Careers Business Ownership Business Plan Help for the Overwhelmed Small Business Owner Resources, Guides and Templates for Entrepreneurs Writing a Business Plan Share PINTEREST Email Print Business Ownership Becoming an Owner Small Business Online Business Home Business Entrepreneurship Operations & Success Industries By Alyssa Gregory Alyssa Gregory Alyssa Gregory is an entrepreneur, writer, and marketer with 20 years of experience in the business world. She is the founder of the Small Business Bonfire, a community for entrepreneurs, and has authored more than 2,500 articles for popular small business websites. Learn about our Editorial Process Updated on 11/20/19 If you are a small business owner who is struggling to write a business plan, help is here. Planning is one of the most important, yet often underestimated, parts of starting a business. In fact, many businesses fail from lack of research, goals and a thorough plan. The business planning process requires a lot of time, work, and effort, though. It can be overwhelming for many small business owners. This guide will explain why a business plan is a must-have, provide a shortcut to the business planning process, help you collect important background information, and get you started with a working business plan outline. Do You Really Need a Business Plan? Daly and Newton / OJO Images / Getty Images Do you really need to spend time and effort developing a business plan? Should you even bother? The answer is: Yes, you need a plan. But, no, you may not need a 10-page, structured, traditional business plan. In almost every case, having a business plan of some sort will help your small business succeed. A business plan gives you direction, helps you qualify your ideas and clarifies the path you intend to take your business. This article will explain some of the most important reasons you should slow down and create a plan to guide your small business journey. A Quick and Easy Business Planning Exercise Okay, you're on board and ready to write a business plan. The good news: You're on the right track. The bad news: This is where you may start to feel stressed, overwhelmed and completely out of your league. Take a deep breath. This business plan shortcut is the perfect place to start. The exercise asks you a series of questions about your business, your goals, and your future plans. Once you write down your answers, you will have a short, streamlined business plan. You will be able to use it as-is to get started with your business, or it can be a starting point for a more in-depth business plan. What's Your Mission? One of the questions asked in the simple business planning exercise above is: What is your mission? Your mission statement can guide your company from startup to established business, and keep you on track to reach your business goals. A mission statement is a great way to stay grounded and focused. This article outlines three important elements of an effective mission statement. It will help you clarify why you're starting your business and your overall goals. Developing a Unique Selling Proposition Another important part of the simple business plan exercise is your unique selling proposition (USP). You will use your USP throughout all of your future marketing activities, but it's also a useful tool in planning your business from the very beginning. A USP basically outlines how your business, product or service is different from your competition's. This may sound simple, but it can be difficult to identify. When you've created an effective USP, it can become an integral part of a successful business. This step-by-step exercise will help you write a USP for your business. Using SMART Goals A big part of your business planning process is identifying where you are right now, where you hope to be, and how you plan to get there. When you are outlining your objectives in your simple business plan, it will help you to think in terms of SMART goals. That is goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. This overview of SMART goals will help you make sure your business objectives are realistic and provide an effective tool for focusing your action plan later on in the planning process. Pulling Together Your Business Plan Financials The money part is often the part of business planning that causes the most stress. It can be very challenging to realistically forecast what kind of capital your business will need, how much it will cost to keep it running, and what the potential revenue will be. To start, review this overview of business plan financials. It provides a clear explanation of an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow projection. This is a great primer to get you started, especially if you are overwhelmed by your business plan financials. Once you're comfortable with the basics, you can dig a little deeper into sales forecasting to explore what you should be researching in the industry and in your market in order to make sound forecasts. A Complete Business Plan Outline for Traditional Business Plans You may have started with the simple business plan exercise and decided you were ready to add more meat to your business plan. Or, perhaps you are jumping right to the traditional business plan because you need it for investors, a grant application or to solicit some other type of support. This is where you want to go next if you're ready to develop a traditional business plan, ready for external eyes. This business plan outline walks you through each standard section of a business plan, in the order, they typically appear. It provides an overview of what should be included in each section and includes examples and tips for writing each section of your business plan effectively. Are you still overwhelmed? I hope not! But if you do feel like you're getting overwhelmed again, take a step back. Whenever you hit a bump in the business planning process, go back to the basics and take it one step at a time. Try not to worry about the end result as much as each individual part as you're working on it. With this mindset, you will have a working business plan that you are ready to execute before you know it.