How Long Should Your Business Plan Be?

Posted by on September 28, 2009 in Business Start Up Advice [ 3 Comments ]

Having written hundreds of business plans, I’ve found that some of our clients insist upon receiving business plan documents of more than thirty pages, not including financial charts.  The end-result is a document with too many pages of additional market research, a lengthy product and/or service description, and other elements such as company history and client background.

To create a solid, streamlined business plan that speaks of the core components needed in a professional document, I have been taught, by experienced mentors and business planning blog writers (such as Guy Kawasaki) that a business plan should rarely exceed 25 pages.

We aim to earn the satisfaction of every client we work with, but emphasize that less is often more.  From my experience, 20-25 pages is frequently the perfect length; if a concept and its market cannot be explained and demonstrated fairly briefly, then either the writer does not properly understand the product or market, or not enough effort is being spent in the pursuit of brevity.

Major sections of a business plan, excluding financial charts and tables, should include a tailored, non-template executive summary (one page in length, no more), products and services description, a vision or mission statement, market analysis and industry overview, a branding and advertising strategy, ownership and operations, and competition in the marketplace.

Remember: pages and pages of market research only hide what the actual product or service is; thus, if it is needed in the marketplace, a 10-page market analysis is only making the business plan more jumbled and confusing to the reader.  If the product or service is needed, 10 pages of research should not be necessary.

3 thoughts on “How Long Should Your Business Plan Be?

  1. avatarScott Lovingood

    I once read a story by a speaker. He was asked how long it would take him to do an 8 hour presentation. He said I am ready today. Then he was asked how long to do a 4 hour talk. He said that would take a couple of days. Well how about a 2 hour talk. The speaker replied that would take at least 2 weeks to get together. Fairly surprised by these answers the man asked well how long to just prepare a 15 minute one? The speaker replied that will take at least 6 weeks.

    Brevity is the result of focus, understanding and clarity. Many business owners can compile a tremendous amount of data very quickly using Google and some decent market research tools. To take that data and come to a conclusion with a plan takes experience, understanding and focus. Most business owners have little training in taking a focused approach to analyzing a business. It is one reason a good business coach can help save a ton of time in starting up a business.

    The one item that I think you left out of an essential business plan – Customer description and why he would buy from you. A simple one page description of who you are selling too and why he would prefer you over the competition. This question can help a business owner understand why they are doing it.

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