Writing the Dreaded Business Plan

photo credit: This crazy life . Tammy

For some, the thought of writing a business plan is as pleasant as the stomach flu, yet the truth is that a business plan shares more in common with a diary and a to-do list than it does with a college term paper. So, break out that favorite pen (or word processor) and let’s get started!

Before you begin…

  • First, there are no hard and fast rules for writing a business plan, it is written by you for you!
  • Second, writing your business plan is an ongoing process and doesn’t end unless you’ve sold your company, quit, or failed miserably.
  • Third, writing a business plan is not about writing the plan, it’s about planning to set your business up for success.

Writing a business plan…

As mentioned before, there are no hard and fast rules for writing a business plan. Do you really need an executive summary, 3-Year pro forma, and sales forecasts for the next five years? Only if you’re going to find a benefit from these things.

The example below is the structure I used to get started, so feel free to mix it up, reorder, and modify it to suit your needs:

– The Vision –

What exactly is my business?
What problem does it solve and why is my solution the best/most unique?
What benefit does it provide to my customers?

– Branding –

What is my story and/or message?
What is my product’s personality, soul, and voice?
How will I translate the above into an identity, logo, website, business card, et cetera?

– The Numbers –

What does it cost to build my product and/or provide my service?
What are my expenses and are there any hidden costs?
What profit can I expect to make per item and is it acceptable/realistic?
What is my budget and what will I do if I go over?

– Beta Testing –

What existing resources/products can I use to help create my product?
Do I have someone in mind to try out my product/service?
How will I collect and utilize feedback?
How will I turn my beta users into paying customers?

– Sales and Marketing –

How will I get my initial customers?
How will I provide customer service and collect/utilize feedback?
What marketing channels should I explore – web, radio, print, et cetera?

As I mentioned before, this is what I used to get started and there are other pieces to the puzzle that can be incorporated such as funding, an exit strategy, employees, management structure, break-even analysis, profit and loss, et cetera. Ultimately, utilize items that will help your business grow and succeed now, and…

Beware Planning Paralysis!

Your goal is to set your business up for success; your goal isn’t to become an armchair entrepreneur pondering every detail of your business plan. If you don’t know the answer to something, do some research, ask SCORE for advice, try some focused beta testing, and/or make an educated guess. Whatever you do, keep moving and don’t put your business on hold by sweating over every little detail. Inevitably, there will be things that you won’t be able to account for so at the very least, plan for the current state of your business vision and fill in the blanks as best you can. And last but not least…

Frequently Revise, Revise, Revise!

“Be stubborn about your vision, but flexible in the details” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com CEO

Things constantly change, so writing your business plan should be an ongoing, organic process. Plus, imagine the waste if you draft a business plan only to bury it in your documents and forget about it.

Make a habit of periodically revising and updating your business plan, it should remain fresh, nimble, and flexible because you never know what disruptive events or changes await. Also remember that the longer it sits idle, the more it becomes outdated and less useful.

In conclusion…

Entrepreneurs do not need a business plan to succeed, just ask Pierre Omidyar who created eBay (initially AuctionWeb) on a whim. Yet a business plan is a simple and useful tool for collecting your thoughts, prioritizing your actions, and planning for your business’ success. Also remember that a business plan is there to help and should not get in the way of moving forward with your business.

Now it’s your turn, has this post changed your mind about writing a business plan or do you have your own tips on writing a business plan? Feel free to contribute or ask questions by leaving a comment!

The Closet Entrepreneur

Post Scriptum: As an additional resource, here are 5 Apps That Make Your Business Plan More Useful.

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  1. Eric Weisbrod

    Art of the Start has some helpful advice about writing business plans:


  2. TOMAS

    Hey E-Brod, thanks for the recommendation! Which reminds me, a professor at Purdue actually posted a 40 minute video of Guy Kawasaki speaking about the “Art of the Start” here:


    Great advice IMO!

  3. Thanks Tomas for the link…I am a student at Purdue but hadn’t seen those videos online yet.

    I have been reading through the Art of the Start and blogging a bit about it lately. It seems to go in depth on quite a few of the points in this article.

  4. TOMAS

    No problem Barrett, I’m glad you were able to make use of an additional Art of the Start resource.

