Before beginning a business plan, it is important to lay the pen aside and take stock. Any writer worth their salt will tell you this is a necessary part of the process. A business plan starts, not with pen and paper but with research. Do some reconnaissance on the market for your service or product and the competition! Once you have completed the research it is time to develop your strategy, calculate revenues and costs, draft the plan and fine tune the rough draft to final copy.
Research the industry as a whole by performing interviews with both potential customers and entrepreneurs. You can also use databases and articles at this stage and to garner more information about the competition, your particular niche and potential operational costs. It is important that you keep a detailed accounting of all this information, particularly the source of the info, as you will be referring back to it in your business plan.
Start by using the industry standard for your business strategy. This shows you have a solid footing as others have already done the field-testing. However, you must also take this a step further and develop your own strategies that are different from industry standards. You want to set your business apart from the pack, which will help set barriers to entry and promote success. All sections of your business plan will be shaped by this info.
You will want to calculate the cost of business activity. These will include operations for the first year, five year and even longer. Next, take the time to work out the revenue projections for these same time frames. Use your research as a basis for your figures along with the strategy you have created. The most important thing to remember at this stage is to keep it all realistic, otherwise you risk coming off as naïve, which will earn your business plan a place in file 13!
When you get the first part of this process down pat, the rough draft will naturally follow. Which means you should never skimp on the research and strategy phase. All that is left at this point it to transform your data into a well-organized business plan with ten distinct sections. These include: Executive Summary, Company Analysis, Industry Analysis, Customer Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Marketing Plan, Operations Plan, Management Team, Financial Plan and Appendix, in that order.
5. Hone and Revise
First revisions are for completeness and logical reason. Delete any facts that are unnecessary or repetitive. A business plan should be brief and to the point, without sacrificing the overall image. Next check over the document for punctuation, spelling, grammar and formatting. Ask for help with all stages of the revisions, in fact if need be hire someone to revise it for you! After working on a business plan for so long, you can begin to miss serious mistakes.