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How to write a good business plan

If you have never written a business plan before you may have difficulty getting the task started. It will seem as though you have an awful lot of blank pages staring back at you, but don’t worry. Follow these tips on how to write a business plan and you’ll get yours on the fast track.

What exactly is a business plan anyway?

In its simplest form a business plan is a guide that you use to keep you aligned with your goals as you build your business. It can also be useful when explaining to other stakeholders where your business is heading.

The Australian Government actually provides a variety of templates that you can use as a reference if you really get stuck.

The following tips will help you build on these templates if you are having trouble articulating something in your plan.

Get the easy sections completed first.

To start creating the plan, begin with the section that is easiest for you or of most interest. If you are enthused about the technical superiority of your product, write the product attributes section first.

If marketing is your forte, then work on promotion. Many people like to start by writing the history of the company, or how they got the original vision to start the business (possibly because most people enjoy talking about themselves).

When you begin to see words on the page, you will get a feeling of making progress and then you can proceed to the more difficult parts of the plan with less trepidation.

Make sure you set aside adequate time to complete the plan.

People often underestimate the effort and energy it takes to create a business plan. They try to write it at night or when everything else at work is finished. In other words, when they are mentally and sometimes physically exhausted. A better approach is to write the plan when you have energy available to put into it: go in early and think and write for an hour before the phones start ringing.

It is a creative process, be prepared that it may not happen all in one sitting.

Business plans are essentially works of fiction – documents that talk about what you imagine or hope may occur in the future, not what has already occurred.

This type of writing is difficult for everyone. You’ve heard of “writer’s block” - the problems you are having of keeping the words flowing are precisely the ones faced by the great writers, except many of them have to keep going because the publisher has given them an unreachable deadline and they’ve already spent their advance. You, of course, have allowed plenty of time to finish the Business Plan, so there’s no reason to feel pressured. Right?

If you feel blocked, don’t worry. It’s all part of the process. The key is not to quit. Put a few words down on the paper, then a few more. Jot down concepts rather than trying to do complete sentences.

Remember, there WILL be multiple drafts.

You may think the first draft of your plan will undoubtedly resemble incoherent ramblings –jumbled stream-of-semi-consciousness ideas that ends up looking nothing like what you had hoped it would. Don’t be disappointed or frustrated. Just put the draft away for a few days, come back to it fresh, and begin revising and rewriting. Magically, after several more revisions, the ideas will all come together and the language of the plan will flow.

Imagine you are telling the story of your new company to people you know.

A good mental exercise to use when creating the business plan is to imagine that you are telling the story of your company to a good friend. Don’t get too wrapped up in the formality of the language, or the seriousness of the project, or the need to impress. Just talk. Express your hopes and dreams for the business. Be sure to explain why it is important to you that you personally succeed.

And the most important rule of all? Have fun. If you are not having fun at the business plan stage of your new company, it is very likely that the new company is not going to make you happy.

Author: 
Mat Beeche
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