Writing a business plan

how do you eat an elephant?Did you write a business plan for 2012? If not, it isn’t too late. The Small Business Administration offers business plan templates, suggestions and guides to help you get started. If that is too involved, I have a quick guide below.

Because I know many people become overwhelmed, I have put together a few pointers to get you in the right (and “write”) frame of mind:

Preparing to write your business plan

  • Writing a business plan is a moment of inspiration and personal development; not a cause for stress. This is a time to think about your long term goals and how you will take one step toward them.
  • Don’t worry about getting it perfect – chances are you will need to tweak it along the way and that is a good thing. All smart business people make adjustments to focus on what is working and fix or discard what isn’t.
  • Work with your strengths. Don’t dwell on your personal weaknesses – we all have them. Successful people are not people without weaknesses (in fact many have huge personal obstacles to overcome). Successful people understand what they do well and do it regularly.
  • Don’t aim too high. You want to be sure that you are challenging yourself and not setting yourself up to fail.
  • Set daily goals. Break it down into small, doable activities. Then, look forward to achieving those smaller tasks in building up to the larger goals. Like the old quote says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
  • Include professional growth opportunities. Make sure you budget/plan for education or joining a trade group. These activities are so rewarding and often result in fruitful business leads.
  • Get it done. Many people suffer from “analysis paralysis” – they are never satisfied enough with the product to let it out the door. Sometimes completion is more important than perfection. I asked one of my painter friends when she knew she was done with a painting. She said, “When I’ve sold it.” Many of us constantly iterate on our plans and run the risk of not executing them. Make a decision to move forward. It is the first step toward your new year.

An outline for a simple business plan

Below is a very basic business plan outline. One of the items that I do not include below is market/competitor analysis. I assume that you have already done that. If you haven’t, or it has been a long time since you have, be sure to look at your competition, how they are succeeding/failing and what makes your business different.

    • Executive summary (statement of the business purpose)
    • Goals
      • Business
        • Marketing plan
          • Detail by months (weeks if necessary)
        • Operating activities
          • Sample daily (or weekly) tasks
        • Professional development
        • Equipment upgrades (if necessary)
      • Budget
        • Planned income vs expenditures
          • One-year summary
          • Detail by months

Learn more here about marketing your business.


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