Hal Shelton BookAs a current or hopeful entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard a lot of “business planning tips.”  And there are a ton out there!  So, how do you know which ones to follow closely, which to keep in the back of your mind, and which to throw away?

As someone who has worked with more than 1,000 small business owners, I have seen what really works – and what can be more of a “flash in the pan” tip. I want to share with you five unique pieces of advice I’ve gained from my experience to help you focus your efforts. I’ve found that many entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t know these basic principles, so save yourself time and effort by taking these into consideration right away.

Rethink Your Business Plan

1. A business plan is a marketing action. A carefully considered and thorough business plan demonstrates that you are serious about your business idea, you have the passion and persistence that will make your business successful.

2. Know your audience, and write the plan in a style and with information they need for the action(s) you want them to take. You must provide your readers with the information in a style they are familiar with and understand. Your audience may be a banker, angel investor, biggest client, prospective employee or board member. Make it easy for readers to take positive actions by making your case in their language.

3. Business planning should focus on the customer and not the entrepreneur. Every business and organization exists to fulfill a customer/client/societal need. The better the need is served or problem solved, the more successful the venture will be. Therefore, focus on how your organization will satisfy that need and demonstrate how you are doing it uniquely from your competition.

4. A small business is usually a bet on the entrepreneur, so provide a bio that demonstrates you have the technical and leadership experience to drive your idea to successor that you’ve surrounded yourself with others who have it. Financiers, a personal friend, a stern banker, or a demanding angel investor know they are investing in you as the owner. You are contributing most of the “assets”—your time, talents, and passion— for bringing the business to life. Your bio, therefore, should not be just a listing of your education and previous positions. Instead, make the case for why you are the right person at the right time to own and operate this business.

5. Starting a business is difficult. Over 50% of all business startups fail in the first five years. No one person can have all the knowledge, experience, or even perspective to handle every business situation. Surround yourself with advisors and mentors and talk through your business ideas with them.

These five tips will help you get started on the right track to proper business planning. For more guidance, check out my new book “The Secrets to Writing a Success Business Plan.”