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Tips for Creating a Winning Business Plan

Originally published on Patch.com 

Whether you are seeking venture capital or financing operations on your own, you need a solid business plan for any new venture. Every entrepreneur should understand the basics of writing a business plan and know the essential elements that need to be included.

Creating a business plan serves many purposes. First of all, the simple process of outlining and writing a business plan forces you to think more deeply about your business, including the risks you face, the nature of your competition, and the key components that drive and differentiate your business. Creating a business plan can also help you secure the financing you need to grow your operations and build your business. Any lender or venture capitalist you approach will want to scrutinize your business plan. The more professional the plan, the better your chances of getting the financing you need. 

You do not have to create your first business plan entirely on your own. If you are already working with a business mentor, that individual can provide invaluable insight and help as you create this vital document. A good mentor will also be able to help you decide just how detailed the business plan needs to be. Generally speaking, a business plan that will be used to seek outside investment will need to be more detailed than one that will be used internally.

No matter what the purpose of your business plan, some essential elements should be included. The crucial features of a winning business plan include:

  • Your mission statement or vision statement - A brief statement that summarizes the business and outlines what you are trying to achieve. 
  • Company or product description - A solid description of your company or your product. 
  • Differentiation - What makes your product or business different from the competition; what sets it apart? 
  • Market analysis - A discussion of the market or niche you are trying to enter, a look at the current competitors in that market, where you fit within your niche and what kind of market share you feel your company can achieve. 
  • Management team - A look at your management team, including the owners of the company, officers and other key personnel. This section should also outline the business ownership and management experience of all key team members. 
  • Marketing strategy - How you plan to introduce your product or service to the community. 
  • Company analysis - A thorough analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the company, along with the opportunities you see and the challenges you face. 
  • Cash flow statement - Where your money is coming from and where it is going. The business plan should include a detailed and comprehensive cash flow statement. 
  • Revenue projections - How much you are currently earning, and how much you expect your business to make in the coming months and years. 
  • Summary - A conclusion that wraps everything up in an easy-to-read format. This part of the business plan is often called the executive summary, and it can go at the beginning or end of the business plan. 

No matter what the nature of your business, you need to include these essential elements when creating your business plan. Building a business plan is an integral part of starting a new business, and it is necessary to have the finished document reviewed by an experienced business owner, entrepreneur or attorney. Even if you do not need a penny in venture capital or outside investment, the simple process of creating and reviewing your business plan will give you a better insight into every aspect of your business.

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