Steps To Writing a Business Plan (Part 2)

Posted on July 25, 2011 by

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This week we have part two of our series in regards to writing a business plan for your new or existing venture, today we are looking at the steps involved in writing a business plan and Thursday we will be sharing some templates (for you to use). In the coming weeks we will be addressing each individual section of the plan and providing handy hints on how to complete them.

So what are the steps involved in business planning?

1. Do you really want a business plan?

As we discussed in our previous blog post “To Business Plan or Not?” we discussed why or why not you should write a business plan. Whether you decide to write a formal business plan or a shorter more strategic business plan – it will still take substantial time and energy. You need to be committed and aware that it can be a lot of work (and sometimes a little overwhelming).

2. Identify your motives for writing a business plan

What do you intend to use your business plan for? This question is important to answer as it will guide what sections you include and thus what template works best for you. Common motives for writing a business plan are:

  • You need a road map for your business
  • You need funding (Banks, Investors, Family and Friends, etc)

3. What format and/or template is most suitable for your use?

You can find a lot of templates out there on the web, and for about each template you find, there is a person, website or company that is trying to sell you a program where you can just fill in the blanks. These programs claim that you simply fill in the blanks and BAM – you have a business plan in 8 hours. You need to use your common sense here – you only get out of a business plan what you put in. Filling in the blanks is great for some sections, but you will still need to do your homework. Therefore I would suggest picking a great template and writing it yourself. And if you are not seeking funding, who necessarily cares about the wording (and the grammar) – it is the quality of the content that will help your company.

Thursday we will be providing you some templates you can use – so stay tuned.

4. Research, Research, Research

This can be time consuming, but thanks to the internet and/or libraries you usually can find the information you need.  You should note that it can be frustrating that a lot of the industry reports (you find on the web) require you to pay for them and there may not be a free version but here is where the library comes in. Check out your local library (they usually has some form of research capabilities – such as databases etc), even better, find that college kid, college friend or friend’s college kid, in your life, and ask them to help you research. College libraries are great for this type of stuff – but you didn’t hear that from me.

5. Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is a key to success in life as it often prompts identification of areas of growth, improvement and opportunities. In light of all your research and what you know about your company and/or idea – what conclusions can you make about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, challenges etc of your company?

6. Start Writing

Once you have your information and ideas sorted, start writing, and let me assure you the more you write the easier it gets – you often get into a groove and moving forward seems easy. But I won’t lie, there are also those days where you simply cannot get started, when it is one of those days – try to motivate yourself and if that doesn’t work, go do something else (you are busy as is, no need to unnecessarily waste time).  Also you often find that during this stage you will need to go back and research more.

7.  Review the plan and share the plan with your company and key people in your life

Getting input from others in regards to your assumptions, concepts and anything else included in your business plan will only lead to a stronger plan. I have found this to be an important part of building a solid business strategy and plan. I usually choose people I respect and the business experts I have in my life (as I have found them to provide the most constructive and concise feedback).

8.  Don’t forget about the plan -refine the plan

It is quite easy to write and forget about your business plan – and that would be a waste of time, money and energy. You should revisit your plan often to check your progress and update it if:

  • You develop, add new products or services.
  • There has been a significant change in your market, industry or customers (segments or tastes).
  • You have included budgets or forecasts (you should really update these when new information becomes available such as actual figures).
  • You actually need financing or/
  • You have simply outgrown your plan.

For business plans to be truly valuable they need to be dynamic and grow with your business.

Now you have the steps to writing a great business plan, we hope you stay tuned for the rest of our series on business planning. In addition, if you have any great insights or experiences you would like to share with us about your business planning adventures drop us a line. We would love to hear from you.

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