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Starting to write a business plan can seem like a daunting task. Many entrepreneurs struggle to take the first step, however it can be much simpler than it seems with the help of a number of resources. Here are five great tools I would recommend for any entrepreneur starting their business plan.

1. Business Model Generation Canvas

To help you get started, I normally suggest beginning the process with the well-known Business Model Generation Canvas. This is a great tool for two reasons. First of all, it’s remarkably simple to use, which can be encouraging for a new user. Second and more importantly, this tool allows an entrepreneur to organize and structure their thinking. All key elements of a business model are presented in a logical manner through this tool. You would be able to clearly see the relationships between each of these key elements. With just a glance, you’ll be able to evaluate the business model, as well as refine, critique, improve, and set goals for the future. Once this canvas is filled, it would include all the key elements of the business model at which point you would be comfortable and ready to begin the business plan.

2. Kickstarter or Ulule

Whether an entrepreneur uses Kickstarter, Ulule, La Ruche (Quebec region) or any other crowd funding platform, it’s important to keep the end goal in mind: to get your product to market as quickly as possible. In a way, crowdfunding platforms are diamonds in the rough. They allow the entrepreneur to build their client list as well as confirm that there is a demand for their product or service. The question that is always on the minds of investors is: Have there been any actual sales to date? The greatest challenge of a start-up entrepreneur is to prove that they can convert the demand for their product into sales. In other words, they must prove that the demand for the product is not just a potential buyer’s wishful thinking, but is followed by a true intention to purchase. And the best way to measure the intent to purchase is, of course, by measuring the sales! Platforms such as Kickstarter or Ulule add credibility to a project by confirming the buyers’ intent to purchase.

3. Industry Canada

When meeting entrepreneurs, I always ask them whether they are familiar with the NAICS code. This is a standardized code for Canada’s different industries. Knowing your own industry in depth is a key to success. It is absolutely essential! A good business plan is always rooted in a keen knowledge of the industry, which means knowing all the players, different how-to’s, competitors’ performance levels, distribution networks, and of course, regulations. The Industry Canada website allows you to find the exact name of an industry as well as providing you with relevant data. For example, the financial data on competitors’ performance can be very useful for an entrepreneur. Such data can be used to verify the reasonableness of sales forecasts as well as comparing their performance to that of competitors. It’s just like seeing a competitor’s financial statements! It is well worth the effort!

4. Permits and Licenses Search Engine

The Canada Business website provides access to all permits and licenses required when starting a new a business. An entrepreneur simply has to enter the keywords related to their industry and a list of relevant permits and licenses will be provided. The search engine even suggests certifications or additional training which, although optional, may be useful to an entrepreneur. This is a great tool to use prior to starting to write your business plan.

5. Credit Report Explanation

When starting a business, it’s important to be well aware that its borrowing potential is closely linked to the credit history of its founders. This is due to the fact that a start-up has no sales history to provide and often very few tangible assets in its possession. It represents a significant financial risk for creditors who are considering providing financing. It’s important to note that creditors only have two things at hand when assessing risk: the business plan and the founders’ credit history. As is often said in entrepreneurship, at the end of the day, what really counts is the team. In a sense, when entrepreneurs have been fulfilling their financial obligations in the past, it reassures the creditors. They can then evaluate the business plan by saying that the person in front of them is reliable and they will do whatever it takes to repay the loan. The moral of the story is that you must quickly take charge of your credit score. Every entrepreneur should be familiar with the basics of a credit score. Browse through Industry Canada’s website to learn more about credit reports.

Are you ready to start writing your business plan? Use our Business Plan Writer and get started today.

Written by: Jean-Philippe L’Écuyer, Entrepreneur in Residence at Futurpreneur Canada, jplecuyer@futurpreneur.ca

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