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Getting Started with Your Business Plan

Don't kid yourself: Writing a business plan is not easy. It takes a lot of time and hard work. It may take weeks or even months to write a good plan. So here are some general steps that can help you through the process.

  1. First, make a list of your new company's strengths and weaknesses, market threats, and opportunities. Don't write a tome. Keep your plan short and to the point—no more than 20 pages or so. Then nail down your assumptions. Be realistic about your projections and base your assumptions on your market research and analysis.

  2. Next, make a list of your business risks. Be honest with yourself. Every business has competition. Who are they and how will they affect your business? List other risks such as potential changes in your market, personnel challenges, and technology risks. If you're trying to attract capital, this shows that you've given thought to both the upside and downside of your business. Don't make statements you can't support. A good business is not built on wishful thinking. Back up your claims with research and analysis. Also, don't use highly technical terms. Keep the wording simple; if you must use technical terms, explain them fully in your plan.

A business plan is never finished. It's a living document that should be updated frequently as you move through your plan. You'll be surprised how many times you'll modify your activities when new market opportunities present themselves simply because you are in business.

Now that you have an idea of what a business plan looks like and have some ideas on what to put in your own business plan, next week, in Part 2 of this series, I'll show you how to write your business plan.

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