Setting Business-Planning Team Priorities
Issues of timing are bound to come up as you try to put your business plan on paper. How can you put together the executive summary, for example, before you have the rest of the business plan in place? And don't you need the company strategy written up before you can tackle the action plan?
Each component of your written business plan has to be in sync with the sections around it. For example, if you talk about the need to increase the subscriber base for your investment newsletter in the company strategy section, but you fail to say a word about it in your action plan, anyone reading your plan is bound to wonder if you really know what you're doing.
Follow these steps to make sure that everyone is working on the same page:
Sit down with your team and hammer out an outline containing the key points that each section of the plan will address.
Refer to the table as a guide. You may need more than one meeting to create your outline, but consider it time well spent.
Component What it includes Table of Contents
Listing of key products and/or services
Business model summary
Major business goals
Barriers to entry
Ideal customer profile
Plans for growth
Products and/or services offered
Research and development
Sales and marketing
Distribution and delivery
With the outline in hand, team members can begin writing their parts with knowledge of what each section should include and how the information relates to the other plan components.
This allows team members to spot discrepancies or omissions early on.
Write your executive summary last, because you can't summarize a plan you haven't written.
You'd be amazed at the number of business planners who've anguished over the executive summary simply because they tried to write it first. Save yourself the agony: The executive summary may come first in the finished plan, but it should be the last component you write — usually after your team completes and reviews the second draft of each of the other components.
When you write your executive summary, don't worry about repeating yourself. The whole point of the opening section is to capture the key points of your plan — using the same language you use in the plan. Don't grab a thesaurus hoping to find some colorful new way to express your mission or your strategy — you'll only confuse your readers and your team. Say what you mean the same way, only shorter.