A well-crafted business plan is crucial to success in business plan competitions. Not just any well-crafted business plan, but one that stands out from the crowd. For students in business schools, especially those in entrepreneurial tracks, creating such a plan is part and parcel of their education. For everyone else, it’s a learned art that combines your passion for a business with the down-to-earth details involved in getting that business off the ground.
If you’re a wanna-be entrepreneur or student who has a great idea for a business and either wants to enter a business plan competition or find funding, here are some factors to consider as you craft a business plan:
1. The answer is YES! What? To the question “Do I really have to write a business plan?” No one will take you seriously without one, and you can’t enter a competition unless you have a plan to base your entry upon or get a bank or other financial backers to take you seriously.
2. It’s about your business: A business plan isn’t some abstract, dull document that will gather dust on a shelf — it’s a living document that summarizes the passion, thinking and strategy behind the business that you plan to create. It’s about you communicating what’s behind your zeal and how you plan to bring your dream to life. It’s also not meant to be static; your plan should be updated as your business evolves.
3. You don’t have to go it alone: Not only are there many great resources on the Internet, but many colleges, universities and cities have small business centers where you can get free help in putting together and critiquing a business plan in progress. One of the best resources is the US Government’s Small Business Association, which offers online and in-person assistance in starting a business and writing a business plan.
4. Take your time: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s extremely unlikely that you can write a cogent, interesting and attractive business plan in a day. So get some help and put some thought into it rather than trying to set a record for the quickest business plan creation in history. Both Entrepreneur and Inc magazines offer comprehensive business plan creation resources.
5. Don’t give up: If you’re like many would-be entrepreneurs, you’re juggling your dreams of starting a business with a job, family and other obligations. There are likely to be days when your dream seems so distant and impossible that you want to give up. Don’t.
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