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July 10, 2011

The Four Steps of Writing a Business Plan

Is it possible to write an effective business plan in four simple steps?
Yes, absolutely. Keep things simple, because although a lot of small steps are involved, creating a business plan really has only four main ones. They’re the same steps that would be used to write any report, essay, book, movie script or other document. You create an outline, flesh out the main sections, flesh out the secondary sections (those which are subordinate to the others), and then convert your rough draft into the final version. Looking at the creation of a business plan in this way – as requiring only four simple steps – makes the process seem easier and allows you to do it well so your company receives the funding it needs.

Click here to download your business plan template <==== 1. Create the Outline. Every business plan has ten sections, with these captions: Executive Summary, Company Analysis, Industry Analysis, Customer Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Marketing Plan, Operations Plan, Management Team, Financial Plan, and Appendix. In a fresh word processing document, enter those captions in a column. Add subheadings - the main points or questions to be addressed or answered in a section - beneath each caption. 2. Begin Writing by Fleshing out the Business Plan's Core Sections. The Competitive Analysis, Industry Analysis, Customer (or Market) Analysis, and Company Overview sections will be your business plan's "core" sections. Draft them in the same order listed, because the Competitive Analysis provides the foundation for the other three. 3. Complete Your Initial Draft by Fleshing out the Business Plan's Secondary Sections. The Marketing Plan, Operations Plan, Financial Plan and Executive Summary sections are subordinate to the core sections of your business plan. Again, draft them in the order listed. Write the Executive Summary last, because it must present the most gripping points of your entire business plan. 4. Convert Your Initial Draft Into the Final Version. Provide a copy of your completed initial draft to a qualified friend, business associate or family member in order to obtain honest, thorough, educated suggestions. Ask the person to make revisions to the document while using the "Track Changes" function of the word processor in order to record the edits. Now, give the edited version to another qualified individual to obtain that person's comments, also tracking the changes. This process might seem inefficient, but it actually avoids doubling up on suggestions by tracking changes one at a time, enabling you to accept or decline them when you receive the draft back. At least three people should review and edit your draft business plan. Click here to download your business plan template <==== Your final draft should be formatted in a way that allows each new section to begin on a separate page. You should also use page headers that include your company's name and logo, page borders and page footers with page numbers. You'll need a cover sheet, table of contents and an Appendix which contains all your supporting materials. Infographics, relevant pictures and/or call-out boxes will provide the finishing touches for your completed business plan.

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