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How Long Should My Business Plan Be?

How long should a business plan be?

It is not a good idea to use page count as a gauge to determine the length of a business plan. A business plan with 20 pages of text alone can be considered to be longer than a 35-page plan which is well laid out with bullet points, helpful images of products or locations and charts that highlight vital projections.

In fact, a plan should be measured by its readability as well as the summary provided. If the business plan is prepared keeping these aspects in mind, the reader will be able to get an overall idea in about 15 minutes by quickly browsing through the key points.

Illustrations, headings, format and white space contribute to improving the appeal of the business plan. The summary section is a very important aspect of any business plan. The salient points of the business plan must be clearly visible to the reader as it is done in a presentation.

It is unfortunate that many people still tend to measure the worth of a business plan by the number of pages in it. In this connection, some of the key aspects to be kept in mind are as follows:

  • Practical business plans prepared for internal use only can have five to ten pages
  • Business plans of large companies may have hundreds of pages

A standard expansion or start-up plan prepared for presentation to outsiders can have 20 to 40 pages. However, it should be easy to read with text well spaced and have bullet point formatting, illustrations in the form of business charts and financial tables in the condensed form. The details of financial aspects can be organized in appendices.

However, the length of the business plan is decided by its nature and the purpose for which it is prepared. Some of the questions that can be considered when drafting out a business plan in order to decide on its length are:

  • Should descriptions about the company as well as the management team be included as outsiders are likely to read the business plan?
  • Should a standalone executive summary be provided for the business plan?Is there a need to incorporate plans, blueprints, drawings and detailed research?Is it an investment proposal?
  • Should it be worded in such a way as to clear legal scrutiny?

The form of the business plan is actually decided by the requirement for which it is to be prepared.

Often, venture contests specify a limit of 30 pages or 40 pages at times, but rarely 50 pages, including the appendices that contain detailed financial statements, for a business plan. Some contestants make very bad options because of page restrictions and cram the content using thick texts and bold typefaces, making it worse and not better.

Most often, good plans have as many as 30 to 40 pages. The plans have 20 to 30 pages of text, excluding graphics to illustrate locations, menus, designs, etc. and appendices consisting of team leaders’ resumes, monthly financial projections, etc. Some pages may have to be included for standard financials. This calls for tables for sales, income and cash flow statement, balance sheet and personnel on a monthly basis. In the body of the plan, annual numbers may also have to be included.

It is not prudent to reduce the length of the plan by cutting down on helpful graphics. Readability is more important than the length. Making use of business charts to illustrate numbers makes it easier to understand. Make use of drawings and photographs to depict locations, sample menus and products. It is important to use as much illustration as possible. Finally, extra graphics such as clip art that are not relevant to the matter at hand may better be avoided.