Writing a Business Plan Effectively for Free

Writing a business plan can be a daunting activity if it is the first time you’ve tackled such a detailed, thorough project. Too often, entrepreneurs rely upon templates or a sample business plan as an example for their own proposal, and in the process lose the creativity and energy that they have about their idea. There are many options for writing a persuasive and effective business plan without spending a lot of money on a writing coach, proposal writer, or additional resources.

Web Resources

Chances are, you’re already relied on the internet to gain guidance about projects you’ve never done before, or looked up instructions for a complicated process. There’s a lot of information online about writing a business plan and you can easily find a sample plan, but not all of that information is quality, or worth your time. So how do you effectively search for web resources that will actually help you instead of wasting your time? Much like any kind of internet research, the tip is to begin by using only credible resources. In addition to searching for “writing a business plan”, or “sample business plan”, type in “business school” as well. Many business schools around the nation have free, available information for the public on how to write a business plan. They may include links to area-specific resources, or provide tutorials or downloads for a sample business plan.

Another great resource for writing a business plan is your local Small Business Administration center. Most major cities have these types of small-business assistance resources, either in a brick-and-mortar office or online. These SBA websites almost always offer comprehensive resources for start-ups like a sample business plan, business plan development ideas, events, counseling and training services, and local resources. Check to see if your SBA website has free, online planning webinars. Even if you local chapter doesn’t offer them, you can easily find a website in another region that does. These online seminars are typically self-paced, 30-minute long resources that help you understand the components of writing a business plan (which provide much more insight than a simple sample business plan), and may be offered in a variety of languages.

Podcasts are another web resource that not many people think of when they think “business plan”. True, you don’t get the same visual education from a podcast as you do from a webinar, but listening to someone describe the process might be just what you need to motivate you while on a long commute, at the gym, or sitting at home. And with a lack of visual information, they might seem less overwhelming than looking at an online presentation or sample business plan.

Books and Printed Material

The internet is a fantastic resource for writing a business plan, but for some people, nothing beats a good old-fashioned book. Your local library has entire sections dedicated to the multiple aspects of business development, and you can be sure to find several books about how to write a business plan. Best of all – these are free! If your local branch does not have the book you’re looking for, check the catalog and request a book transfer. Sometimes, the perfect books about writing an effective business plan or ideas for a sample business plan are just an inter-library loan away.

Be sure to check out your local college library as well. Often, academic libraries will have more comprehensive business books than local libraries, and may offer a wider selection of in-depth materials regarding not only writing a business plan, but strategizing how to continue with your business development afterward. Keep in mind that many university libraries are open only to students, so call the resource desk before you make a special trip onto the campus.

Seminars

If you do have a SBA resource center in your area, check their calendar of events to see if they offer periodic classes or workshops, or can help you rework a sample business plan. Often, an SBA will offer a class dedicated to writing a plan – at no cost! The advantage of attending a live seminar as opposed to an online seminar is that you can often ask the facilitator questions at the end which you can’t do online. Typically, the person leading the course is a professional with years or decades of business experience. They’ll likely be able to assist you with tips, tricks, and shortcuts to develop a plan.

Finally, it’s important to consider that when you’re writing a business plan, you don’t want to cut corners or rely on a sample plan from a book or website. The business plan is a representation of your professionalism and your desire to succeed, and the quality of your content should reflect this. So while tips and tricks are good for making the most out of your time and resources, it’s never a good idea to gloss over important aspects of your plan – namely, the quality of your writing. While writing a business plan necessitates the inclusion of facts, figures, numbers, graphs, financials, etc., the narrative surrounding the why of your proposal is what will likely draw people into helping you achieve your vision. Do you sound passionate about your product? Do you sound knowledgeable? Does it sound like you have what it takes to not only start your business but develop it and work through anticipated and unseen challenges? No? Does it sound like you relied on a sample plan instead? Well it may be a good idea to check out some of the writing seminars available for assistance with writing your plan. Many of these seminars do cost some money, although others can be attended for a very nominal fee. Courses like these can help you find your “voice” and deliver a more compelling proposal.

