Everything you need to know about business plan cover pages
You have only one chance to make a good first impression with the readers of your business plan.
People do judge books—and business plans—by their covers. A quick glance at the cover can easily be enough to make up one’s mind.
So set yourself up for success with a powerful cover page that stands out and entices the reader to find out more about your business.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Many businesses spend hours preparing their business plans but then do not pay enough attention to the title page. This is a huge mistake.
5 ways a strong cover page can help you make a positive first impression:
Keep reading to find out which elements you need to include in the cover page, how to structure it to maximize the impact of your business plan, and to take a look at some successful examples.
Surprisingly, there are no strict rules about what to show on your business plan cover sheet, but there certainly are best practices that you should follow.
Here are 9 elements that are typically included on business plan covers, 3 of which are essential and you should not miss to include them. The remaining 6 are optional for your consideration.
|Business Plan Cover Page Contents|
|Business Name||Company Logo|
1.1. Business name:
The name of the company that is the subject of the plan.
1.2. Document title:
The words “Business Plan” in a prominent spot so that it is clear what kind of document this is.
1.3. Contact information:
Name, title and contact details (e.g., phone, email, social media, website, address) of the primary contact persons presenting the plan (e.g., CEO, Founder, Owner, President) so that any interested parties know exactly to whom to direct their inquiries and can reach them quickly and easily.
2.1. Company logo:
The logo of the company if available and desired.
Short, memorable summary of the business described in the plan.
In order to make sure your plan does not look outdated, include only the year of the business plan completion date. If you are including both the month also, it is advisable to create a new cover sheet each time you send out the plan.
2.4. Version control:
Numbering each copy of the plan enables you to more easily keep track of who you sent what version of the document to.
Disclaimer can help protect you and your company from confidentiality and other legal issues resulting from the distribution of the business plan by indicating that the plan is for information only, not an offering of stock in the company, and not to be shared with third parties without your prior consent.
Graphic elements or images to enhance the professional look and visual appeal of the document.
Let’s have a more detailed look at these cover page elements so you know what exactly to include into each of them:
The most prominent feature on your business plan cover is the name of your company.
Instantly, the reader should notice the name of your business. In fact, if readers take away nothing else from the cover page, they should remember your company’s name.
As this is the most noticeable feature on the page, use a large font that stands out, but is easy to read, looks professional and corresponds to the typeface that you used for the rest of the document.
Placing a high-quality company logo on the cover page helps to make the business plan look more professional and establish a brand identity by allowing readers to connect visually to the business right from the beginning.
If your logo includes the full name of the company, you do not have to display both the company name and logo on the cover page, it is sufficient to choose one of the two.
The readers need to know what the presented document is about – immediately and clearly.
The cover page should clearly state whether it is a Business Plan, Executive Summary, Financial Forecast, Marketing Plan, Recovery Plan, or any other kind of plan.
For example, write the words “Business Plan” in a prominent spot on the cover sheet to make it crystal clear what type of document this is. You may include any additional words that are part of the title, such as “Three/Five-Year Business Plan” if needed or relevant.
As a focal point on the cover page, the document title should be in a large font size.
There is no rule though about whether the Document Title or Company Name and Logo should be of the largest font size, as all are of key importance. So it is entirely your decision what feature you prefer to highlight on the cover page of the document.
Contact details should always be on the business plan cover page, letting the reader know who is presenting the document and how to contact them if they need more information.
It is helpful to indicate the names and titles of the company’s primary contact persons for investors and other business plan readers, such as:
Next, provide the contact details that will allow the interested parties to reach these primary contact persons quickly and easily, including:
The contact information is typically displayed in the smallest font on the cover page.
For example, you will undoubtedly recognize the following company mottos:
|Company Motto: Examples|
|Nike||"Just Do It."|
|McDonald's||"I'm Lovin' It"|
|De Beers||"A Diamond Is Forever"|
|L'Oreal||“Because you’re worth it”|
|Dollar Shave Club||"Shave Time. Shave Money."|
As such, the tagline is a useful part of the cover page as it helps the business plan readers better understand what you do straight away, and even excite them to read the business plan and study it with more interest.
When was this business plan finalized and issued? The readers will be interested to know. Hence, it is advisable to state the document completion date on the cover page.
Strictly speaking, you do not need to denote anything more specific that the year in which you completed the business plan. (“Business Plan: 2021”) This will ensure that the plan does not appear outdated for an entire year.
Imagine that you are a potential investor who in December 2021 receives a business plan dated January 2021. It would be natural to assume that the document has been rejected many times by other investors over the last 12 months.
Alternatively, you can include both the current month and year on the cover sheet. (“Business Plan: January 2021”) Each time you update the document and send it out or present it, you will need to check if this date of completion needs updating.
The date is featured on the cover sheet less prominently and in a smaller font size than the document title and company name, and is often displayed below the plan title.
As your business develops, you may revise your business plan any number of times and send it to multiple recipients. To keep track of the different versions of the plan that you produce and which version you sent to whom, you may decide to use a version control system.
