First, if you're only reading this article because you want to find a good format for writing a business plan, then you will find some good formats, templates and software at Intuit's website - you know, the same people who make QuickBooks, Quicken and TurboTax. Well, if you go to the Intuit website, then you will find its new business plan service under the name of "JumpUp." And even better, some of the templates and software are free. But, I have a feeling you might have a few more questions about business plans, so here are a few more pointers.
Second, something is more important, however, than just the writing a of business plan. The most important thing is that you decide WHERE you want your business to go and HOW you want to get there. Your decision about the where and how of your business goal is more important than the writing of it.
Third, the next most important thing is your specific use of the plan itself. If your business plan's purpose is to serve as a guiding light to you and your key people, then it will be in that type of format. If its purpose is to create measurable goals, help evaluate progress towards those goals, and guide decision-making, then the plan might take a different shape. And, if your business plan's purpose is to attract investors or to obtain a loan, then it might be in a different format altogether.
Fourth, and a special note for start-ups, if the business plan is for a start-up business and is for the last 2 purposes (measurable-goals/decision-making or investors/lenders), then I recommend a specialized process. First, write a business plan as if you were writing it to be your guiding light. I have worked with many clients with a new business who should not be writing an investor/loan business plan just when they are starting up the company. Why? Because a business plan should not be a something that you create just so that it sounds good to other people (or yourself). The plan should really be an actual reflection of the desired destination and the means anticipated to get there. So, for the new business owner, these insights and realizations need some time to evolve. Sure, a new business owner starts out with goals, dreams and ambitions. But, it takes time for these goals, dreams and ambitions to mature in the marketplace. That is why it is important early on to write the business plan, but do it with the "guiding light" purpose.
When DO you take the next step and write the business plan with the potential investor or lender in mind?
When the heart and mind agree on the destination and the means of getting there. Then, and only then, is it the right time to transform the "guiding light" plan to a business plan for measurable-goals/decision-making or investors/lenders.
Fifth, once the mind and heart agree, then it is essential to commit the business plan to paper because without a clear destination, there is no basis upon which to make decisions. Decisions should be made with the destination in mind. Writing down how to reach the destination establishes mile-markers that will measure progress. Without some way to measure progress, we are only left with our feelings - and feelings change from day to day or moment to moment. Milestones help us to make needed adjustments while the vision of our destinations keeps us on track.
To sum up, a business plan is important. The pre-work, however, is even more important. The follow-up, which measures our success against the plan, is what gives the plan its purpose.
Chuck Markham, MA, LAC, aka Business Coach Chuck, creates creates strategies for his clients that leverage their strengths - so they can spend more time doing what they love. Learn more at BusinessCoachChuck.com, or call him for a free 30-minute "test-drive" consultation at 973-670-7215.