Business Planning Tips

Stephen Yagielowicz
When it comes to business planning, many neophyte entrepreneurs may find the process both daunting and confusing. Daunting, in that an effective plan not only requires homework and due diligence, but it may also mean the difference between being able to obtain the needed financing for your business — and being laughed right out of the bank. Confusing, in that it can be hard to know what to put in to your business plan; where, how and why.

Fortunately, help in this endeavor isn't hard to find — and the best help you can get is even available for free. Here are two sources of immeasurable aid for all current and prospective small business owners, offering 10 top tips that can launch you to success — and keep you from making costly, time-consuming mistakes.

The Government is Here to Help
An online Business Plan Template generator is available from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). This tool allows users to build a comprehensive business plan by inputting the required information using a simple step-by-step form. At the end of the process, a formatted business plan can be saved and later be modified or used as a finished product.

"Completing this plan is a first step to building a successful business," the Administration website states, offering its visitors five important tips to consider while beginning the business planning process:

  1. The business plan should tell a compelling story about your business, explaining who, what, when, where, how and why.
  2. Your plan should be focused and clear. It is not about the number of pages or style of the cover.
  3. The plan should define specific business objectives and goals with general parameters to guide the organization.
  4. Writing a business plan should force logic and discipline into a business.
  5. A good business plan is a living document. It should be updated regularly.

Know the SCORE
The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) mentors entrepreneurs, assisting in the business planning process and providing free one-on-one counseling, including help in writing or updating your business plan, as well as opening the door to a variety of local professional service contacts, such as reputable accountants, lawyers and bankers.

A volunteer-based organization, SCORE is known for helping small business owners to secure SBA-backed loans. Its website offers a variety of information on planning, growing, operating and financing your business, including these five tips for effective business planning:

  1. Clearly define your business idea and be able to succinctly articulate it. Know your mission.
  2. Examine your motives. Make sure that you have a passion for owning a business and for this particular business.
  3. Be willing to commit to the hours, discipline, continuous learning and the frustrations of owning your own business.
  4. Conduct a competitive analysis in your market, including products, prices, promotions, advertising, distribution, quality, service, and be aware of the outside influences that affect your business.
  5. Seek help from other small businesses, vendors, professionals, government agencies, employees, trade associations and trade shows. Be alert, ask questions, and visit your local SCORE office

Entrepreneurs of all levels would be well advised to familiarize themselves with the many resources available from SBA and SCORE — from ongoing education to a wide variety of programs and services, these resources can make an enormous difference in the ongoing success of your company. Check them out today.