Business Plan: Creating a Plan Is Your GPS to Success

Do you need to take the time and make the effort to write a business plan for your new small business or home-based enterprise? The short answer is that you don't actually need one, but it is advisable that you create one--particularly in this economic environment. It is a lot of work, but it gives you a road map to set you on the course to achieve your goal of a profitable business and an independent, well-lived life. Think of your plan as your "GPS to success."

There is an old but true saying: If you fail to plan then you are planning to fail. While "going with the flow" might work on vacation or for a long weekend, it has no place in business. Writing a plan will not only serve as your GPS device, but it will be extraordinarily helpful in gaining necessary funding for your new venture, particularly now when lending is so tight for an unknown business. (The word in the lending markets is that when banks lend money at all, it is based on old-style lending criteria where things like your company's written plans play a big role.)

Find a Free Sample Business Plan

If you are knowledgeable about your business - either the business you are in or the business you will start - but have little or no knowledge on how to put together a simple plan, one of your best first steps would be to go to the internet and search out and print out a free example or a template that is as close to your business as you can find. If you are in or will start a commercial real estate business, for example, looking at a plan for another real estate company would be helpful to see how its senior management handles the various sections of the plan.

Once you look at a plan of a company that closely compares to what you will do, go to the internet again and print out several free sample plans from different businesses.

It is a good idea to pick out very different small businesses from the one you are in so you can see how companies handle the creation of their plans. For example, if you will launch an investment and financial management business, technology and software business or a brokerage and mortgage company, definitely consult good plans in your area of endeavor, but also print out plans for enterprises as dissimilar as a massage therapy business, basket making, lesson and planning and education, and an eBay business plan. These samples and templates will be a real eye opener for you and will help you understand the process better and how different portions of the plan fit together.

You will also find different voices and tones in the various plans that will help you find your voice and help you take the right tone for your company. We strongly urge you not to copy any plan, but it will be helpful to you to read over various plans to get a picture of a whole plan. It is like writing a term paper for the first time: never copy someone else's term paper, but do read over samples so that you can see how a typical term paper fits together and reads and you can get an idea of how a good or great plan goes together.

Read on to learn more in this section...

Frequently Asked Questions about Business Plans

Here are a series of questions you need to ask yourself about the creation and use of that critical plan.

  • How do you create a mission statement?
  • How do you write a plan?
  • What are the key elements of a business plan?
  • How do you create a vision statement? What should the cover page include?
  • How do you specify the purpose of the plan? What to include; what to leave out.
  • Do I need a table of contents to give structure and order to the plan?
  • What should an executive summary of a business plan include?
  • What about the location and organization of the business? Should that be included in the plan?
  • Why is the market analysis important to include in the business plan?
  • How detailed do you need to get on the business's products and services?
  • What about the business's organization and management?
  • What about the company's marketing and sales management?
  • How detailed do you need to get with the financials? What about personal financials?
  • How extensive does the appendix need to be?

Check This Section for Answers to All of These
Questions and More!

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Parts of a Business Plan Here are the typical sections of a business plan that you should consider including in your document:

  1. Introduction
  2. Business Plan Cover
  3. Purpose of the Plan
  4. Table of Contents
  5. Executive Summary
  6. Description/Location of the Business
  7. Market Analysis
  8. Products and Services
  9. Organization and Management
  10. Marketing and Sales Management
  11. The Financials of the Business
  12. Appendices of Supporting Documents