Posted by: bevmeldrum | October 22, 2007

Common Questions About Business Plans – Does It Have To Be Boring?

This is the start of a series of blogs posts based on common questions I am asked abot writing business plans.

The first question on the list is – Does It Have To Be Boring?

And my answer is … no.

Your Business Plan should never be boring – the document you end up with should contain the heart and soul of your organisation. It should be inspiring and exciting.

Of course there will be sections that are less interesting for you to write and less inspiring for whoever is reading your Business Plan. But ultimately, your Business Plan is your opportunity to share your vision with others be that your staff, volunteers, management committee, local community, funders or anyone else who reads it.

Your reader should put down your Business Plan after having read it and they should be inspired by the mental picture you have painted for them throughout the document. You want them to walk away excited by the impact you are going to having in your community and in individual’s lives or even the wider world.

This is why it is better to write your Business Plan yourself, rather than get an external consultant in to write it for you. They might know how to structure the Business Plan and present it and all the other things they are good at, but only you can put the heart and soul of your enterprise into words. You are the best person to articulate your vision and only you can tell the stories of your organisation.

Although, it shouldn’t be a boring document it does need to be thorough. It needs to cover as much as possible. If you think about the funder or loan manager that will be reading your Business Plan they will not be reading each page word for word, not initially anyway. They will flick through looking for the parts they find the most interesting – often the financial section and then anything else that is of particular interest to them.

Of course, the issue you are facing is that you do particular sections of the business plan will interest this particular funder or lender. Therefore, by giving a thorough explanation of your enterprise idea the funder or lender, whichever section they spend most time looking through, will get a good idea of what your plans are.

By including as much detail as you can you will really begin to create a visual image of how your organisations will look and have a good idea of how it will actually work.

One area that a lot of people seem to be unsure of is what style of writing to use in their business plan. I think this matters less than we tend to think it does. If your role is to tell the story of your organisation, to get across the vision of your organisation in an exciting and compelling way, then just tell the story. Try to cut out as much jargon as possible – imagine the person reading your business plan knows nothing about your area of work – but just write as you would normally. Do not try to use fancy words, or fill the page with jargon. Be yourself. Share your vision.

If you are still not sure about the language you have used in your Business plan why not ask someone you know and trust and who can write in the way you wished you could and ask them to re-write your Business Plan for you. It is a great way to ensure it is your story that is being told and not someone else’s version of it, whilst improving how it reads.

Another way to ensure that your Business Plan is not boring is to spend time formatting it correctly. Why not add some pictures, maybe of the people in your organisation. Pictures do not have to be restricted just to the front cover – try placing them throughout the business plan, matching the pictures with appropriate text. If you see your Business Plan as the opportunity to tell your story then including pictures is great way to reinforce the mental picture you will be expecting the reader of your business plan to be developing as they go through it.

As well as using pictures in your Business Plan why not add in a number of stories. They do not have to be very long, but dispersed across the document they can be very powerful in illustrating the social impact your organisation is having in the community or alternatively showing the need that exists for the services or products you are intending to provide. Stories, as with pictures, as a great way to reinforce the mental pictures the readers will be forming in their heads. There is no better way to inspire someone reading your Business Plan than by using a story.

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