By , on Business Planning.

Most business owners understand that writing a business plan increases their chances of running a profitable business that survives for more than a few years. Less than half of small businesses use a formal business plan, however, and many of those plans are incomplete or outdated. Here are three tips that will give you a good solid start on your business plan, and improve your chances of completing it successfully.

Tip #1: Make a date with yourself, and put it on your calendar. Schedule a series of business planning “meetings.” Choose the same time and day(s) each week, or check your calendar and schedule unused blocks of time for your business planning sessions. Once you make an appointment with yourself, stick with it! It’s easy to build momentum once you get started planning. Your “meetings” should be scheduled at least once a week, or you risk slowing your momentum. Don’t cancel on yourself either! Once you get on a roll, stick with it and you’ll avoid getting derailed by your busy schedule.

Tip #2: Find a good template or outline to follow, preferably one with instructions or a tutorial. Although every business, and business plan, is unique, there are key sections of a business plan that should be completed no matter what type of business you run. Generally, your business plan should include 7 main sections: an executive summary, mission statement, company history and description, market analysis, marketing plan, management summary and personnel plan, and financial statements. A few good online sources for templates and guidelines for writing your business plan are:

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration. Go to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Create Your Business Plan Page and click on each article for guidelines on how to complete that section of the business plan. There’s also an article on how to make your business plan stand out.
  • American Express’ Small Business Network. Go to SME Toolkit where you’ll find a workshop that takes you step by step through writing your business plan. The SME Toolkit also provides a link where you can download the full business plan template in Word 97-2003 format.
  • The Royal Bank of Canada. Their business planning guide at outlines seven key sections of a typical business plan, along with real business examples.

Tip #3: Define what your company is really offering to your customers. Start by describing the features of your products or services, but then take it a step further: Think about and explain exactly what problems your company helps customers solve, or how you make your customers’ lives happier, more profitable or more fulfilling. Once you understand the benefits your company has to offer, you have the insights and knowledge you need to write your product or services description section, your market analysis and your mission statement. Although you may start a business for selfish reasons (e.g., you want to work independently, set your own hours, work at home near your children, or control your own destiny), ultimately your business exists for one reason only: to provide goods or services that solve your customers’ problems or help make them happier.

Completing the three simple steps outlined above will give you enough to write a mini-business plan, including your mission statement, a description of your goods and services, who your choice customers are and what benefits you provide for them. If you continue to keep your business planning “dates” with yourself, you’ll have a solid foundation for filling in the rest of your business plan template. Some sections will be more difficult to write than others: Don’t be afraid to ask for business planning help from your local small business development counselor, accountant, a market researcher or other business owners who have been through the process. You might even enlist the help of a friend or relative to call for information about your competitors. But for now, no matter how uncertain you may be about the business planning process, scheduling time for business planning, locating a good template to use, and really thinking about what it is you have to offer your customers will move you far along business planning process.

Anne Wenzel can help you launch your dream business.

  • · Do you want help researching your markets and competition?
  • · Need help getting started writing your business plan?

Contact Anne Wenzel, owner of Econosystems, for a free business planning consultation.

Call 1-866-200-9650, or e-mail, to schedule your 40-minute complimentary consultation and receive a free business plan template. You can begin researching your markets or writing your business plan immediately.

Plan for your business success, starting today!