How to Write a Business Plan in Five Steps
People often ask "What makes a good business plan? Or, "How do I make my plan attractive to lenders and investors?".
The simple answer is that lenders and investors (I'll call them "readers" from here on out) are looking for "good deals". A "good deal" is one that offers the reader a reasonable rate of return for the risk assumed. The complete answer is that you should write a plan that a reader will want to read and then get it to reader(s) who are looking for your type of project and levels of risk and return. This article deals with the first part of the equation - how to write a business plan that readers will want to read.
Readers want plans that clearly, accurately and completely allow them to make an initial determination about the project. Here are the steps needed to write that plan:
To paraphrase a real estate expression, the three most important things about a business plan are research, research and research. While other things are important (even critical), ultimately your plan will live or die on the quality and completeness of your information. For that matter, you're about to risk your time and financial future on a project - how much information do you want to have? Step one:
1. Become expert in your project. Learn everything possible about:
(You are welcome to use as a guide the questions that we use with FundablePlans to query a business plan. It is available via e-mail at fundableplans.com/how-to-do-a-business-plan.html )
If you've followed the above, you've now got a mound of research - sticky notes, web pages, reports, quotes, etc., etc. But, what does it all mean? Step two:
2. Analyze. (Hopefully) when you first got the idea for your project there was a sense of excitement and a feeling that "this is a sure winner". Now is the time to see if your feelings were well founded. With a critical eye, do a "SWOT" (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on your project. Determine what you are able to do to capitalize on the S and O and minimize the W and T.
Steps one and two may have changed somewhat your "sure winner" feelings - which is good. (If not, you either have hit upon the next "sliced bread" or you need to redo the preceding steps). Presuming that your research and analysis shows a worthwhile use of your time and money (and that of your readers) move to step three:
3. Forecast. This is where the "rubber meets the road". Using your research and analysis you will now tell your readers that "this is what will happen to the money". You'll do it with accounting forecasts called "pro forma" statements. Provide either three or five years of statements with (generally) the first year done monthly, the second and third done quarterly and (if included) the last two years done annually. In all events, include:
In addition to the above, you should usually include a "Source and Use of Funds" showing the sources of the initial capital and on what it will be spent.
By this point you're either sure you have a winner (differing from "a sure winner" in that you recognize the obstacles but are prepared to work through them) or you are going back to the drawing board to rethink your project. If you "have a winner", step four is:
4. Write the plan. Obviously, you need to be able to use good grammar and spelling. You should be clear, concise and complete. Fill your plan with compelling facts gleaned from your research. Do not avoid the W and T from your SWOT analysis, rather, describe in detail how you will deal with them. Avoid platitudes and your own opinions - everyone knows that you like the idea, readers need facts to determine if they like it. Try to keep your answers as short as possible while still giving complete information. With the exception of the Executive Summary, keep your answers somewhat dry and factual - "short, sweet and to the point".
The Executive Summary, on the other hand, is where you "sell the sizzle". It is here that you make the claim that yours is a dynamic project that deserves full consideration. You need to compel your reader to read your plan and tell them why you are excited about the project.
There are likely as many ways to compile a business plan as there are authors of them. A sample outline is at fundableplans.com/sample_business_plan.pdf . (It requires Adobe Reader to view and includes our logo which is not included in our plans.) You will want to attach to your plan copies of documents referenced in it and historical data on the business (if it is not a startup).
You've now done the lions share of the work leaving only step five:
5. Review and revise. The review should be first by the author(s) and then by trusted advisors - the more people that you can get to review your plan the more likely you are to find any problems before they are found by a reader.
Follow the preceding steps and you will have a business plan that will get read and, hopefully, funded. If you have questions about business plans, please feel free to contact me using the below e-mail link.
About The Author
Breaking the Growth Barriers in the Information Technology and Software Sector
There's nothing automatic about corporate growth, particularly in the information technology industry; build it and they will come is a myth. In the real world there is either a structured, process-driven growth cycle, or stagnation-and stagnation is automatic.
When Do I Need To Hire A Business Plan Consultant
Every new business owner knows that a business plan is critical - it is drilled into them by potential investors and every banking officer they meet. So why is something that is so important to the launch of a new venture so difficult to write? Good question! In this article I will try to address when you should go out and hire a business plan writer versus taking on the task yourself.
Documenting the Exit Strategy in Your Business Plan
All investors greatly desire and are motivated by a clear picture of a company's exit strategy, or the timing and method through which they can "cash in" on their investment. This picture best comes into focus when the key valuation and liquidity drivers of the company are clearly delineated.
