How To Write a Business Plan in Ten Easy Steps
You need to write a business plan for your company. Anxious to start, you immediately open your favorite word processing program. But now you’re staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor that appears to be mocking you. Not sure where to start or what to write first, you flip the computer off and decide that tomorrow is a much better day to work on your plan. After all, the weather is much too nice to be sitting inside on a day like today.
Many entrepreneurs and business owners have faced this situation before, however waiting until tomorrow to start your plan is unacceptable? Follow these 10 tried and true tips to help you write a business plan. Today we address the first five, and next week we will tackle the second 5 steps.
1. Decide why you’re writing your plan.
Are you raising money? Clarifying your future? Launching a new venture? Searching for strategic partners? Game-planning to destroy your competition? Whatever the reason – it’s important to get committed to the business plan writing process. Prepare for yourself a short paragraph that outlines “why you are writing a business plan and why it will be great.” Call it your business planning mission – it will keep you motivated and help you clarify the message you send your readers.
2. Get the big picture.
Before accumulating mountains of research and information, take a look at your plan through a wide-angle lens to get the big picture. Visit your local library or bookstore and bring home a few business planning books. Take a look at online resources, consider business plan software programs and review the SBA’s business planning templates and tools. Your goal is to get a feel for what a business plan is, what it isn’t and what to expect from your business plan. With this new insight, prepare an outline that includes the major sections and subsections that you believe should appear in your plan.
3. Grab everything that’s already handy.
Dig through every computer file, storage boxes and file cabinet you have to unearth the information that’s already available to you. You’ll surprise yourself with what you find and with how nicely this step will move you forward. Consider marketing pieces you’ve prepared, press releases, related articles, industry journals, historical financial statements, important websites and notes or ideas you’ve accumulated over time. Don’t rate the quality of this information – just gather it. At this point quantity is the name of the game, and the more you can find the better.
4. Just type!
Step four in how to write a business plan is by far the most fun! Just start typing thoughts, ideas, words, questions and to-dos into each section of your business plan outline. Put rough thoughts on paper and empty your brain. Don’t worry about complete sentences or proper grammar – just type. Approach this step like a brainstorming session, the more powerful the storm, the more potent your plan. Jot down any ideas that demand further consideration, areas that present a challenge and topics that require the input of others. Strive to place your thoughts in the most appropriate section of your business plan outline and rearrange the outline if it will be more logical for your readers.
5. Prepare your rough draft.
Now it’s time to take your outline, the information you’ve got handy and your brainstormed ideas and shape them into a useable rough draft. Move through your entire outline, section by section and begin writing complete sentences and paragraphs. As you work, start a Biz Plan To-Do List to keep track of topics that require in-depth research, statistics or back-up information. When you’re done, print out a copy and read it a few times, revising lightly as you go. Your plan should be rather sparse, but when you’ve completed this step, you’ve truly made business planning progress.
You have now completed the first five steps in how to write a business plan. Are you feeling excited? Energized? Or frustrated and overwhelmed? Don’t worry. Check out Steps 6 to 10 in Part 2 of this series now!
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