It’s come to my attention that young Kenyans, and many older ones too, haven’t got the faintest idea how to write a business plan.
I see many, many plans every week given my role as an investor. Some range from a simple 2 paragraph statement to 30 plus page wonders.
So what should a business plan have?
Instead of spelling out what I would want to see, I’m going to give you some tips. We need to move away from being infants who need to be spoon fed, and instead take some initiative to get to where we want to go.
Numerous online guides and even courses in tertiary institutions exist to answer that question. My answer is based on what I know through my fair share of experiences over the last 7 years.
Know your audience
To the shorthand, sms-style, writers out there; do not write a business plan like you write a tweet. It doesn’t matter whether your friends understand you or you get 5000 retweets; it looks horrible, reeks of a lack of professionalism, and generally depicts the author as someone who isn’t taking the business seriously at all, so why should an investor consider investing in your business?
But you have to go a step further. Depending on who you are presenting your plan to, different people want to see different things. Banks want to see how secure the plan is and how likely they are to get their money back. Investors want to see what rate of return you will be likely able to produce. Not fake, exaggerated numbers, but real solid returns.
Personally, I like to see a mix of both. A plan that utilises both a reliable growth trend while also keeping up with decent returns. Not all businesses are able to do that, which is why not all get funding.
Numbers are King
Know your numbers. I cannot say this enough. I’ve had plans subtitled ‘The next trillion shilling business’. Trillion shilling business. Obviously the aim was to get the reader sucked in. Get the greed glands going. Sadly this would probably work on that particular authors circle of friends. In the real world, we prefer direct numbers and analysis. Even if the numbers aren’t great in your mind doesn’t mean you need to cook them. Instead, show how best you plan on growing. Do a 3 year plan that emphasizes you’re in the business to see it to a more mature stage at least. You cannot have enough data to support your business. Research it thoroughly though to ensure it is accurate.
As you may have guessed, I strongly believe that the top two points need to shape every business plan. The backbone of a business plan. That being said, no one wants to read pages and pages of analytics alone. Here are some other points that you should include;
Some interesting facts about the team that is in charge of the project in addition to their qualifications. Let the characters have a connection with the reader even if only for a few brief sentences. Be memorable; not just another person in a crowd of thousands.
A history, current state, and projected future of the industry and business you are proposing. Do not make the excuse that it has never been tried before.Yes the reader will go on to read and learn more about your business outside of your plan – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have sound knowledge of your business. Convey it.
And finally, when talking about the business itself – let your love for the business leap through the pages. Let that passion that got you writing the plan flourish within it. If it’s a halfhearted attempt from you – the reader will know it too. Nobody invests in halfhearted businesses.
So go out there and do what you need to do. Know that you will face rejection and that it’s OK to be told NO. We’ve all faced more NOs than we can count and we’re still standing.
Albert Einstein once said ‘I’m thankful for all those who said no to me. It’s because of them I did it myself”.
And Oprah Winfrey said “Do your very best. Put you 100% into it. Then surrender it all to God when you hand it in”.
Whichever school of thought you belong to, go out and be great. I wish you the best!