I wrote my first business plan when I was in beauty school of all places. Our instructor wanted to make sure we knew how to open a salon of our own if we wanted to one day. This assignment in hair school was a surprise to me, but I would say it was my favorite thing I got out of the experience (besides learning how to apply hair spray- lol). Twelve years, seven business plans, and an MBA later- here I am, co-owner of a business strategy, marketing and design firm that offers business plan writing workshops.

I remember writing that first business plan and being overwhelmed at how many things I had to find the prices for. I was going to open a health and wellness center, which, as I found out in my research, was going to require a lot of furniture, equipment and office supplies. I remember thinking how many details I hadn’t even considered in relation to opening a business.

Of course, that is the number one reason to write a business plan! When you take the time to write out the details of your business, you are getting the opportunity to look at your business without risk.

If you are looking at opening a new business or revamping an existing business, a business plan is key to helping make your goals a reality. The process can be overwhelming, however, so here are five tips and tricks for writing a business plan:

1. If you are in a partnership or considering a partnership, write the plan together. Not only will it help to keep you on track, it can also reveal the health of your partnership and whether or not you are on the same page as far as your plans.

2. Take it bit by bit. Business plans have standardized sections and you should create your plan accordingly. Start with the part that inspires you the most so you get motivated to push forward.

3. Find as many free resources online and at your local library for your research information.

4. Ask a third party- a friend that is knowledgeable about business or your local SBA chapter to look it over for you to make sure it makes sense and see what questions they have for you.

5. Once you have done your financials, make sure they are telling the same story as the rest of your business plan. For example, if you are showing an increase in sales one month, check to see that the written sections explain why and how you are going to do this.

MeetGeraldine has co-created a 9 Week Business Plan Workshop with Make Green Go that supports entrepreneurs through the process of writing a business plan. The next session begins August 11, 2015. To get more information and to sign up click here.

Happy Planning,

Lauren Messmer