First impressions count! Don’t use a generic business plan template!

One of the most powerful functions of our brain is to filter out information in an instance. As soon as we see somebody, we usually react towards that person within thousands of milliseconds. This unconscious reaction ability is a great function our brain has, but it can be bad for some situations. Just imagine how investors and banks feel when they see thousands of business plans in one day. “Ah, another one of these templates. We’ll put that to the side and have our intern have a look at that tomorrow.” Not a great reaction, right?

Whenever it comes to taking responsibility for your success, you want to make sure you’re in the most powerful position you can be. Stand out of the crowd. Be unique. Make a better impression than others. A great headline is catchy and makes you stop like our’s just did with you. Great 4th wall break, huh? On the other hand, a lousy headline makes you not even want to continue to read. And all that happens subconsciously.

Strategy first!

The biggest strength, but also the most significant weakness, of templates are their generic feeling. There is usually not one perfect business plan template, but a few somewhat okay ones. And usually, we compare which one fits our situation or to our appeal the most and stick with it. But here comes the catch with templates - they may not fully capture the unique strategy and vision of your new business.

While, on the one hand, you’re compromising for time and money you’re willing to put in, you’re on the other hand showing others that your work doesn’t need to be appreciated, as it lacks a feeling for exceptional quality.

In the project management world, we call this phenomenon the “quality triangle”.

As you can see, the quality triangle shows a specific correlation between the three factors: Cost, time, and quality. We can interpret this correlation as a simple trade-off-approach:” Take two; let go one.”

Here are the most critical interpretations of the quality triangle:

- If you want it done fast and cheap -> you will get a low-quality result

- If you want it done cheap while focusing on a high-quality result -> you will need more time

- If you want it done fast and can provide enough payment (=higher costs) -> high-quality result

- If you want it done quickly, and the quality can be low -> you might have lower costs

In short, the quality triangle states that everything comes with a specific trade-off. You can apply this to anything you do. Sometimes, it can be okay to not have the highest quality possible. But when it comes to things like a effective business plan, where you want to convince others to invest and believe in your product, brand, business – that’s when you really should focus on delivering the highest quality possible.

Quality doesn’t mean to have the most appealing graphics. It means to have the most effective strategy.

But how can you optimize for an appealing impression? And why is a template not effective enough?

The agony of information overload

Business planning templates try to be appealing to a vast crowd of business owners. To do that, they try to include as much basic information and fancy graphics as possible. And even if you don't need some of these sections, you may think, "Oh, that's nice to have! Look at that template; it even has my target group designed as a demographic map with four different color codes!" However, it's a good idea to remember that strategy should come first when it comes to business planning. Simply having a fancy template does not guarantee success. It is important to focus on the key elements of a traditional business plan format, such as market analysis, research and operational and financial details, in order to create an effective roadmap to success.

The long-lasting attitude – the more, the better – feels like an old rumour by now. In today’s time and age, we are overloaded by all this information.

Nowadays, it feels more appealing to have less, but better. Less, but more precise. Less, but better throughout.

It’s quality vs. quantity. And when quantity rises, you can only stick out of the crowd by delivering better, more precise quality.

Social media proves this point. We went from Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat to TikTok and reduced our consumer time lengths from unlimited down to 15 seconds of video material. And we decide to skip those videos within the first two seconds.

We don’t read books anymore; we read summaries. Sometimes, we do not even read summaries, but we watch animated summary videos. But if the video is above 7 minutes long, we will instead save it for later.

You might think now: “Hey man, I just want a business plan template. Why are you telling me things about social media?”

Great point. Counter-question. If we don’t bother to even watch 7-minute summaries of books with over 1000 pages, why should an investor read your generic feeling business plan template with too much unnecessary information in it?

You get the point, hopefully.

The beloved talk about target groups

While you can get modern designed business plan templates, these might not fit your situation or be well thought through.

You see, whenever we talk about strategy and quality, we also need to have a look at the beloved target groups.

