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Guidelines for a Business Plan

Preparation of a business plan can be your most important task in running a small business. It's hard work and some business owners are reluctant to write a business plan because of the time and research involved. Many small business owners don't realize the need for a written plan because they say "I know what I'm doing" or "I've been in business for years". An existing business, even more than a start-up, can benefit from good, written plan.

The process of preparing a business plan:

aids in the thought process
functions as an efficient communication tool
allows you to test the idea(s) on paper and
   get objective feedback
provides a yardstick to measure progress in
   the future

Many people get stuck because they hate to write, the process is too time consuming, or they know what they want to say but just can't seem to get it down on paper. Here are some strategies to beat those problems:

Write a little at a time. A few sentences are a great start. The most important part is that you get your thoughts on paper and let someone you trust read them. Sometimes a person not involved in the business can be a source of very good ideas.
Don't worry too much about format. The suggested format that follows is just a starting point. A good business plan must contain certain elements (the Executive Summary is a must), but the logic in the plan and believable financial projections are the most important parts. If the numbers don't work, no amount of beautiful presentation will make your plan a good one!
Don't write a book. Whenever possible use charts, tables and graphs to present and analyze information. A picture is truly worth a thousand words.
 

The Business Plan is used for two purposes: (1) a document to assist in securing financing and (2) an organizational tool or guide for running the business.

Some suggestions for writing the plan are as follows:

Quote statistical data and identify source(s) for authenticity.
Utilize a third person narrative writing style. Do not simply answer questions, but address all points in the outline.
Substantiate how you arrived at conclusions and/or projections - state assumptions.
Assume the reader knows nothing about the business or industry.

The business plan should represent your unique vision. It will sell itself if it is a signature model, clear, and readily understandable.


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