If you're thinking of starting a business, writing a business plan may seem overwhelming, unnecessary, or both. Maybe you're going into an industry you already know extremely well; or maybe you simply feel confident that you know where you want to go and can articulate it to others. No matter your situation, don't skip this step. A business plan done right can save you time, energy and some major headaches in the long run.
Why do you need a business plan?
- To give you clarity: The process of writing a business plan will help you to clarify what's really important and what you value most. Having that foundation is critical to helping you make values-aligned decisions as you work towards realizing your dream.
- To help you find backers: It will help you get your business off the ground: A well-written business plan will help you find investors, clients, support, and everything else you may need to actually get your idea off the ground.
- To help you neutralize problems: Writing a business plan will force you to think through issues that might just seem abstract or not that bad in your imagination. You may uncover a serious problem and be able to avoid it.
What should you put in your business plan?
- Overview: A general overview of the venture: your goals, vision and values, what you plan to do, and why it matters.
- Financial picture: In this section, you should analyze the current landscape of the industry and demonstrate how and why you expect your business to be viable.
- Marketing strategy: No modern business survives without a robust marketing and branding strategy. Make sure you have a plan to reach your target audience and sell them on your product or service.
- Operations and management approach: When you get right down to it, how will your business work? Who will be involved? How will you begin? In this section, you want to establish the credibility of your team and show that you have a practical plan for implementation.
How do you write a business plan?
- Schedule undistracted time: If you're feeling overwhelmed, the most important thing is just to get started. Give yourself an undisturbed block of time, even if it's just 15 minutes and put pen to paper.
- Don't worry about structure: Your final business plan should be organized, but it's OK to let your thoughts and imagination fly to get the process going. Start with the basics, What does your idea look like? Why does it matter? and don't be afraid to go off on a tangent or write on topics that might not make it into the final product.
- Enlist help: Don't be afraid to ask for help from a business savvy contact, a professional writer, or both. Even if you feel up to the task, make sure to run your plan by a few trusted friends and advisors before you share it with investors or potential collaborators.
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