A business plan isn’t just important for starting your business, it’s an indispensable tool for helping you manage and grow your business. Think of your business plan as your roadmap for operating your company, and remember, it’s also essential if you intend to request funding from outside sources.
A business plan spells out specific details about your business related to its concept, marketplace, and financials. The length of your business plan can depend on the complexity and scale of your business, but even a short one-page business plan should have purpose and can affect your success.
Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of not preparing a business plan. One of the reasons may be that writing one can seem a daunting task. It requires time, careful thought, research, and patience as you define your business’s critical success factors and goals.
However, the benefits are well worth the effort. The value of a business plan isn’t so much in the document you create, but the discovery process you embark upon to create it. As you work on your business plan, you answer key questions that you may not have otherwise considered. That can help you recognize risks and opportunities — and better position you for success.
Writing for Entreprenuer.com, Tim Berry, entrepreneur, business planner and angel investor, writes that, “the trend in business plans these days is to go back to the fundamentals, with good projections and solid analysis. An ‘easy to read quickly’ format is more important than ever. If you want people to read the business plan you develop -- and most people do -- then my best advice to you is keep it simple. Don't confuse your business plan with a doctoral thesis or a lifetime task. Keep the wording and formatting straightforward, and keep the plan short.
“But,” continues Berry, “don't confuse simple wording and formats with simple thinking. The reason you're keeping it simple isn't because you haven't developed your idea fully. You're keeping it simple so you can get your point across quickly and easily to whoever's reading it.”
Here are some tips to make writing your business plan less intimidating:
- Don’t try to do it all at once: If you tackle it in smaller bits and pieces, the project will be more manageable.
- Schedule time: Plan time to work on your business plan. You’ll feel less stressed about it if you reserve time on your calendar to dedicate to it.
- Use technology and resources to your advantage: Although business plan templates and software can’t do it all for you, they can save time. Consider using SBA’s online Business Plan Tool and the full range of free business planning tools and templates that SCORE offers.
- Use business charts. Make the important numbers easy to find and easy to understand. Use summary tables and simple business charts to highlight the main numbers. Make the related details easy to find in the appendices.
- Get feedback along the way.
As you work on the different sections of your business plan, ask a SCORE mentor or other unbiased business professional to review it and provide suggestions for improvement and clarity.
Even though writing a business plan will require effort, it doesn’t have to be a harrowing experience. Follow these tips and keep your eye on the prize. With a business plan, you’ll be better able to move your business in the right direction from the start and navigate changes more easily in the future.