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Making a Business Plan does not need to be a laborious task. Using our Business Plan interview you can build a professional plan, specific to your state, with minimal effort if you know your business... Read More

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Making a Business Plan

  • What is a Business Plan?

    Making a Business Plan does not need to be a laborious task. Using our Business Plan interview you can build a professional plan, specific to your state, with minimal effort if you know your business well.

  • When should I use a Business Plan?

    • You are starting a business and want to outline your goals and strategies.
    • You need to communicate your business concept to potential investors.
    • You want to test your business idea for viability.
    • You and your partners want to build a plan together.

    Our Business Plan builder is suitable for most types of businesses including online companies, service providers, non-profits and home-based businesses. Making a Business Plan helps you see the potential of your business and it can help others see it, as well.

  • What is included in a Business Plan?

    A Business Plan is not simply a description of your business. It includes market analysis, marketing strategies, financial goals, funding and liability information, and company structure details. What this means is that you'll need to do a bit of work before writing to be able to create a comprehensive plan.

    The key areas you'll need to concentrate on include:

    Product or service
    You'll need to be able to tell others, in a few words, exactly what you are offering as products or services. If the product is highly technical or new to the market, you'll want to figure out the best language to use to explain the concept to those who may not be familiar with industry jargon. You should also be able to explain what need this fills for potential customers. You can include images in plan attachments if that helps.

    Company structure
    You need to define who is part of the business and what their roles are. For investors, you'll also want to show how each member is qualified to fulfill their duties. For example, you'll get more investor confidence if your key members have a proven track record in running a business or working in the industry.

    Market
    It is critical that you identify your potential market. If there is a lot of competition, what will you offer that is better than your competitors? If you want to open a coffee shop across the street from another coffee shop, you'll need to be able to explain why that makes sense. You should be able to describe your market in quantifiable terms, like how many potential customers are in the market and what you expect them to spend.

    Marketing
    How exactly do you plan on reaching your new customers? If it is a small local company, are you going to put up signage and attend local events? If your business is online, will you pay for ads or hire an online marketing or SEO company? Do you have strategic relationships with already established businesses? You'll also want to map out your marketing schedule and how you plan to pay for everything.

    Financial plans
    You'll need to map out how you plan to finance your business. Do you have a business loan? Are you going to take an income from the business? How much of the seed money will be from your own savings? Investors will also want to know if you plan to take on additional debt or if other investors are involved. You'll also want to show how you plan to pay back debt and when you expect to be profitable. They may also want to see a tentative budget.

    Funding needs
    If you are looking for investors, how much do you need and how exactly are you going to use the funds? How do you plan to pay back investors and when? Do you have collateral you are willing to put up? Are you prepared to give up equity? What other funding options have you tried? How long can you operate without funding?

    Once you have done your research and have a solid plan for moving forward, you can sit down and create your Business Plan easily using our online document builder.

  • Who should review my Business Plan?

    Looking at your business like an outsider is difficult for many small business owners. But your investors, unless they are family or friends, are going to look at it objectively. This is one of the reasons you need a Business Plan capable of surviving intense scrutiny. Once you have your Business Plan made, try to look at it as if you were a stranger to your business. Have a few respected colleagues read through it as well and tell them not to be nice, but to find as many weak areas as they can. If you need to keep your business information private, you can ask those reviewing your plan to sign a Non-disclosure Agreement. If you find information you need to change, you can easily edit your plan. In fact, a Business Plan is an evolving, working document, so change it as often as you need.

  • How do I write an executive summary?

    Writing a good executive summary is important because it may be the only thing an investor reads to decide if they even want to bother with reading the rest of your plan. It should be able to grab the reader right away and entice them to want to learn more. Here are a few tips for writing an effective executive summary:

    • Tailor it to your audience, change whenever needed
    • Add a sense of urgency, make it timely to the market and ideal to move on now
    • Include what needs it fills in the market, what real problem it solves
    • Make it more personable by using language like "us" and "we" rather than "the company"
    • Use confident and positive words and remove indecisive language
    • Write it without worrying about the length and then shorten it as much as you can
    • Avoid cliché terms like "best in the world" or "industry disruptor"—Show it rather than tell it
    • Test it before you send it
    • Write it after the rest of the plan is complete and well researched

    If you do not need to share your Business Plan with others, you may not need an executive summary. However, it is a good exercise for building your elevator pitch for times when you talk about your business with others.

  • How do I evaluate my business competition?

    Often small business owners are so excited about their product that they forget to consider their competition. If you are planning on opening a local business, you likely know your competitors. But if you are starting an online business or are in a large city, you'll benefit from market research. One way to perform this analysis is to create a side-by-side comparison sheet. Using this type of document, you can compare pricing, product offerings, web presence, user review scores, size of business and market reach, customer profiles and more depending on your business. If it is a restaurant, you could compare menus, pricing, customer loyalty and patron reviews. If it is an online business, you can compare keyword terms, social media presence, subscription pricing models, or customer service responsiveness to find a competitive angle. You may even benefit from hiring someone to do the research for you since they might be more objective than you. Companies with large budgets may even hire a marketing agency to evaluate the market for them. Regardless of your budget, market research is not a step you'll want to skip in the business planning process.

  • What should I know about budgetting and financial planning?

    Like evaluating your market, you also want to make sure you are realistic when it comes to your financial planning. For example, can you really afford to quit your day job and run your new business? Are your sales projections reasonable? Have you planned for issues that may arise? For example, if you intend to open a cafe, you may need money to take care of unexpected compliance issues. What if your location falls through, and you need to afford a more expensive lease? Have you underestimated monthly expenses like water usage or employee salaries? And if business is good, what will you do with the profits? If you are having trouble creating a realistic budget, you may want to consult with a business accountant. A working budget is needed to help run your business even if you do not plan to ask for funding, so it is important to create a realistic budget.

  • What should I do if I am stuck?

    Sometimes it is hard to complete all the parts of your Business Plan in a way that is impenetrable. Again, you may have to look at your business objectively to evaluate whether it makes sense or not. Is the market already saturated? Is there a market at all? Is there a way to test the market? Is there a certain segment of the market more suitable for your product? Do you have the time to run your business properly? Can you realistically afford to meet your objectives? Do you have the right partners? Is it the best time for your product or service to be launched? Are your goals realistic?

    If you cannot answer these questions, it may be time to reevaluate your business idea and market. Perhaps somehow you are missing the mark. You may also benefit from reading through our How to Start a Business Guide. Also, try not to overthink it to the point of road-blocking yourself. While it is important, it is better to have a Business Plan that needs work rather than no plan at all.

    A good Business Plan is not fabricated around your pie-in-the-sky dreams for your company to "trick" investors into buying into your vision. A good plan is a working document that proves you have a product or service that can be viable in the real market. Even if you are not seeking funding, creating a functional Business Plan is an excellent tool for proving your business idea is a good one.

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