If you’ve got a great small business idea, everyone will tell you that you need a business plan. But the process of creating a plan for a business that’s just a spark in your mind can be scary.
But writing a business plan isn’t like taking a test. There are no right or wrong answers, and everyone’s looks a little bit different when it’s finished. And unlike a test, your business plan can -- and should -- change over time. It’s a working document you’ll revisit over the life of your business to refine and adjust your path to growth and continued success.
It’s not a process to take lightly, but business planning doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. If you’re feeling nervous about getting started on your first business plan, remember these three tips to take the frustration out of your business planning experience.
Take your time
If you’re anxious to get your business idea off the ground, you might feel like you need to complete a business plan overnight. Working quickly can be helpful, but rushing through a business plan can leave your enterprise hurting later on.
Don’t try to complete your business plan in one sitting. Instead, spread your workload out over several days or even a week or two. Researching the competition in your target market might take a few hours to consider. Meanwhile, you might get carried away fiddling with the numbers for your financial projections, and figuring out the right combination for success in that section alone could take a few days.
By plotting out a schedule for completing the sections of your business plan, you can pace yourself to think clearly about your business goals.
Use Samples and Templates
Starting a business plan from scratch can be daunting. By using a business plan templatetailored to your type of business, you can start planning with an idea of what a typical business plan looks like, how long it might be, and what type of language to use.
If math isn’t your strong suit, you’ll find financial templates to be particularly helpful. These spreadsheets already include the formulas you need to make estimates about your business costs and potential for growth.
But even if you use templates, don’t get caught up in what your business plan “should” look like. There’s no perfect business plan, and you shouldn’t expect the first draft of your plan to reflect your dream exactly.
Get Help Along the Way
You might write your business plan on your own, but you shouldn’t keep it to yourself. Share your early drafts with friends and family members who are invested in your small business success. These trusted people will ask you tough questions that will strengthen your plan -- and they may recall elements you’ve forgotten to include.
If you feel stuck on one portion of your business plan --or simply want a fresh set of eyes -- call on a SCORE mentor. These seasoned professionals have seen countless business plans and can guide you toward completing a plan you’re proud of.