Tips to Strengthen Your Business Plan – Part 1: Three Common Mistakes

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“Aim small, Miss small”

~Mel Gibson in The Patriot

Have you seen The Patriot?  Mel Gibson teaches his kids that if they aim small, then they will miss small when rescuing his son from the redcoats.  This lesson isn’t only relevant to firearms.  The devil is in the details when you are writing your business plan.  I’ve reviewed many business plans and have learned some helpful insights from venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, mentors and advisors. These insights can help to strengthen your plan.

Three Common Mistakes

Be realistic about your market size.  Understand that your market is only as big as the national/regional/local area in which you operate, or plan to penetrate, and the competition of similar size that is present.  If you opened a local fast food hamburger chain that operates 5 locations across 5 cities, then you are not part of the $551 billion global fast food industry unless you plan to compete directly with McDonald’s on a global level.  Your market size is the revenues of all like kind competition in those cities.

Write a killer executive summary.   Your executive summary is what entices the reader to read further.  If a VC picks up your plan and doesn’t like the executive summary, he/she is under no obligation to finish reading the plan.  The reality is that books do get judged by their cover.  “The job of the executive summary is to sell, not to describe.” is what Guy Kawasaki says in his blog post about “The Art of the Executive Summary.

Thinking in a vacuum. Your business plan is going to be judged by somebody who is not just like you and have most likely seen a bunch of other plans to compare yours to.  They will catch most of the things you did not catch yourself.  You need external input.  Having advisors and mentors can be very beneficial to ensuring that your plan is a well thought out one.

If you don’t have anybody you can bounce your ideas off of or you need help with your existing business, then there are many great resources out there that you can utilize to help you on your journey.  National and state funded institutions like your local SBDC (Small Business Development Center supported by the Small Business Administration) and volunteer based SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives) are there to provide mentorship and counseling.  If your lucky enough to have a 1 Million Cups organization meeting in your area, you can have the opportunity to pitch your business idea in front of active community businessmen and entrepreneurs to gain helpful feedback.

Many great resources to help you start or grow your business are just a google search away.  Reach out, remain open, and accept the help.

It’s time to “Stop Doing the Mundane, and Start Getting Weird!”

(Image Credit) 

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