But don’t worry. While finding potential customers for your business can be quite challenging; finding a target group for your business plan is relatively easy.

Through the niche character of business plans, our target groups are already pretty much defined. Just think about: Who reads business plans in general? You will probably find two potential personas.

Banks and investors

Even though the target groups are relatively small, we still have room to optimize. Depending on your exact niche, type of brand, and type of investor or bank you’re going for, you might get different answers to these questions. - Is your brand associated with being modern or conservative? - Are the banks you’re going for modern or conservative? - Are the investors you’re going for modern or conservative? Sounds simple, right? But all these simple answers result in significant decisions in your business plan. These might be: - Does your written text convey a modern or conservative language? - Does your layout convey a modern or conservative language? - Does your design convey a modern or conservative language? - Do your colours match these decisions? - Do your structures and hierarchies communicate these decisions? Questions like these are the exact reason why a business plan template might not be fitting to your situation. Not fitting means it will not convey the message you need to say, which results in your application’s declination.

It’s a numbers game

Let’s come to the probably biggest mistaken part in business plan templates — all the information about numbers.

While the templates usually have a great way of presenting numbers through graphics, they lack the precision of the shown data.

From our experience, this mainly relates to the financial plan and projections area. You might think: “It’s good enough, isn’t it?”. And this might be true for some people. But you see, investors want to see your drive, your potential, and your ability to attract potential investors. And this directly correlates with the level of quality and precision you demand in your delivered products, including accurate financial information and projections in your financial plan. Including detailed financial projections and graphs in your financial plan is crucial for attracting lenders and showcasing your potential for success.

One example would be that many founders, who are looking for investments, calculate their salaries way over market standards, which leads to a direct rejection from the receiving party. An Expert in financial and business plans is necessary to make a great first impression and increase interest.

The worst thing that can happen is that your request will be declined. Mainly because you didn’t put enough effort in to make it right. You could be lacking precision in your numbers or even missing out on essential numbers because templates don’t cover everything. And this indeed isn’t good enough, as it destroys your reputation instantly.

Reputation is a very fragile concept. It may take a long time to build it up, but it only takes instances of a second to break. Investors will see a lack of qualification of you as an entrepreneur if you lack those numbers.

To help you with all that, we covered the most important areas with examples in our official guide on how to create and improve your financial plan in 2020.

Most importantly, the depth of information and numbers needed may vary depending on your niche, the investor and bank you’re going for, and other external factors. It makes sense that general templates can’t cover that, right?

Conveying the right message

All these points matter. At least if you want to be taken seriously as an entrepreneur with all your dreams and desires. As you might know, most of our communication is based on subconscious behaviours. These include attitude, expression, charisma, mimic, and gesture.

But all these factors disappear in written texts. So it becomes even more challenging to convey the right message. Especially as you can’t have any influence on the mood of the reader. You can’t lighten up the topic with small talk. It’s still a plain data-driven document.

It’s not only about having a clear, convincing USP.

All the information you’re showing can speak for or against you. And business plan templates speak one specific language: Fitting to all, thus not precise.

To make sure your use of language is up to a point, you can ask the following question while reading through each sentence in your business plan.

Does this phrase enhance the perception of my company being a worthwhile investment?

Yes, some phrases are pure data and must be included. Still, the way it’s written and shown can speak for or against you.

There is a reason why this is the last point on our list. It’s often the most problematic area not only in business plan templates but also in self-written ones. As someone involved in a project, it’s astonishingly difficult to view it from an outstanding point of view. So even when you got the first four points right, you might not be able to optimize for the last one on your own.

Are there free business plan templates available online, and are they effective?

Yes, there are free business plan templates available online, but they may lack customization and specificity to your business needs. To create a unique plan tailored to your goals, consider investing in a template or hiring a professional business plan writer for better results and strategic planning.

If you need someone to write your business plan or honest feedback, we’re here to help. Feel welcome to reach out to us by clicking here.