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A business plan is a formal statement addressing a company’s purpose and goals, sales and marketing strategies, and financial background. This manuscript represents the infrastructure of any venture, so completing one is a critical task.
On the upside, writing a business plan need not be complicated. The format is fairly standard, and free government and professional resources abound.
The Business Plan – Step by Step
Most experts emphasize 10 key components for a basic business plan, with the executive summary – a concise overview of the entire plan - listed first. Key components include:
Resources and Support
An abundance of business planning software is available on today’s market, with some programs costing less than $100. Designed to help strategize, sort and calculate related financial data, these products also generate high quality tables and charts with just a few keystrokes. Plenty of free information is available on the Internet as well, but choose this material wisely.
Agencies such as the Small Business Administration and SCORE, the Service Corp of Retired Executives provide detailed information on developing a solid business plan. Especially valuable are their “nuts-and-bolts” templates and tools.
The SBA has designed a Business Plan Tool, taking you through the writing process at your own pace. For a range of reliable business plan templates, visit SCORE’s template gallery, which covers start-ups, established businesses, financials, marketing and management strategies.
Financial institutions sometimes offer interactive templates as well, which provide detailed instructions as you write every step of your plan.
For one-on-one assistance, the Small Business Development Center, a nonprofit program providing management support to prospective and current small-firm owners, operates branch locations across the United States. The website provides a complete list of offices.
A Word about Mission Statements
The U.S. Small Business Administration describes a mission statement as a short declaration explaining the thrust of a business. Besides being integral to your business plan, a mission statement is a vital mechanism for informing consumers, clients, media and the general public of the company’s central philosophy, as well as for providing a succinct picture of your firm’s purpose, market and distinctive edge over competitors.
Since a mission statement is brief by nature, make sure to pack a lot of power into this handful of sentences. Here are some tips:
Finally, this short paragraph represents your entire business identity and purpose, so it merits a high profile in your market. Display your mission statement on websites, brochures, annual reports and all other corporate literature.