A business plan is almost essential for entrepreneurs who are seeking to raise money to help fund their companies. In fact, business plans are so closely tied to fundraising that many entrepreneurs look at them as suited only for presenting to investors and overlook the management benefits of planning.

But for those entrepreneurs who are seeking funding, a business plan accomplishes several things. First, it helps convince potential sources of funding that the entrepreneur has thought the idea through. It also gives any actual investors a set of financial benchmarks for which the entrepreneur can be held accountable.

In a sense, a business plan is a ticket to enter the financial dance. It would be overly simplistic to say that you must have a plan to get funding. But it’s not too simplistic to say that a good plan will help you raise your funds more quickly, more easily and more completely than you could without it.

Before seeking investors, you need to know exactly what you’re seeking and where that money will be spent. Not unlike justifying expenses when sending your taxes to the IRS, you need to justify the amounts you’re asking for and be specific — investors aren’t simply writing out checks with no idea of where the money will be spent. Sure you can ask for a little more than you need in hopes that the negotiating brings you down to the amount you truly need for funding … or something reasonably close. It’s also important to maintain your credibility because you’ll probably need additional funding as your company grows. If you squander the money your investors have provided, you can be pretty sure you won’t get a round two when you need additional funding.

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