Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors, taking their mind off your business and putting it on the mistakes you made.If writing and editing aren’t your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.However, if you’re an existing business seeking small-business loans, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.
To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. A strong, detailed plan provides a clear road map for the future, forces you to think through the validity of a business idea, and can give you much greater understanding of your business’s financials and the competition. It spells out exactly what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the long term.
A business plan typically looks out over three to five years, detailing all of your goals and how you plan to achieve them. If you’re looking for outside funding, you can use this section to explain why you have a clear need for the funds, how the financing will help your business grow, and how you plan to achieve your growth targets.
“They know what you can expect sales to be for that type of business in that market,” Allen says.
“If you walk in with a sales forecast 50% higher than other businesses, they are going to know that you are not being realistic, and that’s going to work against you.” Keep it concise: All you need is 15 to 25 pages for a good business plan, as long as the plan is clear, concise and contains all of the relevant information, Allen says.
If you’re applying for a loan or looking for investors, a business plan shows you’re prepared and have fully vetted your business idea, says Craig Allen, a financial advisor who teaches business plan writing classes at Southern New Hampshire University. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity presented and how the loan or investment will grow your company.
“If you have no financial forecast, which is part of the business plan, it’s very difficult to show the bank how you are going to repay the loan,” Allen says. For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch the new product and increase its sales by 50% over the next three years.
“It’s OK to be optimistic if you can justify it,” Allen says.
“In general, you don’t want to stand out in a negative way by being too optimistic.” You want to show that your business can generate strong enough cash flow to cover the regular debt payments on a loan.
Appendix Business plan tips and resources This is the first page of your business plan.
» MORE: Best loans for working capital [Back to top] Here, you’ll list your business’s legal structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — as well as key employees, managers or other owners of the business.