Starting a business plan is a detailed process that is both educational and revealing. With existing companies it is a chance to re-evaluate profit margins and focus on the prominent areas of the business while cutting out the departments that are losing money. For business plans for new companies it is an opportunity to really focus on, and understand the industry and evaluate whether your next big idea will be successful before you make a large investment.
Although up to 44% of new businesses survive 4 years or more the success of any new business is good planning, access to capital and good business management.
Here are the 5 best tips for creating a killer business plan that will undoubtedly impress:
1) Consider Your Audience
Business plans are developed for many different reasons. Is it for presenting to a panel for project approval? Will it be to submit for funding? Is it simply to restructure the business for profitability? Each of these avenues will require adjustments to the plan format and style you will need to use throughout the document. If you are attempting to obtain funding then you will have to have very detailed cost and ROI projections that are measurable and realistic. If you are making a presentation to a non-profit or a board of directors it is likely that you will need to include a directive on community impact or involvement and impact (either positive or negative) to the existing business. Remember your audience as you creates your document to ensure you focus on the important topics and leave no questions unanswered.
2) Quality Reference Material Is Key
It is important to integrate a diverse mix of reference material in your plan document. The web is great for the latest news but is not nearly as highly regarded as printed documents. Be sure to use a good mix of reputable internet reference along with well-known facts and industry statistics most often found in printed literature. Industry specific publications and industry magazines are an excellent way to get the latest news and trends in a reliable place. Always include references from industry publications as well to raise the standard your business plan and build credibility in your due diligence. Always make sure to cite your research or any quotes you may use. This will also build credibility while ensuring you are not infringing on any protected or copyrighted content you use. To quickly and easily cite your sources there is a web-based tool that you can use to enter in your info and get back the properly formatted entry for the works cited page. It makes the process a breeze: easybib.com.
3) Do Your Own Research
Creating a solid business plan is the singular first step in knowing your industry and understanding what it will take to be successful in your chosen field. Part of developing a plan should be to evaluate competitors, define your business strategy and start to understand if your value proposition meets a tangible need in the marketplace. Walking through the initial steps of creating a business plan is an invaluable process that will help to ensure that your business can survive the market trends. Don’t pay someone else to do your research for you or it may end up costing you more than you think.
4) Using a Business Plan Template
Now that you have various notes and articles, market information and loads of statistics it is time to put it all together in a layout that will highlight the data you have compiled. Finding business plan examples can be a challenge as every business plan is different (see point #2 above), however you can develop your own based on a compilation of the different topics or areas you want to cover. If you want a business plan template that comes formatted with sample headings and the different categories already setup, try using the plan layout from online websites. This site has a real business plan in Word format for quickly changing out headings and information. In addition the plan comes with a break-even analysis template in Excel as well as a 1 year Pro-Forma template in Excel with the formulas already built for easily updating and projecting costs for your business. This is a big time saver and an easy way to quickly get the business plan document underway without having to start from scratch.
5) Seek Out Experts in the Industry
Finally, after you have organized your information reach out to some industry experts like local college professors, trade show organizers, or even your local Chamber of Commerce for some insight and feedback on your plan. It always helps to get a second opinion on the plan before making the final presentation. Having one or more individuals look over the plan will shed light on areas that need to be revised or reinforce that the business plan is ready to present.
Don’t get distracted spending valuable time figuring out the Works Cited, Table of Contents or overall plan layout. Use the templates or resources that are readily available to you and spend the time focusing where you should, on the reporting and presentation of your business idea.