The most important thing to consider when writing a plan is to take your time, be thorough, be accurate, and above all, believe in yourself and your product. Don’t just rely on a sample plan, create a proposal that you’re proud of, and that you are convinced will compel others to help you realize your dream

Writing a Business Plan – The Only Guide You Will Ever Need

Do you want your business to succeed? Of course you do. Every business looking to succeed would be wise to take a little time to create a business plan. This important document will help you in any stage of business from start up to expansion to financing a new product or idea. Writing a business plan can help your business to increase its chances of success which is especially helpful during these difficult financial times.

Writing a business plan will be a lot of work. However, you will find that the process is not that difficult once you get started. One of the most difficult parts of writing a business plan is just getting started. Of course, having some tips and guidelines to follow can be especially useful. Here are some ideas to help you as you write your business plan.

What Do I Need To Include?

Your business plan needs to demonstrate that you know what you are doing and that you understand your business. Generally this knowledge and information is broken into distinct sections. This helps you to keep your business plan organized and easy to write. Lets look at each of the nine sections in a little more depth.

Executive Summary

Since your executive summary leads your business plan, it is important that you carefully construct this first section. In fact, the executive summary is so important that it is placed directly after the title page, even before the table of contents. Many find that writing this key section works best when completed last. The executive summary serves as a synopsis of all the sections of the business plan. If you wait until the end, you will be better able to write a cohesive and complete executive summary.

Within the executive summary, you will include your company mission statement. This mission statement should not be long, probably about four sentences in length, but should be carefully instructed. Many say that the mission statement is the most important part of the overall business plan.

Since your mission statement is only a few pages long, your executive summary will allow you to further expand upon key points mentioned in the mission statement. Consider including your business history, biographies of key players, an overview of the business including locations, employees and available products and services. You can also discuss goals and future plans. Use this section to really draw in the readers.

Many find that a bulleted format is ideal for this section. This section should be easy to read and scan so that potential investors can easily get an overview of your business. The biggest mistake that many make is including too much information. Make sure that your information only encompasses one or two pages.

Market Analysis

In the second section of your business plan, you will cover the analysis of your specific market. During this section you will showcase your business’ ability to succeed. Success is dependent upon accurate and complete market analysis. This section will show that you have done your research. Use this section to sell your business to potential investors. Show them how your business can succeed.

Thoroughly cover your business’ market. Talk about your industry and use specific details to support your statements. Details like industry size, growth rate and customer group will help you showcase your business. Include as many details as possible. Do not fill this section with generalized information. Make sure it is industry and business specific.

In this section you should also include the results of any market research studied that your company has completed. Also briefly discuss your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses. You may want to cover how your services will appeal to customers more than your competitors.

Detailed Description of the Company

After showcasing how your business can succeed in your specific market, it is time to illustrate a comprehensive picture of your business. Cover in detail your business including information regarding the type of business, the target market and how you can meet their needs and distinguishing factors that make your business unique.

Remember that each section in your business plan will overlap. This means that you may cover information more than once as you move from section to section. This is okay. Your business plan may be considered as a whole or may be viewed as individual sections. This means that each section must include all key information. Don’t neglect including important information simply because you feel it has been covered in other sections.

Organization Structure/Management

This section will detail specific information regarding your staff and executive positions. Cover how your company will divide work. Who will do what jobs? How does your business management structure work? Include biographies of key business personnel including owners, board of directors, management and other company executives. You should also discuss employee compensation and benefits.

In this section you will demonstrate your company’s ability to succeed through your management plan. Additionally you will help investors to realize your company’s potential as far as an employer is concerned. Investors know that good, long lasting employees can help your business to succeed. Therefore they are looking for strong and effective management as well as the ability to retain and inspire employees.

Marketing

How are you going to get the word out about your business? In this section, you will detail your plan. You can also discuss how your marketing strategy will lead to growth. Be complete and detailed in your plan.

Product and Service Offerings

This section may sound like a simple list of your available products or services. While this is one aspect, there is other information that needs to be included in this section. For each service detail the specific benefits of the products and services you offer. Discuss the advantages you have over your competitors with a specific focus on products and services. Also discuss how you can expand your product and services offering as time goes on.

