The road to the creation of a new business is a long one that is often filled with unexpected challenges and accomplishments. While the unpredictable nature of starting a business can be appealing to some, for many there is value in developing a plan to help guide new owners through the first months and years of operation. For this reason, one of the most important steps that entrepreneurs can take when starting out is to carefully and thoughtfully develop a comprehensive business plan.
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan is both a map and a marketing tool for your business. A business plan helps you carefully set forth the purpose, goals, and priorities of your new business, along with guideposts to help ensure that you stay on the right path. For instance, a business plan may require you to consider what the primary purpose of your business is, or the good or service you intend to provide, who your potential customers are, and how you intend to reach them in an effective and efficient manner. A business plan also allows you to make an honest evaluation of the current status of your business and what you will need to do to get to where you would like to be. This includes taking the time to compile your business balance sheet, analyze existing income and expenses, and determine anticipated financial needs.
In addition, a business plan serves as a marketing tool for new business owners who are attempting to gain financial backing, operational support, or mentoring for their new business. The financial aspects of a business plan lets potential funders or lenders analyze your current income streams and the likelihood of repayment, while the detailed explanation of your business objectives and operational plans helps to convince interested parties that you have taken the time to carefully plan your business endeavors and are invested in the success of your company.
How to Write a Business Plan
There is no one specific way to write a business plan. However, there are key components that most business plans should include, and these are good starting points when working on your own plan. It may also be worth reaching out to an experienced corporate attorney to help you review and revise your business plan before presenting it to others in the business community.
Business plans typically start with a summary of the business and its objectives, and then they describe the operations of the business, the good or service it will be providing, and potential income streams in more detail. Business plans should also include a detailed description of the proposed management structure of the business, including officers or directors and possibly the envisioned composition of the board. Additionally, business plans typically include extensive financial documentation, such as balance sheets, income projections or growth model projections, any pending loan applications, tax returns of the entity, and copies of any relevant legal agreements. If the business has already been in operation for some time, the business plan may also include financial records for the months of operation.
Using Your Business Plan
Once you have completed a business plan that you are happy with, you will find that you will often continue to refer to your plan even months or years after it was initially completed. In the initial stages, you can use your business plan to attract investors, partners, board members, or other advisors who are interested in the model you have proposed and would like to contribute to its success. As your business develops, you can continue to refer to the plan to guide you in business decisions, as well as to track timelines or certain goals that you hoped to meet. Even after your business is well-developed, returning to your business plan can help guide your yearly planning for your company, allowing you to modify your goals as they are achieved.