Hard work and experience count for a lot when you're trying to build a business. But if you're looking to establish credibility with lenders and investors, there's no substitute for having a good business plan.

One of the best resources to help you through the process is The Business Planning Guide, by David H. Bangs Jr. (Upstart Publishing, Dover, N.H., 1989). The 143-page workbook-style paperback provides a succinct outline of what good plans should have, and Bangs, a former banker, leads you through each step with helpful questions and comments. The book is filled with worksheets, forms, and excerpts from real plans.

For those interested in working on their plans while they're perched in front of their computer screens, consider two software programs that have commonsense, nontechnical approaches. Both BizPlanBuilder (JIAN, Los Altos, Calif., $129) and Success Inc. (Dynamic Pathways, Newport Beach, Calif., $129.99) provide users with practical tips, much as Bangs's book does. To streamline the plan-writing process, both programs take your keyed-in replies to questions about your business and incorporate them into a preformatted text.

-- Bruce G. Posner

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