Building Your Business-Planning Skills
A business doesn't plan to failit fails to plan. If you want your new online business to be a success, you'll need to plan for that success. To do that, you're going to need a business plan. A business plan acts as a roadmap for your company. It clearly states who you are, what you do, and how you do it. The process of writing the business plan is just as valuable as the finished product. Just the process of thinking through all the elements of the plan will help you avoid mistakes and even uncover some hidden opportunities. The business plan process includes thinking about your business, discussing it with others, researching your market, and analyzing your competition.
Besides acting as a plan for the success of your business, there's another reason to write a business plan. If you ever want to raise money from established capital sources such as investment banks and venture capitalists, a business plan is essential.
If your business plan is simply, "I plan to be in business," that's not enough. A good business plan helps you focus on your business concept, provides a framework to develop your business idea, serves as a basis for discussion with investors, and gives you a way to measure your business assumptions and performance that can be reviewed over time. It also will give you a clear understanding of your business objectives, strategies, and financial viability.
Here's a couple of tips to get started.
First, let's start with a template. You can download a free shareware Business Plan Template called Exl-Plan that lets you choose from different versions of the software based on the size of your business.
Second, if you want to test your business-planning skills before you start on your own business plan, why not experiment on someone else's? American Express has a business plan exercise that you can use at their web site. You can test your skills on a fictional business plan and then be rated on how prepared you are to create your own. Very useful.