Are you an entrepreneur that has grown your business organically and now you want to structure it in a more professional way for future growth? Or do you require external financing for your business and now need a detailed business plan to prove to investors or bankers that you have a clear idea about where you are taking the business and how you are going to get there?
If you have answered yes to either of these questions then you need a system to get your business plan out of your head and onto paper.
Step 1. Visualizing is the most important step. It must be done from a position of power and a positive attitude. You cannot visualize a positive outcome if all you can see are problems in front of you. Take a 36 month jump forward into the future in your head and try to see yourself in a successful position. Imagine you have achieved all of the business and personal goals you only dreamed about 36 months ago.
Can you see all the wonderful things you have achieved? Can you feel the gratitude and warmth in your gut for having achieved your goals? It must feel real for you. Once you are in this position, ask yourself what the first thing you did 36 months ago that led to your wonderful success? Do not look forward. You must do this from the perspective of looking back. Write you answer down.
What did you do second? Write it down. What did you do after that? Write it down. Keep on asking questions until you have an exhaustive list of all the things you did that led to the wonderful success you now enjoy. With this simple exercise, completed from a position of power, you have in fact written a pretty detailed outline of your business plan.
Step 2. Brainstorming a business plan is the next step. Taking a linear approach can create a log jam for you. Instead, consider using mind maps. These are simple to use tools that allow you to think in a structured way and allow you to ask and record all the hard questions about your business. There is no particular order in which you must approach it. In many ways, it might be considered a brain dump of all your knowledge about your business, your competitors, the marketplace and how you are going to define and achieve your business goals.
Mind maps allow you to record key information in no particular order while presenting you with a structure to use when actually writing the plan. There is no ideal length for a plan. It can run from 3 or 4 pages to 40 or 50 pages. It really depends on the complexity of your business and the markets in which it operates.
Step 3. Use your mind maps just like a table of contents. All of your key ideas and strategies are recorded on them. It is a simple exercise to take your well ordered ideas from a mind map and to quickly turn them into paragraphs of structured information that will clearly demonstrate to investors that you understand your business and have a clear idea where you are taking it.
Remember that writing a business plan is not an academic exercise. It is a road map that allows you to understand where you are now, where you are trying to get to, and the milestone activities you must complete during your journey.