Business Plan Introduction – Hooking the Reader
The introduction of your business plan, consisting of the cover sheet, executive summary, and company overview, must go beyond communicating about the business plan and concepts to hook the reader on the plan, much like an introduction to any article or novel. However, a business plan's introduction does this both by saying nothing that reads as illogical or incorrect to funders as well as appealing to what they are interested in: maximizing their upside potential and minimizing their downside risk.
The cover sheet serves a very functional purpose, allowing funders to find your plan in a stack of many on their desk. The cover sheet should be visible through a transparent cover to allow this. It identifies the plan with the business name and logo, date of the plan, and your contact information. The cover sheet is at its best when it does nothing to show that you are unprofessional. Distracting and cute colors, titles and fonts should be avoided for this reason. The cover sheet should be attractive, clean, and formal, letting readers know you are a serious businessperson.
The executive summary is like the inside flap of a novel … if the inside flap were to give away the entire story including its ending. This section is a condensed version of the plan, hitting the high points of what the company is, what the research on the market says, and what your marketing, operations, management, and financial plans are. Each piece should seem to fit together, even if deeper statements of how they do fit together are deferred to the body of the plan itself. Funders will look for the major features that they feel minimize the risk of funding your plan (a proven track record for either the business or its founders, qualified management, knowledge of the industry, customers, and competitors, and financial projections that are not overly optimistic). To illustrate the potential return, the summary should mention the size of the market and the need in the market that creates the business opportunity.
The company overview to follow goes into further detail about the basics of what the business is. This includes the story of how the founders started the business and why, the products or services to be offered, and the steps that have been taken so far. Funders would prefer businesses with some track record of success, but at the minimum want to see that the founders have taken as many steps as possible to know that the business is feasible from a financial and market perspective. They will want to see that sweat equity has already been put into the business planning, even if cash investments have been minimal so far. For example, incorporating the business is a relatively low cost step which the founders can take on their own to show they are serious.