Believe it or not, you really can write a business plan in four steps. The most important thing is to keep it simple. There might be a lot of different smaller steps involved, but the process can be broken down into four major steps. Basically, it mirrors the process which any writer uses in their work: create an outline, fill out the most important parts, then fill out the supporting areas and then refine this rough draft until you have a finished product. When you look at it as a four step process, things become much less stressful and you can focus on writing a strong business plan which will secure the funding you need to get your idea off the ground.
Write An Outline
There are ten sections which should appear in a business plan: Executive Summary, Company Analysis, Industry Analysis, Customer Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Marketing Plan, Operations Plan, Management Team, Financial Plan, and Appendix. Begin by making a list of all of these headings; then create subheadings for each of these categories. These will be the questions which must be answered or the points which you want to make in each heading.
Fill Out The Main Sections
The most important parts of any business plan are your Competitive Analysis, Industry Analysis, Market Analysis (also known as Customer Analysis) and your Company Analysis. Work on these sections in this order, since your Competitive Analysis will form the foundation of these other important sections of your business plan.
Fill Out Supporting Sections
The next step is to flesh out your Marketing Plan, Operations Plan, Financial Plan and Executive Summary. Again and this is important, write them in this order since these sections build on one another. The Executive Summary should always come last since it encapsulates the most important information from every other section of the business plan.
Revise Until You Have A Final Draft
Send your rough draft to a friend or colleague (better still, more than one) who can give you their honest opinion and do some editing of your plan. Be sure to tell them to track their changes (this feature is included in to most word processing software). Once they’ve had a chance to look over it, pass it along to someone else who can also edit the document for another go. You should, if at all possible, hand it off to at least three people. After they’ve read it over, you can accept or reject their changes as necessary.
Next, format your final draft so that each section starts on a new page. Your business plan should have a cover sheet, appendix and of course, a table of contents. Page borders, headers with the name and logo of your company and footers including the page numbers are also a must. You might also want to think about using graphics, charts and other infographics and call out boxes to make your business plan more visually appealing.