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A business plan is not a forum to display one's vocabulary or technical jargon, nor is it a literary epistle to later be transcribed into a novel for television. Some would well qualify for door stops or paperweights.

Many think that a business plan is a pathway to eager investors. They suppose pages of hastily prepared projections based upon guesstimates and wishful thinking, bound into a one-inch-thick document, will surely attract the attention of qualified financial interests.The plain truth is that a business plan cannot give you something that has not been given to it.

As a business owner, you know that you can do absolutely nothing about the past, and you are subject to the impacts of the present, but there is the entire future ahead. With a well-developed business plan that integrates industrial data with your company's position, a foundation is laid for planning, organizing and controlling the future. From this foundation is developed a dynamic business plan for success.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a yardstick. It measures historical facts about the business and its industry. These facts are real and verifiable, from business records in industrial publications. These facts are then used to build scenarios of "best," "worst" and "most likely" cases for the business' future.

A business plan is a living document. None of the projections are sacred. None are cast in concrete. Once created, the business plan is constantly adjusted to reflect the ever-changing business climate and its impact upon the company. The business plan works when it measures reality against projections, thereby refining tomorrow's objectives.

What should a business plan contain?

- An executive summary clearly stating the company's objectives.

- An industry overview and business history.

- A well-defined management team with qualified personnel in the area of production, marketing, finance and administrative controls.

- A market analysis and strategy defining market segment and market share.

- A financial analysis and strategy for developing capital to meet liquidity and growth demands.

As we now enter the last decade of the 20th century, it would be a good New Year's resolution for all small-business owners to review their business plans, or, if they do not have one, to create one. Statistics developed by Dunn and Bradstreet and the U.S. Small Business Administration show the primary cause of business failure is poor management, which is directly attributable to the business owner's failure to anticipate change. The business plan focuses on change, from the past, present and future. The astute business owner who uses his or her business plan as an internal tracking document for change, will not only increase profitability, but will increase the odds for success.

R. Kent Moon is senior vice president of Zions First National Bank's Small Business and Entrepreneurial Department. If you have any questions regarding today's article, Moon would be pleased to respond to your inquiry. Phone 524-4870.