This month I am passing on the wisdom of an amazing businessman, and my SCORE mentor, Hal Shelton. Hal has the gravitas of a long and successful track record as CFO/VP finance for a variety of for-profit and non-profit organizations. His demeanor is humble and engaging, always listening first and providing laser-focused advice after thinking through the situation. In addition to being an active SCORE mentor, Hal is also an angel investor.
Via all these roles Hal has literally worked with over 1,000 entrepreneurs and reviewed as many business and financial plans. Bottom line is I can think of no better person to cut through to the core of what makes a successful business plan – and more importantly – a successful business.
In 2013 Hal will publish a must-read book on business plan writing, but as a preview I wanted to share this month Hal’s 11 commandments for writing a business plan
1. The Business Plan itself is a marketing action
Entrepreneurs are “doers” and often see planning as a waste of time. A well thought out business plan, however, is one of the most powerful actions you can take. It demonstrates to yourself and others:
- You are serious about your business idea.
- You have the passion and persistence to work out the strategies and roll-up-your-sleeves tactics.
- You are realistic about what it takes to get to your goals.
2. Know your audience and write the plan in a style and with information they need for the action(s) you want them to take
Who is this plan for? An investor? Big client? Potential Partner? Banker? Board Member? Yourself? Write in a style then that is understandable and compelling. Make it easy for the reader to take a positive action—and see what’s in it for him.
3. Business Planning should focus on the customer and not on the entrepreneur
Creators of the most successful new companies were founded on serving an unmet need. Focus on the customer, her need and how you will address that need better than any other current solution.
Next week: The most important sections of your business plan.