Business Planning

Q: I want to start a business, and I know one of the first steps is the business plan. Can you tell me how long it should be, what kind of things should be included, and how I should get started?
–J.G. Smith, Via the Internet

A: Generally, business plans are 25 to 30 pages, even for start-ups, and should include the following information:

  • Title page
  • Statement of purpose
  • Table of contents
  • Business description
  • Market analysis
  • Competition
  • Business location
  • Management
  • Current financial records
  • Explanation of plans for growth
  • Projected profit, loss, and operating figures
  • Explanation of financing for growth
  • Documentation
  • Business summary and outlook
  • Listing of business and personal references

Don’t forget to hire a professional typist or word processor to type the entire plan on white bond paper and proofread it against the original.

I’d also recommend reading Business Plans for Dummies by Paul Tiffany and Steven D. Peterson (John Wiley & Sons; $21.99) and its companion book Business Plans Kit for Dummies by Steven D. Peterson and Peter E. Jaret (John Wiley & Sons; $34.99). These books will walk you through the process A to Z. The second book provides sample business plans, detailing which ones work and which don’t. It also includes a CD-ROM with templates, checklists, and other resources.

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