If you want to start a business, you probably already know that the first step is to write a business plan. If you try to get a loan, raise money or need help in any way, a business plan will always come up. Learning how to write a business plan and having a business plan is a guide for how your business will be funded, how it will grow, how it will target the right audience, and more. Think of it as a bible that your business will follow as it grows – albeit one that can change and evolve as your business needs adapt to the market. But if writing your own business plan sounds a little daunting, you are not alone. Here are some tips, as well as a beginner’s template, to help you get started.

Tips for How to Write a Business Plan

One of the first tips for how to write a business plan is to keep it short. While it’s tempting to get all your ideas for every aspect of the business down, don’t forget that your business plan is primarily meant to help attract financial backers. They don’t want to read a 100-page manifesto. Keep your plans in bullet-point format for quick scanning, and focus on providing hard data rather than desires, dreams and goals for the future.

Always remember that a business plan is meant to change. It has to, because your business will change over time. That’s another good reason to keep it short – you don’t want to be revising a monster document every time your business evolves.

Be sure to keep your audience in mind when you are writing your business plan. Once again, investors want to see hard data that proves your company will be a success. However, if you are pitching a business plan to a potential business partner, rather than a financial backer, you may want to write a business plan with a little more focus on how the business will help them meet their personal goals or align with their personal ethics.

Business Plan Templates

A traditional business plan template would include the following sections:

• An executive summary that highlights all the important information and data.
• A company description that explains your vision and mission.
• A description of the products or services offered, as well as a description of the value these will offer the customer.
• A market analysis of your industry.
• A marketing strategy plan for the immediate future, including cost projections.
• A management summary, which explains how your company will be run at each level.
• A financial analysis, which predicts how your company will grow, and estimates all the expenses.

However, you can often get away with a shorter, more contemporary version that includes a single sentence or two for each of the following areas:

• Your vision
• Your mission
• Your objectives
• Your strategies for growth
• Your capital
• Your expenses
• Your income projections
• Your action plan with specific tasks and milestones

Going through each of these exercises and working on a business plan now, helps you answer questions you may not have considered before and will also give you a chance to figure out what you need to focus on to make sure your business is set up for success. If you don’t currently have a business plan, writing a business plan now is a great way to evaluate your current business and see if there are any holes in your business bucket.

With your business plan in hand, you can present your business as a viable investment to potential financial backers and partners and you’ll have a leg up on the competition, a goal to work towards and a clear vision to share with employees. Take your time to perfect this document, but always remember that it will change as your company does and just because you have a business plan, nothing is more important than hard work, dedication and good employees.