My son and I had a lot of fun doing our gingerbread cookies last week, and in fact, we’ll be doing some cooking together on a fairly regular basis. I find it to be a great way to get my son involved and explore his interests while spending some quality time together. In any case, now I’m back to business, and this week’s post is about the almighty Business Plan. Although some do manage to run a business without ever having written a business plan, I personally feel it’s a critical part to your business’ success. I’ve written multiple business plans in the past and I actually enjoy doing this; it allows you to structure your thoughts and develop your plan in an efficient manner. But yes, it is a lot of effort and work. Not only that, a BP is organic – it grows and evolves with you and your business venture.
But even if I’ve written many in the past, I always go back to templates as a starting point, to make sure I don’t forget anything. Whether it’s a BP you’ve written in the past or a template on the web, it’s a good way to start. This time it’s been a few years since I’ve written a formal business plan so I decided to get a template from the web and in the process found that no single plan was just right. Many had good elements but I felt they were missing sections or I didn’t like how it was structured. A challenge with writing business plans is that the form and content will vary depending on who you present it to. Venture capitalists look for different things than do bankers. So think of who your target audience is before committing to a specific document structure.
What actually surprised me is that Microsoft’s business plan template (Word dot) is actually not bad at all. I’ve also looked at sample plans on some financial institutions’ websites and some do provide good examples. In summary, the strategy I’ve used is to merge multiple templates and adapt it to my own needs. I came up with a generic form that is suitable for multiple objectives. I won’t go in too much detail on the structure, but here are the high level sections I’ll be using for my plan. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to have more details on these sections or discuss on writing business plans. Business Plan sections:
- Executive Summary
- Business Description
- Products & Services
- Marketing and Sales Plan
- Operational Plan
- Financial Plan
On a final note, here are a few good resources to get you started.
- For US startups you have the Small Business Administration (SBA) – http://sba.gov/
- For Quebec Startups there’s Service Entreprises Quebec (English and French) – http://www2.gouv.qc.ca/entreprises/portail/quebec?lang=en
- Microsoft’s Startup Business Plan Template – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/TC010175201033.aspx