Starting your own business can be such an overwhelming endeavor, it can be hard to know where to begin. But, before you order new business cards, open a business bank account, or begin to find customers, you should write a detailed business plan. In this article, entrepreneur Brian Colpak provides a step-by-step guide for writing a successful business plan.

Robert Kiyosaki, the founder of the financial education company, Rich Dad, said, “Starting a business is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. In mid-air, the entrepreneur begins building a parachute and hopes it opens before hitting the ground.” While in the throes of launching a business, it can sure feel that way.

To mention a few, when starting a business, you will be responsible for securing funding, assembling a stellar team, finding customers, and outfoxing your competition. And, that is after you come up with a winning idea for a business. What you need is a guiding star, and that’s where your business plan comes in – it is your instructions for building a parachute.

A business plan is (or should be) much more than a document you hurriedly put together to satisfy your banker or the SBA. No, your business plan is like the north star — it should always guide your direction. Every business decision of any consequence should be measured against the principles outlined in your business plan. It is the map that will get you to your destination. Without it, you are lost.

The SBA suggests that you include the following sections in your business plan:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Organization and management
  • Service or product line
  • Marketing and sales
  • Funding request
  • Financial projections
  • And an appendix for supporting documentation

What you put in each section will determine how helpful your business plan is for guiding your decisions.

Like any journey, you must begin with the destination in mind. Follow these steps as you flesh out the details of your business plan using the SBA recommended sections as a guide:

  1. Write down the purpose of your business. This step seems elementary, but it’s harder than you might think. Some common purposes for creating a business include financial independence, better work-life balance, providing for retirement, or putting your kids through college. Each of these will require that you focus on different aspects of your business, so make sure you have this right.
  1. Write down the goal of your business. The goal is different from the purpose. The goal is what your exit strategy looks like. You may have a purpose statement that says you want your business to provide for your retirement. In this case, the goal may be to build up the company to the point where you can sell it for a nice nest egg. On the other hand, you may have a purpose statement indicating you want to provide financial independence for yourself and your family. In that case, your goal would be to keep the company running so you can hand it down to your children when the time comes.
  1. Write down your life’s guiding principles. As you create your business plan, you need to have those things that are most important right in front of you. Is it family, faith, honesty, service, or any number of other principles? These statements should guide the creation of your business plan because the business plan will influence how you run your company, and largely, live your life.

The final important part of a business plan is how you use it after it is created. Too many new businesses fail because what inspired the owner to get started gets put in a drawer and forgotten. Your business plan should be a part of every critical decision. You can change it as circumstances change, but it should always be consulted when seeking your direction.

About Brian Colpak

Brian Colpak is a tech entrepreneur and the founder of Continental Global. After spending most of his career in managerial positions, he founded and led a company that was recognized as one of the top 100 fastest growing companies in Massachusetts before starting his current company. These days his main focus is on an upcoming project in Dubai.