Did you know you’re twice as likely to grow your business with a formal business plan in place? Of course, plenty of successful businesses have been launched without one, but if you were going on a road trip, wouldn’t you rather have a map than a vague idea of how to reach your destination?
That’s what a business plan does: it’s a roadmap to success that articulates where you want your business to go, how you plan to get there, what you plan to do and how you plan to do it.
At its most simple, it could be a single page. While you could create a business plan that’s incredibly detailed and hundreds of pages long, you can still benefit from a much shorter and more succinct plan.
Why You Should Create a Business Plan
Creating a business plan—even a simple one—forces you to think critically about your business and the steps you need to take to make it successful. As you create your plan, you’ll research where you stand in the marketplace; get familiar with all your numbers, such as your margins, income, and expenses; and commit all those great ideas in your head to paper. Committing your ideas and goals to paper makes you more likely to follow through on them.
Once you have a comprehensive business plan in hand, it can help you make important decisions about your business, such as whether to expand your operations or hire new employees. It can help you articulate your vision for the company so that you can achieve it. It’s also a vital document if you want to attract investors or secure a loan to grow your business.
How to Create a Business Plan
There are numerous ways that you can approach creating a business plan, from creating an in-depth, step-by-step business plan that you could use to impress banks and attract venture capitalists, to a much more simplified document that’s designed for your business of one.
For a simple business plan, you can use the free step-by-step tool offered by The Small Business Organization (SBA), or the free template on SCORE.org. If you need something more detailed, you can pay for a template service like LivePlan, Business-in-a-Box, or MasterPlans. (Check out this handy chart of pricing for various services.)
Take note, though: Some template services are designed for businesses that are more complex, so the plan includes much more than what you may want or need. You don’t need to fill out every section of a template if it’s not relevant or helpful to you. And, if you don’t think you have the time to create an end-to-end business plan in one go, consider taking on one section each week until you’re done. Following the plan below, you can have a full business plan complete before the end of February.
The SBA offers both a detailed and a “lean” version of their template, so you can get as detailed (or not) as you need. Whether you choose to create an in-depth plan or a high-level summary, what’s important is to create a plan that works for you.
Sellers, do you have a business plan in place, or will you create one this year? Let us know in the comments!
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