The Second Principle of the 21 Question Business Plan(tm)

The second principle of the 21 Question Business Plan™ is to think in terms of highlights and bullet points rather than lengthy narrative.  Because I have personally written a bunch of business plans (over 20) and presented these plans over 200 times in investor presentations, I can tell you for a fact that business plans DO NOT get read cover to cover!  During one round of financing I did, I actually went back and asked each investor if they read the business plan I handed them completely.  To my surprise, only one person (out of thirty) said they read the plan cover to cover!  Most people merely glanced at the financials, perhaps read the overview, briefly looked at management team bios, or simply paged through the plan looking at pictures or highlights.

After having taught a formal business plan class at Dakota County Technical College 35 times in 10 years, I also discovered that most people do not consider themselves good writers.  At the beginning of each class I ask the students to raise their hands if they would consider themselves a good writer.  In every class only about 10-20% of the students raise their hands.  I then say, “Good, because you don’t have to be a good writer to complete your 21 Question Business Plan™.  All you have to do is think in terms of highlights and bullet points, and the writing flows easily after that!”  At that point the anxiety level of classroom drops dramatically because most people dread having to write anything!

For each of the questions in the 21 Question Business Plan™ you do not write lengthy narrative, all you do is create 2-4 highlights or bullet points to answer each question.  These highlights are what investors, bankers, or anyone who is reading your plan wants to see anyway.  I should also tell you that most 21 Question Business Plans™ are relatively short.  Most are only 5-7 pages with a page or two of financials.  Some are longer based on how much proof (the 21st question) is included with the plan.  Another advantage of thinking in terms of highlights and bullet points rather than a lot of writing is that the plan gets completed much faster than most traditional business plans.  Many of the people who have already completed their 21 Question Business Plans™ have completed them in 12-24 hours, not 12-24 days!  Principle #2 of the 21 Question Business Plan™ is that you answer the questions with highlights and bullet points, rather than a lot of writing!

If you have any comments on this blog or want to ask me a question, you can e-mail me at bob@21questionbusinessplan.com.