Funding Request/Requirements

A business plan is often a tool used to help your business secure needed funding. If this is the case, make sure you include a funding request in your business plan. Be specific. Remember that potential investors need a thorough understanding of your requests so that they can make a decision about whether or not to approve your request. Be sure that you include the following information:

• What you need immediately in terms of funding
• Funding needs over the next several years
• How the money will be spent (be specific)
• Do you want loans, investors, partners, etc?
• How you plan to repay the loan

Financial Statement

This section is often carefully considered by potential investors. It helps investors to determine the financial solvency of your company. You will not just discuss your current financial state. In this section you will cover your financial past, your current state and your goals for the future. Include income statements over the last several years, balance sheets (both prior and projected), projections and available collateral.

It can be especially effective to include charts and graphs to better illustrate your financial plan. Including graphs and charts will help investors see the growth potential for your business and will make them more likely to approve your loan. Remember that the amount of funding desired must be in accordance with your financial projections. Investors want a return on their investment and will not invest more that they will get back.

Other Information

At this point you may feel that you have covered everything. However, there is probably other information that you want to include that couldn’t fit into one of the previous sections. This is the place where you will include it. You may want to list specific details in this section and then reference them in the other sections. This will keep your business plan from being cluttered with extensive details and information. Many business plans include items such as: credit reports, letters of recommendation, licensing and patent information, legal documentation, executive resumes and a list of business associates including your lawyer, accountant and business consultant.

Getting Started

You may be feeling overwhelmed at this point by the wealth of information you need to include in your business plan. Make sure you use an easy to read format. This means that you should definitely utilize headings, bullets and lists. Focus your writing to your audience. If the purpose of the business plan is getting a business loan, make sure your writing conveys this message.

How Long Should My Business Plan Be?

Try to keep your business plan between 20 and 40 pages. This may sound like an unachievable task. However, much of the finished length will be encompassed by formatting. Using bullet points, lists, charts and pictures will not only make your business plan more effective, they will help your business plan to be longer as well.

As you create your business plan, tailor your presentation to a busy professional. Assume that they will only spend 10-20 minutes perusing your plan. Make sure that you thoroughly sell your idea, needs and business during this brief time period. Further attract your audience using clear formatting, easy to read content, well thought out wording and correct spelling and grammar.

How to Write a Business Plan and What is a Business Plan

What is a business plan used for?
Writing a business plan is not just a necessary tool for business start up. A solid plan will lead your business on the path you wish it to follow. Good business planning will serve as a roadmap to the future of your business by allowing you to properly allocate resources, focus on key business points, and prepare for any opportunities or problems that may arise as you look ahead.

How to Write a Business Plan
While there are no strict rules for writing a business plan there are some guidelines that you can follow that will ensure your business possesses a professional and effective plan. The amount of information and level of detail included will depend on the intended audience. For external audiences such as investors, lenders and government agencies your plan will be much more detailed and in-depth. For internal audiences such as upper management or board of directors the information can be less detail oriented and more goal focused. In either case all information should be factual with evidentiary back-up.

To be effective, you should include the following sections and headings:

* Executive Summary: Sometimes the only information that potential investors read so it is essential to give a summary that highlights key aspects of the plan. Usually this section will cover no more than 2 pages.
* Description of the Business: Start-up plans, history and legal establishment of your business
* Operations: Include facility requirements and equipment as well as any outsourced operations.
* Management Team and Employees: Include information on key employees and managers including skills and salary. This section should also include recruitment strategies and salary forecasts.
* Product or Service: Include detailed descriptions of products and services, patents and customer base.
* Market Research: Include information on who your customers are and how to reach them. Also include information on market conditions, competitors and supply and demand issues.
* Strategy and Implementation: Include specific goals and dates as well as management responsibilities. Be very specific.
* Financial Plan: Include a balance sheet, profit and loss, cash flow, break-even analysis, assumptions, business ratios, and any other pertinent financial reports.

Style and Ease of Reading
Another important element in to focus on in addition to data and endless information is how well your business plan reads. Large paragraphs, endless statistics and financial jargon all can fatigue a reader. This can cause important information to be misunderstood or simply skipped over. Here are a few easy style tips to keep in mind when writing a business plan.

