1. Business Plan: Introduction
  2. Business Plan: Do You Need One?
  3. Business Plan: Describing Your Business
  4. Business Plan: Composing Your Executive Summary
  5. Business Plan: Analyzing Your Industry
  6. Business Plan: Marketing And Sales
  7. Business Plan: Your Organizational And Operating Plan
  8. Business Plan: Your Financial Plan
  9. Business Plan: Presenting Your Plan
  10. Business Plan: Conclusion

By Amy Fontinelle

A business plan is not just a lengthy document that helps you get a loan or secure backers, even though that might be the reason you’re putting it together. A business plan is a thorough examination of whether your business idea is viable. Preparing your business plan in the early stages of developing your company can save you a great deal of time, money and heartache by showing you where the weaknesses in your idea lie and giving you a chance to correct them before you make any serious mistakes, whether with your money or someone else’s.

Your business plan will present a snapshot of your company at one moment in time. Since your company will constantly be changing, your business plan will quickly become outdated. However, the formal plan you create will serve as a document that you can look back on any time your business is struggling or you are having doubts about its direction. Consulting your plan at times like these can show you if you are on the right track. Perhaps you've strayed from your plan and need to return to your original ideas; on the other hand, if you are on track with the plan and things just aren't working, the business plan will allow you to easily examine every detail of your business and see where you need to make changes to improve your business model.

Once you've completed your initial plan and, hopefully, obtained the capital you were seeking, keep in mind that your business plan should be a living document. You will want to revisit it from time to time, updating each section as you learn what works for your business and what doesn't. As your business evolves, you'll find that older versions of your plan provide a helpful reminder of how far you've come. As a bonus, continually updating your plan will put you ahead of the game if you later need to secure additional financing.

There's no question that putting together a good business plan takes a tremendous amount of work. But if you do it right, your effort will pay off. (For more small business tips, see Start Your Own Small Business and Starting A Small Business In Tough Economic Times.)


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