- Basic plans are short (often under 15 pages plus
appendices etc.); relatively quick to prepare (under one or two months);
use limited external assistance; need few drafts; and require much
more researching than writing. They are somewhat more difficult to
prepare than anticipated - all parts equally difficult. They are
frequently used to assess the viability of a business or for internal/personal
use and they are rated as important/useful for the business. See Preparing
a Basic/Short Plan.
- Comprehensive plans are longer than basic plans;
require some months to prepare; make slightly greater use of external
help; and require somewhat more time researching than writing. They
are more difficult to prepare than anticipated, especially the financial
projections and market analysis parts. They are often used to help
raise venture capital/equity or bank loans, and they are viewed as
being critically important/useful to the business.
- Specify the structure of your plan in the form of a detailed Table
of Contents. Use this to identify critical issues requiring research
and/or external assistance and to set page lengths for each main section.
See also Length of Business Plan.
Importance of Preliminary Research
Based on your Table of Contents,
create a work program and timetable which allows adequate time for researching,
writing and redrafting.
Shortcomings in the concept and gaps in supporting evidence and proposals
need to be clearly identified. This will facilitate an assessment of
research to be undertaken before any drafting commences. Bear in mind
that a business plan should be the end result of a careful and extensive
research and development project which must be completed before any serious
writing of a plan should be started. Under no circumstances should you
start writing a plan before all the key issues have been crystallized
The more important the plan, the longer it will be and the longer it
will take to complete. For most plans, much more time will be spent researching
than writing as demonstrated in the white paper on Insights
into Business Planning.
Recognize that the process of researching could be much more difficult
than expected and consider seeking external help, sooner rather than
later, for the most vital areas. If you do use outside assistance, make
absolutely sure that that you don't hand over the planning of your business
to external consultants. By all means contract out elements to experts
in market research, sales planning, technology, finance and taxation
but do not let them take control of the plan. If you do, you will have
missed the benefits of the planning process and you may be deprived of
the insights needed to effectively present and implement the resultant
To help you get started with your plan, review this Checklist
for Preparing a Business Plan. Also, have a look at the Checklist
on How NOT to Write a Business Plan to see the things you should not do
Once your business's background, markets and commercial potential have
been assessed, you should initiate the planning process by defining the 3.
Strategic Overview. on which your detailed plan will be based.