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There are many forms of business plans. This is simply one example. If you want a more comprehensive listing of what's available, please do a web search. The Google listings for business plans for books and software can be viewed by clicking here. We also suggest you might want to check other business publications. There is also an outline of a business plan in "How to Start a Business in San Luis Obispo County". SCORE also provides business plan templates here.
In general, the business plan consists of a narrative and several financial spreadsheets. The narrative template is the body of the business plan. It contains over 150 questions divided into several sections. Work through the sections in any order you like, except for the Executive Summary which should be done last. Skip any questions that do not apply to your type of business. When you are through writing your first draft, you will have a collection of small essays on the various topics of the business plan. Then you will want to edit them into a smooth flowing narrative. The sections of this plan are:
The real value of doing a business plan is not having the finished product in hand; rather, the value lies in the process of research and thinking about your business in a systematic way. The act of planning helps you to think things through thoroughly, study and research when you are not sure of the facts, and look at your ideas critically. It takes time now, but avoids costly, perhaps disastrous, mistakes later.
This business plan is a generic model suitable for all types of businesses. However, you should modify it to suit your particular circumstances. Before you begin, review the section entitled Refining the Plan, found at the end of the narrative. It suggests emphasizing certain areas depending upon your type of business (manufacturing, retail, service, etc.). It also has tips for fine tuning your plan to make an effective presentation to investors or bankers. If this is why you are writing your plan, then pay particular attention to your writing style. You will be judged by the quality and appearance of your work as well as your ideas.
It typically takes several weeks to complete a good plan. Most of that time is spent in research and re-thinking your ideas and assumptions. But then, that is the value of the process. So make time to do the job properly. Those who do, never regret the effort. And finally, be sure to keep detailed notes on your sources of information and the assumptions underlying your financial data.