* Use bulleted lists
* Use headings
* Utilize the white space to break up the page
* Refrain from writing large blocks of text that fatigue the reader
* Use graphs, tables and other graphic media such as product photos

Writing A Business Plan – A How To Guide

Making and writing a business plan, marketing your business, and finding starting capital is an extremely hard and time consuming process, but these are all important steps that every business owner must go through to establish a business. Even a person with no experience in any of these activities can set up and operate a successful business.

The key to owning and operating a successful company is having a well thought out business plan. In general, a plan for your business can be quickly described as a written description of how a company plans to make its money.

A good plan should start by including a list and descriptions of the business’ expected costs. This typically includes line items such as rent, supplies, labor, and inventory. A good business owner will spend a lot of time carefully researching the current and future costs of each of the items on this list. Generally speaking, the more research that goes into each aspect of a business plan means that the plan is more likely to accurately reflect what will actually happen once the company starts operation.

Next, a potential business owner should list the expected price points of all of the merchandise, goods, and services that will be offered by the company. After this, list any prices that are currently charged by similar businesses for their merchandise or services. The idea behind this is to show that the proposed company’s prices are in line with their competition. It is also important to show the reasons behind any price differences.

While charging prices that are higher than the competition can reduce sales, this might be mitigated in cases where the business offers services that increase the value of their product. For example, an upscale restaurant can justify their higher prices by offering a better atmosphere, location, and customer service than a mid-scale restaurant serving cheaper food would.

Finally, it is critical to include projected profit margins into the business plan. In addition, many strong business plans include a list of scenarios or stress tests along with a plan on how the business will overcome these obstacles. For example, a business plan might include a projected scenario in which sales fall by twenty percent. Solutions could include laying-off staff and cutting store hours and/or reducing inventory.

After the business plan has been written, the process of error checking and troubleshooting can take months. In fact, many potential business owners will change their plan multiple times in the course of establishing funding and actually setting up shop. As the process of starting a business moves forward, many business owners will rewrite their plan to include updated pricing for both their expenses and merchandise.

Since the business plan is the way that many potential investors will learn about the business, it is important to keep the tone of the plan positive. Some potential business owners even write several different drafts of their plan to present to potential investors; customizing each plan to speak to the area of knowledge or expertise that the investor understands best.

Guide to Writing a Business Plan

Expanding any business will always require a professional guide to writing its business plan since it will require a total shift from the normal running of a single business. There are a variety of business plan writing services that offer invaluable guidance when expanding a small business, and they will basically cover financial, management and marketing planning for the expanding business.

Business expansion involves a shift in parameters, and it’s a move aimed at capturing a particular niche or location, or it aims to diversify the business. A business consultant will often discuss these issues as part of the plan provided to ensure the entrepreneur is aware of the environment, and the expansion trends of the competition. When providing a guide to writing a business plan, the business consultant will evaluate the financial aspects involved.

Cash flow management helps predict how viability of the expansion plan. Often, the business consultant will assist in financial projections for the new expanded business depending on how the current business performs, and may advice on ways to inject more funds for the expansion plan. Also, while providing the guide go writing a business plan for the expanding business, the consultant will advice on how to achieve economies of scale. Economies of scale are achieved by lowering prices for the commodities that will be sold in larger quantities, and ensuring that more volumes for these items are pushed through sales, therefore achieving increased profits, pushing of more volumes, or both.

Another area that will be covered by the consultant providing a guide to writing a business plan for the expanding business, is marketing. This service may be provided by a marketing consultant or a telemarketing consultant. The state of the economy will first be evaluated, since this will help analyze the purchasing power of the targeted market. If the economy is slow, then the purchasing power is reduced, and vice versa. Therefore, the marketing consultant will assist in defining ways the marketing campaigns will cultivate customer loyalty. Besides providing a guide to writing a business plan, the consultant will evaluate the buying trends of the target market, hence defining the kind of commodities or services that could be introduced. Also, they will evaluate how these new commodities will complement the current market.

The business consultant will also cover on management since expansion will mean less hands-on management and more delegation to staff. Therefore, they will advice on different management strategies that will ensure the quality of service remains high as the entrepreneur adopts the role of overseer. This will involve hiring more managers, contracting services of financial officers and auditors as well as implementing enterprise resource software that will be used to monitor how the new larger business is run.