Thursday, February 21, 2008

Getting help with business planning...

"I need to write a business plan. Can you help?" Given my prior consulting experience coupled with my degree in entrepreneurship, this is a question that I am frequently asked from friends, family, students and others that are interested in starting their own business. As I really like to write business plans (strange as that sounds), I am usually more than happy to help out. However, what I would like to discuss today are some pointers in what kind of help one should look for in putting together their business plan.
  • You need to be involved in the business plan process. This is NOT something that you can completely outsource. Why? Because this is YOUR business and although I greatly suggest getting advice from others, you ultimately need to decide what business strategies you will take.
  • Find a business plan outline, and then customize it to your specific business. If you are having difficulties finding a business plan outline, do a quick google search. There are MANY web resources. A simple place to start is the SBA. You could alternatively use one of the many books out there -- one that I frequently recommend is Business Plan in a Day by Rhonda Abrams.
  • Write the first business plan draft yourself. This may be difficult, but the business plan is essentially a tool for you to determine if you have thought out all the little details that go into starting a business.
  • Then, take your business plan to other "experts" in order to get some feedback. Think strategically here. If you are having a hard time with the financials, find a friend or acquaintance in your network that might be able to help here. Other "experts" can include consultants, friends, family members, other business owners, bankers, etc. This is a good time to start putting together your board of advisors whom you can develop a relationship with and come back for advice on a regular basis.
  • Revise the business plan, and get more advice. Beware, as different "experts" might have differing opinions on what you should do. This is good -- as it will help you think out the many different paths your business can take. The ultimate decision is up to you
  • Last, remember that your business plan is your road map for your business. You want to continuously update it and rely upon it as you plan out the direction you want to go.
Business planning is a lot of work. So is starting a business. Be prepared. Seek help. Be persistent.

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