Your new business desperately needs a business plan, but you've never created one before.
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In fact, you're not even sure what a business plan looks like. Now what? Fortunately, in the internet age there are thousands of places that offer free, online business plans for your review. But be careful, because at the end of the day not all business plans are created equal.
A simple internet search of sample business plans will return literally millions of sites chocked full of sample plans for your enjoyment and review. Some of the plans will be solid examples of what a business plan should like. Others will be questionable - at best.
A good way to separate the diamonds from the rough is to first consider the source. Business plan contest winners and business schools are always a great source for samples plans because the content has usually been subjected to critique and analysis. Business and small business websites are another good source, depending on the reputation of the site and the general quality of the material it contains. Beyond that, you're going to need to analyze samples on a plan-by-plan basis. Here are some of the things to look for . . . .
If the sample plans listed on a particular site are rife with typos, spelling errors, and odd formatting, you can be fairly certain that the content of the sample plans won't be much better. In most cases, you are dealing with first drafts of business plans written by people who have zero chance of ever getting their business idea off the ground. That's not who you want to be, so don't waste your time reading other people's shoddy work.
Although most business plans tend to follow the same general format, different industries may contain certain elements that are not found in other business plans. As much as possible, it's helpful to try and focus on business plans for companies within your industry. Along the way, you'll probably even pick up some ideas for your company that you haven't considered yet.
Size & Scope
It can be exciting to read a business plan written for a multi-million dollar, international conglomerate. But unfortunately, it's not going to offer much assistance in crafting a business plan for your small business startup. Size matters when it comes to business plans and even though your business plan needs to be detailed, there's no way your plan will be as involved as large, corporate venture's business plan. So as you search, try to find sample plans for small businesses with a similar size and scope.
Ultimately, the best tool you have for analyzing the quality of a sample business plan is common sense. One online sample plan proposed launching an aircraft rental business with a startup budget of $6,500 including the purchase of the aircraft. Obviously, something is very wrong with that forecast. Naivety and ignorance are not characteristics you want to emulate, so move on and find a more realistic sample plan to use as a basis for your business plan.