7 Tips For Writing A Start-Up Business Plan

Please raise your hand if you’ve ever been frustrated about what to put in a business plan? What will convince an investor to give you money? We’ve all been there. And it seems like the answer keeps changing depending on who you talk to.

The problem, or rather the truth, is that there is no “one fit all” solution. So the bad news is: even a step by step guide to writing a business plan won’t really make your plan “good”. The good news is, you really don’t need a step by step guide to make your plan compelling enough to close investment.

There are many different formats and there really isn’t a “universal” length for a perfect business plan. Depending on your product or industry, it can range anywhere between 10-100, and sometimes more, pages.

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Creating a Business Plan

Business Plans

I have often been asked by aspiring entrepreneurs:
- Should I write a business plan?
- If so, where do I find information on how to write a business plan?
- What should be included in a business plan or how detailed should it be?

These are good questions. Let me begin by saying that there are several preliminary steps that should be completed BEFORE embarking on the arduous task of compiling and organizing data into a comprehensive business plan.

Usually, after a process of determining whether a business idea is worth pursuing, entrepreneurs immediately launch into a process. For some entrepreneurs, the process of validating the idea is relatively quick, while for others it is exhaustive in scope. However, over the years, I have observed there are some preliminary steps to be completed before starting to develop the business plan. These preliminary steps are a three step process I refer as the Gut Check Mirror (GCM) Test:

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Business Plans – A Tool For Better Management

Things are going pretty well, you say? Sales are up. The employees are happy. There is even a little cash left over for that special project you are anxious to start. Why start messing with a good thing? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Right? Wrong! Many managers believe that business plans are used for only one purpose: To raise capital. While it is true that business plans are written more for this purpose than any other, it is by no means the only purpose. An often overlooked and significant benefit of a business plan is not necessarily the Plan documentation, but rather, the process itself and its impact on the management team. A business plan requires the managers to take an objective, critical look at their business. The process can change how a business is perceived, open eyes to new opportunities or focus attention on those operations that are not

The planning process involves setting organizational goals that are then translated into departmental goals that are then translated into goals for the smallest logical part of the business, (e.g. each individual sales representative in the case of a sales department). The textbook definition of the smallest logical part of a business is a “Strategic Business Unit.” If you’re not concerned about impressing people, call it a Profit Center.

Profit centers are organized in a manner that makes sense to the particular business. Some businesses may organize profit centers by classes of customers. Other businesses may think in terms of individual product or jobs. Still others think in terms of lines of business. Do you have a different pricing structure for different classes of customers or for certain jobs? Do you require higher profit margins on certain products? Do certain products, customers or jobs just naturally “fit” together? Answer these questions and you will begin to think of your business, if you do not already, as a cluster of smaller enterprises. This cluster of smaller enterprises can be thought of as an investment portfolio with each profit center representing an individual stock. Which should be invested in? Which should be liquidated? An investor has an overall goal for his portfolio. To achieve that goal he may take on higher risk investment for potentially higher return or he may accept a lower yield for proportionally lower risk.

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