This guide to writing a business plan will outline the most important parts and what should be included in an effective plan.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A business plan is a written description of your business’s future, a document that tells what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot down a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you’ve written a plan, or at least the germ of one.

Business plans are inherently strategic. You start here, today, with certain resources and abilities. And you want to get to there, a point in the future (usually three to five years out), at which time your business will have a different set of resources and abilities as well as greater profitability and increased assets. Your plan shows how you will get from here to there.

Related: 7 Steps to a Perfectly Written Business Plan

You can visit our small business encyclopedia to learn more about business plans or our FormNet area to get the necessary forms to get started.

Before writing your plan

Writing your business plan

Business Plan Tools

Business Planning Videos

Video: What Investors Really Think About Your Business Plan. At our Entrepreneur magazine Roundtable, financial pros offer tough talk about the business plans of first-time entrepreneurs:

What Investors Really Think About Your Business Plan

Related: What Investors Really Think About Your Business Plan

Video: How Can I Hire Someone to Help Write My Business Plan? In the video belowTim Berry, founder and president of Palo Alto Software Inc., responds to a reader seeking advice on finding a low-cost writer to help with a business plan:

How Can I Hire Someone to Help Write My Business Plan?

Related: 25 Business Plan Tips From Professionals

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