One of the most basic parts of building a business is building a business plan. But doing it well, like doing so many other things well, does not happen without effort. Luckily, this is not new territory for entrepreneurs, there’s been a lot of work put into business plans already.
That’s where the Tomorrow Toolkit comes in handy. A 20,000-word, 20-chapter ebook Technical.ly published with support from Comcast NBCUniversal. The toolkit is full of best practices and wisdom from successful entrepreneurs and startup leaders from cities around the country. If you don’t know who to take advice from, take it from these people.
Having a good business plan is important for showing to potential investors, submitting to business competitions or pitch contests — but it’s also important for a founder’s own vision.
“Do you want to sell to Google? Do you want to go public? Do you want a business you run for 20 years? Do you want some part-time income?” said Frank DeSantis, the director of the Emerging Enterprise Center, an incubator operated by the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce in Delaware. “There is no wrong answer, but you need to know what you want.”
So here are a few bits of advice:
- Start with the basics. Write a traditional business plan as the beginning. Share it with closely held friends and families for a first look. Ask the most important question: is this easily understood? You should be able to clearly articulate the value you’re providing.
- Incorporate a social mission strategy into your elevator pitch. The famed quick pitch is meant to challenge you to drop the details and focus on the big idea as succinctly and clearly as you can.
- Get serious feedback. Visit a Small Business Development Center for one of their regular business plan–related sessions. If you have access to other professionals or experts, ask if they’ll review your business plan.
- Synthesize Simply. Make a first pass at making sure what you’re building is easily understood. This is the beginning of your elevator pitch and should easily follow your business plan writing.
- Update it. A business plan isn’t just to get started. It reflects your current business, and should be updated as you go.
Think of your business plan as your map. You can change where you want to end up, but after every turn you need to be clear on how to get there.