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  • Building Your Business Plan

    Game Plan

    In-Depth

    How to Write a Readable Plan

    A good business plan, like any marketing piece, needs to communicate your strategic goals to a broad audience (colleagues, investors, potential partners, loan officers) in an efficient manner. This is not the place to get into slick design and you don’t want to compose a scholarly thesis that suggests you’ve got a dog-eared thesaurus by your side. Here are a few guidelines for making your plan digestible:

    • Keep fonts simple and easy to read
      Stick with one or two fonts and set the body copy (black type on white is best) in 11 or 12 point. Fonts like Times Roman and Arial are commonly used and easy to read. 
    • Use an outline format with topic headers
      Outline formatting organizes information in an easy-to-follow manner. Topic headers in a larger and bolder font allow a reader to skim through your document and find the most relevant sections.
    • Include a table of contents
      A table of contents right up front shows the reader exactly what’s covered in the document and provides quick navigation to each topic.
    • Make it look professional, but clearly written by you
      This is your vision you are describing so it should look and sound like you wrote it. It’s a functional, working business document that is all about the quality of the content. But take the time to make it look as clean and professional as you can. Proofread very carefully and don’t rely exclusively on your spell check program. Consider asking several friends or colleagues to also proof it for you.
    • Keep it as short as possible, but don’t leave anything out
      The shorter you can make your plan the better chance it has of being read. Generally, try to keep it to no more than 30-40 pages, including supporting documents, charts, graphs and spreadsheets. If you include only content that can be supported and which you can explain at a moment’s notice, you’ll avoid the temptation to add filler and fluff.
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    Game Plan

    • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan.
    • There are many software packages designed to help you construct a plan. An objective comparison review can be found here.
    • You can download free business plan templates from entrepeneur.com and score.org but be cautious about “fill-in-the-blanks” solutions as they may make it harder to make your plan unique to your business.