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5 Ways to Start a Business Plan

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5 Ways to Start a Business Plan

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: September 25, 2013

How do you get started on a business plan? It depends on who you are, what you like, what you do well and how you think. People are all different. I say think of a business plan as a collection of components or modules, and start wherever you feel like it. Here are five specific suggestions, based on the idea that people should start with what’s best for the individual, depending on style. Which one is best for you?

1. Do a SWOT analysis. That’s a collection of thoughts organized into four categories: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Ideally you gather a small group of people together for just an hour or two, you have somewhere to write out thoughts into bullet points. This YouTube video on SWOT gives a simple example. The SWOT almost always leads to simple, practical strategy.

It’s really hard to do a SWOT without thinking about how to focus on strengths, work around weaknesses, seize opportunities and avoid threats. Everybody does that.

2. Do a simple sales forecast. Do it for a few months at the very least, ideally 12 months by month and two more years just annually. Break your forecast into units, average revenue per unit, sales, average cost per unit and costs. The math is simple. Sales is units times revenue. Costs are units times average cost per unit. Here’s how to do a forecast for a new product. And here are some general tips on doing a sales forecast.

What happens to most people is that thinking through the details of the sales forecast gets you into business planning. You can’t help thinking about prices, costs, target markets, strategy and focus. I believe that somebody who manages with a sales forecast, and does plan vs. actual results analysis every month, has a business plan. Even if they do nothing else.

3. Do the big picture in a vision statement, mission statement or mantra. The mission statement is about what your business does for the customer, the employee, and the owner. The vision statement is a view of what you want the business to be three years from now. And a mantra is a simple sentence summary. For more on those, here’s a link to how to do mission, vision, and mantra.

Try to avoid simple hype. Test yourself: does this describe my business is a way that it would rule out any of my competitors? Would a customer read this and identify my business with it? Is this what one customer would tell another about your business?

4. Develop your core market story. Invent an ideal buyer and tell yourself the story of how the buyer identifies a problem, or something he or she wants, searches for it, and finds your business. Make the story an explanation of what the problem was and how your business solved it. For more on this, try every business needs a market-defining story.

5. Talk to 10 customers. I’m always amazed at how much business thinking comes out of the simple process of talking to real people about your real business. Do it right: Find people willing to talk to you and take some time with them. Start by making sure they don’t think they are supposed to tell you what you want to hear, but rather, the truth.

Any one of these five first steps might be right for you. All of them can help you get going, and they are all good steps to take regardless of what follows.

About the Author:

Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 44 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including The Plan As You Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press, 2008.

Comments:

My english is not very good but I would like to be slight idea as follows: I think a business plan the most efficient and most feasible to calculate the costs based on their capital and most important I think is to calculate the payback period. if a business plan is not the problem I thought were not possible and very easy to fail
I think“ Do a SWOT analysis”is the most basic and most critical link part. the article gave me so many helpful information. now I know how to start my business plan.TKS
A critical part of a business plan is knowing where all your funding will come from! Don't over look pretax financing!
I am currently started writing a business plan , but do not know where to start . Accidentally met your article , article helped me very much , thank you
Nice article! Helpful for those who need a simple guide to their business plan. A lot of entrepreneurs fail to understand that a simple, elegant business plan can mean so much more than stacks upon stacks of studies could ever do for them.
Great, practical advice!!! There's a nonprofit public service directory of government and nonprofit business assistance programs that people can go to and get help with a business plan too at This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you. . Just choose your state, free help and business counseling to learn where agencies like SCORE, SBDCs and women's business centers are in your area, as well as virtual mentors like MicroMentor. There are also tips for how to register a business and which type of business entity to form. Often more cost-effective than hiring an attorney, an online provider like American Incorporators can be a great asset.
Do a SWOT analysis & Do a simple sales forecast. i think it's the most central part of business plan .
who you are, what you like, what you do well and how you think.This is the basic of doing business .Thanks for providing detail information
Great article actually my company site has a blog that we use often.Wordpress is a better choice for blogging software.See our new website fromThis post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
This is use full information and get right. Read more: This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.

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