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5 Ways to Use Your Business Plan

It takes guts to defy chaos and predict the future of your business, and yet that’s precisely what an entrepreneur does when writing a business plan. Considering it’s a written roadmap that can be used at any point in the future to measure whether the business succeeded or failed, most people will put it off as long as they can. Of course, most people don’t own businesses either. But those who develop business plans quickly come to realize an abundance of benefits.

The most important reason to do a business plan is to gain understanding about, and create a blueprint for starting or growing a business. Once the plan is done it can easily be adapted to communicate with different audiences.

Here are 5 different ways to reconfigure your business plan, from longest to shortest.

1. The Complete Business Plan. Your full business plan will include an executive summary, the narrative and financial components, and a number of supporting documents. By adding well-crafted, personalized cover letters for each contact, you will be able to use your business plan to communicate with potential partners, grant fund managers, bankers and other debt financing agencies.

2. The Investors Business Plan. Right up front, investors will want to know your pitch; what problem your business solves, what value you place on your business, how much money you need, and what are you are offering in return. They will also need to know whether you are seeking debt or equity financing, the expected return on the investment, how you plan to deal with the risks, and what your exit strategy is. Most importantly, investors will want to know all about you, the owner.

3. The Employees Business Plan. The scope of the business plan you present for employees will be guided by your philosophy on how much employees should know about the inner workings of your business. For example, you might use the narrative portion of the business plan plus the sales forecast, but exclude the historical and current financials and supporting documentation. The main benefit of sharing relevant parts of your business plan with employees is to have all members of your team on the same page.

4. The Business Plan Brief. Also known as an executive summary, this 1 to 2 page version can be used to introduce your business to various audiences. It can be added to presentations and proposals, or hung on the office wall to serve as visible reminder of the corporate direction. The brief can include things like the business vision, the mission statement, the strategic and marketing goals, sales, and profit targets. It provides most of the content needed to build a business website or to design flyers, brochures, prospectuses and other marketing materials.

5. The Elevator Pitch. An elevator pitch is a brief introduction to your business. The term is often used in the context of an entrepreneur pitching a business idea to someone during the time it takes for an average elevator ride. It might be as long as thirty seconds or 100 words.

Those who do step up and develop a business plan will usually discover that it’s not quite as formidable as it seems at first. Business planning can be a lot of fun, and whatever else can be said, it’s a remarkable confidence builder and an amazing learning experience for those who go for it.