This is part one of a four part series about the parts of writing a business plan that I found helpful while preparing mine.
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Many people in today's fast paced electronic based business world may try to overlook the importance of writing a formal business plan.
This is a mistake because having a solid business plan in fact can provide you with better opportunities to raise capital to get the business running and simultaneously offers a roadmap for launching and growing your business. For investment purposes, having a business plan shows the investors how organized you are, how serious about the venture you have become, and it allows them to visualize some of what you see regarding the future potential of the business.
What to Include in a Business Plan
The first step in preparing to write the plan is gathering information. I found it helpful to compile a list of the information I needed. This information can include many things such as:
- Market research of potential growth in the area, market sharing, demographics etc.
- Cost of startup;
- Possible locations;
- Proposed operating procedures;
- Expected revenues and company growth;
- Cost of operations post start up; and
- Many other things that may be specific to the type of venture you are planning.
So know that you what is needed how can you gather it? Some methods I found useful in gathering information were:
- Talk to similar businesses that are outside of you competition area
- Find out if there are former owners of businesses that had your same ideas and set up a meeting
- Shop around, visiting the competition is a great way to determine pricing and get some design ideas
- Ask the public. Go to a mall or public venue and tell them what you are planning then get their reactions and gather some suggestions.
Of course there are many other ways to gather the information needed and depending on what you want to include in your plan you may have some better ideas. These are just methods I used and they helped provide me with a base to start.
After you have gathered all the research that you think you need the next step would be to compile it into a draft.
I suggest downloading some samples of past plans so that you can get an idea of what types of layouts best represent the ideas you are bringing forward and the company you wish to start. It may cost you to download sample business plans, but I think it is money well spent.
Another way of compiling your research is by using software specifically designed for these types of presentations. Using basic office productivity software is usually sufficient, but there are companies who build specific business planning software programs that can make the process easier to navigate.
For example, I used business plan software that has you enter in the information such as projected sales and growth, start up costs, etc. Then it automatically compiles and generates break even analysis, charts graphs and many other useful presentation tools.
Of course, the information to include in a business plan may depend on the specific audience you are presenting to. To see how to tailor your information accordingly see part two of this series.