Wowing the world with your business plan

You're starting a business and you're looking for money from a bank or an investor. One of the first things you need is a business plan, but where do you start??? People typically start with computer software that helps you put your plan together.... something like Business Plan Pro.

But where people go wrong is in thinking that the business planning software is the answer to their prayers. They follow the template for the sample business in the software and they think they've just produced a fantastic business plan. Wrong!

The sample business plan in the software is not good. It gives you some basic ideas, but isn't thorough enough for you to just follow along and change the details for your business. If you want a great plan, the sample plan in the software just doesn't cut it, and it misses many key elements.

If you're serious about creating a top-notch business plan, your best options are to hire a consultant who can help you create a strong plan or invest in books and spend a lot of time researching on your own. The second option is usually preferable to start-up businesses because of the cost savings, although the first option will likely give you better results.

It seems simple to follow an outline for a business plan and fill in the blanks. That may be easy enough, but in order to produce an outstanding plan that speaks to the money people, there is a bit of an art to it. If this is your first business plan, it is worthwhile to invest in the help of a professional.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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