Start the Year with a Business Plan

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December is National Write a Business Plan month. Which makes it a great time to write that business plan you’ve been thinking about or to review your current one. A business plan can help you decide if you’re ready to start a business and help you validate your ideas. If you’re already in business, a business plan can help your business maintain steady and organized growth.

Do you really need a business plan?

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It used to be a must, but now some entrepreneurs say it depends on the reason. If you are asking for funding, you need to have all the information for investors to look at. If you are just making plans and trying to get organized, you can keep it simpler. Alejandro Cremades, author of The Art of Startup Fundraising, said, “Every entrepreneur and startup company needs a plan. Before deciding exactly what that looks like and how to create it, there are some critical questions to answer and factors to understand.”

What should a formal business plan include?

There are nine basic components:

  1. Executive summary or a snapshot of your business
  2. Company description – what you do
  3. Market analysis of your industry and competitors
  4. Your organization and management structure
  5. Service or product – what you offer
  6. Your marketing and sales strategy
  7. Funding request – how much you’ll need for the next 3 – 5 years
  8. Financial projections with balance sheets
  9. Optional appendix for other information

Update Your Existing Business Plan

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If you already have a business plan, December is a great time to review it. Set aside time to read through your current plan. Then step back from it, go for a walk or do something else. Set goals for the next year and review your weaknesses. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate and rewrite it.

The Business and Career Neighborhood has many resources to help you with a business plan from books to market research tools. SCORE has a downloadable template and the Small Business Development Center Network has information on sample business plans and other tools.

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