Written by MO.com Subject Matter Resource Dave Lavinsky
The other day I read the first page of a business plan and was really turned off. The frustrating thing was this: it was a really good company and business opportunity. So, why was I turned off? Because the business plan was written in too sophisticated a manner.
Let me explain. Most newspaper articles are written at a sixth grade reading level. Even articles in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are only written at around a tenth grade level (you can see the grade level of any text by entering it into the Flesch-Kincaid calculator here). But this business plan was written at a twenty-second grade level. Yes, that’s a post-doctorate degree level.
This meant that the business plan was very hard to read. It used too many big words, and it was way too verbose in explaining things. It was the classic case of a garbage man describing himself as a sanitation engineer.
Your goal in your business plan is not to impress the reader (most likely an investor) with your eloquent prose. But rather to impress them with your ability to concisely convey a message. Such an ability to concisely communicate will not only get you investors, but also customers, partners and other key constituents as you grow your venture.
Here are some tips to writing a business plan at the appropriate level:
1) State your industry. Many entrepreneurs, when they are creating something new, think they are operating in a new category. They’ll say “we are a company that is creating a unique type of footwear that combines the ability to run with less pain while personalizing the look and feel.” Rather, the business plan should have started out with the following: “We are a running shoe company. What makes us unique is….” This simpler, clearer presentation allows the reader to more quickly and easily understand what you do.
2) Ditch the flowery language. Business plans that use too many adjectives and/or are superlatives tend to turn off investors and other readers. So, limit your use of words like leading, greatest, world-class, brilliant, amazing, etc., unless of course you can clearly back up each use of the word with facts.
3) You don’t need to tell the whole story. Your business plan’s goal is to help get your foot in the door with an investor and show them you have fully thought through your venture and have a solid game plan. The investor will not write you a check solely based on your plan. They will want to meet you first. So focus the plan on giving investors concise, key information about yourself and company in order to get the meeting. At the meeting, you can fill in the untold details.
In summary, make sure your business plan is accessible to investors; that they can easily read and digest it. Because if they struggle to comprehend it, they’re not going to fund you.