Posted by: bevmeldrum | November 1, 2007

Common Questions About Business Plans – Do I Let Other People See It?

Yes if they can help. Many of the Business Plan templates we have seen put a confidentiality statement on the first that the reader is expected to sign – this is particularly common in templates coming from the US. As a result many of the people we talk to about Business Plans are concerned about showing them to other people in case they steal their ideas.

Our approach is that getting other people to look through your Business Plan is a great idea. When our whole lives are taken up with a new idea for an organisation we live and breath that idea until it becomes part of us. When we start to write about it, we are writing about something that we know inside out. Because of this we often make assumptions as we write that others reading our Business Plan will understand as much about our idea as we do and as a result we often use jargon without really explaining what it means.

When writing your Business Plan you need to assume that the person who will read it – be they a new member of staff, funder or investor – knows nothing about your organisation. What makes sense to you may not make sense to them as they read it.

One way that you have done this is to ask someone from outside of your organisation to read it – someone who does not know your sector or the jargon that you use on a day to day basis.

Ask them to answer the following questions:

• Did they catch your vision?
• Can they imagine what you are going to do and how you are going to do it?
• Was it clear? Did they understand everything you said?

It is also worthwhile asking someone who knows your sector well to look through your Business Plan. You can ask them to answer a different set of questions:

• Are your plans conservative, over-optimistic or impossible?
• Is it going to work?
• Does it all add up?
• Do the figures look plausible?
• Is there anything that you have missed?
• What areas could be clearer?

Although we are suggesting that it is actually a good idea for you to get other people to read through your Business Plan, you will need to think about how widely you circulate it. In particular, although we are not advocating confidentiality agreements that induce levels of paranoia about other people stealing your idea you do need to think about your competitors and whether or not you should share your Business Plan with them.

It may not be a good idea to share your Business Plan with your competitors if:

• You are both working on a similar product for the same market
• You are launching a product or service that will get you ahead in the market
• You have identified a new market that your competitors have not cottoned onto yet

However, in the spirit of social entrepreneurship and partnership working, there may be times that showing your Business Plan to your competitors is a good idea. For example:

• If you want to get experts in your field to share their experience with you
• If you would like to work in partnership with them in the future (even if they do not know that yet)
• You may be in the same sector but they work in a different geographical area or customer base.

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