Is a business plan mandatory?

A business plan is a roadmap for your business, is a written document that describes in detail how a business — usually a startup — defines its objectives and how it is to go about achieving its goals. A business plan lays out a written roadmap for the firm from each of a marketing, financial, and operational standpoint.

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Without leaving you hanging, here are the five necessary steps you’ll need when creating that roadmap to startup success.

  1. Identify a Problem in a Proven Market. …
  2. Build Your Niche and Generate Buzz. …
  3. Assemble Your A-Team. …
  4. Have a Vision, Mission and Strategy, But Be Flexible. …
  5. Build The Best Product.

Business plans are important documents used to attract investment before a company has established a proven track record. They are also a good way for companies to keep themselves on target going forward.

Although they’re especially useful for new businesses, every company should have a business plan. Ideally, the plan is reviewed and updated periodically to see if goals have been met or have changed and evolved. Sometimes, a new business plan is created for an established business that has decided to move in a new direction.

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Here are 5 reasons every entrepreneur should write a business plan.

1. It forces you to think through all aspects of your startup.

Entrepreneurs generally focus primarily on the “big idea”—less on its execution. While the nuts and bolts aspects of startup, such as setting up an accounting system, may not be spine-tingling, they’re essential. While writing a business plan, you are forced to consider how you’ll run every aspect of your business—marketing, managing, financing and more. In fact, the very areas you’re tempted to skim over are usually the places where you need to really drill down. The business plan gives your startup a blueprint for success.

2. It highlights potential problems.

Would you rather uncover a major flaw in your business concept during the planning stage, or when you’ve already spent money on a location, inventory and hiring? By spotlighting possible obstacles, your business plan lets you plan how to work around them.

3. You’ll be prepared for anything.

Even if you’re not actively seeking financing, what if an opportunity arises for someone to invest in your startup or otherwise help you launch? If your business plan is ready to go, you can hand it over and impress them. If it’s not, you’ll have to stall while you scramble to write your plan—leaving the impression your idea wasn’t well though-out to begin with.

4. It will help you explain your concept.

Looking for vendors, business partners or even employees for a business that doesn’t yet exist is a challenge. A business plan can help people visualize your future business and decide whether or not they want to be involved.

5. There is plenty of help out there.

Yes, a business plan involves some grunt work, such as market research and financial projections. But technology has made the planning process so much easier that there’s no excuse for skipping it. If you want in-person help, the experts at SCORE can walk you through the process of writing a business plan step-by-step. Also, read SCORE’s Business Plan Resources Page for tons of tools, templates, blogs and webinars.