If you are getting ready to start a business, the process of writing a business plan will help you clarify your vision. The final product, too, will help you represent your business to potential advisors, investors, clients, and vendors. Below, I have compiled some resources to get you started.
First, you want a mental map of what a basic business plan includes. Check out www.myownbusiness.org/s2, a website that provides outlines of the business plan and some business plan writing tips. If you decide you want to purchase a few books on the topic, check out http://www.planigent.com/html/books.html, which includes helpful, thorough reviews of some of the more popular how-to-write-a-business-plan guides.
Generally, business plans are at least three sections: one on the business itself, the second on financial data and projections, and finally, a section that includes documents that support the prior two sections. Typically, you will also include a one-page version of your business plan, known as an executive summary or a plan summary. Many advise that you write the summary last. This one-page document includes everything that is in the business plan, but in a succinct version that communicates who you are, what you want to do, how much money you will need, and how much money you project that you can make.
You do have some creative license in designing your business plan. If you decide to maintain the three-section model, the content within each section and the order of that content can vary. In other words, there is not one right structure for a given business plan, but several possible structures. Many books include examples of business plans. You can also go to http://www.bplans.com/sample_business_plans.cfm for a wide range of good-looking business plan models by industry. You may find it most effective to combine several models, to create a structure tailored for your unique business and purposes.
Finally, depending on your strengths and skill set, you may want to seek additional resources to simplify the process and help you make more informed decisions. Specifically, you may decide to look into business plan software programs or professional consultants. Software programs can range from $20 - $150. They are designed to walk you through the writing process and to create a professional-looking finished document. For reviews of business plan software, visit http://www.diybizplan.com/software. As for consultants, don’t be afraid to consult a professional writer and editor, or an accountant. The quality of the finished business plan, like a resume, should be flawless, especially if you plan to share it with outside parties. Equally as important are the numbers, specifically the projections for the first year. If accounting is not your area of expertise, it is may be helpful to find someone you trust to consult.
Ultimately, you and only you can make the creative and intellectual decisions that hold the best business plan results for you. Although the thought of writing a business plan can be daunting, the good news is that there will be no one right answer, but several.