are considered unacceptable.
- A business plan that is too long or too short. There is often a tendency with beginning business plan writers to add either too little or too much information. There are no hard and fast rules about how long a business plan should be, but should only include information that is vital and essential to your business operations in your business plan. Conversely, not providing enough information tells potential investors that you didn't take the time to delve into the project long enough to provide information that is useful in making business decisions today and in the future.
- Bad organization. Information alone is not enough to get the attention of investors. The information must also be presented in a way that is logical and flows easily from one section to the next. The more difficulty a reader has trying to decipher the information in a business plan, the less successful that plan will be. Business investors may also take a badly organized business plan as an indication of how you will run your company. Once your business plan is complete, create several slides as if you were going to present this information verbally to investors. Having to synthesize your ideas in a way that allows readers to follow along can help show you where you may have holes, or where things become complex or unclear.
- Incomplete or unreasonable financial information. Financial information should be provided in a way that allows the reader to get a handle on the business's future potential for success. Not providing enough financial projections indicates an inability to plan for the future. Unreasonable or overly optimistic data, on the other hand, can give the impression that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make the business look viable, even if that means making the information up.
- Writing mistakes. In addition to ensuring that your business plan is not too long or too short, it is also important to ensure that your plan is written well. If English is not your first language, you would do well to have an English-speaking writer review your plan before you finalize it. This may also help you find complex or unclear areas of the business plan that you could improve. Even if English is your first language, having others review your work is the key to any successful writing effort. Business owners often become very close to their business plans and may not be able to see errors or complexities that others will notice right away. When possible, have your colleagues who are familiar with your business ideas review your plan, or choose other professionals in similar or related business efforts to look over your work.
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