It sounds like a simple question: when you’re writing a business plan, how long does the completed document need to be? However, the answer isn’t as simple as giving you a minimum or maximum word count and saying you must stick to it.
A typical business plan can be anything between 20 to 40 pages for start-ups, while plans for larger companies can be over 100 pages long. However, it’s more important to include all the relevant information and write and structure it in a pleasing way, than it is to stick to a certain number of pages. The length of your business plan will depend on a number of factors, including the complexity of your ideas. For example, if you are proposing a new kind of business or have an idea involving an emerging technology, you may need to explain it in more words. Here are some other issues to take into consideration when thinking about the length of your business plan:
The Purpose of your Business Plan
The purpose of your plan can determine its length – do you need a business plan for internal use only, or will you be using it to try to secure funding? If it’s the former, it might not need to be quite so long, but if it’s the latter, it may need to include more reasoning and explaining to ensure you achieve your goal. Business plans for internal use may be shorter if they omit information that is already known to people within the business, such as the backgrounds of the management team, or other information that may not be necessary to include in the context of the business plan’s purpose.
Your Writing Style
Adopting a good writing style will help you to write a business plan of a suitable length. A business plan is a formal document, and as such, it needs to be written in a certain style. Your business plan shouldn’t waffle or be vague or fluffy – it needs to be concise and to the point. If you are waffling, your business plan could end up being unnecessarily long.
However, it still needs to cover everything. When you’re writing about something you’re very familiar with, such as your business, it can be easy to leave out details because you forget that your reader doesn’t know everything that you do – there can be discrepancies between what’s in your head and what you put on the page. If you’re not perfectly clear, you run the risk of leaving room for confusion, assumptions, or misinterpretations which may not work in your favour.
Formatting Your Business Plan
Readability is far more important than length, which is why it’s important to format your business plan properly, and to summarise. Your plan should be easy for people to read – investors will want to read a business plan that is easy to digest and makes good use of white space. This is preferable over a plan that features large paragraphs of text with no headings, even if the latter does take up fewer pages.
You may wish to include relevant graphics, tables and charts to illustrate your points or provide images of products, and all of this will take up additional space. If you use formatting such as headings, numbered lists or bullet points, these will also make your business plan look longer, but that isn’t a bad thing – lists and headings make a document easier to skim, and there’s nothing like a big block of text to turn off your readers. If your plan contains more pages than you had planned and that’s because of the clear and tidy ways you have formatted your work, that’s nothing to worry about. Definitely don’t make your text or margins smaller, or remove paragraph spacing or helpful graphics in a bid to make your plan a couple of pages shorter. Instead, if you think your plan is overly long, consider how you could reword the content.
What to Include
Your plan should include an executive summary and address key subjects such as the target market, your competitors, the product or service, marketing, finances, and analysis of the business environment such as SWOT and PEST analysis. If you need to go into detail about technical information or financial projections, you can put additional information in your appendix. If you’re on a quest to make sure your business plan doesn’t get too long, make sure you have still included everything you need to, which will differ for each business.
In short, always prioritise readability, form and function over page or word count. If you’re feeling lost in a sea of business plan pages you can’t cut down, or you have the opposite problem and think you need to bulk up, get in touch with cbm and we’ll be able to help you whatever stage you are at with your business plan.