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Getting started with your business plan

March 5, 2012 - Tags: Planning

Istock 000002364450largeThis guest blog post is provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency who is responsible for creating opportunities for economic growth in Atlantic Canada.

Your business plan is one of your most important tools in planning for the future of your business. It outlines your vision, what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there.

The process of putting your plan together helps you set the course for your business — preparing for obstacles, allocating resources and planning for opportunities. It's also a living document that should be updated as your business evolves over time.

A good business plan, which includes an effective marketing plan, also presents your business case to the outside world. It's a key factor in attracting and retaining investors and is often the first document lending organizations ask to see.

So, how do you develop an effective business and marketing plan?

You begin the process by focusing on a few key elements.

First, establish your basic business goals. Then, based on sound research, determine what challenges and opportunities your business may face. Next, clearly identify your target markets and competition.

And finally, consider and plan all the operational and financial requirements you need to achieve your goals.

Effective business and marketing plans are very thorough, anticipating and answering readers' questions before they are asked.

That's why developing a good plan can help you better define your goals, ideas and plans in your own mind before you go down that business road.

Tips before you start:

  • Involve all of your management team in the process, as well as any legal, accounting, financial or special advisors.
  • Engage the best writer and stay directly involved yourself in preparing the plan.
  • Emphasize your extensive market research, your vigorous financial analysis, and your management team's strengths.
  • Keep in mind that you are writing your plan for two audiences: financial partners who will use it as a guide to investing in your business, and you, who will use the plan as a blueprint to launch / grow your business.
  • Be comprehensive, but concise, in describing your business and its potential — the plan should ideally be between 10 to 40 pages in length.
  • Use the third person (not "I") in your business plan.

Did you know there are 9 standard sections in a business plan? Visit ACOA.gc.ca to find out more and stay tuned for more on these topics:

  • Executive summaries: a key part of your business plan
  • Production planning: show ‘em you can do it
  • All in the numbers: financials for your business plan

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