Write the Right Business Plan


CPA entrepreneurs and business owners need professional business plans to get organized, apply for bank loans or bring in new partners. If you’re at a loss on how to begin, get over the hurdle by following these 10 steps.
Decide why you’re writing your plan. Is your focus raising money, launching a new venture or finding strategic partners? Begin by preparing a short paragraph, much like a mission statement, outlining why you’re writing a business plan. Refer to it frequently to keep motivated and focused on the message you wish to convey.

Do your homework. Before starting your research, take a look at all aspects of your business plan to see the big picture. Read a few books on business plans. Look at Web resources, such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) business-planning outline. Get a feel for what a business plan is, what it isn’t and what those who read it will expect.

Then prepare an outline of the major sections and subsections you think should be included.

Compile your information. Dig through every box, file cabinet and computer document you have—articles, financial statements and press releases. Don’t rate the quality of the information at this stage—just gather it.

Start typing. Write down all your ideas, notes and questions for each section of your outline. Approach it like a brainstorming session, jotting down ideas that demand further consideration or input from others. Then arrange the sections in the most logical order.

Write a rough draft. Turn your outline into complete sentences and paragraphs. Then print out a copy and read it through a few times, revising as you go. You’re halfway there.

Do more research. Build your case with data that supports your assertions. Talk to anyone who might help you collect information, such as a local SBA representative, and look for resources on the AICPA Web site ( www.aicpa.org ) or that of your state society. Track down annual reports, and request product and service information from your business competitors.

Think about the numbers. Begin developing pro forma financial statements: This allows you to match and support the text of your business plan with numbers.

Write a final draft. Bankers and investors will assume you’ll protect their money with the same level of care and attention you put into your business plan. Check, double-check and triple-check your draft, crunching and re-crunching your numbers to make sure they are accurate and proofing the grammar and spelling.

Get feedback. Ask a few people you trust to read your plan and offer suggestions. Take detailed notes on their comments.

Polish your plan to perfection. Create a cover page, table of contents and nondisclosure form and a one-page executive summary that encapsulates the highlights.

Source: Adapted from “Ten Painless Steps to Start and Finish Your Business Plan,” www.bizplanit.com , 2003.

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