Drafting of your business plan. Ughhhh.
It is definitely not the most exciting part of starting a business. In fact, if you’re like a lot of entrepreneurs, you’re probably going to find yourself spending a few sleepless nights to make one before you jump into your first fundraising pitch. Because that’s the thing – your business plan is pretty important.
Any funder worth his salt wants to see it from the start. Plus, a solid business plan is a living document that will continue to guide your efforts as your business grows. Recently, I shared 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups, an infographic created by Mark Vital at Funders and Founders.
Many of these mistakes (most of them, in fact) are the result of poor planning. A bad location, a marginal niche, with no specific user in mind, raising too much or too little money – all of these problems can be avoided or at least mitigated with good planning.
Creating your business plan is more than just putting your ideas on paper for potential funders to see. It’s an exploratory process where you can weigh your options, test your hypotheses about your idea, and even discover new opportunities. It might even cause you to kill some aspect of your business before investing too much time or money in it.
This doesn’t mean that you have to take out Word and start the plan over from scratch. A template is great – you’re probably not doing anything that hasn’t been done before, so it provides a proven structure for your plan. Almost everything in it can be personalized. Check out these complete business plan templates that you can download for free to get you started:
Score is an American non-profit organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start their businesses. Its template, available as a PDF or Word download, asks 150 questions and is generic enough to be customized for most types of businesses. The accompanying Refine the Plan resource is useful, especially if this is your first attempt at writing a business plan.
The SBA template can be completed online and then downloaded as a PDF. You can come back and edit it as needed, so don’t worry if everything is ready the first time you sit down to face it. Even divided into sections, it’s a long document and a bit tedious to navigate, but it produces a useful and professional-looking business plan. This is especially useful if your idea is not fully fleshed out and you know you have homework to do – it asks you for information.
Who said a business plan had to be a long and complicated document? Some funders will want to see a lot of details, but you can provide them in appendices. The $ 100 Starter, the best-selling book website of the same name, has a ton of streamlined resources for entrepreneurs, including this super streamlined business plan template.
This one says you just have to answer a few simple questions and will be “done before you know it!” Do not believe it. A business plan should take time and a lot of homework, but if you’ve done it before, the LawDepot template is a good choice. It walks you through getting started, marketing, product, competitive analysis, SWOT analysis, and more, with a window below the input fields to show you the plan as you go. as you work at it. You can download it for free with a trial subscription, but you’ll have to remember to cancel it within a week if you don’t plan to continue using it.
The SME Toolkit, jointly offered by IFC and IBM, offers a simple two-page overview of what should be included in your business plan to meet minimum requirements for donors and tax authorities (in the US ). It contains 10 major sections including market analysis, management and organization etc. with a one paragraph explanation for each. A second download on the same page is an Excel file to help you with your financial projections.
Of course, Microsoft has a ton of business plan templates for Office users (you can get birthday invitations while you’re at it). If you prefer to give a business plan presentation rather than a Word document, you can download one of the few Microsoft Office PowerPoint templates for this purpose. You’ll want to personalize it with your business branding (you have your own branding, don’t you?), But it’s easier than starting from a blank PPT.
Global financial services company vFinance offers a basic 30-page business plan template for download from their website. No, it won’t be completely unique, but vFinance knows what it’s doing and the template is pretty comprehensive. VFinance is the creator of the huge venture capital repertoire and has tailored the plan to attract funders. If that’s your goal, take a look at this one.
British online invoicing software brand Invoiceberry offers free business plan templates in .docx, .odt, .xlsx and .pptx formats. Each also contains a marketing plan and a summary template. There’s a catch though: the company asks you to do one of the following three things before they can download the template: like it on Facebook, give it a +1 on Google+, or give it your e-mail address. -mail. If you don’t mind, it’s a good deal. Kudos to Invoiceberry for figuring out this effective lead generation tactic too!
The Santa Clara U MOBI is an initiative of its Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Leavey School of Business. On the site, you can download each of the 15 sections of the business plan individually as Word documents, or collect all 15 into one document. There are also a ton of other helpful resources, including guidelines for evaluating your potential sites, a list of key people to review your plan, and sample financial sheets.
Like some others, you fill out RocketLawyer’s form and download the business plan when you’re done, but their template lets you choose your state before you start. These plans are designed to meet your financing needs in your state, which is a huge bonus for those seeking financing from banks. It’s also heavily focused on fundraising, which makes it a good choice if it’s a priority for you.
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