Don’t necessarily need a business plan to get started
The first question everyone asks you, “Do you have your business plan done”? In my opinion, there is too much emphasis placed on this. If you are funding your startup with your own funding (equity from your house, retirement savings loan, friends/family loan), you should have a good idea of what you want to do and how you will do it but, you don’t necessarily need a full blow plan now. It is easy to get caught up in getting your business plan near perfect. That can keep you from starting other much-needed activities (business setup, website, budget, sales forecast,…). Starting with a full-blown business plan can actually deter you from jumping in because you can get overwhelmed trying to estimate all the variables of the plan. I would follow the old Nike motto here and “Just Do It”!I recommend you have a general plan or outline (I prefer to do mine in Powerpoint) with “holes”. You can fill in the holes as you complete each activity. If you like to check things off, you can use a business book that has a step by step approach and check items off as you go. You will find out that as you progress, things change on a day-to-day basis. It easily gets overwhelming and will cause changes to your original plan. I set up a schedule to update my plan on a monthly basis.
I would highly recommend that you keep your business plan confidential as long as you can because competitors can make aggressive attempts to find out what you are doing. The level of corporate espionage activity depends on the type of business you are starting. If you are opening a jewelry store, you probably don’t have to worry much about this. However, if you are starting an airline, the competitors will be very aggressive in obtaining information. If your banker, attorney, or whomever is asking for your business plan and they are not providing you funding, think twice about providing it to them. From my experience, these are the people most likely to find a way to cash in on sharing your information. You do not need a business plan to set up your company structure, start your website, set up your bank accounts, set up your tax structure, set up your bookkeeping or any other similar tasks. Use your business plan as an internal planning document until such time that you are looking for additional funding or a partnering arrangement.
If you plan on getting funding from venture capital, a bank or any outside organization, you will most likely need a full business plan. It will be a challenge getting this plan completed without actually having started your business. This can work to your advantage. If you don’t have any sales yet, the sky is the limit on what you anticipate (keep in mind that these professionals do have an idea of what is realistic).
These days, most investors or loan providers actually want to see that you are making sales before they will invest anything. The caveat to this is if you own a patent, invention , program or something that has actual value. In these cases, funding decisions will most likely be based on perceived future value. When dealing with any of these groups, you should have a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in place before you start any discussions. Also, make sure you are clear on how they want the information presented because they may only be interested in portions of your plan.