One thing I get asked all the time is how long should a business plan be.
The first thing I tell people is that they need to stop thinking about length. It’s not important.
It is time to talk word count.
Writing thousands of words may seem like a lot. It could end up being the equivalent of a short story, or even half of an entire book. This is not a small amount of work, which is why many people decide to hire someone else to develop their plan.
If you choose to do your business plan yourself, it does not have to be overwhelming. With a well laid out template that is pre-filled and pre-formatted and includes guidance on what to write in each section, the entire process can actually be pretty easy.
If you are looking for a business plan template, you can check out my template kit which includes everything you need to get started.
In other posts, we’ve covered how to write a business plan, how to write your business plan financials, and some of the more technical aspects of what goes into your business plan, so now we’re going to look at the high-level overview.
The primary question to ask is: How well does your business plan present itself?
First, let’s take a look at the problems associated with going over or under my recommended word count and how long a business plan should be.
The Danger of Too Many Words
Investors and bankers are busy. Want to know how they typically approach reading a business plan? They skim.
They are skimming for the content they want to see. The key is to harness that and help them by directing their attention to the essential elements. There are several ways to do this, ranging from eliminating extraneous information to strategic formatting.
Using too many words to convey your information is unnecessary and will likely end up with the reader feeling bored and overwhelmed. Remember, a business plan is not the whole story of your business, but rather the most important details. Go ahead and cut to the chase.
The bottom line is, with your business plan, editing is invaluable. Cut, trim, polish, and then cut some more. Specifically, look out for redundancy, wordy sentences, and unnecessary jargon. The most concise, readable business writing will have been edited many times over.
The Problem with Too Few Words
When your word count falls below the healthy range, it’s not enough info to give your audience a clear view of your idea. While you don’t want to overwhelm the reader, you do want to ensure they have all the pertinent details by the time they’ve completed their review.
Using too few words gives the impression that your idea hasn’t been properly thought out, that you’re still in the draft stage. Your business plan should answer your readers’ most important questions and provide key details about your company.
The Magic Range
So what’s the magic word count?
I recommend entrepreneurs keep their business plan word count within a range — between four thousand and five thousand words.
Now, four or five thousand words could be 10 pages, or it could be 25 pages, depending on formatting, the font size, or even how many big words are used. That’s why you need to focus on the content as opposed to the overall length of the document.
If something seems essential but hits over that five thousand word mark, put it in the appendix. You may need to consult with a professional to discern what’s important and what’s not for your plan.
Next, we need to talk about how to improve your business plan’s readability and the importance of captivating the reader.
What to Focus On
In addition to quantity, be sure to focus on quality — on readability. Excite your readers, and keep them focused on your idea. Also, remember to speak to your audience. Figure out what will be the most compelling to them.
You want to engage readers by making your plan easy to read and understandable while still providing all the critical information. It sounds simple enough, but some entrepreneurs write in a way that’s not meant for humans.
A quick word on formatting. Don’t let your formatting distract from your idea. Organize text into digestible chunks with headers.
Use appropriate spacing (including adequate white space), readable fonts, and useful charts or graphics to convey your message. While you want your plan to be visually appealing, you need to avoid it being too busy.
Finally, one of the best steps you can take to ensure your business plan makes sense and answers the necessary questions is to get a second set of eyes on it. The more you have your hands in your business plan, the harder it becomes to see the big picture.
Another reader will come in with a fresh perspective and can check to ensure your idea is being conveyed clearly and can even spot grammatical errors. The most ideal proofreaders would be another team member, a trusted individual who understands your idea, or a professional business plan consultant.
So, the answer to the question: “How long should a business plan be?” is as long as it takes to show the right view of your business. By taking the time to provide a well-rounded overview of everything lenders and investors want to know, you’ll be in the best position possible to get the outcome you’re seeking.
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