If you are starting a small business, there is no shortage of advice on the steps you should take: registering your business name, getting a Tax ID, deciding on a business structure and applying for the needed permits and licenses. While these are all very important steps to take, a business plan will be central to how you start, grow and develop your business.
Here are five reasons why you need a business plan:
1. It will help you steer your business as you start and grow.
Think of a business plan as a GPS to get your business going. A good business plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing your business. You’ll use your business plan like a GPS for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. It’s a way to think through and detail all the key elements of how your business will run.
2. It’s not as hard as you think.
A business plan is a written tool about your business that projects 3-5 years ahead. It outlines the path your business intends to take to make money and grow revenue. Think of it as a living project for your business, and not as a one-time document. Break it down into mini-plans – one for sales and marketing, one for pricing, one for operations, and so on.
3. It will help you to reach business milestones.
A well-thought-out business plan helps you to step back and think objectively about the key elements of your business and informs your decision making as you move forward. It is essential whether you need to secure a business loan or not. Keep in mind that the plan does not have to be like an encyclopedia and does not have to have all the answers.
4. It can help you get funding.
Business plans can help you get funding or bring on new business partners. Having one in place will help investors feel confident that they will see a return on their investment. Your business plan is the tool you will use to persuade others that working with you (or investing in your business) is a smart decision.
5. There’s no wrong way to write a business plan.
There is no right or wrong way to write a business plan. You can pick a plan format that works best for you. What’s important is that your business plan meets your needs. Most business plans fall into one of two common categories: traditional or lean startup.
Traditional business plans are more common, use a standard structure, and encourage you to go into detail in each section. Traditional plans tend to require more work upfront. Lean startup business plans are less common, but still use a standard structure. They focus on summarizing only the most important points of the key elements of your plan. They can take as little as one hour to make and are typically just one page.
Because knowing where to start can be challenging, the SBA has tools to help make writing a business plan less intimidating and time consuming. The SBA offers a Business Plan Tool that helps simplify the process. The tool consists of eight easy-to-follow steps to help create a well-prepared plan.
To learn more about putting your business plan together, go to the SBA’s online Learning Center and take the self-paced course on How to Write a Business Plan. The course explains the importance of business planning, describes the components of a plan, and provides access to resources and sample plans. You can also take a look at the SBA’s Business Planning Guide for more information and to view business plan templates.
If you want a more hands-on approach, you can get assistance from an SBA resource partner to help complete your business plan. Working with a mentor or counselor from SCORE, a Small Business Development Center or a Women’s Business Center can help with all aspects of starting, growing or expanding your business.