woman holding papers
Business plans keep owners focused on their goals. — Getty Images

Whether you're seeking investors, financing or simply keeping a focus on company goals, it's important that you write a business plan.

Here are five reasons you should write a business plan before you start planning to launch your startup. A business plan will help you:

Keep sight of your vision. In the course of starting a business, you might get bogged down by small details and forget some of the larger priorities. Writing a business plan at the start of forming your business helps you capture that vision that can keep as a written reference point.

Obtain an understanding of your market. Exploring the hard data on an industry you are thinking of joining will give you perspective on where you fit into the market and what you have to do to achieve greater market share.

Identify and understand your competition. Doing a deep dive on your competitors may help you realize ways to make your business more successful, or give you ideas on how to improve.

Set goals and benchmarks. A comprehensive understanding of your financials will permit you to set measurable goals and determine what moves you should make at certain times.

Confirm the math. If you have only a vague idea of what you need to be profitable, going through the exercise of putting together a business plan will help you firm up your numbers so you can make smart business decisions.

Writing a business plan at the start of forming your business helps you capture that vision that can keep as a written reference point.

Business plan mistakes to avoid

You want to put your best foot forward when it comes to introducing your business to people who are not already familiar with it. Reading your business plan may be the first interaction that a potential investor, lender or other interested party has with your company. When writing your business plan, you should avoid the following:

Poor grammar and wording. Not every business person is an eloquent writer, but that’s not an excuse for errors in your text. Seek the help of an editor to review the plan, especially if you struggle with grammar and verbiage. Enlist additional reviewers, such as friends, family, business partners, an attorney or a financial advisor to look over the plan for content, as well. An outside observer will help point out where you need to explain things.

An off-putting style. In a professional business plan, you want to show that you know your stuff. This means avoiding conversational, folksy or funny wording. Instead, you want to be authoritative and realistic to prove that you have a handle on your industry and are reliable. Find other ways of portraying your personality throughout the plan, perhaps through your descriptions of key members of your team or in the company description. Don’t be afraid to showcase what sets you apart, but be sure to do so tastefully and professionally.

Sloppy format. Structure the business plan with clear and defined sections that are easily understandable. Font, style, spacing and margins should be kept consistent. Include supplemental materials, like charts or graphs, in such a way that they do not interrupt the narrative you are building.

Being too vague or too detailed. The business plan should display your aptitude and understanding of your business, just enough where you are not burying your reader in detail or leaving something to be desired. This means you need to understand exactly what your reader needs to know. Being too vague will squander that opportunity. If you feel you have too much information, however, you can always attach supporting documents in an appendix.

Assumptions. Business plans are built on facts. Have your research in order so you’re not basing assertions on assumptions. That will make the plan seem thin and will likely not accomplish your goals.

Ignoring risks. Every business plan should address the risks of starting a business head on. Not stating these risks and how you plan to cope with them can make you or your plan seem naive. Include a contingency plan for how to handle changes in the market.

Ignoring the customer. It's important to get across why you love your business, but you have to bring it back to how your business benefits your customers. Not talking about the customer is a huge oversight when developing a business plan.

See our Complete Guide to Writing a Business Plan

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published February 27, 2019