Prepare to research and write
Before you can start writing any of the plan's sections, you'll need to start gathering evidence. Since every claim your plan makes should be backed up, the research process will take time. You'll find many answers through trade associations, magazines, newsletters, and annual reports. Subjects that require active research include:
Your company's past financial records (if you're already in business).
Industry statistics. Find out the size of the overall market and what trends are currently affecting it.
Statistics about competitors. Compare your numbers with firms of similar size in the same industry.
Market research. Find out about who's buying products like yours, and what trends might be currently changing their buying patterns. This information is available in trade magazines and newsletters or through a professional marketing consultant.
Potential investors. Find out who finances ventures like yours and the details of deals similar to the one you're proposing. Industry trade associations are a good place to start, as are personal contacts.
After you've done your research, it will be time to fill in the outline with pertinent facts and crystal-clear prose. You definitely want to capture your enthusiasm for the project, but your audience is trained to see through hype and sales-speak. Strive instead for clarity, simplicity, and thoroughness. Here are some guidelines:
Make your sentences short, sweet, and factual.
Guide the reader with bulleted lists, numbered sections, and clearly named subject headings and subheadings.
Don't clutter the text with small details that will slow the reading process. Relegate them to an appendix.
Provide a table of contents so readers can skip to relevant sections.
Keep the plan to about 20 to 30 single-spaced pages, minus the appendices.
Consider outside help
You should complete as much of the plan as possible yourself. This way, you'll be able to answer questions when investors grill you. Further, a full-service consultant may charge anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 (U.S.)--a lot of money if you're just getting on your feet. If you can afford the service, consult a local Better Business Bureau for recommendations, and make sure you ask plenty of questions before you write any checks.
No matter how confident you are, however, you should seek help at some point along the way. Professional input can both improve your chances of success and help avoid potential legal trouble down the line. At the very least, get several trusted, experienced businesspeople to give your plan a serious look. Also consider hiring an accountant to help you prepare the financial plan, and a business lawyer to look into regulatory issues and potential liabilities