Starting a business as a kid was easy—all you needed were some lemons, sugar, paper cups, and poster board for a sign. Starting your own business as an adult requires a little more than lemons and sugar. Before you build the website and order business cards, the first step for any successful business (regardless of size) begins with a well-written plan that outlines the purpose and proposal for your concept.

Creating a business plan may seem like a daunting task that requires professional help and a lot of money, but that isn’t necessarily the case. A business plan doesn’t have to be scary or expensive when you understand how to craft it.

Business plans are vital tools for organizing your great idea(s) into a cohesive and structured strategy that is destined to help you remain focused and impress potential investors, partners, and financiers.

KISS (It)

Business plans should be thorough and, at the same time, not rival a novel in page length. As you put together your plan, remember KISS: Keep It Simple Silly. A business plan should reflect everything you want to express regarding your proposed business without being weighed down with unnecessary words and information. Remember, people other than yourself will be reading this plan.

You want to be concise and clear in your explanations; avoid overly technical words or phrases. “Simple” refers both to what you say and how you say it. Don’t let your message get lost in complicated jargon. A good rule to remember is whatever you can say in four words can probably be said in two.

Be a Know-It-All

How you write your business plan depends on your audience. As the business plan is meant to be seen and read by others, you want to ensure that your prospective audience understands every word of your proposal.

Think about your audience as you craft your plan and write from their perspective. Do you think they will understand your explanation or do you need to provide additional information? If you are unsure whether your audience is familiar with your topic/industry, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Your priority should be making your vision easy for others to understand.

Anatomy Lesson

The basic structure of a business plan includes the following:

1. Executive Summary
2. Opportunity
3. Execution
4. Team/Company
5. Financial Plan
6. Appendix

As every business plan is unique to the person creating it and the business its intended for, this is not a die-hard paradigm that cannot be augmented. As your business grows, so will your goals and strategies. The initial plan you create at the beginning should be periodically updated. Your business plan is the strategy for your enterprise and should remain an integral tool as you expand. Having a “skeleton” to work from can help you create a solid plan and stay focused.

You’ve come a long way since that lemonade stand, and your plan can help you create a business that attracts more customers than your parents and neighbors. Plus, no one has to drink unsweetened lemon water.