A well-written business plan can spell the difference between long-term success and failure. This document often plays a valuable role in convincing potential investors or lenders to provide you with the capital needed to start, run and grow your business. What's more, a well-crafted plan is one of your most important management tools—it's a road map for transforming your ideas into a successful business.
However, many small business owners are tempted to forego creating a plan. It can seem overwhelming to gather the necessary information and do the financial projections, let alone actually turn all that data into clear and convincing text.
The Small Business Administration has just released its Business Plan Tool, an online program that may make writing a business plan somewhat less daunting.
To use the SBA's Business Plan Tool, you will need to create an account on SBA.gov. This is a simple--and free--process that requires you to create a user name and password and to provide an email address.
This step-by-step guide allows you to work through the process at your own pace and covers the following:
- Cover page
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market research
- Product/service line
- Marketing &sSales
- Financial projections
- Cash flow
- Balance sheet
- Breakeven analysis
Each section has an introduction that explains its purpose as well as samples of content, definitions and other pointers to help complete the document. The financial sections have interactive calculators that handle most of the necessary financial computations. You can save your work at each step of the process: Your information is saved for up to six months after your last log-in. You can also save and print a PDF version, which can be submitted to lenders or provided to investors.
Using this tool can help you transform vague wishes into an action plan that can guide you as your business grows.