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Preparing to Write Your Business Plan

Physically putting a business plan together requires you to translate your thoughts about how you're going to run your business (and how it will perform) into a format that is dictated, in large part, by the business you're in and the expectations of your audience. While most business plans share a similar structure and contain similar information about a business, your business plan will be distinguished by those characteristics that are unique to your business. Just as each person's resume differs because it reflects the particular life experiences of that individual, each business plan will differ. But the format makes it instantly recognizable as a business plan.

The following are the key issues you need to examine before you can actually start to write your plan:

  • Audience: whom are you writing for? If you are writing for third parties outside of your business, their needs and expectations will govern the type of information and level of detail in your plan. Your neighborhood banker is going to be far more concerned with the financial performance of your business than with the salary structure you plan for your employees.
  • Planning horizon: how far out into the future will your plan extend?
  • Type of business: your business's classification as a service provider, product producer or seller, or mixed provider of products and services will have a large impact on the type of information in your plan.
  • Sources of information: What information is available to you in creating a business plan? How can you reduce the time and effort required to analyze your idea?
  • Reasonable assumptions: How can you set yourself up for success by taking a realistic look at internal and external conditions of your business, so as to make reasonable predictions about the future?