How to Prepare Your Business Plan
A business plan can have several uses. The most important use is that it gives you a vehicle to systematically gather and analyze data, and develop your strategy for making money, marketing, and managing your business.
A banker will want to see your business plan to make sure you have been diligent in analyzing the risk and the business cash flow will allow you to make your debt service payments. An investor wants to see that your business will grow sustainably so that they can make a target return on investment. Usually a business plan is necessary just to get you an audience with an investor.
Some people don’t want to take the time to do a thorough business plan. But you wouldn’t build a house without a plan, so you shouldn’t do something as important and “life-absorbing” as starting a business without having a carefully thought out plan. And writing it down helps the thought process.
Your plan should be a living document. Keep it current as you learn and grow and respond to the market and other internal and external factors.
Take a Class
There are so many sources of guidance on writing a business plan that it is hard to know where to start. One good start is to take a business planning class offered by one of the BizStarts Milwaukee partners in the region These courses guide and coach you through the development of your own business plan.
Other sources of guidance, sample business plans, and “fill-in -the-blank” templates will be listed below.
A good business plan needs a compelling Executive Summary. Sometimes that is all an investor or other reviewers will read. Sometimes they won’t get past the first paragraph. Here is some great advice from Garage.com, Writing a Compelling Executive Summary, that will help you make sure you cover the most important topics. A good business plan will cover all of these key factors, providing analysis and “evidence” that brings credibility to your plan, your product or service, and your team.
StartupNation.com says there are a Dozen Defining Questions you ask yourself to prepare for writing a business plan.
Here is an excellent guide on preparing a business plan, complete with how-to guidance and resources for each section of the plan:
How to Develop and Use a Business Plan, taken from the Biz Info Library prepared by Glen Greene, Content Provided by The Edward Lowe Foundation.
If you want to prepare a pitch and a plan online, the Columbus (Ohio) Area Chamber of Commerce developed a Pitch Then Plan website that you can register to use.
There are many other sources of guidance. Here are some of the best:
- US Small Business Administration (SBA), Write a Business Plan from the Small Business Planner
- Virtual Business Plan has a detailed outline with guidance on each section, and mistakes to avoid.
- How to Create a Business Plan
- How-To Articles and Sample Business Plans
Shoot for 20 to 30 pages, not 100 pages. As Kelly Spors of the Wall Street Journal writes in “The 100-Page Startup Plan – Don’t Bother,” “…some entrepreneurs spend way too much time polishing 50- or 100-page business plans when they should be out in the marketplace selling their product or service.”