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Often, one hears that business plans are passe, and that a good executive summary with a great 12-slide PowerPoint presentation are all one needs these days. But it's important to differentiate between a business plan (the document), and a solid plan for your business - while the former may not always be necessary, no sensible venture capital firm will fund you without the latter.

Business Plan Guides and Templates
If you decide to write a formal, full-blown plan, shorter plans (10 to 15 pages, excluding financial appendices) are better. Save the rest of the details, and use them as supporting material in face-to-face meetings. If you choose not to write the plan, try to find the time to go through the planning process anyway, and make sure you have a solid story on each of the key aspects of your business. Some guidelines, either way:
  • Creating an Effective Business Plan (from the AmEx Small Buiness Exchange)
    Very comprehensive and well-articulated. Useful in isolating the key aspects of your business, that you need to have a plan for. But if you use it as a template for a business plan document, you may end up with a rather long plan.
  • startups.com Business Plans
    Their ten points to focus on are all worth thinking about in the context of your business. Depending on what your business concept is, some may be more important than the others -- but make sure you evaluate all of them, before you choose which ones to zero in on.
  • Business Plan Road Map
    From the Small Business Association. Comprehensive, but could be more readable. Some of its worksheets are useful planning tools.
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