Business Plans and Non-Disclosure Agreements
One of the questions we get is what is the best way to distribute the business plan that you've created once it's done. Frequently, most business plans are transmitted electronically via email. In our experience, it is best to send the business plan in a PDF format so that individuals can view the plan but not make any changes to it. This is very similar to directly printing the business plan on paper. In some cases, and as we have mentioned a few times on this website – it is important that a potential funding source sign a nondisclosure agreement before reviewing the business plan. This is especially important if this is a technology focused business and there is a significant amount of technical information within the documentation you've created. As such, it may be necessary for them to sign an NDA – either on paper or electronically – before sending over a business plan document.
Confidentiality is a concern for you then you may want to have a specialized online account that allows for the electronic distribution of a nondisclosure agreement. This allows for individuals to sign the nondisclosure and you can see immediately from the person that is receiving the documentation. In some cases, especially when the materials are highly sensitive, a numbered approach may be taken whereas a background is imprinted on the PDF so that it is known exactly who received which numbered copy of the business plan. Of course, this may be overkill in certain situations given that most businesses do not deal in highly sensitive or highly proprietary systems. It is up to you to determine what level of confidentiality is needed once the business plan is done and you are going to begin distributing it to the general public.
As it relates to the paper version of the business plan – many people will seek to have a printed and bound copy sent to potential funding sources. Although most of the time these documents are so electronically, having a printed and bound business plan does create a very nice presentation. In these cases, most of the time when a business plan is printed, bound, and distributed – is going is part of a loan application where only one copy of the business plan needs to be shown to a funding source. Typically, you can expect the cost for printing and binding a business plan to be around $10 per copy. If you intend to send out many copies of the business plan this can become an expense. However, it does make for a very nice presentation and most funding sources will be impressed with it.