10 Questions to Ask if You Want to Create a Winning Business Plan

By:  Arlene Weintraub

The stodgy business plan—that multipage printed document that entrepreneurs used to hand out at meetings with venture capitalists—has gone the way of the typewriter and Rolodex. These days, entrepreneurs are expected to lay out their strategies in slick Power Point presentations, complete with colorful pictures and informative charts.

But while it’s true that the format of the business plan has changed, the substance most certainly hasn’t. If you’re headed out to raise capital for your company, you’ll still need to address key issues about the size of your market, the experience of your team, and your long-term financial goals. In the wake of the financial crisis, persuading potential financiers that your plan has legs will be especially challenging.

Here are the key questions you should ask yourself before you fire up Power Point and start preparing your slides.

1. Have I proven that I’m filling an unmet need in the market?
As the economy still struggles to turn around, entrepreneurs are under pressure to gauge the strength of their market—in detail—before they go out and raise capital. Try test marketing your product on a small scale so you can realistically forecast how much you can sell in the future, suggests Edward Hess, professor and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.

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