Create a great business plan

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The beginning of the calendar year is an ideal time for entrepreneurs to make business plans. The post-holiday lull of early January is well suited for reflection and strategy. Though many thinkers in the business world may question the utility of a business plan, Forbes asserts it is important for all companies. Whether an entrepreneur is just starting and strategizing about obtaining startup funding or ready to expand internationally, a business plan is vital. Investors, if any, will ask to see it, and it can help direct the efforts of everyone, no matter what their level within the company. Furthermore, the publication writes it's best to create a business plan on a regular basis. Conditions and goals change, and a business plan should be a living document that reflects that reality. Here are some tips to make the most of a planning session and come up with a compelling and actionable plan for business in 2014:

Learn from the past

Bill Conerly wrote an article for Forbes reviewing a 20-year forecast he made about the U.S. economic environment more than two decades ago. What he found surprised him.

"For your next strategic plan, imagine a future that resembles past growth rates," he writes. "I don't mean that we'll go back to rotary telephones, but that the pace of future change will roughly match the pace of historic change."

While Conerly admits his method is simple, he asserts it is usually quite accurate.

Try novel strategies

In an article for USA Today, Rhonda Abrams wrote about her business's unusual focus this year for planning. Rather than a traditional plan, she and her colleagues will choose a single word as their business plan, and evaluate the business based on this single word in terms of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This intensely focused planning may work well for entrepreneurs who want more of an update than a completely new direction for their startups.

Get the plan to those who need it

Even the best business plan isn't particularly useful if it isn't in the hands of people who need it. Employees at all levels should receive a copy, as should any partners a business has - whether outside agencies for marketing or investors. This enables all stakeholders in a business to act in accord with the plan, increasing the chances of success in the year ahead.

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