So you've had the idea that you hope is going to make your fortune - what next?
However excited you may be, before you rush into choosing office space and chasing clients you need to put together a business plan – something that sets out your business goals, and helps you assess whether they are actually attainable.
It's not a hard and fast rule, but in my experience, the better the initial business plan and the more thought that goes into it, the more likely a business is to be an actual success. It's certainly invaluable if ever you need to seek finance for your venture.
So with that in mind I've pulled together a few tools which I think come in handy when you first sit down to put together your business plan. I hope you find them useful!
1. The Small Business Administration website
If, being honest with yourself, you're not 100% sure what a business plan should actually look like then the SBA site is a great place to start. There's a really handy overview of what to include in each section and you can even sign up for an account and use the website to build your plan from scratch with an easy step-by-step process.
If in an ideal world you'd get someone else to write your business plan for you then say hello to Enloop. This free tool does all the hard work and auto-writes your plan for you - all you have to do is input your information and it does the rest. It even forecasts the success of your business – not bad for something that doesn't cost a cent!
3. Business plan templates
Type business plan into Google and you'll get dozens of free, easy-to-follow templates to help you structure your plan. As with anything on the web, it's best to exercise a bit of caution - some templates are good, others, not so much. Look over a few and see which one best fits your needs. I like these ones from Office Depot which vary depending on what type of business you are starting.
4. Shopify's in-depth guide
Most of my suggestions are for things that make writing a business plan quicker and simpler, but if you want to really immerse yourself in what makes a good plan then Shopify's 9-chapter guide is a good read. It is aimed at ecommerce businesses but I think there's some useful stuff in there for any would-be entrepreneur.
5. The $100 start-up's 1-page plan
In need of something to help organize your thoughts? This 1-page plan could be the tool for you. It asks a series of simple questions, like &"what will you sell?" and "how will customers find out about your business" which really encourage you to focus on the basic premise of your idea.
You knew I wouldn't be able to resist including an app in this list... Create and update your business plans anywhere, anytime with Stratpad. I've not used it personally, but it claims to be the most highly rated app of its kind, so it must be doing something right! As well as helping you write and format an initial plan, it tackles financial projections and has some handy video tutorials on how to run a successful business.
Now, what are you waiting for - get writing that business plan!