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Business Plan Basics

What would you prefer to do?

  1. Have a root canal
  2. Write business plan
Believe it or not, some people would actually opt for a root canal.

Yet, writing a business plan doesn’t have to overwhelm you, even if you’ve never written one. In fact, writing a business plan is really about knowing the "formula."

Why you need a business plan

Done correctly, your business plan will become the backbone of your business, helping your business get off the ground and grow.

  1. Finding the money. A business plan can help you get bank loans as well as financial backing from independent investors. That said, most banks require that you submit your business plan along with your loan application.

  2. Building your business. Business plans "may also be used by firms that are trying to attract key employees, prospect for new business, deal with suppliers or simply to understand how to manage their companies better,"1 according to the Entrepreneur.com article An Introduction to Business Plans.

  3. Establishing a foundation. Think of your business plan as your company’s own charter. It will guide you as your venture grows. Each year you can update your business plan based upon your current situation and where you want to be at the end of the following year.

What information to include

If you’ve never written a business plan, you’ll be thrilled to know that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Those interested will expect to see the following:

Sections What to include
Executive summary Write this last. It’s just a page or two of highlights.
Company description Legal establishment, history, start–up plans, etc.
Product or service Describe what you’re selling. Focus on customer benefits.
Market analysis You need to know your market, customer needs, where they are, how to reach them, etc.
Strategy and implementation Be specific. Include management responsibilities with dates and budgets. Make sure you can track results.
Web plan summary For e–commerce, include discussion of Web site development costs, operations, sales and marketing strategies.
Management teams Describe the organization and the key management members.
Financial analysis Make sure to include at the very least your project profit and loss and cash flow tables.
Excerpted from A Standard Business Plan Outline. Reprinted with permission of Bplans.com

Sample plans

Before you sit down to tackle writing your own business plan, take a look at other business plans, preferably ones that pertain to your industry. You can review a variety of business plans at Bplans.com. The Web site offers sample plans for businesses such as event planning, medical billing, regional airlines, computer consulting, automotive repairs, beauty salons, and more.

Get started early

Don’t wait until the night before your first meeting with your banker to begin writing your business plan. They take time and diligent research.

Be realistic

Professionals reviewing your business plan are not strangers to the ups and downs of starting and growing a business. While starting your own company may be a dream come true for you, you will not want to fill your business plan with grandeur, unrealistic goals, hockey–stick growth predictions, and budgets better left to business giants.

Keep it short and simple

This point may be the best news of all. According to Bplans.com, "nobody reads a long–winded business plan: not bankers, bosses, nor venture capitalists."2 A long–winded, thesis–like document won’t make you look anymore impressive, so experts recommend keeping your small business plan to 50 pages or fewer.

Ask for help

If you’re struggling with your business plan, consider contacting SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business. SCORE will match you with one of approximately 1,200 online and retired executives who have a wide range of professional expertise that can help you start or grow your business. Confidential email and in–person counseling is offered at a price just right for a would–be business owner – FREE.


1Tiffany, Laura, An Introduction to Business Plans, Entrepreneur.com, March 2, 2001.
2Berry, Tim, What Makes a Good Plan? Bplans.com, November 18, 2003.

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