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The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan

Thursday, January 2, 2014  
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Are you planning to start a business, grow an existing business, or start a nonprofit? Wherever you are in your journey, developing a plan to guide you to a successful business operation is critical. Nearly 50 percent of new businesses fail within five years. A well thought-out business plan can dramatically turn the odds in your favor. "The Secrets to Writing a Success Business Plan” author and SCORE mentor Hal Shelton suggests following his 12 commandments for writing a business plan.

1. A business plan is a marketing action.

2. Know your audience, and write the plan in a style and with information they need for the action(s) you want them to take.

3. Business planning should focus on the customer, not on the entrepreneur.

4. A small business is usually a bet on the entrepreneur, so provide a biography that demonstrates you have the technical and leadership experience to drive your idea to success. Either demonstrate you have the experience or you have surrounded yourself with others who have it.

5. The executive summary is the most important plan section. It delivers the message and sets the tone. It should be enthusiastic, concise, professional, and no more than two pages long.

6. Have sales goals that are supported by research and an actionable marketing plan.

7. Request funding in the amount you truly need, and support your request with financial statements.

8. Use of funding proceeds should be primarily for investments, purchases, and marketing activities that will generate the products, services and sales.

9. Surround yourself with advisors and mentors, and talk through your business ideas with them.

10. A business plan is never perfect and never finished, so do not procrastinate writing it or obsess about creating the ideal plan. At some point, you need to stop writing and start satisfying a customer need and making money.

11. It is all about the money.

12. Focus, Focus, Focus.

At any stage in your business, writing or refining your business plan can help take you to the next level. If you are looking for assurance that you are headed in the right direction, seeking help with a section of your business plan that you do not understand, feeling that a section of your business plan is not robust enough and want pointers, or want to learn where and how to apply for funding, take a look at Hal’s new book "The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan.” Entrepreneurs should use resources available to them, and work with mentors and advisors to help support them throughout their endeavor.

Bridget Weston Pollack

Vice President, Marketing and Communications

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