Why Your Business Plan's First Draft Is Terrible Revisions are where the magic happens. Here's how.

By Timothy Carter

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You've written a first draft of your business plan, and you're getting ready to shop it around to investors. But I don't even need to read it. I already know it's terrible.

You may consider this presumptuous of me. How could I possibly know what's in your business plan if I haven't looked at it?

The answer is simple. All first drafts of business plans are terrible, and generally not worth serious consideration. But why is this the case and what are you supposed to do about it?

All first drafts are terrible

First, let this sink in: Your first draft is awful. Ernest Hemingway is commonly credited with saying: "The first draft of anything is s***," though this may not be an exact quote.

Any good writer will tell you that writing itself is actually a small part of the creation process. After writing, you need to revise and revise and revise to get your words the way you want them. No one writer, not even the best writer on the planet, is capable of getting a perfect first draft out on their first try. This is especially true when it comes to business plans, which are even more reliant on factual evidence and logical structures than other types of works.

Related: 7 Steps to a Perfectly Written Business Plan

But let's dig into the details. What is it that makes your business plan's first draft so terrible?

Formatting and high-level planning

Many new business owners follow an existing template to create their business plan. This isn't a bad start, but it might not be the best long-term strategy for your business plan's development. Your business plan's formatting and structure should reflect the nature of the business; that could mean leaving out certain sections or adding new ones entirely.

Incomplete and inaccurate information

First drafts of business plans often leave out important pieces of information or are stuck with inaccurate information. This is especially true if the first draft was written some time ago. Statistics can change quickly, and your business plan should be reflective of the most recent information. Even if the majority of your first draft was effective, you will still need to go back and revise the numbers periodically.

Missing counterpoints

Most small-business owners focus on the positive aspects of their business in the first draft of their plan. They dote on the originality of the idea, the revenue potential and the runway for future growth. But it's also important to include counterpoints; what are the strongest arguments against your business's potential for success? What might a naysayer have to say about this business idea?

Related: 25 Business Plan Tips from Professionals

These are important to proactively address, especially if you're trying to convince an investor to contribute to your initial funds. Only through time and experience will you be able to discover (and refute) more counterpoints.

The absence of outside perspectives

In line with this, most first drafts lack the presence of an outside perspective. You're likely immersed in the creation of your business with tunnel vision related to your idea. There will be potential strengths and weaknesses that you're not acknowledging or threats and opportunities that you didn't think to cover. Only by talking to other experts and other business owners will you be able to consider these perspectives and integrate them into your plan in a meaningful way.

The lack of polish

Numbers and core concepts are important, but remember, your business plan should also be persuasive. That means it needs to be clean, concise and worded in an eloquent way. In most cases, first drafts lack the final polish necessary to elevate the readability and persuasiveness of the text within. Spend some time restructuring your paragraphs and rewording your sentences; it will be worth it.

What this means for you

So what does this all mean for you? Should you give up on trying to write a good business plan? Not at all. There are two big takeaways here:

  1. Don't worry about perfection your first time through. If anything, knowing that all first drafts are terrible should be a relief. Don't procrastinate or agonize over the details of your first draft. Instead, just try to get your ideas to paper so you can move on with the next steps. This will help you complete your work faster and more efficiently.
  2. Return to revise, edit and polish your business plan. Don't get cocky and assume that your business plan is perfect as-is. Too many aspiring business owners finish their business plan and immediately start trying to put it to use. Take the time to revise, edit and polish your business plan to perfection.

There are many tools and strategies you can use to refine your first draft. You can conduct more research. You can sit on your business plan and revisit it in the near future to read it with fresh eyes. Even more importantly, you can get outside opinions on it to locate any holes and determine what to improve. The point is, it will need improvement to be effective, and you need to remain adaptable throughout this process.

This is also a good habit for your future as the leader of a new business. Your original plans may not always pan out, so you need to remain adaptable and keep changing to remain relevant and thriving.

Related: 5 Things Investors Look for in Your Pitch

Wavy Line
Timothy Carter

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Chief Revenue Officer of SEO.co

Timothy Carter is the CRO of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & digital marketing leading, building & scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and driving growth from websites and sales teams.

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