Thinking about and planning for a new business—or the expansion of an existing ones—can be very exciting.  Entrepreneurs usually have lots of ideas, hopes, and expectations in their head, jotted in notes, and maybe even shared with family, friends, or business associates.

The idea of writing it all down may seem unnecessary or even overwhelming…but it usually pays off with profits!

The greatest value in creating a business plan is not in getting a finished document in hand – although having a good written plan can be crucial if you’re seeking financing, negotiating a property lease, or getting an important vendor to accept you as a client.

The greatest value of business planning lies in the process of researching and thinking about your business in a thorough and systematic way. This process may take time now, but avoids costly, perhaps disastrous, mistakes later. And by working through this process you not only end up with a finished document in hand to convince others in your concept and your competence to run it, but you will also be well on your way to being truly prepared to start or grow your business.

You’ll be prepared to succeed.

Depending on the size and complexity of the business, it can take from several weeks to many months to complete a good plan.  Most of that time is spent researching and re-thinking your ideas and assumptions as you determine how to make your concept work under current and anticipated conditions.

It is worth the time to do the job properly because your written business plan is your roadmap for the future success of your business: it describes your destination and how you will get there. Just as a map can help you get back on the right road if you wonder off, a business plan helps the owner-operator get back on track after unexpected detours in the flow of business.

We have several options to help you in your Business Planning.

You can find many models and sample business plans on the Internet and in books; browse around and get an overview, but remember that many samples are for academic purposes and may be much more complex than you really need.  Consult your lender, SBDC business advisor, or other knowledgeable sources for suggestions of what is needed and how to proceed.

The SV SBDC Business Plan Outline is a generic model suitable for all types of businesses. You will modify it to suit your particular circumstances (we can help), and the level of detail will depend on the complexity of your business. In the outline, we offer suggestions about what type of information to address in each section. Don’t get hung up on length or complexity of the outline or plan.  Your goal is to provide the reader the best overall picture of how this business will operate, who its target market is, and why it will be successful.

Note that if you are still in the brain-storming stage of your entrepreneurial adventure, we highly recommend attending one of our Start Smart Workshops where you’ll learn the basics about starting a new business, and be prepared for an appointment with your SBDC advisor. This 10 Point Business Plan is another good place to start getting your ideas on paper before the class or your appointment.

We also recommend and use the GrowthWheel® model for making decisions and planning. GrowthWheel helps you get focused, set agendas, make decisions, and take action.

We always recommend that the business owner(s) prepare the plan personally because of the need to make and re-make decisions throughout the process. We discourage any template or plan model that involves you filling in blanks to achieve a written document. These almost always end up reading like the results of an “ad-lib” game where random words and phrases make up a story.

The Shenandoah Valley SBDC’s Business Advisors are here to help.

We offer workshops and appointments to assist you at any point between the first draft and the final plan. We have experience helping our clients address difficult questions, develop cash projections, and bring your dreams to reality.