Making A Business Plan: What 10 Experts Have To Say about Creating...

Making A Business Plan: What 10 Experts Have To Say about Creating A Winning Plan


“Thank you, but we don’t believe this plan will work.” The dreaded words no entrepreneur wants to here after pitching their business plan. Many rejections and failures would be avoided if only entrepreneurs had a better grip on how a business plan should be made.

And what better way to understand what investors are looking for than to learn from business plan experts who see 100s of plans every year?

Below are 10 expert tips and lessons you can use to create a stand-out business plan that screams success.


Allon-RaizIt’s the ‘business think’ that goes on behind the business plan that enables your business to fly.

Allon Raiz: Founder and CEO of Raizcorp (Africa’s leading business incubator) 

Why this matters:

It’s not enough to simply follow a template to the letter and not have an in-depth understanding of your industry, customers, team and potential challenges. Investors need to know that you have the best possible understanding of the workings behind your business as well as who you are as an entrepreneur.

What you should do about it:

Do your research and stress-test your assumptions to ensure your idea will be both viable and sustainable. Be involved with writing your business plan instead of getting someone to do it for you. Know your way around every part of your business.

Related: Top 10 Business Plan Resources


Martin-Feinstein-Enablis-Business Plan AdviceBusiness plans that are all of five pages long, and terrible plans that are 50 pages long. Write it on a “need to know” basis.

Martin Feinstein: Chairman of Enablis (Entrepreneurial Development Network)

Why this matters:

If you think that making a business plan means spending hours on a thick and detailed document, you’re wrong. Ask yourself what the bare necessities are and build on those points but only if it’s truly necessary. Don’t go overboard with the design either. It’s ok to be creative but you’re there to talk business.

What you should do about it:

In business, clarity and focus are both powerful assets. Strive to embed these principles in your plan.  Ask yourself what the investor would gain from the information you want to add to your business plan and if it’s not something that you could rather elaborate on verbally if asked to.


Guy-Kawasaki-Business-Plan-AdviceThe executive summary, all one page of it, is the most important part of a business plan. If it isn’t fantastic, eyeball-sucking, and pulse-altering, people won’t read beyond it. You should spend eighty percent of your effort on writing a great executive summary and twenty percent on the rest of the plan.

Guy Kawasaki, Best-selling author, speaker and investor

Why this matters:

Typically investors go directly to your executuve summary, if you fail to capture their attention and interest there, you will have lost them.  Think of ways to pull your reader in immediately. Use strong wording that jumps out at you and keeps you enthralled. There are many ways to achieve this and still come across as professional.

What you should do about it:

Have trusted business-savvy acquaintances read your executive summary and invite honest criticism. If you are looking for funding test your plan out before submitting it. Make an appointment with funding agencies and organisations to pitch and invite feedback – use the input to improve your business plan.

Remind yourself about why you are passionate about your business, what you can bring to your customers and why you’re different. Now convey this powerfully and simplistically. Watch the video at the end of this article to get started.

Related: Business Plan Tools


Andre-Deiderichs-Old-Mutual-Business Plan AdviceIt is imperative to assess other business models in your industry. From this you need to extrapolate, devise and fine-tune a practical business model that will work for you. Individualise it with your own personal stamp that will differentiate it from others, while keeping in mind that it needs to be workable and not merely an impressive plan in theory.

–  Andre Diederichs: SMME Specialist at Old Mutual (International Financial Services Group)

Why this matters:

One of the factors that contributes to start-up failure is a founder’s ignorance of the factors that influence their chosen industry. You need to understand how your business will function every day. In other words, how will you make money? Explain how you will reach and acquire customers, cost structures, profit margins and how you will generate revenue. Entering

What you should do about it:

Research how other companies in your sector function. What processes do they follow to get their product to the right customers and what can you learn? You might even find ways that you can innovate and change things up. Here are examples of four basic business models.


Peter-Jones-Dragons-Den-Business Plan AdviceMake it clear and concise and include hard facts. Think maximum impact and minimum fluff. Reveal your passion, drive and determination plus a clear snapshot of your business. Know your market, your figures and forecasts and the risks involved. Be aware of competition and be able to provide evidence to support your claims. Get to know your figures inside out.

