The process of writing your business plan gives you opportunities to test your ideas on paper. Plus, it helps lenders and investors understand your business, its purpose, and the people running it. As you get started on the plan-writing process, use these five steps to help make it more streamlined and organized.
1. Map out your planning process
When it comes to writing your business plan, you can take a do-it-yourself approach or get varying degrees of help. There are plenty of templates online that can give you inspiration. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) also has information and templates to help you develop your plan. You may also seek help from your regional Small Business Development Center, where you may be paired with an expert counselor to help you with your plan.
It’s also a good idea to work with an accountant to help you create your financial statements and projections. Don’t have an accountant yet? Use information available at SBA.gov to understand what your financial projections should include. This may be particularly important if you’re using your plan to seek funding.
2. Define the contents
The contents and length of your business plan will depend on your industry and other factors. As you review sample plans, you will see how others have structured them and the amount of detail included. From there, you can create an outline. Be sure you include the most essential elements, like the business’s purpose, market size, financial projections and management team.
3. Gather key information
Use your outline to start gathering the documentation you need for each section. Having all of the backup and information you need to write your plan will help expedite the process. Some of the materials you’ll need may include:
- A clear statement of the business purpose
- Descriptions of products and services offered
- Biographies of members of the ownership and management teams, as well as any key personnel or consultants involved in the business
- Financial statements and projections
- Market research and customer data and profiles
- Appropriate photographs
- Any other relevant information that sets your business apart
4. Get Writing
Once you have the outline and background information, it’s time to sit down and write your plan. Don’t worry that your plan needs to be exceptionally long or poetically written. It’s more important to be clear, succinct, and provide the information lenders and investors are looking for. The process may seem intimidating but if you work on it section by section, you’ll make progress quicker than you might think.
5. Review and update
After you’ve written the plan, give it a few days, then reread it. Look for typos and make sure the document reflects your company in the best light. You might even want to share it with your banker, who can tell you whether you need to add to the plan or modify it.
Plan to update your business plan at least once per year to add new information, adjust projections and reflect any changes as your company grows. Keeping your plan updated also ensures that you can easily provide a current plan to lenders or investors if your business needs additional funding.
Visit M&T Bank’s Business Education Center and use our thought leadership assets to help you launch your business.