Taking the First Steps, Building a Business Plan

You’ve made the decision: you want to start your own business. And that means you’ll need to write a business plan. As you consider the steps to starting a business, you might think that writing a business plan comes first. Not so fast.

The better starting point is your personal vision: what do you want to achieve? Then you can draft your business plan, which will serve as the road map to get you to your ultimate destination.

Here’s the thing: writing a business plan isn’t always easy, and that’s largely because it’s daunting. A business plan is, in essence, the guide for how you’ll create, launch and run your company. That means there’s a wealth of information to consider before you create your business plan—and then you’ve got to get it all on paper!

A business plan includes strategic, high-level information and tactical details. It also includes market research and analysis, as well as financial projections. Sitting down to create and compile that breadth of information is undoubtedly challenging, but it can absolutely be done.

If you’re ready to tackle your business plan, read on for some help through the process, including what to include and tips for success. If you prefer a more structured approach, we can help with that, too. Check out Kauffman FastTrac, a series of self-paced, online courses that help prepare you to launch a business—including writing a business plan.

Whichever path you choose, the most important thing is to simply get started!

What’s in a Business Plan?

Before you dive in to creating a business plan, it’s helpful to get a handle on what’s included so you can do some prep work, including making notes and conducting research.

If you ask 10 entrepreneurs what elements should be included in a business plan, chances are good you’ll get 10 different answers. Business plans can absolutely be customized to better fit your particular business, but there are some common pieces to include:

  1. An executive summary, which outlines your business plan
  2. A business description, including your vision, mission and team
  3. A market strategy, which details how you’ll launch and position your business
  4. A competitive analysis
  5. What you’ll offer, which could include: Product design and development, services etc.
  6. Marketing and advertising
  7. Business operations and management
  8. Financial analysis and projections

Once you’ve outlined your business plan, then you can begin to fill in each of the sections. Give yourself time to do some research, especially about current and forecasted market conditions, your intended customer base, competitors and costs

As you start drafting your business plan, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Save your executive summary for last. Ideally, your executive summary should be a one-page overview not just of your business plan, but also your business. This will be much easier to write once you’ve finished the rest of the document so that you can focus on the highlights.
  2. Be thorough yet concise. It might sound like an oxymoron, but you don’t want to create a novel-length business plan. It’s important to provide detail and supporting facts or research where applicable, but you also want someone to be able to read and understand your business plan in a reasonable amount of time.
  3. Don’t hesitate to reach out to experts. You may find yourself stumbling on certain sections of your business plan. For example, financial analysis and projections can be downright mind-boggling, especially for an aspiring entrepreneur. If you get stuck, reach out to an expert like an accountant to help ensure you’re including accurate information.
  4. Set a schedule. Writing a business plan isn’t easy, which means it’s more likely to fall to the bottom of your to-do list. Combat possible procrastination with a schedule and deadlines so that you can stay focused and on track.

FastTrac: Your Cure for Business Plan Writer’s Block

Of course, even with the best of intentions and the most thorough preparation, you may find yourself struggling to create a polished business plan or struggling with a particular section. The good news? There’s a solution!

Business plans are just one of several topics covered in Kauffman FastTrac, an immersive series of online courses designed for aspiring and established entrepreneurs.

The self-paced modules offer a deeper dive into starting and running a business. You’ll start with foundational elements such as your personal vision, market opportunity, financial goals and branding and marketing—in short, the information you’ll need to draft your business plan.

After Liz Forkin Bohannon decided to pursue her entrepreneurial dream of designing, sourcing and marketing handcrafted items made by Ugandan women, she turned to FastTrac to help launch her business.

“FastTrac gave me tools and encouragement that empower me to empower others, and introduced me to valuable tools and relationships that helped get our business off the ground,” Bohannon says.

Even if you’ve already drafted a business plan, FastTrac can ensure you’re on the right path to business success. Whatever stage your business and business plan are in, there’s a FastTrac course for you. Your business plan is a living document, after all, and is likely to evolve just as your company will.

When you’re ready, simply register for FastTrac and start courses anytime. That’s one of the advantages of FastTrac—it happens on your schedule. Let’s get to work.

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