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It's definitely not the most exciting part of starting a business. In fact, if you're like a lot of entrepreneurs, you're probably going to find yourself pulling a few all-nighters to get one done before heading into your first pitch for funding. Because that's the thing--your business plan is a pretty important.
Any funder worth his or her salt wants to see it right off the bat. Moreover though, a solid business plan is a living document that will continue to guide your efforts as your business grows. A lot of those mistakes most of them, in fact are the result of poor planning.
Bad location, a marginal niche, having no specific user in mind, raising too much or too little money--all of these issues can be prevented or at least mitigated with good planning.
Creating your business plan is more than just getting your ideas down on paper for potential funders to see. It's an exploratory process in which you can evaluate your options, test your assumptions about your idea, and even discover new opportunities.
It might even lead you to kill off aspects of your business before investing too much time or money in them. That doesn't mean you have to bust out Word and start the plan from scratch.
A template is great--you probably aren't doing anything that hasn't been done before, so it provides a proven structure for your plan. Pretty much everything on it can be customized. Check out these comprehensive business plan templates you can download for free to get you started: Score's Business Plan Template for Startups Score is an American nonprofit dedicated to helping entrepreneurs get their companies off the ground.
Its template, available as a PDF or Word download, asks a whopping questions and is generic enough to customize for most types of businesses.
The Refining the Plan resource that comes with it is helpful, especially if this is your first crack at writing a business plan.
You can go back in and edit it as needed, so don't worry about having everything ready the first time you sit down to tackle it. Even broken into sections, it's a long document and a bit of a slog to get through, but it produces a professional-looking and useful business plan.
This is particularly helpful if your idea isn't fully fleshed out and you know you have homework to do--it prompts you for information. Some funders are going to want to see a lot of detail, but you can provide that in appendices.
A business plan should take time and a lot of homework, but if you've already done that, LawDepot's template is a decent choice. It walks you through getting started, marketing, product, competitive analysis, SWOT, and more, with a window below the input fields to show you the plan as you work away at it.
You can download it free with a trial subscription, but you'll have to remember to cancel it within the week if you don't plan to continue using it. It contains 10 broad sections, including market analysis, management and organization, etc. A second download on the same page is an Excel file to help with your financial projections.
Office Online Templates Galore Of course, Microsoft offers a ton of business plan templates for Office users you can get birthday invitations while you're at it.
If you'd rather do a business plan presentation than a Word doc, you can download one of Microsoft Office's half a dozen or so PowerPoint templates for just that purpose.
You'll want to customize it with your company branding you have your branding down, right? Business Plan Template and Guide Global financial services firm vFinance offers a basic, page business plan template to download from its website--one the company says has been downloaded more than a quarter of a million times.
No, it won't be completely unique, but vFinance knows what it's doing and the template is pretty comprehensive. VFinance is the creator of the massive Venture Capital Directory and has tailored the plan to appeal to funders.
If that's your goal, definitely check this one out. Each one also contains a marketing plan and executive summary template. There's a catch, though--the company asks you to take one of the following three actions before you can download the template: If you don't mind doing that, it's a good deal.
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