Wrapped up in writing a business plan? Whether you're stalled on the first page or polishing the final draft, the Web's business plan resources can help. Here at inc.com, in the Writing a Business Plan section of our site, we've assembled a collection of selected articles, book excerpts and tools to help you with your plan. But we'd also like to alert you to the following useful sites and sources elsewhere online.
Writing an Effective Business Plan will give you a comprehensive cover-to-cover tour of a standard business plan's components. Created by the accounting and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP, Writing an Effective Business Plan contains plenty of solid information, particularly for growth companies whose plans are aimed at attracting outside investors. You can read the executive summary section online and request the book.
If you're planning a small enterprise -- and are writing a plan for yourself or a banker rather than for a professional venture capitalist -- here are two more resources that are particularly appropriate.
The Business Plan Road Map to Success from the U.S. Small Business Administration will help you create the essential parts of your plan. Most beneficial for traditional small businesses, The Business Plan Road Map to Success lists commonly recognized sections of a plan, outlines what each should contain, and suggests questions that will further focus your thinking. An appendix includes resources within the SBA and other governmental agencies.
The Business Plan Template from NEBS, a provider of business and computer forms, offers "cyber hand-holding" especially helpful for first-time plan writers. This template not only outlines the elements of a business plan but also allows you to write your own draft as you proceed. Tips are within clicking range all along the way if you need them. Your work can then be saved and formatted into a starter business plan draft.
In addition, a number of companies produce business plan software or provide business plan consulting. Some of those companies' sites include excellent resources for plan writers of all types -- if you don't mind getting a sales pitch, too. Here are some sites to start with:
Palo Alto Software, makers of Business Plan Pro, boasts several sites. The Bplans.com site allows easy access to an assortment of sample business and marketing plans created with Palo Alto software. The company says that all of the listed plans were approved for funding. For more individualized assistance, the Bplans.com site also has an "Ask the Experts" feature that allows you to submit business plan questions that will be answered via e-mail. If you just have a good idea and want to know how feasible it is for a business, you could try the MiniPlan site. It leads you through an interactive exercise to help you evaluate your idea. (Note: Palo Alto Software is also an inc.com Solutions Provider.)
Plenty of sites are full of instructions for writing a business plan, but few describe the very real pitfalls. At the Virtual Business Plan , developed by Internet-based business plan consulting firm BizPlanIt.com, you will find an interactive resource that not only tackles each portion of a business plan but also outlines common mistakes.
If you're interested in researching business plan software, other manufacturers' sites include:
Adams Media Makers of Adams Streetwise Complete Business Plan software
Finally, for a gentle reminder that a business plan isn't the be-all and end-all of your start-up, check out the Service Corps of Retired Executives' 35 Biz Planning Tips -- Best Practices for Practical Success. In this brief article from SCORE, a nonprofit association that provides counseling to small-business owners, you'll get a big-picture look at planning and starting a business.