Starting or expanding a business? Looking for small business loans, venture capital, angel investors or other financial backing? Then you need a business plan, plain and simple. Every successful startup begins with a sound business plan
But why start from scratch if you don’t have to. By using a sample business plan, business plan template or helpful business plan software, creating a buttoned-down business plan that does what you want it to will be a lot easier. No matter what your business idea, there’s a free sample business plan or template that you can adapt to your own circumstances and needs.
Even if you plan to work from samples or templates, you should consider using business plan software to put the pieces together. While there are many business plan software choices available, Business Plan Pro (Palo Alto Software) is a “BizBest ShortList” selection and has been the #1 bestseller for a reason: It’s simply the best. At $99 for the standard edition ($159 for premier), it’s something no entrepreneur should be without.
And here’s a big plus: Business Plan Pro comes with over 500 sample business plans. Inspire yourself and your cohorts by looking at other successful plans. You can even start with a sample plan or template and merely edit and change what’s already there to be assured you start off on the right track.
Another key benefit of using business plan software is that it can bullet-proof your numbers. Nothing frustrates potential investors or venture capitalists like numbers that don’t add up. Because business plan software comes with built-in formulas and linked tables, you’ll be alerted to any missing numbers, and the software automatically puts data where it needs to go. Business Plan Pro also comes with data on over 9,000 industries, so you have numbers to back up your projections.
If you’re too cheap or stretched to spring for the $99, check out Bplans (also from Palo Alto Software) which offers hundreds of free sample business plans in popular business categories such as a restaurant, cafe, bakery, retail store, online or eBay store, beauty salon, day spa and service businesses such as accountant, insurance agent, self storage business and cleaning service. Other categories include consulting, real estate, fitness center, construction and engineering, hotel, bar, medical and health care, pet services and many others.
Free business plan templates are also available from SCORE . And coming from SCORE, rest assured they are well done and high quality. Free downloads include a business plan for a startup, as well as an established business. There are also business planning tools for nonprofits. Other helpful templates you can get for free from SCORE on the same page include: competitive analysis, startup expenses, opening day balance sheet, financial projections, breakeven analysis, bank loan request, cash flow statement, profit and loss projection, and sales forecast.
In the business plan templates for purchase category, Business Plan Success (Version 5.0; $49) is a good choice. It’s a quick and easy way to get your plan into a professional format (and nice looking, too!) that will get serious attention. The template includes integrated, fill-in-the-blank financials, is fully customizable and comes with lots of extras, including a directory of investor resources, and guide to SBA small business loans.
You’ll also find a large selection of business plan templates and sample business plans – both free and for purchase – at DocStoc.
Remember these keys to good business plan:
- It should be simple — which means easy to understand.
- It should be detailed and specific. Your goals, objective, benchmarks, competitive analysis, market overview and other key items should be concrete and measurable.
- Be specific about what actions the business will take, with specific completion dates, who is responsible, and budgets.
- Your business plan should be realistic, including your sales goals, expense estimates, market size projections and milestone dates. Unrealistic plans fall apart quickly.
- And be sure to read BizBest’s Five Steps to Business Plan Perfection.
Visit the BizBest StartupSmarts section for more helpful ideas and resources for starting a business.
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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.