The planning process helps you learn about the different forces and factors that may affect your success. If you are already in business, it helps you to step back and look at what is working and what you can improve on. Instead of worrying about the future, a business plan helps to give you a sense of control over your business and your livelihood.
Having an understanding with third parties when distributing a plan could be enough protection for some businesses, however others who have innovative business practices or products or services may wish to go further and sign a confidentiality agreement with each person to protect their innovations. It may also be a good idea to include some words in your plan asking the reader not to disclose the details of your plan.
Your business plan should present what a banker or venture capitalist expects to see, in the order they expect to see it in. Following a standard business plan outline will keep you on track, and save you from botching your best chance at getting your business funded.
While every business owner should have an ongoing planning process to help them run their business, not every business owner needs a complete, formal business plan suitable for submitting to a potential investor, or bank, or venture capital contest. So don’t include outline points just because they are on a big list somewhere, or on this list, unless you’re developing a standard business plan that you’ll be showing to someone who expects to see a standard business plan.