  5. Tomas

    Thanks for all these great tips and resources! I’m an out of the closet entrepreneur (just!) and struggling to get going and your blog has already given me lots to get going on! Thanks


  6. TOMAS

    @Ingrid – Congratulations on taking the big step, that’s awesome to see! And by the way, you picked a really nice field to go into, you don’t know how many people stumble into photography and waste so much time and money because there is way too much info out there! Also, I would recommend checking out Flickr if you haven’t done so already – and if you do, be sure to add me as a contact 🙂 http://www.flickr.com/photos/since76/

  7. I’m entering a contest on whirlpool.com for moms with business ideas. I wasnt going to do it but today I had a brainstorm which I’m really excited about. I have business ideas daily and literally a list with hundreds of ideas I’ve not done yet but lately there are a couple which seem pretty good to me.I think I will use your tips to write out a business plan and see if either idea is feasible, but I get extra points in the whirlpool contest if I have a biz plan. Wish me luck!

  8. TOMAS

    @Winning Startups – Good luck on the Whirlpool contest and the business plan! I’m actually considering doing a blog post where I walk through the business plan I created for my business just so readers can get ideas for their own plans – more on that in the coming weeks!


  9. Eric Weisbrod

    Hey Tomas,

    I would like to see your business plan. So, even if you don’t end up posting it as a blog post, email me a copy if you get a chance.


  10. I’d like to see your business plan as well. I just finished my first one. I used exactly your format and answered your questions. Additionally, I have a section defining the roles and responsibilities for all jobs within the new company, even though initially all the jobs will be filled by me. At least I’ll know what I’m in for!

  11. Joe K.

    Thanks. I read your material a while back and now have an new product financed and am opening another new business. And all in THESE crummy eco-times!

    The KISS method really is still the best. I found that once I had their attention the next thing I needed to do was to sell the idea before I LOST their attention. Why do people with money have such a short attention span?

    Thanks again. These aren’t million dollar ideas I have here either but they will make me as much as $15 – $23K a month even during hard times. Perhaps BECAUSE of them. Not quite sure about that yet but —- well thanks for a quick, concise ad simple BP!

    Joe K.

  12. TOMAS

    @Joe – Really awesome to hear that you’re finding success in your business ideas (especially in the current financial environment) and glad to hear that the business plan writing advice was useful! 🙂

  13. I have always enjoyed working on plans since they give you an open field to experiment unlike business proposals. You also kind of draft a company’s strategy and policy….

    Amy Dyslex

  14. @write a writing – Thank you for the comment Amy! 🙂

  15. Philip


    The way you explained things and the example you gave made it seem much less daunting, and actually kind of like a fun project.
    I give you an A+!!


  16. As a small business owner, and working with many small business owners, a business plan isn’t “necessary”, but just like in life, the more direction you have, the more likely you are to succeed! Writing down the plans give it more energy too, I think 🙂

  17. @Philip – Thank you very much and glad to hear that the process seems less daunting! 🙂

    @Tracy Royce – Could not agree with you more. 😉

  18. Tomas thanks for share. This article really helped me to start writing a business plan. So far, I have always felt a bump for business planning. I am very happy to visit here .. 🙂

  19. As an entrepreneur who has started and built several businesses, I would say having a long complicated business plan is not at all helpful. I prefer a shorter, focused, get -it-done sort of business plan. The kind I use is two pages – I print it out, put it on my office wall, and review it when I feel the technician side of me is not staying true to the VISION of my business.

  20. Your Article is very interesting, It addresses writing a business plan issue in a very clear manner. I have enjoyed very much reading it. Keep up the good writing.

  21. nice post. keep posting and u rocks

  22. i really love entrepreneurshiP..! this is a big help thanks.!

  23. Indeed, business planning should be a continuing process. However, we should try to make the best plan from the beginning so that we won’t suffer the problem of repeating all over again. It’s great if we only change for improvement, rather than for starting over again.

  24. jackie tucker

    thanks, for keeping the math simple!!!!!

  25. stephanie stolz

    thanks for the simple business plan… its pretty simple in relation to what i thot…. keep up the good writing

  26. Misha

    Thanks so much for this. I’m an designer, not a business guy, so I’ve been putting off my start for weeks now because of the daunting words “Executive Summary”. Your outline really helped me solidify the ideas in my head and get out of that rut and get going again! Again, a thousand thanks.

  27. Joe

    I am curious if I could get a copy of your business plan so I have an idea of what mine should be looking like? thank you

  28. Eugene

    thank you! I wish to get a sample of a business plan for a new retailer

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