Common Business Plan Mistakes and Weaknesses

All businesses should have a business plan. Unfortunately, the vast majority of plans are hardly worth the paper they’re printed on, even though the business it describes continues to sputter along. When it comes to creating a business plan that will attract investors and guide your company’s future, some things are best left to the pros. Most substandard business plans share one or more of the following problems.

The plan is poorly written. Spelling, punctuation, grammar and style are important when it comes to getting your business plan written. Investors are looking for clues about the underlying business and its leaders when they’re studying your plan. When they see one with spelling, punctuation and grammar errors, they immediately wonder what else is wrong with the business. Before you show your plan to a single investor or banker, go through every line of the plan with a fine-tooth comb. Run your spell check and have someone you know with strong editorial skills review it for grammar problems.

The plan is incomplete. Every business has customers, products and services, operations, marketing and sales, a management team, and competitors. At an absolute minimum, your plan must cover all these areas. A complete plan should also include a discussion of the industry, particularly industry trends, such as if the market is growing or shrinking. Finally, your plan should include detailed financial projections–monthly cash flow and income statements, as well as annual balance sheets, going out at least three years.

The plan makes unrealistic assumptions. By their very nature, business plans are full of assumptions. The most important assumption is that your business will succeed! The best business plans highlight critical risks and provide some sort of rationalization for them. The worst business plans bury these risks throughout the plan so no one can tell where the assumptions end and the facts begin. Market size, acceptable pricing, customer purchasing behavior, these all involve assumptions. Wherever possible, make sure to tie your assumptions to facts. A simple example of this would be the real estate section of your plan. You should research the locations and costs for real estate in your area, and make a careful estimate of how much space you’ll actually need before presenting your plan to any investors or lenders.

Writing a business plan is hard work, many people spend a year or more writing their plan. But the hardest part is developing a coherent picture of the business that makes sense, is appealing to others and provides a reasonable road map for the future. Your products, services, business model, customers, marketing and sales plan, internal operations, management team and financial projections must all tie together seamlessly. If they don’t, you may not ever get your business off the ground. 

Many of the smartest entrepreneurs hire professional help. Wise Business Plans can help guide you through the entire process, fill in knowledge gaps, for instance, if you know marketing but not finance, provide additional feedback, and package your plan in an attractive, professional format. Wise Business Plans can help you address the weaknesses of your business plan.