Despite the cartoon, I sit firmly in the “All Businesses Start-Ups Need a Business Plan” camp. I also firmly believe that no one should delay starting their business because the business plan is not quite done. A business plan is and should be a working, changing document. It will never be done. If it is, it will end up in the trash.
In my opinion, ALL individuals starting a new business should have some “form” of a plan. The form could be a 150 page formal plan with graphics and statistics or it could take the form of a 10 page PowerPoint presentation that can be shown to investors, employees, etc. It could also be a 3 to 10 page plan that simply outlines the businesses purpose, goals and sales projections.
There are two reasons for a business plan. 1. Banks and Investors will REQUIRE a business plan as a part of your financial application and 2. Writing a business plan helps you plan through the process of starting and running your business. It will help foresee future problems, help you forecast your sales and profits, and may even change your focus or model of your business.
The formality and length of of the plan you need depends on who will be seeing it and what industry you are in. If you are presenting it in the hopes of getting funding make sure it is thorough and is clear of typos. If it is for your eyes only, make it easy for you to read it and change it often. If you are in a very common industry you probably will not have to go into great length on the industry and business model. On the other hand if you have an innovative idea that is not well known you will want to spend time on flowcharts and graphics describing and working out how the process works.
Bottom line is that writing a business plan does not have to be hard. Download a good template (SCORE has a great one) and go at it. I tell my clients to start with a template like the SCORE Template and start brainstorming. Just get everything you know out of your head and flag places that you will need to do further research.
Remember, that the Iowa Small Business Development Centers’ offer FREE counseling to help you with your business plan and Financial Projections (and much more!). Contact the IWCC Entrepreneurial Center and SBDC if you are in Southwest Iowa or contact the Iowa SBDC to see where your local office is. If you are not in Iowa, the ASBDC will have listing for all of the State centers.