I suspect that if we didn't need to get a bank loan in place for our expansion, we'd have never written a business plan. When we started, we had very little idea of what it was for other than convincing a bank to give us money.
We started by buying one. Our first attempt was to purchase a plan. Seriously. We found a brewery in North Carolina that made their plan available as a template for $199. It seemed like a good, cheap solution and we figured that it would be helpful in getting scope around the task. What we found was unreal. It was super detailed and in ways that we didn't understand.
Our first attempt flopped. The result was a joke. We didn't understand what we were submitting and hardly understood how we were arriving at the numbers we were presenting. We blew through talks with six banks before scrapping it and starting over.
A friend of ours was our biggest help, and he didn't write it for us. I was on the phone with a good friend of ours. He's a business guy. MBA. A resume to knock your socks off. This dude is wicked smart. He casually made the comment, "I should totally start a pinball machine shop. Gimme thirty minutes and I'll have my business plan your way." Wait, what? Seriously!?! Okay. I knew this dude was smart, but you're telling me that you could knock out a legitimate business plan in thirty minutes? Folks, this sounded like a diet too good to be true. I pressed and he went off. His biggest point was that you're making an argument. You're answering the question, "why do you think this is gonna work?" What information does someone need to know about you, your business, market conditions, etc. to make the argument that you can make this work? Make the argument. And, do it yourself. You need to believe what you're putting down on paper. And if you need more information to make your argument, go ask someone how you should arrive at that information.
Our second attempt killed it. We developed our plan, not in thirty minutes, but in a matter of two weeks. We wrote an outline and made a linear argument. We also ended up with a really awesome banker. Our seventh call. He asked the right questions and we iterated. And it grew. In fact, it's roughly six times it's original size. But we understand it. And now it's a tool. We can measure against it. We can make legitimate projections based on the trends we're measuring.
If you need help, ask us. We'll gladly talk you through it in more details. But, we insist that you understand your business plan. And you'll hold onto it like a two-year-old holds onto his blanket.