Your business plan should contain all the usual elements – the executive summary, information about your product, market analysis, management bios and financial projections. But you need more. Here are some often-overlooked features that could convince prospective investors to join forces with you.

Problems and Solutions
No business ever had a problem-free beginning, so why should your business plan read like a fairy tale? Astute investors will want to know what problems you ran into and what you did to overcome them. For example, when your startup cash ran short in the beginning, how did you make up the shortage? If you obtained a bank loan at first, how did you get approval? Investors will learn a lot about you and your team when they hear how you solve problems. Let them know what you had to go through.

Skin In the Game
Serious investors will want to know how committed you are to your new-business idea. That’s why they’ll ask how much equity you have in the business. If all you have is an idea and some sweat equity, you’ll have a hard time convincing someone else to put up any money. That is, unless your idea is truly momentous. If you’re betting the college fund or mortgaging the house to back your idea, you’re showing that you believe in the idea.

Customer Insight
Be honest, now. How do you know anyone will like your product enough to buy it? How well do you know your potential customers? How did you price your product? What have you done to test the market? Before you pitch your idea to any investors, you should have questioned a large sampling of people who fit your customer profile on their likes and dislikes of products that compete with yours. You should know exactly who your customers are, where they live, and what they want.

Lean and Mean
What does your budget say about management’s salaries and perks in the beginning? How plush is the office space? Are you leasing any fancy cars? Are you starting with a large staff? Investors will want to see austerity at first – the more austere the better. Let your plan show the company earning its way into fancy digs and comfortable salaries.

Break-Even Analysis
One of the first things an investor will do is flip to the back of your business plan and look in the financial section for a break-even analysis. How long will it take you to market your product before costs and expenses equal revenue? If you have a break-even date, how did you arrive at it? Is the date realistic?

Exit Strategy
Carefully explain in the plan exactly how and when investors will be able to cash out and make a good return on their investment. Decide which exit strategy makes the most sense for your business, given the peculiarities of your industry and your expectations for the economy. Popular exit strategies include: buyout by a competitor, going public, management buyout, or an investor buyout when a large venture capital firm buys out the initial investors.

Write It Yourself
Don’t hire a writer or consultant to write your business plan. If you do – because you hate to write and want a polished and professional-looking document that will impress every reader – you’ll be missing something very important. If somebody else writes the plan, it won’t be truly yours. No matter that you provide all the information a writer might request. If you and your team aren’t the ones who go through the rigor of working through challenges on paper, you won’t “own” the plan in the sense that you won’t have a proper feeling for the document. You’ll have trouble with in-depth questions from prospective investors and lenders. If you need to spruce up the document after you finish writing it, hire a writer-editor to edit the document and make sure it’s grammatically correct.