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Part 1: Business Plans- FAQs with Pat Newcomb of Ohio SBDC

I recently had a chance to discuss common questions I often hear about business plans, with Pat Newcomb, Program Director of the Ohio SBDC at The Entrepreneurs Center.  Pat was kind enough to share her answers to these questions below. This is Part 1 of our conversation, with Part 2, with more questions and answers, to come on 4-14-16. Please share any comments or follow-up questions with me here.
Why is a business plan so important?  Can't I just concentrate on selling my invention so I can make money?

The biggest challenge with all new businesses is finding good suppliers and financing as well as building a team of professional advisors. The business plan remains the one document that all stakeholders want to see.

If you are an INVENTOR, or someone with a NEW CONCEPT to sell, you still have some critical early decisions to make – in the case of tangible products, I have to choose between building the manufacturing infrastructure to make my device (manufacturing, marketing AND fulfillment) myself, working with an existing manufacturing company to build and distribute the device to my specs while I execute the sales and marketing strategy, OR to license my patent or trade secret rights to a company that will handle manufacturing, marketing AND fulfillment in return for a licensing fee and royalties.

In each case, your primary objective is to understand that there are many factors that affect a successful product launch and those who seek to have help you will want to know that you have evaluated as many KEY SUCCESS FACTORS as you can.
Is there a template available online that I can google and just fill in the blanks?

There are a number of templates that are readily accessible without having to pay a one-time or subscription fee. (There are also a number of good templates available in the $100 - $150 range that might be marginally better – but not much). The best “template” I’ve seen lately is offered through the US Small Business Administration . It’s based on a Q&A outline with good examples and links to resources to help. You can save your work online, then download it when ready into a word processing document or pdf file. Both Microsoft and  also have very good word processing documents that ask good questions and provide a workable outline.

I attended a couple classes on business planning and they told me I need to do a bunch of research. Really?  Can I pay someone to do that for me?

Readers of business plans (lenders, investors, suppliers, potential business partners) want to know how much YOU know about the marketplace into which your product or service is to be offered. They want to know whether you have thought about both the benefits you provide and the risks that you will encounter. What makes your product/service unique? Who else is out there solving the problem you’ve identified or buying art or technology that you’ve created? The best way to lose an opportunity for funding is to say “I have no competition”. While there are some types of research that can be purchased, there are certain questions that YOU, the one who intends to make money with this concept, have to be able to ask.

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