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This article is one of a series that offers insight and guidance into the process of buying selling or valuing a business. Whether you want to buy, sell, or appraise the valuation of a going-concern business, these articles provide specific guidance and references to help you accomplish your goal.

Do I Need a Business Plan?

Article from Palo Alto Software and edited by Russell L. Brown

Not everyone who buys or starts and runs a business begins with a business plan, but it certainly helps to have one. If you are seeking funding from a venture capitalist, you will certainly need a comprehensive business plan that is well thought out and demonstrates sound business reasoning.

If you are approaching a banker for a loan for a start-up business or a business purchase, your loan officer may suggest a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, which will require a business plan. If you have an existing business and are approaching a bank for capital to expand the business, they often will not require a business plan, but they may look more favorably on your application if you have one.

Reasons for writing a business plan include:

  • Support a loan application
  • Raise equity funding
  • Define objectives and describe programs to achieve those objectives
  • Create a regular business review and course correction process
  • Define a new or newly purchased business
  • Define agreements between partners
  • Set a value on a business for sale or legal purposes
  • Evaluate a new product line, promotion, or expansion

What's in a business plan?
A business plan should prove that your business will generate enough revenue to cover your expenses, but a business plan may vary depending upon whom your audience is. If you are writing a plan for your colleagues and partners, for example, to expand an existing business, then the focus of that plan may be more operational than financial. Yes, you are going to show your partners how this expansion will mean more revenues, but they are going to want to know the nuts and bolts of how this new venture is going to be implemented.

If you are writing a business plan for a bank, your bank manager will want to see that your ideas are well thought out, but the most important aspect to him or her will be your financials. Are your assumptions realistic? And will the cash flow of the business be enough to ensure that you can make the monthly payments for the loan that you have requested? If your business is making $10,000 a month and your expense payments are $12,000 a month, the bank is likely to turn you away.

When considering an investment opportunity or business purchase, most venture capitalists look at the obvious trends and market niches. Transcending the business elements, however, the most important factor in a decision to invest in a company is the quality of the people. In real estate, the three biggest criteria are "location, location and location." The venture capital axiom is "people, people and people." VCs will ask, how experienced are the people that are going to run this business? Do they have knowledge of the industry? Have they started successful ventures in the past?

What makes a successful business plan?

  • Presents a well thought out idea
  • Contains clear and concise writing
  • Has a clear and logical structure
  • Illustrates management's ability to make the business a success
  • Shows profitability

Bringing it all together...
Your business plan is like your calling card, it will get you in the door where you'll have to convince investors and loan officers that you can put your plan into action. You want your calling card to look impressive, so make sure your business plan is printed out on good quality paper, you have checked the spelling and grammar and that your numbers add up. Anyone who sees errors while reading your plan will wonder whether you are going to make similar errors in running your business.

A great business plan is the best way to show bankers, venture capitalists, and angel investors that you are worthy of financial support. Make sure that your plan is clear, focused and realistic. Then show them that you have the tools, talent and team to make it happen.

Find out more
about the leading business planning software
Business Plan Pro

Additionally, you're considering buying, selling, or determining the value of a business, please take a look at some of the excellent books, reports, and software we have at Business Book Press to help you achieve success. For example:

The Business Reference and Pricing Guide is the bible of the business brokerage world. If you're a shrewd business buyer or seller, you will want this book to learn what just what the business broker knows. It will pay you big dividends throughout every aspect of the purchase and sale process. Learn more about it...

BizPricer™ Business Valuation Software is an accurate and inexpensive resource for prospective business buyers and sellers (and business brokers) who want to know the fair market value of a business. No financial expertise or specialized knowledge is needed. Save hundreds to thousands of dollars over hiring an appraiser to provide you with a similar result. Learn more about it...

Preparing A Business for Sale provides business owners with an understanding of the process they need to know to sell their business for the most money. Contains hundreds of little known tips, ideas and strategies to maximize the selling price of a business. Learn more about it...

Strategies for Successfully Buying or Selling a Business is our bestselling book. It has been recommended by Kiplingers Personal Finance Magazine, the BottomLine Personal Newsletter, and has been awarded the Best Business Book of the Year Award from the North American Bookdealers Exchange (NABE). Learn more about it...

Anatomy of a Business Purchase Offer provides you with all of the practical hands-on knowledge you need to make a successful purchase offer to buy a business. The author uses an actual Purchase Offer form to show you exactly what needs to be written and why! He details all of his recommendations in a line-by-line format for each and every aspect of the purchase offer. Learn more about it...

The Business Buyer's How-to Kit: We've assembled a specially-priced Kit with all of the key information you'll need to know to successfully buy a business.

The Business Seller's How-to Kit: We've assembled a specially-priced Kit with all of the key information you'll need to know to successfully sell a business.

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BBP Resources

Business Valuation Software
BizPricer software to easily, quickly, accurately, privately and inexpensively value a business.

Business Valuation Rules of Thumb
Most complete source of business purchase and sale information available. Hundreds of valuation rules of thumb.

Buy/Sell Business Process
Strategies, tips, due diligence process and insider secrets for buying or selling a business.

How to Make a Purchase Offer
Detailed process including interactive form on CD for making a successful business purchase offer.

The Resource Guide for Business Brokers
Extensive information about the business brokerage field. Includes 45 different forms on CD.

Preparing a Business for Sale
This book provides 100's of strategies and tips to increase the selling price of a business.

Business Broker Professional Starter Kit
Get started in the lucrative field of business brokerage.

Business Buyer's Kit
Everything you need to successfully buy a business. Hard copy or download.

Business Seller's Kit
Everything you need to successfully sell a business. Hard copy or download.

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