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Are You Avoiding Writing a Business Plan?

By Audrey Seymour

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Do you find yourself resisting the idea of writing a business plan, or not following through on your intention to have one?   

Reflect on when you first had the vision for your business. What need or mission was it intended to serve? What called you about this particular purpose, and what specific impact did you want to make in the world?

Entrepreneurs often view business plans as dry documents. Yet if you keep in mind your original inspiration, it can be a pleasure to envision the shape your work will take as you pull the pieces of the plan together.  Appease your inner rebel by remembering that you don't have to follow a rigid formula, but can instead pick and choose the plan components and style that serve your needs.

Business plans take many forms, ranging from a 20-page document with multiple appendices for potential investors to a one-page outline to keep you on track.  (See some recommended workbooks in the Resources section for full guidance in creating a complete business plan.)  Regardless of which format you choose, it's easiest if you schedule blocks of time to tackle the plan section by section.  Gaining momentum in a first draft is more important than getting it perfect.

Start by writing about the target audience. Construct a composite profile of the kind of client that brings out your best work, whether an individual or an organization. If it's an individual, consider factors such as age range, occupations, and lifestyle values. For an organization-level client, what size and what industries interest you the most? What priority challenges lead your ideal clients to seek your products and services? What are their purchasing habits and constraints?

The marketing plan section of a business plan arises from two fundamental questions. The first is "Where would this type of client look for what I offer?"  Would they rely solely on referrals, use online search? How will they find you?  Next, ask yourself what words they would use to describe what they are seeking, so you can tailor your marketing message to capture their imagination.

Once you know who you want to reach and how you'll reach them, market analysis will help you assess the viability of your ideas in the current climate. What recent trends are influencing the market? Who are the other players offering a similar or alternate solution?  What is unique about your offering compared to what else is available? Understanding these components will allow you to choose from among the products and services that interest you to find those with the best chance of success.

Now you've got enough momentum to address other topics that you need in your plan, including operations, future growth, and anticipated cash flow.

The key principle of a vibrant business plan is to bring together the  passion of your original vision with the practical considerations of the market. You'll want to apply your inspired thinking to what's really needed so that you can enjoy your best work while making a difference in the world.

© 2010 Audrey Seymour. All rights reserved.