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Planning For Success

A solid business plan makes the difference between a good idea and a profitable one.

This story appears in the March 1996 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine.

A finished serves as an operating tool to help you manage your business and work toward its . It allows you to put nebulous thoughts into concrete form. It is the difference between those who merely have an and those who make money on one. And it is the most important step you can take towards making your dream of owning a business a reality.

Regardless of what you've been told by friends and associates, writing a business plan is necessary for success. How much capital will you need to start the venture? What legal form will the business take? How long will it be before the business breaks even? What is it about your business that will make it succeed? Inquiring minds want to know-especially bankers, venture capitalists and any other sources you approach for start-up funding and expansion capital. Although there are many different structures for a business plan, they all contain the following elements:

Executive Summary

"An executive summary captures and presents succinctly the essence of the business plan. It is, in effect, a capsulized version of the entire plan," writes Harold J. McLaughlin, PhD, author of The Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Better Business Plan (John Wiley & Sons). While the summary is placed first, you should write it last. "It is only after the entire plan has been thought through and written that one is able to capsulize effectively and concisely."

"In addition to facilitating a quick understanding of the proposal, an executive summary should get attention," says McLaughlin. "Many venture capitalists, investors and lenders indicate that it is not unusual for them to discard a proposal without reading beyond the executive summary."

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