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A good business plan goes a long way

When I joined the United States Small Business Administration a little over 40 years ago, there was no demand for business plans, no mission statements, no demand for goals and objectives.

Few colleges or universities at that time were offering courses in small business management. The word entrepreneur seemed to be a secret term with almost no definition.

Gradually, the SBA and the commercial banks began requiring business plans. The SBA began offering workshops in starting and managing a small business. Many of these workshops were conducted by SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, and the faculty at local colleges. Gradually, academic institution began offering credit and non-credit courses in small business management.

Today, entrepreneurship is a universal curriculum in academia.

Offering assistance in preparing business plans is a major factor in the development of startup businesses and their growth stage. As the director of the Enterprise Institute at the Community College of Baltimore County, I speak to about 15 to 20 potential entrepreneurs each month. Many of these clients are current college students or persons between 19 and 30 years of age.

In surveying students each semester as to their goals, the number of students who want to own their own business and who already have started one is really satisfying.

While the business plan is the work of the entrepreneur, it would be most helpful if the professional providing assistance would be familiar with the plan. Lawyers, accountants, insurance and commercial real estate agents should be familiar with the plan. We have seen problems with partnership agreements, overstated sales forecasts, under-priced insurance, wrong locations based on target markets.

Many of these mistakes could have been avoided had the professional taken the opportunity to review the plan and consider themselves part of an advisement team. As organizations providing potential business owners with advice, we always suggest the business seek good caring professionals who will understand the business and its purpose.