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Learning from Someone Else

Should you hire someone else to write your business plan? The answer is "No." Only you have a full understanding of your business model.

Many companies offer business-plan writing services, and a number of software packages on the market claim to do the same. The truth is, the best they can do is show you a format to follow. You have to do the research, think through the risks and opportunities, create the marketing hooks, and come up with your financial assumptions—that is, providing the bulk of the material for your plan.

But what does a business plan look like? Are there sample plans that you could see? The answer to that question is "Yes." In fact, by studying sample business plans you can see how a typical plan is organized; that way, you can make sure that your plan covers all the bases.

Before staring on your own business plan, it's a good idea to see what a plan actually looks like. Here are two web sites that provide sample plans for your review. Remember, these are just samples. They can only give you an idea of how a plan is organized and the type of materials to be included. Your business plan will differ dramatically.

First stop is Bplans.com, a very good resource not only for sample business plans but also sample marketing plans. This site also provides a business planning glossary that explains the details of a business plan spreadsheet. They provide this free service to attract traffic to their site and to sell their business-plan-writing software package.

Now let's discuss the sample plans.

First, go to their sample business plan page. On this page, you'll see a selection of 60 sample business plans. Select a sample plan that matches your business to view. You'll notice that you can either view the entire plan step-by-step through your browser or, if you own their Business Plan Pro software, you can download the plan onto your computer for editing later.

Can't decide which sample plan to view? Want to know which plans best match your business concept? Then BizPlans.com offers another useful service called the PlanWizard. If you answer just a few questions, their PlanWizard recommends the sample plan on their site that best matches your business.

You can create and even write a mini business plan live on the web to test your business idea—and it's free. The free process can help you test your business objectives, define your mission, analyze the market, and determine your breakeven point.

If you're looking for real plans—and top-notch ones to boot—then check out the business plan examples at the MOOT CORP Competition. They offer a library of different award-winning business plans. Each was a winner or a finalist in the MOOT CORP Competition. MBAs from the best business schools in the world were invited to present their business plans to a panel of investors, who then chose the best new executive summary, business concept, proposed offer, and financial model.

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