Writing a sophisticated, investment grade business plan is an iterative, cooperative and critical process. In a series of meetings, the consultant and client(s) (entrepreneur, management team and/or investor group) develop both the conceptual and written plan in tandem. The team identifies the appropriate scope of the plan and sets up a provisional table of contents. For each chapter and sub-section the team anticipates penetrating investor questions including those crucial to each aspect of that specific enterprise. Next, they collaborate to answer those hard questions and draft increasingly complete and well-documented chapters.
Throughout the process, team members must strive to articulate the assumptions that underlie the plan and to challenge them honestly. As the plan develops, the team must integrate the assertions in the text with the financial projections. When the team cannot answer an important question, they must call in qualified outside resources.
The entire process may run three to twelve weeks or more, depending on the complexity of the enterprise proposed and the planning resources committed by the client. The client usually writes the first drafts of technical sections including intellectual property and product or service descriptions. First drafts of other chapters or sections within them, for example, market and competitive analysis, operational plans or special facilities requirements may be written cooperatively, or first by one and then critiqued by the other.
Throughout, the consultant disciplines the process of articulating and challenging the plan assumptions, simplifying language and editing materials to suit the audience. Accountants usually prepare the financials from an explicit set of assumptions rationalized in the plan text. The executive summary is generally written first and last. First to provide a framework and last to reflect new insights generated by the drafting/vetting process and finally to refine the emphasis. David Kaplan has traveled this road with scores of companies, in a variety of industries and along the full spectrum of the business life cycle; start-ups to acquisition candidates to enterprises reeling from the advent of a disruptive technology.
No business plan is bulletproof. Rigorous, systematic processes yield robust plans capable of withstanding scrutiny.