Before you get started on your business plan, here are four key things you should consider.

Know thyself

Your business plan is your calling card. It tells potential investors, partners, even customers what they need to know about you and helps them decided if they want to have a business relationship with you. Seems simple enough, right? What could be more simple than writing about yourself, your dreams, your ideas, your inspirations?

Business PlanWhen you start writing, though, you might find that you’re not really sure how to organize all that information and frame it in a way that paints your business idea in the best light. That’s where the process of self-discovery comes in. In business, that process is called performing a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Figuring out what yours are is the first step toward understanding what belongs in your business plan.

Your SWOT analysis will help you organize your thoughts and group them into categories that will be of interest to anyone is reading your business plan. A SWOT analysis might even result in you reassessing and refining your business idea because you ever start writing.

For more on how to do your SWOT analysis read: SWOT Analysis: Examples, Templates and Definition

Don’t go it alone

Once you’re ready to start writing your business plan, don’t try to reinvent the startup wheel. There are many resources, many of them free, to help you write your business plan. There are no shortage of business plan templates in a variety of formats available for free.

Choosing which one you’ll use will depend on what your goal is. Are you shopping around for investors? If so, you’ll want to find business plan software or business plan templates that provide lots of detail. On the other hand, if your business plan is mainly to help you get your ducks in a row and start moving forward with starting your business, then you might want to take a pared-down approach that helps your simplify and prioritize. If you’re writing your business plan to apply for a small business loan, then you might want to research what, specifically, lenders are looking for.

The key to figuring out exactly what your business plan should look like begins with assessing which tools might be right for you. To see business plan templates read: 6 Business Plan Templates to Start Your Business or 8 Free Business Plan Templates for Startups.

Dare to be different

Chances are, whoever is reading your business plan has seen a few before yours. Even though you want to make sure your business plan covers everything, you also want to make sure it stands out from the crowd. Yours doesn’t have to be exactly the same as everyone else’s.

In fact, there are now more than one school of thought on exactly how long your and what format your business plan should take. Some people still believe it should be long and thorough, while others think it should be short and sweet and reflect your personality as much as your business details.

The good news is that there’s a lot more flexibility than there used to be to allow you to create a business plan that’s right for you. To learn more about new business plan formats read: New Business Plan Format Is Concise and Personal.

Get technical

The good news for would-be entrepreneurs is that there’s never been a better time to go into business for yourself. That’s because technology has made it possible for even the smallest startups to create professional business plans. From apps to websites to business plan software, there are many tools available to get started.  To learn more about the variety of business plan tools available read: Business Plan Tools for Startups and Small Businesses.


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