However, it does not make the best impression when someone receives a “Version 25” of your plan.
Instead, consider devising a simple coding system. For example: “Copy D.5” would indicate it is the fifth copy of a fourth version of the document or “Version 4.5” could mean a fifth copy of a document version completed in April.
Numbering each copy of your business plan before distribution, and keeping a list of which individual has received which copy, would enable you to keep track of how many copies are in circulation, and, if needed, ask to have a copy returned, or trace the responsible party in case a copy is circulated without your permission.
Legal issues may arise as a result of circulating your business plan.
For example, anyone who is in the possession of the document could potentially divulge the confidential information.
Also, in some countries, offering ownership in your company in return for an investment is considered as selling of stock, which is a regulated activity. The best way to protect yourself is to consult a lawyer.
Nevertheless, including a disclaimer in the business plan helps to protect your company by indicating the plan itself is not an offering of stock for sale but rather a document for information purposes only.
The same disclaimer can also be used to help protect the confidentiality of the information disclosed in your business plan by informing the reader that the plan is confidential and not to be shared with other parties without the owner’s consent, especially when you are not adding a non-disclosure agreement.
These are the two most common ways how to show the disclaimer in the business plan:
1. Display a brief disclaimer, just one or two sentences, directly on the front cover, probably at the bottom of the page. Consult a lawyer for the most appropriate wording, but a standard disclaimer might look something to the effect this:
2. Write “Confidential” on the cover sheet and include a longer disclaimer and confidentiality statement in the main body of the business plan, perhaps on the first page after the cover sheet.
In addition, you can also include the text “Confidential” into the header or footer of the document.
The cover page is the first thing the readers will see when they open your business plan. Thus, your business plan cover should be neat, clean, attractive, and professional enough to draw your readers’ attention, make a good first impression and set the tone for your business plan’s content.
Cover page that is messy, dated, unattractive or in any way unprofessional can create negative preconceptions in the recipients’ minds before they even start reading the business plan.
Your design should be clean and professional, which can be accomplished by observing the following best practices:
Most successful businesses have a strong association with their brand identity, including a company logo, typeface and color scheme. Visual identity helps to establish recognition, familiarity, trust and confidence in customers by evoking the right emotions and sending the right message.
As a result, companies take care to develop a brand identity and keep consistent across all marketing collateral and business materials.
Likewise, your brand identity should be integrated into all parts of your business plan, including the cover page. The best practice is to make the plan consistent with the logo, font type and color scheme as they appear across your other company’s documents.
If you do not have a brand identity created yet, keep the color scheme of the plan cover simple.
The easiest is to have a logo designed, which is inexpensive and easy to do nowadays, and then use your logo colors across the business plan. Alternatively, consider using an online color scheme generator to select colors that go well together.
To stay on the safe side, use maximum of two to three colors, one of which should be black. You can use different shades of the same color (e.g., light blue and dark blue).
First and foremost, the fonts you use in the business plan, including its cover, need to be readable.
The most important information should be displayed in a way that it stands out from the rest of the elements on the business plan cover page, for example, differentiated by font size, weight or color.
Ideally, the typefaces and their color(s) should be consistent with the brand identity used in all of the other company’s marketing materials.
Do not combine more than two typefaces. It is ok to combine a sans-serif (e.g., Times New Roman) with a sans-serif (e.g., Arial) typeface.
Again, less is definitely more here. Refrain from cluttering the business plan cover sheet with photos and graphics.
If you do use a visual element, make sure to leave enough white space around it so the page does not look too busy.
The resolution of any images, including the company logo, should be of high enough quality to not look pixelated.
There is no need for a fancy over-designed cover page, unless you are a large corporation or perhaps a design agency. Equally, beware of any templates with outdated designs that will make your cover look like it was created back in 1999.
Professional designers often combine different alignments (left / right / center) of elements on a page (text, images) to achieve a desired design effect. However, a design novice should play it safe and keep the alignment simple and consistent, especially when it comes to professional documents, such as a business plan.
You should be able to comfortably fit all of the recommended elements on the cover sheet (e.g., company name and logo, document title, contact details, date, disclaimer), and still leave enough white space on the page.
Making a great first impression does not equal to creating a cover that is graphically busy and cluttered with unimportant details. Instead, set yourself up for success by keeping the business plan cover sheet neat, clean, simple and concise.
Carefully proofread the cover page to avoid, at all costs, any mistakes and typos, which would do you a great disservice in the eyes of the reader. Even better, have someone else to look it over.
Finally, make sure that the cover page looks good in every format you will be distributing the business plan in, probably including a PDF electronic file and a printed hard copy.
Some common issues include:
Most importantly, the cover page should look professional and stand out from the crowd so that your business plan has a better chance of being read.
Finally, remember that these aren’t rigid rules. The overall goal for a cover page is to look neat and professional so that it stands out from the crowd and your business plan has a better chance of being read. In the end, that’s the most important outcome.
The cover sheet is the first thing the readers of your business plan will see. Make a good first impression.
Here are some examples to further illustrate the structure and format of a business plan cover page:
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