Quality Coaching for High Tech Startups by Dr. Octavian Schatz
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Fine Tuning Your Business Plan

About Optics

Many people underestimate the importance of the „optics“ of their business plan. But how you „wrap“ the information tells a lot about you and the seriousness of your commitment.

Title Page
A well designed title page with a background picture or drawing creates attention and curiosity for the content. In addition, it should contain the name of the project/company, a logo, names of all authors, phone number and E-Mail address of the main contact person and the date or a version number (since a business plan is typically reviewed and amended in short intervals, this makes it easier for you to follow the changes through the version history).

Table Of Contents
A table of contents usually follows on the second page, indicating chapters and subchapters (most commonly in arabic figures). If subchapters are subdivided into numbered headlines, one can list these on the third level.
All pages should be numbered, annex pages (if any) in Roman numerals. Be sure to number all tables and graphics as well so that they can be cited by a reviewer.

Illustrations & Citations
The best way to handle citations is to put them into footnotes on the same page so as to avoid having to turn pages back and forth during reading. It is mandatory to disclose the source of all relevant informations, even if they are based on personal communications.
You should make ample use of illustrations and tables to facilitate the understanding of your message. It can be very tiring to read many text pages in a row without any visual cues, so you should ensure to include a graphic or a table on every second or third page. Very important statements can be highlighted in shaded boxes.
Another optical element could be a graphically designed header line on each page showing the short title and optionally the name of the current chapter and your logo.

3 Essential Tips

Project Plan
One key element in almost every business plan is a so-called Gantt chart which summarizes the most important activities and resources that are necessary to achieve your goals on a time axis. Activities that are dependent on the results of earlier events should be connected by solid lines with an arrowhead. Clearly defined milestones help to break down even complex projects into manageable pieces. Color codes may be used for increased clarity of the chart. It is important that the calculated time lines contain sufficient buffer to make up for possible delays.

Clean Writing
If used too frequently, some expressions can be a real nuisance when reading a business plan. Among the top candidates: innovative, especially „highly innovative“, enormous, fast, precise (category 1); preliminary, already, actually, we managed to…, we seek to… (category 2). The words of the first category are vacuous since they don’t describe a specific feature but rather leave ample room for interpretation; the ones in the second category imply that the authors are unsure about their statements or haven’t bothered to verify them. It is much more convincing to provide quantitative statements (especially in comparisons). If you spot weaknesses in your argumentation, it is better to admit them openly and explain the reasons why you cannot give a more accurate statement by using reasonable efforts.

Final Check
The final touches are shortening the main text to have an uninterrupted logical thread (put side arguments into the annex), cleaning your document from typos and grammatical mistakes, checking the integrity of all links as well as the numbering of pages, figures and tables (don’t just rely on MS Word doing that for you!), adjusting the layout of each page to eliminate single lines at the top or the bottom of a page, insertion of conditional separators to avoid unsightly gaps when using justified alignment. If you like, you can insert a graphical header with your logo and a short title of your project. Last not least, a table of contents and a version number should be added.

Happy starting up. Yours sincerely,

Octavian Schatz

Bild: ©iStockphoto.com / pearleye

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