The Full Guide To: How to Write business Plan

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Why and How to Write a Business Plan

“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.“ —George Bernard Shaw
“You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going because you might not get there.”
—Yogi Berra Are you concerned about whether you can put together a first-rate business plan and loan application ?

Don’t worry.
This book has just what you need.
How to Write a Business Plan contains detailed forms and step-by-step instructions designed to help you prepare a well-thought-out,
well-organized plan.

Coupled with your positive energy and will to succeed, you’ll be able to design
a business plan and loan package that you will be proud to show to the loan officer at your bank, the Small Business Administration, or your Uncle Harry.
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After working with thousands of entrepreneurs (and wannabe entrepreneurs),
I have observed an almost universal truth about business planning:
Writing a plan is a journey through the mind of one person.

Even in partnerships and corporations, usually one person has the vision
and energy to take an idea and turn it into a business by writing a business plan.
For that reason, I have addressed this book to the business owner as a single individual rather than a husband-and-wife team, group, committee, partnership,
or corporation.

And you’ll find that the same financial and analytical tools necessary to convince potential lenders and investors that your business idea is sound can also help you decide whether your idea is the right business for you.

This chapter describes the benefits of writing a business plan (just in case you need any convincing!) and provides an overview of the book, what my approach is, what forms you’ll find, and more.

What Kind of Business Plan Do You Need ?
You can use How to Write a Business Plan to write whatever type of plan best suits your needs. I focus primarily on a complete business plan, but also offer a quick plan option, which you can customize to your needs. Here’s a brief description of the difference.

See “Complete Versus Quick Business Plan,” below, for a list of the sections included in each type of business plan.
Complete Business Plan This book shows you how to write a complete business plan—a written document that describes and analyzes your business and gives detailed projections about its future.
A business plan also covers the financial aspects of starting or expanding your business—how much money you need and how you’ll pay it back.
It includes everything from a description of your business and marketing plan to financial forecasts and a risk analysis.

A complete business plan is especially helpful for people who are starting
a new business or want to convince prospective backers to support a new
(or expanding) business. (Shark Tank, anyone?)
You’ll be more successful in raising the money you need if you answer all of your potential backers’ questions.

See “Why Write a Business Plan ?”
below, for more on the value of preparing a business plan. Quick (One-Day) Business Plan While the complete business plan is the primary focus of this book, I offer another option too—what I call a quick business plan.

If you know your business, are familiar with and able to make financial projections, and have done the necessary research (for example, on how to price your products or services to meet your competition), you may be able to quickly (in one day) create a stripped-down version of a business plan.

Complete Versus Quick Business Plan Here’s a quick overview of the different elements of the complete and quick business plans, and the related chapter for each element, such as Chapter 3 for the problem statement.

I review every section in detail in this book, and explain how to assemble them into
a cohesive business plan. This quick plan has many of the key components of a complete business plan, such as a description of your business and financial forecasts, but omits supporting documentation.

It won’t convince either you or your prospective backers that your business idea is sound, and is appropriate only if your business idea is very simple or someone has already committed to backing your venture.

Customized Plan You can also start with a quick plan and add components from the complete business plan to suit your needs. When deciding what to include and what to exclude, ask yourself (and potential backers) which sections are the strongest, and which need more development.

Why Write a Business Plan ?
Writing a business plan is a lot of work.
So why take the time to write one ?

The best answer is the wisdom gained by literally millions of business owners just like you. Almost without exception, each business owner with a plan is pleased she has one, and each owner without a plan wishes he had written one.
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Here are some of the specific and immediate benefits you will derive from writing your business plan. Helps You Get Money Most lenders or investors require a written business plan before they will consider your proposal seriously.
Even some landlords require a sound business plan before
they will lease you space.

Before making a commitment to you, they want to see that you have thought
through critical issues facing you as a business owner and that you really
understand your business.

They also want to make sure your business has a good chance of succeeding.
In my experience, about 35% to 40% of the people currently in business do not know how money flows through their business. Writing a business plan with this book teaches you where money comes from and where it goes.

Is it any wonder that your backers want to see your plan before they consider
your financial request ?
There are as many potential lenders and investors as there are prospective business owners. If you have a thoroughly thought-out business and financial plan that demonstrates a good likelihood of success and you are persistent,
you will find the money you need.

Of course, it may take longer (and require more work) than you expect, but you will ultimately be successful if you believe in your business.
Helps You Decide to Proceed or Stop One major theme of the book may surprise you. It’s as simple as it is important: You, as the prospective business owner, are the most important person you must convince of the soundness of your proposal.

