A good business plan helps you look ahead, anticipate opportunities and risks, allocate resources, and measure your progress. Use it the same way you study a map to plan a route, determine where to turn, and locate key landmarks.
You plan should include the following:
- Company Background – This section includes history, mission, vision, values, goals and performance to date. Include a general introduction of the business structure, products, services and key team members.
- Market Research – Who are the target customers and what is important to them? What makes key competitors successful? What market trends indicate there is opportunity for success?
- Business Strategy – How will you meet the needs of your target customer? What will your pricing, marketing, distribution and product strategies be? For example, will you try to be the low cost alternative or a premium product? Do you want to be known for innovative products or great service?
- Operations – The strategy section looks at the external side of your business and the promises you make to clients about what they will get when they buy your product. The operations section focuses on processes and resources required to support your strategy. These resources may include things such as training and bonus structure, staffing and facility or technology needs. Will you need to hire new people, expand your space or make capital expenditures to achieve your goals? That information should be captured here. Don’t forget to include a timeline or milestone that indicates what will occur and who will be responsible for critical tasks.
- Financials – The financials should look at both your capital needs ( money to buy equipment) and operating funds (money to cover the day to day expenditures). This section also includes your projected results. If you follow the plan and everything goes right, what will your results be? What are the results if you have a less than successful year?
- Executive Summary – Although it appears at the front of the plan, the summary is written last, capturing the highlights of the plan document, just as a traveling itinerary reflects the key happenings of a trip but does not account for every minute spent. It should be clear and concise, just two or three pages in length. Lenders, investors, and venture capitalists receive far more business plans than they are capable of funding. You must grab the reader’s attention so they are willing to dig more deeply into your opportunity.