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Where to Get Help with Writing Business Plans

Writing a business plan can be a daunting process. Before you begin to feel overwhelmed and burdened, identify the key people who can help you during the planning process.

If you’re in business on your own, chances are you’ll shoulder most of the business-planning efforts yourself. If you’re part of a business team, enlist the help of others in your company. For one thing, people with different backgrounds have different perspectives that add breadth and depth to your business plan. What’s more, by involving key people in the planning process, you ensure that they have a strong stake in getting results after you finish the written plan.

Some companies hire consultants to handle parts of the process. The downside of sourcing the work to outsiders is that you may end up with a plan that doesn’t really reflect what’s happening in your company. Worse yet, you may fail to win the commitment of the managers who are ultimately responsible for putting the plan into action.

To get inside, make sure that your senior management team plays a central role. The marketing team, for example, may be charged with writing the company-strategy section, and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is an obvious choice for completing the financial review. And think about asking someone in corporate communications to write a crisp, clear, to-the-point executive summary (but wait until all the other parts of the plan are completed and ready to be summarized).

When you enlist help in putting together a plan, you’re probably asking the people around you to take on more than their usual workloads. To avoid overwhelming the office, create a reasonable schedule for getting the work done. And to keep everyone motivated, share the importance of the planning process. If you’re asking people to put in overtime, reward them for their efforts. A dinner out to celebrate important milestones in the planning process can go a long way toward keeping enthusiasm high.

Because business planning involves a lot of brainstorming, discussion, vision, and revision, it generates a lot of paperwork. To keep track of it all, name one person to be the keeper of a loose-leaf notebook containing all the materials related to your plan. If you’re on your own, that person is you. If you’re heading up a planning team, make sure to assign a person who’s a natural-born organizer.

Finally, consider using business-planning software to help you through the process. All sorts of tools are available — from freeware and shareware programs to full-service commercial software.

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