1. Pages in a Business Plan
2. Elements of a Business Plan
3. Business Plan Mistakes

How many pages is a business plan? In reality, a quality business plan is not based on page length. It should be measured by readability and how well it summarizes the business plan. A business plan should give the reader a solid overview and idea of the main contents in under fifteen minutes. If the reader skims the document, proper formatting including headings, white space and graphics will help relay the main points of the business plan.

Pages in a Business Plan

Business plan length will depend on the intended use of the plan and how it will be distributed. Length will also depend on what will be included. Questions to consider when planning a business plan include:

  • Will a company description be included?
  • Will the management team biographies be listed?
  • Will an executive summary be sufficient?
  • Will detailed research, blueprints and drawings be included?
  • Will the language meet legal requirements if used as part of an investment proposal?

If the writer has a page length expectation rough guidelines are:

  • Ten to fifteen pages are sufficient for small, internal reports.
  • Corporate business plans can be hundreds of pages long.
  • Startup and expansion plans used for potential investors, vendors or other business partners can be 20 to 40 pages.
  • Venture contests limit page length (including the appendix with financial information), at a minimum 30 pages, and in some rare instances as many as 50 pages.

Elements of a Business Plan

All business plans should be:

  • Easy to read.
  • Text should be properly spaced.
  • Formatting, including bullets, should be used for increased readability.
  • Include illustrated charts and tables.
  • Have an appendix with all relevant financial details.

Business plans should never be shortened by removing pertinent graphics. For the reader, graphics are an easier way to absorb important information including tables for:

Photographs and drawings are helpful when showing:

  • Locations
  • Products
  • Samples menus

While graphics, photographs and drawings are very beneficial, don't include material that is not relevant to the business plan. The irrelevant material will distract the reader.

Business Plan Mistakes

Many business plans do not successfully showcase their viable business because the plan is not written well. Mistakes and elements that should be reviewed include the following:

  • The plan is written poorly and includes significant issues with spelling, grammar and punctuation. Investors see these types of errors as a lack of attention to detail and raise the concern of what else is wrong with the business. If the plan is riddled with errors, investors are likely to move on to the next plan without hesitation. To avoid this, you should use spell check and have other people edit and proofread the document.
  • The style of the plan should be consistent throughout the plan, appropriate for the audience and reflect your business.
    • Style choices that will resonate with the readers include:
      • Confident
      • Crisp
      • Clean
      • Authoritative
      • Formal
    • Style choices that will negatively impact the effectiveness of the business plan include:
      • Arrogant
      • Folksy
      • Turgid
      • Smarmy
  • The presentation of the plan is sloppy and will make it difficult to read. This includes:
    • Margins that are inconsistent throughout the document.
    • Page numbers are missing.
    • Charts are not properly labeled or show incorrect units of measurement.
    • Tables do not have headings.
    • Technical terms are not explained.
    • A table of contents is not included.
  • The plan does not contain all aspects of the business. A complete plan should cover:
    • Customers
    • Products and services
    • Operations
    • Marketing
    • Sales
    • Management team
    • Competitors
    • Industry trends
    • Market growth (positive or negative)
    • Financial Projections
    • Monthly cashflow
    • Income statements
    • Annual balance sheets covering three years
  • The plan should not be vague and difficult to follow. If the plan includes proprietary information, consider showing an executive summary first. Executive summaries can show important information while not including any confidential information. If interest exists after reading the executive summary, using nondisclosure and noncompete will protect the information included in the business plan. In some cases, investors and venture capitalists will not agree to sign any agreements due to the associated legal fees.
  • The plan includes too much information. If there is technical information overload, investors may be overwhelmed. The technical information should be in an appendix, rather than the main body of the business plan.

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