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5 Keys to Creating a Killer Business Plan

Americans are starting businesses at a faster pace than ever before. According to the latest surveys of U.S. entrepreneurial activity, the number of new businesses created has increased every year since 2007, to record levels. Thank the crummy economy. “Challenging economic times can serve as a motivational boost to individuals who have been laid-off to become their own employers and future job creators,” says Carl Schramm, CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, an entrepreneurship think tank.

Whether you’re looking to turn an entrepreneurial dream into reality or re-evaluate and expand an existing business, a smart business plan can make all the difference. Writing a business plan is a key step in turning an idea into a thriving new business or simply breathing new life into one that needs a push.

Here are five keys to creating a killer  business plan, suggested by Steven Peterson, Peter Jaret and Barbara Schenck, co-authors of Business Plans Kit For Dummies:

1. Take your time and get it right

It’s tempting to rush through the planning process in your excitement to get a new or re-worked business venture underway. Don’t. The time you spend on planning at the outset will save you far more time later on once you are up and running. And as you will find, your time will be even more precious once your plan is in action.

2. Don’t skimp on research

A good business plan should be based on more than just your own great ideas. An effective plan depends on a complete and accurate understanding of your market, your customers, your financial situation and your business environment. Through research you’ll learn new things and it may even change your plan altogether.

3. Involve the right people

If you’re a current business owner trying to re-energize your business, the ultimate success of your plan depends on the dedication and motivation of your team. You can’t do it all on your own. Involving your team in the planning process will be a great source of insight for you as you decide what will work and what won’t.

4. Temper blue-sky fantasies with clear goals and solid timelines

Most business plans (or re-plans!) start with an idea: a dream to do something new, exciting or different. During those initial planning stages, you have big ideas, lofty goals, and the possibilities seem endless. It’s easy to get lost in the “someday” of it all and forget that in the beginning, you have to make actual progress toward sustainable results. In other words, make sure your plan includes measurable outcomes and feet-to-the-fire timelines.  In addition to making things easier (and more likely to get done), it will keep you motivated during tough times. Seeing goals being met and things being crossed off your to-do list helps keep you moving forward.

5. Write a plan that people will actually read

Don’t get carried away with big words and fancy formulas.  A business plan works only if people use it, so you need to create a plan that is concise, complete, and readable. Don’t weight it down with jargon, buzzwords, unfamiliar terminology, or overly-lofty goals. Inevitably, the only person that will impress is you. It will be much more impressive if you can construct a plan that people are interested in and that motivates them to want to be involved.

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