Business Plan Template versus Sample Business Plan

Guest post written by Tina Bychkova, a start-up entrepreneur and the founder of Invest Engine

To write a business plan, each entrepreneur starts searching for the way to do it nice and fast. And since business plans have been around for decades the Internet is literally overloaded with business plan templates of all sorts and sample business plans of all kinds. But those free files might not always be a perfect solution. So what should you be aware of while getting your business plan done? And what is better – a blank template or a sample industry-specific plan?

The most popular free business plan templates found online are those by the Small Business Administration and Microsoft. They both offer clear business plan outlines. So you know exactly which sections most investors (or whomever you’ll address with your business plan) expect to find in your business plan and which things you are supposed to cover in each section. The business plan template offered by Microsoft is far more detailed, and since it’s a Word file, you can modify it intuitively. Additionally, you can find Excel tables with template business plan financials (balance sheet, profit and loss statement, and cash flow statement).

So, if you have done business strategic planning many times before and understand the logic of business plan financials perfectly, then with the help of such references you would create your business plan quite easily.

Using a sample business plan that describes a similar business (like opening a restaurant or a fitness club) looks very appealing to less-experienced entrepreneurs. It is so tempting to take a ready-made document, change dates and some figures, company name, city of operation, and that’s it. But usually it turns out to be even more time consuming. You’ll have to change practically everything: your target audience definition, unique selling points, competitive analysis, and promotional plan. Everything! And since no business plans on the web seem to share identical structure, you’ll spend additional hours (if not days) trying to figure out what to include in your plan and in which order. Needless to say, you’ll still need to find templates to calculate your business plan financials (or create those Excel tables yourself).

So far, it all seems like a nightmare. And no wonder many entrepreneurs criticize the very concept of business plan. But writing your business plan can be an extremely useful exercise that organizes your thoughts and ideas. And it can be fun, too!

If you select the right tool that will not distract you from thinking about your idea, you’ll enjoy the business planning process as the childhood of your project. This is surely the playground for creativity, research, and finding the new paths. Writing a business plan is like going through a questionnaire, carefully observing your idea from different angles and filling in the gaps. So at the end you have a solid vision of your project and an action plan that you’ve mentally rehearsed many times. And this is how you gain the confidence to implement your plan and the courage to overcome difficulties that will be there on your way.

About the Author: Tina Bychkova is a start-up entrepreneur and the founder of Invest Engine – the newly launched web platform that offers free business plan software and the opportunity to post these plans online to find investors. She is also a contributor at Business Insider and a blogger at Invest Engine Blog.

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