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June 3, 2010

What is the Ideal Length of a Business Plan?

Most entrepreneurs recognize that a professional business plan is critical for raising capital.

If you haven’t finished your business plan yet, then you’re in luck… because, for a limited time, you can download a proven business plan template used by more than 2,000 entrepreneurs.

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A common question entrepreneurs ask is “How long should my business plan be

Here’s a famous quote that is very relevant to the answer.

If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.
– variously attributed to Ben Franklin, Blaise Pascal, Robert Sayre, and Mark Twain

That universally wise quote sums up the spirit in which the question of business plan length should be answered. The key to business plan length is that it should be no longer than is necessary to pique the genuine interest of investors; but no shorter than it takes to prove to investors that you have a very thorough understanding of your business.

Now there’s a dilemma.

The quick, painless answer is that most business plans are 15-25 pages long. But then a plethora of other questions instantly arise, with the following two being the most common:

1. How long should the Executive Summary be?

As the very first section and the “hook” of your business plan, the Executive Summary should be 1 to 4 pages long, with the first page containing everything the investor needs to know before deciding to read the rest of the business plan.

2. Does “15-25 pages” include the Appendix?

Perhaps, perhaps not. If the appendix adds too many pages – say, more than ten – it should be bound separately from the other nine standard sections of the business plan. Remember, an Appendix must include a full set of financial projections to back up the Executive Summary and the Financial Plan.

Depending on how complex your company is, the Appendix might also contain backing documentation on technologies (drawings, patent information, etc.); partnership and/or customer letters stating their interest in working with the company; expanded competitor reviews, including indirect and direct competitors; a list of key customers that the company is serving; and more.

The great thing about separating the Appendix from the rest of the plan is that the business plan will instantly seem more manageable for an investor when you physically hand her a printout.

Form follows function.

Length follows function too. Just like a good story, no matter how long your business plan is, it must keep the reader riveted. The purpose of the business plan, then, is not to convince investors to make a decision to pump capital into your company. Rather, it is to pique their interest and grant you a meeting. There you will have the opportunity to present your company more thoroughly and delve deeper into the nitty gritty.

Growthink business plans have raised $1 Billion in funding since 1999. And for a limited time, you can download Growthink’s proven business plan template for just $1.

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