As a current or future small business owner, you will experience the opportunity to write a business plan. It is not an evil invention of the financial or business industry full of hoops to jump through in order to delay your dreams. It is a tool to help you evaluate your idea’s potential before you talk to the bank or share it with other potential partners.

A business plan helps you see how feasible your idea is and if the local community or target consumer is ready for you. The great thing about a business plan is that when you reach that stage, you already know a lot about the idea so that it can simply become a way to write down what you know in an organized fashion. You get to become aware of the gaps you did not realize were there and start to fill them in with new knowledge.

Each plan is a custom one because no business is exactly like another. All women's dress shops are not alike, just as jewelry stores are not the same. Your business will not be the twin of the same concept down the street. With that in mind, you usually have three choices in writing the plan:

  • Hire someone to do for you
  • Purchase business plan writing software
  • Write it yourself

It is strongly encouraged that you write it yourself so that you are knowledgeable about the plan and its ideas and are better able to answer questions regarding it.

There are seven main sections of a business plan. There's the executive summary, which capsulizes the plan and is written last, as the first section. The second section is the business description, where you talk about the industry, the company and the products or services to be offered to the target customer. The third part deals with marketing and how you plan on reaching the target customer. It is here that you will show the need for the product or service and how many potential customers are in the market. A customer profile also is usually included here. Your pricing strategy is discussed along with your sales strategies.

The fourth part is a study of the competition. Competitive spying is legal as long as you do not break any laws in the lawbooks. You need to know who your existing competitors are as well as about any potential future competitors who currently have no storefront but could be on their way. The fifth section deals with how you plan on managing the business and the structure. You also will talk about your management team. Every industry has its own set of risks, so you need to address those in the sixth section.

The final section deals with financial projections and statements. You may want to enlist the assistance of a banker, accountant or business counselor to help you prepare the necessary statements for this section. They are a balance sheet, profit and loss and cash flow and three years of projections.

A lot of research goes into writing a business plan to help make it a document solid enough for a potential funder to consider providing the necessary funds. As a small business owner, you are not alone in this venture. You have many resources to help you: bankers, accountants, business advisors and small business development counselors. All have the ability to provide assistance to help you move along in its production.

Your area Missouri SBDC can help answer questions, offers training and one-on-one appointments, reach out to a location near you.

The Missouri SBDC is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.