Unfortunately too many people take the development of a business plan lightly and simply do not create a document that will get results. Over the years, we have reviewed and written numerous business plans and have worked closely with funding sources. Many requests for financing for businesses that have strong potential are rejected daily by funding sources simply because the business plan is poorly written, incomplete or unrealistic. It is absolutely critical to pay close attention to detail and to include all information that the reader will need to have available to make an educated decision. A sound business plan is not a sketchy overview of the business. In reviewing many business plans over the years, our consultants never cease to be amazed at the number of them that appear to have been written in a haphazard or hurried manner. There are a number of elements that a business plan must include. These range from the executive summary to a complete financial section. There are roughly a dozen elements that must be included. Leave one or more of these out of the document and it will be difficult to gain the attention of those you most want to impress. A business plan is a living document. That simply means that the words you put on paper have to mean something and they must be defensible. Too many people who write business plans are careless or simply do not place enough importance on the meaning and impact of the words they put on paper. If you cannot defend what you have written, you will be faced with an uncomfortable situation when it comes time to answer questions. Be clear, be concise and be accurate. Following a prescribed business plan outline will help you gain the required clarity and detail in your plan. There are a number of common mistakes that are made by people attempting to write a business plan. Some business plans exhibit a failure to fully understand the business concept. Still others leave important pieces of information out of the document. A tendency on the part of many writers of business plans is to be unrealistic in their financial and market share assumptions and projections. There are other mistakes that are made and it is important that these be avoided. These include, but are not limited to; poor grammar and spelling, a failure to provide supporting documents as needed, lack of clarity, arrogance that is evident in the document, insufficient evidence to support the notion that the business can be successful and a lack of enthusiasm for the concept and the business. It is important that the business plan not be viewed strictly as words on paper. It must represent what the business will do to be successful. The writer(s) of the plan must have a strong handle on just how this will be accomplished. It will become obvious very quickly to astute readers of your plan if there is a clear understanding and vision of how the business will be managed, how products or services will be produced and marketed, how the business will make money and if there is a sound strategic direction for the business. The business plan document must be well organized and instill confidence in the reader that the business has a good chance of being successful. Generally business plans are written for the purpose of seeking financing. That means that the document must get attention quickly, it must keep attention and it must convey critical information in an easily understood manner. Those who read business plans on a routine basis expect a well written document that is comprehensive and detailed enough to convey essential information and data. Business plans also should be written annually to support and complement your strategic plan. A business plan is not only a funding document, but a very important road map that details how the business will function over the next year. In fact, we sometimes refer to the business plan as the organization's functional plan because of the budget, staffing, marketing, competitive, and other information contained in the document. And, as mentioned, it should fully support and reflect the direction provided by your strategic plan.