—Neil F. Anderson, Founder & President, The Courage Group, Inc.

This is the second part of a series on business plans that began here, so without further ado:

Marketing and Sales
While all sections are important, place major time and emphasis on these sections. Tip for future entrepreneurs still in college-take as many marketing/sales courses as possible. Tip for those just starting their careers but want to be future entrepreneurs, get as much sales and marketing experience as you can from your company. The readers digest version of marketing; how are you going to find clients/customers. Sales; how are you going to sign them up. Nothing else matters unless you have paying customers. Most new companies will fail. Why” lack of marketing and sales.

Best Time To Write A Business Plan
The best time to write a business plan is before you start the business. Keeping your day job, still collecting your regular paycheck and insurance. But writing the business plan at night and on the weekends. Bonus reason-you may find that after writing the draft, you come to the conclusion that it really was not a very good, sound business idea after all. Thereby, potentially saving you time and money. Maybe even your marriage.

Worst Time to Write a Business Plan
A terrible time to write a business plan is when you are under the gun. Panic sets in with the entrepreneur/small business owner, (who is running out of money) when a banker or investor asks the question; where’s your business plan? Now the business gets neglected at the worst time, as the entrepreneur has to “stop the presses” and take time to write the plan. Plus, you are not going to do your best thinking, writing under tight time constraints. This will be reflected in the quality of your work. If the money people don’t have confidence in your plan, sorry, no money here.

The Highway Analogy
It’s true. Not taking the time to write business plan, especially for first-time entrepreneurs, is like driving down the highway with no steering wheel. Pretty scary. To succeed, you have to know what you are doing. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for a potential train wreck. Worse, having to give up on your dream and end up going back and working for someone else again.

Writing a well-thought out plan takes time. A certain amount of sacrifice will be needed on your part. But what is more important? Watching a game on television, which will do nothing to improve your life, or doing something that can help you control your own time, income and destiny. Short term sacrifice for long-term gain.

Lose the Mumbo-Jumbo
Want to dramatically improve the chances of receiving start-up/expansion funds from bankers and investors? Then lose the mumbo jumbo from your vocabulary. The money people want to see straightforward English in a business plan. They don’t want to guess what the business model is, they want to read it and immediately understand it. So they can decide right away to continue or or take a pass.

Most people during their lifetimes will not start a company from scratch. But for the courageous ones that do, do yourself a favor and write a business plan. It will be a very valuable learning opportunity. The old adage is true; “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”