– Peter Jones: Entrepreneur & Dragons’ Den Pannelist (Reality Business TV Show)

Why this matters:

If you are unable to convey your business idea clearly and conscisely it is unlikely that your target market will understand your message or value proposition.  Strive for simplicity when you convey your ideas in your business plan and be armed with the research to back up your claims and assumptions.

What you should do about it:

Do “the mom test”. Explain your business idea to your mom, if she doesn’t “get it” in 60 seconds go back and rework it until it is clear and easy to grasp.

Have a reason for all your facts and claims. List your sources in the plan to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the road ahead. Here’s a competitor analysis example you can use.

Related: Apps To Help You Write A Business Plan

Nadine-Todd-Business-Plan-AdviceThe financials can enhance or harm your business plan’s chances in the capital-raising process. By doing the research to develop realistic assumptions, based on actual results of your or other companies, the financials can bolster your firm’s chances of winning investors.

Nadine Todd: Editor Entrepreneur Magazine (SA’s top read business publication)

Why this matters:

Figures can seem a bit intimidating but they are very important when you make your business plan. Whether you are bootstrapping or approaching an investor you need to be able to plan, project and prepare for all expenses.

What you should do about it:

Don’t thumbsuck your numbers, investors have a good idea of what’s realistic. Dig deep so that you can answer any questions that are thrown at you. If you are not comfortable with spreadsheets and calculations, rope in the assistance of a professional accountant. More on how to prepare the numbers in your business plan here.

Doug-Richards-School-for-Startups-Business Plan AdviceWriting a business plan isn’t that difficult. There are hundreds of templates around, and hundreds of others have been written that you can examine for reference. Once you’ve written it, you can hire an editor to help you clean it up so its easy to read and makes logical sense.  

– Doug Richards: Founder of School for Start Ups (Entrepreneurial Education Centre)

Why this matters:

There are loads of great templates you can use when creating a business plan. Just be sure to make it your own and specific to your business otherwise it’s not going to be much use to you.

What you should do about it:

Download a business plan template here, customise it and give it someone you trust to read in order to get feedback.

If you are making a plan specifically for funding, approach the funding organisation/s first and request their template – most funders have specific requirements for the contents and layout of the plans access.

Related: Free Business Plan Template Download

Martin-Feinstein-Enablis-Business Plan AdviceThe biggest mistake people make is to oversell – they want to tell the whole story in the first meeting. Don’t. Tell just enough of the story to show that you know what you’re talking about and are going to make it work, with or without the investor. When you’ve pitched enough to intrigue the listener, stop talking and let them think and ask questions. You want to be at an intersection, not going down a one-way street.

Martin Feinstein: Chairman of Enablis (Entrepreneurial Development Network)

Why this matters:

Many entrepreneurs tend to overthink things once they get a meeting with an investor. Let your business plan do the in-depth talking while you give the bullet points in an oral presentation. Effective selling is as much about listening as it is about speaking. Know when to talk, and when to be quiet and listen.

What you should do about it:

Prepare and practice your presentation! Show investors that you’re confident, passionate and knowledgeable but don’t ramble on about irrelevant details.

Andre-Deiderichs-Old-Mutual-Business Plan AdviceYour marketing plan should include a sales strategy, advertising strategy [pamphlets, signage, media advertising, PR etc], promotional strategy etc. Marketing represents a client or customer’s holistic view of your business. It is therefore of paramount importance not to ignore your marketing processes.

Andre Diedrichs: SMME Specialist at Old Mutual (International Financial Services Group)

Why this matters:

Sales means money and money is important to investors so they need to know what your projections are. Marketing is there to assist sales so it’s important to note what your plan is.

What you should do about it:

Give a brief explanation of how you will be pushing your marketing message and why so that potential investors have an understanding of how you will be backing up your sales efforts.

Tim-Berry-Paolo-Alto-Business Plan AdviceSet a schedule to review your business plan and revise it at least once a month. Understand that it becomes obsolete in weeks.

Tim Berry, Founder Paolo Alto Software (The world-leading business plan software company)

Why this matters:

Goals, markets and processes change and your plan should to.

What you should do about it:

Treat your business plan as a ‘living’ part of your company. Here’s how you can monitor your progress using your business plan.

Casandra Visser
Casandra Visser is a Digital Marketing & Content Strategist and writes for Entrepreneur Media SA.