9 Helpful Guides and Tools to Develop a Smart Business Plan

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Check out what resources that the most successful entrepreneurs use when building their business plans and proposals.

Writing a business plan can be a daunting task. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources to pave the way.

These entrepreneurs from YEC have taken advantage of everything from graduate school databases to mentors, free templates and more. Use a variety to get different perspectives and make sure your business plan is the best it can be.

Related Article: Putting It On Paper: Free Business Plan Template [DOWNLOAD]

1. Entrepreneur Magazine

Entrepreneur Magazine put out a comprehensive step-by-step guide to creating a business plan that I highly recommend. The guide is available online for free (get it here) and includes preparation tips for what to do before you start writing the plan and how to actually set it up and get it written. There's also a range of tools (free and paid), including templates to facilitate the writing process. – Obinna EkezieWakanow.com

2. Small Business Association (SBA)

While technology helps, the Small Business Association also offers live support. Comprised of retired executives and small business professionals, their resources are among the best for helping you learn how to run and execute a successful business plan. – Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

SBA Business Plan

Image via Small Business Association

3. Business Model Canvas

There is a movement to get away from creating business plans. In theory, a business plan is a 10- to 30-page document that, once written, will go to a drawer to collect dust. The value, though, is that it forces you to synthesize your story. Alex Osterwalder's Business Model Canvas is a one-page way to share your vision. Distil the story to one page, and you'll achieve the same goal with less effort. –Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

4. Stanford's Center for Entrepreneurial Studies Database

If you have to pick just one guide, it had better be versatile. Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Center for Entrepreneurial Studies has a rich database of free videos and resources on just about every topic related to business plans. – Sam Saxton, Salter Spiral Stair and Mylen Stairs

5. LivePlan

Planning for a business can be difficult, but if you break down the big, hairy goal into sections and collaborate with your team, creating the vision and getting the team behind it is much more simple. LivePlan was built to make the entire process seamless. – Marjorie Adams, Fourlane

LivePlan Business Plan

Image via LivePlan

6. Local Small Business Development Centers

Most people will recommend DIY software for creating a business plan. However, what entrepreneurs really need is coaching along with a great template or software. From experience, I've found that most communities across the United States offer free or discounted business plan support through local small business development centers (SBDCs). Google your community for an SBDC and take action now! – Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com

Related Article: Need a Business Plan? There's an App for That

7. Your Mentors

I'm a fan of modeling documents like business plans after those that have proven successful. Therefore, I'd ask a mentor with a successful business that's similar to mine if I could use his/her plan as a template. This way, you already have the skeleton and can concern yourself with the "meat" of your plan. – Alexandra Levit, Inspiration at Work

8. On Deck

Whenever I need to present a great-looking document, I hire On Deck to make it. Their prices are extremely reasonable, and the product is always amazing. We've hired to them to make business plans, reports, proposals and more. – Cassie Petrey, Crowd Surf

On Deck Portfolio

Image via On Deck

9. Business Plan Pro

I've used Business Plan Pro for several of the companies I've started. I like that it has all of the templates you could need and gives information and ideas on how to use the templates. It's important to always have an expert review the plans, but it's a great starting point to get your thoughts structured on paper. – Marcela DeVivo, National Debt Relief

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