Offices & Operations mentor Charles J. Bodenstab responds:
Every small business should make a business plan, although a plan that you put together strictly to keep a lending institution happy will most likely be of little use other than to satisfy that requirement. Small-business owners should create a plan that explains their business strategy and goals. The very act of creating the plan and committing it to writing will force you to distill disparate ideas into a coherent strategy.
Don't get hung up on the format. The plan is for your use and should tell your story in your own way. It should also serve to define the business strategy for the rest of the organization as well, thereby making them a part of the process -- something small-business owners tend to ignore. An article I wrote for Inc. magazine in 1989, "Directional Signals," covered many of these points in greater detail. My conclusion was that, surprisingly, small-business owners have more to gain from creating a business plan than the large companies do.