What to Include in a Business Plan
Your business plan is a sales document for potential investors and a required document for any bank loan. It is a blueprint for startup operations, but should ideally be reviewed and updated annually. Make your business plan stand out by preparing a thorough and polished presentation. Easily consolidate and edit all of the details of your plan by using business plan software.
Prepare an overview of the business plan sections outlined below in the form of an Executive Summary. This should be concise and engaging so the reader will want to delve into the details of the plan, but only include the most important highlights of your plan.
Provide background information about your business in a Company Description section. Detail the company website address, the main location of operations and launch date. Highlighting any special training, qualifications and pertinent experience of key employees is also appropriate for this section. Save detailed resumes for the Appendix.
Give the reader a comprehensive understanding of the product or service you are offering and what makes it unique in your industry. Other items to discuss are the timeline for development of new products, manufacturing plans, legal protection of unique products and special technology requirements. Detail any trademarks, copyrights and patents you own or are pursuing.
Show that your intended market is vibrant and receptive to a new product or service. Present statistics for market size, growth, trends and market share. The Small Business Administration web-site will get you started with this exercise and trade organizations related to the particular business can often help too. Your main competitors, target customer and pricing strategies should be fully fleshed out as a result of this analysis.
Present a multi-pronged Marketing Strategy. Address advertising, promotion, public relations, pricing and incentives, positioning in the marketplace and alliances with other businesses. Include web-based marketing and social media strategies. Briefly discuss metrics you will use to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.
Outline how Management/Ownership makes critical decisions and acquires/distributes the product or service. A flowchart effectively presents this pictorially for many companies. Indicate the legal structure you intend to use (S corp, LLC, etc) and any key licenses or permits required to operate your company. Discuss current staffing and expectations for the future.
Include historical financial statements (for businesses already in operation) and future projections. You may want to use the services of an accounting professional since this is an important focus for all parties reviewing a business plan. Outline realistic key assumptions, such as profit margin, amount of key expenditures and expected financing. The following standard statements are expected in this section: Break-even analysis, cash flow statement, profit and loss statement and balance sheet. A pro forma template can help you complete this section. If you are requesting financing, then detail the expected use of funds.
The Appendix includes additional documents that give depth to the main sections of the plan. Resumes, portfolios, sales brochures, and technical reports are examples of documents that might be included.
Tips and Warnings
- Add a contents page so your reader can easily locate sections if the plan is lengthy, but realize that shorter is always better. Try to condense your plan into a document that can be easily browsed for pertinent information.
- Include a letter of confidentiality that states any proprietary information that should be protected.
Starting a home-based business? Want to keep it simple? Try our 2-in-1 marketing and business plan template.