A business plan is a formal statement of business goals, reasons they are attainable, and plans for reaching them. It may also contain background information about the organization or team attempting to reach those goals.
Business plans may be internally or externally focused. Externally focused plans target goals that are important to external stakeholders, particularly financial stakeholders. They typically have detailed information about the organization or team attempting to reach the goals. With for-profit entities, external stakeholders include investors and customers. External stake-holders of non-profits include donors and the clients of the non-profits services. For government agencies, external stakeholders include tax-payers, higher-level government agencies, and international lending bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, various economic agencies of the United Nations, and development banks.
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.
A business plan is a blueprint for how your business will run and reveals what future direction your business will take. Understandably you will want to be careful who you show your plan to and avoid your competition seeing it.
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