If you are one who is intimidated by the blank page, never fear! There are several good software packages that will guide you through the process, such as Business Plan Pro Complete from PaloAltoSoftware. Business Plan Pro Complete walks you through the entire planning process and generates a complete, professional and ready to distribute plan with a proven formula for success. The planning wizard makes it a snap to get started since you simply answer yes or no questions to create your custom business plan framework. Bplans.com offers free business plan samples and how_to articles as well as a wealth of other information. It is definitely worth taking the time to checkout. Microsoft Office Online Templates also has a variety of free templates to use with their products. The wizard indicates the information you need and you fill it in as you go.
You may find that the easiest part is the actual writing of the plan. The real work comes in the data_gathering, which may take you a hundred hours or more, depending on what you already know or have researched. If your new venture is in an area where you've been working, you may already know about your customers, your suppliers, your marketing plan, your organizational structure, your financial and cash flow needs, equipment, inventory, and so on. If you know all of these except for Marketing, say, then this is where you will need to invest some time and effort. You can find a wealth of information by utilizing the traditional data sources such as chambers of commerce, major cities' websites, trade associations, the US Census Bureau, trade journals, magazine and online articles and advertising, etc. Performing keyword searches on Google, or Ask will bring up websites to check out. Following are some places to start: James J. Hill Reference Library (jjhill.org): One of the nation's premier business libraries to bring you FREE and affordably priced tools and resources you can use to create a better business plan based on relevant and credible data. U.S. Census Bureau (census.gov): A source for a variety of useful statistics, especially the Economic Census that comes out every 5 years. American Demographics (adage.com/americandemographics): Just as the title suggests, numerous free reports about consumer demographics in the U.S. nationally and by statistical area. Internet Public Library _ The Census Data and Demographics (ipl.org)/: An especially useful site that has links to information about countries other than the U.S. Corporate Information (corporateinformation.com): Features information summaries on over 350ꯠ companies in the U.S. and abroad for competitive analysis.