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A robust business plan is the first major test of your commitment to your business. It is the written result of extensive data collection and market research developed to convey an objective understanding of your restaurant. A successful business plan details every business process and strategy, determines financial needs at various stages of growth, establishes timelines for continuous and timely evaluations, and creates monitors to chart progress and keep you on track. A well-written plan can also identify potential obstacles, risks and market solutions and opportunities.

When done properly, your business plan will be the playbook for managing your pizzeria. As your blueprint for both internal and external purposes, your plan will enhance your ability to secure both debt and equity financing, establish credibility when developing vendor relationships and major accounts, and be the core model for expansion of your brand.

Writing Your Plan

Many people get stuck because they don't like the writing process; they believe it's too time consuming, or know what they want to say but just can't seem to get started. The following are some guidelines to help overcome that fear and write your own successful business plan.

How long should it be?

The length depends on the objective. For a one to three year plan, a standard length is between 10 and 20 pages, not including financial statements and the appendix. This is a good guideline to follow when applying for loans from $50,000 to $200,000.

Start with pre-planning

Planning ahead means conducting market research. Every effective business plan will include well researched demographic information on the proposed market area. This information will be the basis for your document. There are many ways to obtain demographics, including websites such as:

census.gov

bagwell.com

demoreports.com

Organization is key

Once your research is complete, the next step is to organize ALL of your information into an outline. Aside from demographics, be sure to include figures on liquid capitol and amounts to be financed. Charts on anticipated growth with detailed information on how you plan to get there are vital to money-lenders and will create visual appeal in your document. Always include your personal background; investors like to know who they are doing business with. Be sure to include both business and personal references that will promote your integrity.

Correlate the information

The most important elements of a functioning plan are its logic and financial projections. If the numbers don't add up, no amount of beautiful prose and presentation will make your plan viable. If the numbers don't correlate to the text, then the plan will lose credibility.

Write in manageable stages

Start by writing one section at a time and only a few sentences to begin with. A business plan is rarely completed and well-written when done in one sitting. The most important aspect of this stage is to get your thoughts on paper as quickly as possible without worrying about grammar, punctuation or even critique of content.

Don't write a book

A picture is truly worth a thousand words. Wherever possible, use charts, tables and graphs to present and analyze information. Remember that the reader is judging your business acumen, so stay on point and be clear and concise.

Revise and edit

View what you write objectively and don't be afraid to re-write sentences for clarity. It is common to rearrange paragraphs to improve flow and make the plan easier to read. Correct all grammar, punctuation and spelling in this phase. Spell check is great and you should use it often, but please remember it CAN be wrong. To, Too and Two all sound the same but have entirely different meanings!

Proofread

Have someone you trust read your plan but don't take their critique personally. It's much better to find mistakes before a plan is sent to potential investors or partners.

Polish the plan

Make any suggested modifications and improvements. Fill in missing information and do a thorough and final read through.

Your business plan is your road map; let it be your guide to quickly and easily made decisions. Use it as a tool to clearly define your business objectives to employees, managers and potential investors. Never forget that this plan is the written conception of your dream for the future. So take your time, think it through, and happy writing.

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Marla Topliff
Marla Topliff, president of Rosati’s Pizza, has helped grow the Chicago franchise from 60 stores in 1999 to the 170 national brand that it is today. She supervises all aspects of marketing, customer service, store communications and vendor relationships.
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