So You Need To Write A Business Plan …

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By Charles Lewis

You have a great idea for a new venture, but to get anywhere with investors, lenders or potential partners, you need to put it in writing. Meaning, you have to craft a business plan.

Business plans aren’t sexy – well, to some they are – but they are a necessary tool to move your idea toward realization. That’s kind of sexy, right? Plus, a well-executed plan can help you better understand your business, your market and your financials. There are services available to craft your masterpiece for you, such as Capitol West Advisors, who will charge between $2350-$7000, depending on the size and scope of your new enterprise.

But you want to do this thing yourself – and you certainly can – you just need to do the research, follow some tried-and-true techniques from the experts and start writing. Below is NOT a template for a business plan, but a thinking, writing and researching exercise to get you started in the right – or write – direction.

Does Your Business Solve A Problem?

I sure hope so, because that is the basis of a good plan: a business idea that solves a problem in the marketplace. Start by asking yourself why would anyone use my product or service? If you don’t know the answer to that, then you might as well stop right there.

What’s Your Solution To That Problem And How Do You Plan On Making Money With That Solution?

OK, you laid it all out – the problem, that is – now tell everyone the solution you have come up with. Explain how money will be coming in, and how it will go out, by projecting incomes and expenses, including salaries.

Tell Us About Your Market …

Is your market local, statewide, national or international? Are your customers on the web or driving around Main Street? Define your base and then give specifics, including information on your industry, your competitors and demographics. One of the biggest mistakes here is to inundate the reader with facts, charts, graphs and other forms of complex data. Try to cut through the haze with heady analysis, not head-spinning facts and figures.

Who Will Be On The Team?

Just like on a baseball team, the success of a business venture can depend on who’s on the team. If you’ve assembled a list of all-stars for your start-up, make sure you let those investors know how many home runs your boys and girls have hit. If it is just you and a laptop, you’d better have a serious batting average. If not, find some power players to join the team, even in an advisory role. Proven winners will go a log way in securing finances.

Survey The Competition And Plan A Marketing Strategy

You need to really dig deep and find out exactly if the market can handle another business of the type you are proposing. Also, check out the most successful ones and see what they do – and how much they spend – in terms of marketing. Leave no stone unturned – prospective investors have a knack for rooting out business planners who haven’t done their homework in this area.

Time To Talk Money

Besides coming up with that magic number you need to get started, it is time to crunch some numbers and see where you think you’ll be in five years. Please be realistic. Oh, and how will the investor be paid back? They like that part.