Many movies have been made about the tragic story of the Titanic. Arrogance and ignorance was definitely present during its maiden voyage, which was Titanic's last voyage.
Could You Be Setting Your Business Plan Up For Failure?
David E. Gumpert, author of Burn Your Business Plan, often tells the story about how he and his partner failed to raise money after sending their business plan around to venture capitalists and meeting with several others to make presentations.
Microsoft Great Plains in Advertising & Publishing - implementation highlights
Microsoft Great Plains, former Great Plains Dynamics is excellent fit for service oriented business and in this small article we'll give you magazine publisher and advertiser implementation and reporting scenarios. The system we describe is not real, we are putting together industry specifics, based on our consulting practice.
A Unique Joint Venture Twist: Make Huge Profits Even If You Have No Money, No Products, and No List
Would you like to jumpstart your online or offline business without spending a ton of money?Without a doubt, joint venture marketing is the most powerful secret to making money online or offline.In its simplest form, you partner with someone else: You either sell their product to your customer base or they sell your product to theirs.
Business Plan Descriptions of Computer System
Entrepreneurs often give little if any consideration to their computer system needs in their original business plans. It is a necessity to have mention of your computer system as bankers and/or investors will want to know how you will keep track of your future endeavor.
Attributes of Companies You Dont Want to Buy!
There are no "rules of thumb" in the pursuit of companies to buy. Each purchase opportunity has to stand on its own merits.
3 Undercover Ways to Make Big Profits from Your Competition
You have heard that there is extra money on the table marketing products related to yours. You have also heard that your direct competitors product is off the table.
Business Planning and the "Bozo" Factor
"Bozo" - A clown with a forlorn look, always finding negative implications in every activity or event. A person who tries to find a way to prevent you from moving ahead, giving excuses such as "we've always done it this way, or this is not our culture" when presented a new opportunity or challenge.
How Copying the HBO Schedule Can Boost Your Business
I'm not talking about posting the HBO schedule on your website or sending a Xeroxed copy around to all your customers. When HBO came onto the scene they were innovative, fresh, and willing to do things other people were not.
Laying It Out On Paper
You might be thinking to yourself, "Why should I waste my time writing a business plan? I know what (web designers, freelance writers, professional organizers) do!" Knowing intellectually what your industry is all about and pinpointing exactly where you want your business to go are two entirely different propositions.Something happens when you empty vague ideas out of your head and SOLIDIFY them on paper.
Shortening Product Life Cycle!
The current state of the available technology at the disposal of designer is the most limiting determinant to what is technically and economically feasible to develop, therefore research into metatechnology such as computer science, whereby interdisciplinary spin off provides advances that both directly increase capabilities, and affects other technologies to dramatically improve system performance, is a necessity, the implication being that despite many of the basic principles being relatively static, the technology used is essentially in a state of constant development.Such developments result in smaller, more efficient, cheaper and more reliable components.
Seasonality: Whats the Big Deal?
Do you work in or own a business that's affected by seasonal cycles? Do you live in a community whose population changes significantly during the year (e.g.
Business Plan Financial Projections: Stop Worrying About Being Right...
Business plan financial projections seem daunting because they are so uncertain. This very uncertainty, however, is what makes preparing them easy because you can't possibly be right.
The Six Sigma Method and Design of Experiments
Six Sigma is becoming a proven approach for businesses and organizations to improve their performance. The spectrum of companies actively engaging in Six Sigma today is wide from industrials like Celanese, Caterpillar, GE, Honeywell, and 3M to service/retail organizations like Starwood Hotels, Sears, and Home Depot.
Business Plan: The Simplest Business Plan Ever
If you're a solo professional like I am, you know how tough it is to find any time at all to do any business planning. Doing a full business plan is a must if you're planning to seek financing or investors, but most solo professionals don't need anything that complicated.
A Rough Cut on Feasibility
A piano tuner recently moved to Buffalo, NY, and would like to assess the business possibilities for him in his new home. He plans to estimate how many piano tuners the greater Buffalo area can support, and compare that to the number listed in the phone book.
Getting Started with Succession Planning: Part I
GETTING STARTED WITH SUCCESSION PLANNING: PART IA survey of 4,300 small business owners by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) revealed about 37% said they plan to sell their businesses upon retirement to non-family members. Twenty-six per cent said they planned to transfer or sell their business to family members, and an equal percentage had no business transfer plans yet.
|home | site map|