A business planning template can be an invaluable tool for a first-time entrepreneur or any entrepreneur working in an unfamiliar business sector. Using a template that is specific to your business sector can shortcut the work and formatting you have to do significantly. Here are three steps to make the best use of a template.

Read Through the Entire Template

First, read through the entire business plan template to understand the guidance it gives which you may make use of. Read both the sample text and financials and all comments and instructions given by the creators to help you along. By reading the template through, you get a sense of what the finished product might feel like and what type of work you must do to get your plan to this level.

Adjust the Financials

Before you do any writing, work on the financials to make them consistent with your plans. Enter your startup costs (after you have researched them) cost of goods sold, operating expenses, and revenue projections. The financial model with the template should help by automatically updating the financial statements of the plan based on the changes in these basic drivers. Check that the financial results (profit, return to investors, and cash reserves on hand) are appropriate for your business before moving on to the next step.

Customize the Plan

Next, customize the text of the plan starting with the company overview, working through to the end of the plan, and ending with the executive summary. As the executive summary pulls from every other section of the plan it is always best written last. Be sure that the language you use is entirely your own. Use sample text from the business plan template only as guidance to the tone and type of content you should use. Refer to guidance within the template to be sure you are fulfilling the purpose of each section as you write.