Starting a business plan is a detailed process that is both revealing and educational. To get started find a good business plan example and decide what the purpose of your plan will be. For existing businesses it is an opportunity to re-evaluate profit margins and focus on successful areas of the business while cutting out the departments that are not profitable. For business plans in start up companies it is an opportunity to really focus on, and understand the industry and evaluate whether your shiny new opportunity will be successful before you make an investment of time and money.
Although up to 44% of new companies survive 4 years or more the success of any new start up is based on proper planning and projection, capital resources, and good business management.
Here are the top 5 tips for creating a killer business plan that will unduly impress any lender:
1) Do not Skip the Research
Creating a solid plan is the very first step in knowing your industry and understanding what it will take to be successful in your chosen field. Part of creating your plan should be to evaluate the competition, refine your business strategy and begin to understand if your value proposition meets a necessary need in the marketplace. Going through the steps of creating a business plan is an invaluable process that will help to ensure that your business will be able to survive the market trends. Do not pay someone else to do this part for you or it may end up costing you more than you think.
2) Consider Your Audience
Business plans are created for many different reasons. Will it be for presenting to a board for project approval? Will it be to submit for funding? Is it simply to re-evaluate the business and profitability? Each of these areas will require adjustments to the plan format and style you choose to use through the document. Find a good business plan example to use as a starting point to help focus your project. If you are trying to get funding then you will need to have very detailed cost and ROI projections that are realistic and measurable. If you are presenting to a board or non-profit it is likely that you will need to include a focus on community impact or involvement and impact (either positive or negative) to the existing organization. Keep your audience in mind as you create your document to ensure you hit the right points and leave no questions unanswered.
3) Use Quality Reference Material
It is important to use a good mix of reference material in your plan. The internet is great for up to date news but is not nearly as reliable and printed publications. Be sure to use a good mix of reputable website research along with solid facts and industry statistics commonly found in printed books. Industry publications and magazines are a great way to get the latest news and trends in a reputable place. Include research from industry publications as well to enhance your plan and build credibility in your due diligence. Always be sure to cite your research or any quotes you may use. This will also build credibility while ensuring you are not infringing on any copyright protections of the content you use. To quickly and easily cite your sources there is an online tool that you can use to enter in your info and get back the properly formatted entry for a works cited page. It makes the process a breeze: http://www.easybib.com .
4) Find a Good Business Plan Example Template
Now that you have countless articles and notes, market information and statistics it is time to put it all together in a format that will highlight the research you have compiled. Finding a business plan example template can be a challenge as every plan is different (see point # 2 above), however you can create your own based on a combination of the different areas or topics you want to cover. If you want something that is already formatted with sample headings and the different categories already setup use a small business plan template similar to the one found here. It offers a real business plan example in Word format for easily changing out headings and information. In addition the plan comes with a break-even analysis template in Excel as well as a 1 year Pro-Forma in Excel with the formulas in place for easily updating and projecting costs for the year. Finding a business plan example in Word format is a big time saver and an easy way to quickly get the startup business plan document underway without starting from scratch.
5) Talk to Industry Experts
Finally, once you have compiled your research reach out to some industry experts like local college professors, trade show organizers, or even the local Chamber of Commerce for some feedback and input on your plan. It always helps to get a critical eye on the plan before making the final presentation. Having one or more people review the work will shed light of areas that may be lacking or confirm that the business plan is ready to present.
Do not get accustomed spending too much time figuring out the Table of Contents, Works Cited or overall plan formatting. Use a small business plan template or other resources that are readily available to you and spend your time focusing where you should, on the research and presentation of your business idea.