How Long Should Your Business Plan Be?

Recently, I did a post entitled Avoid These 8 Mistakes in Your Business Plan. The first mistake was that plan drafts are typically too long. So how long should a business plan be?

I surveyed SCORE counselors and experts around the country on this question. Then I did a quick Google book search. Below are the numbers and caveats.

Advice On Length From The Experts

Greg Nelson, SCORE Naples

At the end of the day, the business plan needs to be long enough to address all the key areas so that the reader is not left with serious questions, concerns and red flags…Most businesses should be able to present an adequate business plan in less than 20 pages. Simple businesses can probably do a decent job in 8-10 pages. In cases where there is complicated market research involved in a product, much of the supporting information can be placed in appendices, making the core business plan shorter, more concise and to the point and therefore, more effective.

Jeff Lippincott, SCORE Princeton

I suggest 25 to 35 pages typed. Less than that and the plan is too superficial. And longer than that and some of what is in the plan no doubt should be in an appendix instead.

Raman Chadha Executive Director Coleman Entrepreneurship Center DePaul University

We typically tell entrepreneurs that a business plan should be about 25-30 pages max, without title page, table of contents, financials, and appendices. Any shorter, they’ve likely short-changed one of the sections. Any longer, they’ve probably gone overboard on something (usually product, industry and/or market). Once they have that, they can then edit down for special requests…anything from a 1-2 page executive summary to a 3-5 page venture summary.

Bob Paul, SCORE Chicago

One thing missing on the length issue is the purpose of the plan. Looking for $5 million venture capital will require more detail and length than a $75k bank loan. I don’t worry about number of pages. For internal use, eliminate all the “fluff” and “sales points.” I’d think 10 pages plus appendices seems plenty. Some can even be less.

Esh Noojibal, SCORE Chicago

I generally recommend that entrepreneurs aim for about 30 pages, including appendices.

Stephen Konkle, SBA Economic Development Specialist

The major deficiencies that we at the SBA notice when reviewing business plans are qualitative in nature, and not quantitative. In other words, I have seen good plans that were only 15 pages long, and bad plans that were 30 pages long.

And From The Books:

Portable MBA in Finance and Accounting, p. 261-2
For a business plan to raise debt or equity, 25-40 pages, and “less is more.”
For a “dehydrated business plan, the purpose of which is to provide an initial conception of the business,” no more than 10 pages.

How to Write a Business Plan, p. 159
15-20 pages or more, especially if you provide several appendices

Anatomy of a Business Plan, p. 6
Average length 30-40 pages

Small Business for Dummies p. 62
Simple short-term plan, or one for home-based business “10 pages or so”
Larger business or longer-term plan, 20-50 pages

The Successful Business Plan p. 37
15-30 pages, excluding financials and appendices “20 pages are enough for nearly any business”

Abbreviated Planware.org table, where page numbers exclude appendices.

Purpose of Plan

Plan Type

Approx Pages *

Internal/ personal use

Basic

10

Raise bank loans

Comprehensive

15

Seek venture capital/ equity

Comprehensive

20+

Assess viability of business

Basic

10

Secure approval from shareholders/ directors

Comprehensive

15

Link to Planware.org table with recommended page length by plan section.

Want someone to help you shape that plan? Meet with a counselor from SCORE Chicago in a location near you.

Any comments or questions on plan length, entrepreneurs? Comments on length from your end, bankers, angels or VCs?

Peg Corwin

Related links by Peg

Avoid These 8 Mistakes In Your Business Plan

Estimating Expenses for Your Startup

What’s Missing From Everyone’s Marketing Plan Drafts?

SCORE Chicago is a nonprofit organization and resource partner of the Small Business Administration.  Volunteer experts offer free email counseling on business plans, loans, marketing etc., for startups and small businesses.  Click here to submit your email counseling request.

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6 Responses to “How Long Should Your Business Plan Be?”

  1. Darlene Says:

    Does the same apply for non-profit organizations?

  2. Peg Corwin Says:

    Darlene,

    SCORE counselor Bob Paul replies: “Non-profit business plans should look very similar to for-profit businesses. Probably the one area that would need more planning attention is funding. The source of funds for “for-profit” are usually investments, loans, and customers. Non-profit have the added source of contributors. This expands the business plan because contributors are almost like a different category of customers. The non-profit should identify their “target market” of contributors, determine their advantage over other non-profits who will be targeting the same contributors, and develop a contributor marketing/sales plan that will attract and keep the contributors year after year.”

  3. SAMUEL Says:

    l establish a small business as part of my project work in school. l fry yam with fish and my target my group are student. Can you please help me with the packaging of my product and the guide line to writing my business plan.
    Thank you

  4. Ralph Ferragamo Says:

    What do you suggest for a business plan that is designed for a product or service for an existing company. Financing would be internal but experise for product development would be external.

    Product developer would be looking for one time cash payment plus 5 yr royalty package and turn owership over to company at end of royalty period.

    • markegoodman Says:

      Any of the business plan formats will work. The same questions apply weather financing is internal or external. I would pay special attention to an action plan with milestones. Internal financing typically supervisors more closely than external.


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