The small business landscape is always evolving, but many experts still agree that when it comes to writing a business plan, this old adage still applies: A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Starting a business venture without a thoughtful, detailed plan is a big no-no — a quick route to disaster. But writing that plan can be a pretty intimidating prospect for novice entrepreneurs.
In the past, you practically had to get an MBA to learn how to prepare the kind of tome that might persuade traditional lenders to fund your startup. But these days, investors — especially venture capitalists and people involved with nontraditional, crowd-sourced or online sources of business funding — are more open to receiving the information in novel ways, and they tend to value business plans that are short, sharp and to the point. They still expect you to examine your assumptions, think through variables and be able to answer any question that might arise about your business idea, but they no longer demand a plan as heavy as a phone book. In today's marketplace, it's more important than ever that you utilize available technologies to make your business idea stand out.
There are plenty of tools you can use to generate a business plan online. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a great place to start. Its online business plan tool offers a step-by-step guide to help you think through all the aspects of your business. Best of all, you can use your completed plan to discuss next steps with a mentor from one of the SBA's resource partners. Other sites offer free, paid or subscription-based options for generating a business plan online. Even if you choose not to take advantage of their online tools, these outlets are great sources of information for writing your own business plan. Some also offer templates and sample business plans you can download and customize.