Therefore, much of the work you are asked to do here serves a dual purpose.
It is designed to provide answers to all the questions that prospective lenders and investors will ask. But it will also teach you how money flows through your business, what the strengths and weaknesses in your business concept are, and what your realistic chances of success are.

The detailed planning process described in this book is not infallible—nothing is in
a small business—but it should help you uncover and correct flaws in your business concept. If this analysis demonstrates that your idea won’t work, you’ll be able to avoid starting or expanding your business.

This is extremely important. It should go without saying that a great many businesspeople owe their ultimate success to an earlier decision not to start
a business with built-in problems. Lets You Improve Your Business Concept Writing
a plan allows you to see how changing parts of the plan increases profits or accomplishes other goals.

You can tinker with individual parts of your business with no cash outlay.
If you’re using a computer spreadsheet to make financial projections, you can try out different alternatives even more quickly.

Improves Your Odds of Success One way of looking at business is that it’s a gamble. You open or expand a business and gamble your and the bank’s or investor’s money.
If you’re right, you make a profit and pay back the loans and everyone’s happy.

But if your estimate is wrong, you and the bank or investors can lose money and experience the discomfort that comes from failure. Writing a business plan helps beat the odds. Most new, small businesses don’t last very long.

And, most small businesses don’t have a business plan.
Is that only a coincidence, or is there a connection between these two seemingly unconnected facts ?
My suggestion is this: Let someone else prove the connection wrong.
Why not be prudent and improve your odds by writing a plan ?
Helps You Keep on Track Many business owners spend countless hours handling emergencies, simply because they haven’t learned how to plan ahead.

This book helps you anticipate problems and solve them before they become disasters. A written business plan gives you a clear course toward the future and makes your decision making easier.

Some problems and opportunities may represent a change of direction worth following, while others may be distractions that referring to your business plan will enable you to avoid. The black and white of your written business plan will help you face facts if things don’t work out as expected.


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For example, if you planned to be making a living three months after start-up, and six months later you’re going into the hole at the rate of $100 per day, your business plan should help you see that changes are necessary.

It’s all too easy to delude yourself into keeping a business going that will never meet its goals if you approach things with a “just another month or two and I’ll be there” attitude, rather than comparing your results to your goals.

Business Plans and Forms You’ll Find in This Book
This book takes you step by step through the key elements of writing a business plan, from writing a problem statement to preparing financial statements.


to preparing financial statements.
In an effort to make sense out of the thousands of types of small businesses,
I have roughly divided them into five main ones:
• retail • wholesale • service • manufacturing, and • project development.


See Chapter 3 for details on each of these types of businesses,
and the Appendixes for sample business plans for a small service business,
a manufacturing business, and a project development.


I use the example of Antoinette’s Shop (a women’s clothing boutique
throughout this book to show how to prepare a business plan for a retail business. (See “Meet Antoinette,“ below, for details.)


There is no specific plan for a wholesale business because the basic financial fundamentals for a wholesale business are similar to a retail plan, which is discussed in detail. The book also includes four different Excel worksheets and helpful formulas for calculating crucial financial information for your business plan, whether you’re a local service business serving a small geographic area or a tech start-up with an international audience.


These worksheets include:
• sales forecasts
• personal financial information
• profit and loss forecasts, and • cash flow forecasts.
You’ll find all of these forms on the book’s companion page on Nolo.com
(see “Get Forms, Updates, and More on
This Book’s Companion Page on Nolo.com,” below, for more information,
including the URL for the forms).


All the financial tools and advice I present can be used by all five types of businesses.
Of necessity, this book focuses on principles common to all businesses and does not discuss the specific items that distinguish your business from other businesses—for example, this book doesn’t discuss how to price your products to meet your competition.


For the sake of simplicity, however, I follow one particular retail business—a woman’s clothing boutique (see “Meet Antoinette,” below, for details).
In so doing, I illustrate most of the planning concepts and techniques necessary to understand and raise money for any business.


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The clothing boutique business plan presented here encompasses most of the basic business plan and financial fundamentals needed for any business; once you understand how the retail model works, it is easy to transfer it to other concepts.


Meet Antoinette As you read through the text, you’ll meet Antoinette, a friend of mine. Antoinette wants to open a women’s clothing boutique, selling high-quality, unique clothing and offering personalized customer service you won’t find at a typical department store.
(I call it Antoinette’s Shop for simplicity here.)



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