Investors generally read only a fraction of the many plans that entrepreneurs send them. They tend to take less seriously plans that appear amateurish. One sure sign of an amateur business planner is that the submitted plan appears in one of the familiar formats of business plan software. Format generally does not matter much in business plans, as long as it is easily read, nicely presented and well organized. The problem is that the well-known page lay-outs and formats of business plan software applications signal that the writer did not know how to write a business plan and so relied on a software package. It is a red flag that gets the plan off on the wrong foot.
But the real issue is content. Business plan software treats all chapters and sections as equal; market size here, target customers there; competition over here. It has all the right buckets. Unfortunately, buckets of arbitrarily parsed information don’t do a great job of story-telling. A business plan needs to get right to the point of this specific business and then back it up with solid evidence and details. Many good ideas never obtain funding or attract other needed resources because they fail to communicate the plan in a way that is clear, effective and impressive. Starting with a generic format cannot help. Each business idea has unique priorities that must drive the presentation of the plan’s content, not some generic, one-size-fits-all format. Too many entrepreneurs learn this lesson the hard way.