Writing a business plan is not a simple task … nor does it need to be a painful one either.
For starters, if this is your first attempt, you should look for Govt. and Non Govt. resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs ….. like your local chamber of commerce.
For online resources Linkedin is a good start. Also try advisorgarage, gobignetwork, and similar networks to find a business consultant ready for pro-bono work.
The last thing you want to do though is to buy a software for business planning purposes unless you need this business plan simply for the sake of having a business plan on the shelf.
The better approach is: you should write a rough draft of your idea and everything what you think about it. Bounce these ideas at others and gather unique perspectives, feedback and more ideas, document that too. Lay out your monthly fixed costs ( rent, wages etc) along side your variable costs and then compare it with your prospective income sources. Run this schedule for at least 24 months. Use this schedule to see how much money you can go down for before the business works. Do you walk away 5 grand down after 6 months, or do you get lumbered with a hard to sell, expensive to keep, lease? Figure out, what happens if you reduce your income. Do a break even analysis – what is the lowest level at which you can make it work. Try to write something why …. and how sure are you that you will do better than anyone else who is doing the same. If you’re the only one doing or planning to do this the chances are either the idea is not profitable …. or even you don’t know where and who is doing it? So do more research about the business and try to figure the realistic bottom line for the business. All this analysis and work above was for your use. If you still want to do it –
Then draft a business plan using the free resources like Microsoft template and many more available in the market – this draft initially should include what you have done that makes you sure this will work. This may simply be – I have a contract, I know the business, there will be more, or it may be a thorough market research, traffic counts, industry statistics and the like. Put the schedule we did in the first place, into a spreadsheet,and lay out the rest in whichever format you like.
In my opinion, this is the most economic and realistic approach to write a business plan and not an off the shelf software which will give you a me-too business plan which to me is of no use as neither am I convinced nor can I convince any investors with that kind of auto-generated plan.
A business plan has many formats but shares a common group of elements. The one you write for yourself is different from one written to secure financing, or key employees. The place to start is not “which software to use” although that will be very helpful later.
You need to tell a story, or better yet, view it as a movie screenplay. If you can fill in the four elements below, you are well on your way to starting writing one.
The Title- The description of what your core idea is has to be compelling and not “just like all the others”. Why are you different?
The Star Studded Cast- Your Customers. Who is going to give you money? Why? Why Them?
The Thrilling Action-The plot details -Money In and Money Out- financiers love this part- but in simple terms, explain the money coming in and the money going out.
The Big Finish- Answer the question Why You Will Succeed? A good crisp answer here is the capstone.
I have seen plans go forward without these key elements explained simply and clearly, but the ones who do have a better shot at accomplishing their goals.