Startups 101: Writing Your Business Plan
A proper business plan is an essential starting point for every entrepreneur. No matter what your industry, market, financial situation, or goals may be, you need a solid structure to outline your plans for your small business. Writing a business plan will help you personally discover your intentions for your small business and how you will ultimately achieve your goals and be successful in your industry.
There are a few key points you need to include – and some that you should never include – when it comes to writing a business plan. You do not need to be the best writer to clearly outline your goals, you just need to have a clear idea of your small business ideas and how you will go about conducting your operations. Here is a guide to get you started. It might seem like a major task, but when it comes down to it, you need to jump right in and start writing.
What to Include in a Business Plan
Executive Summary. Even though this is the first part in your complete written business plan, ideally, you should write this section last. The executive summary is an overall view of your business, your goals, and how you plan to achieve success. Your executive summary should be a concise message that includes your mission statement, what products and/or services you offer, company information and history, financial information (particularly if you plan to seek out a loan or financial assistance) and future projections.
Business Description. The business description is a complete outline of your company structure, owners, foundation and operations. The purpose of this section is to help others quickly understand your business goals and how you plan to achieve them. Be specific, but not too wordy. Some key points to include in your business description are your products and/or services, names of business owners and short profiles, potential customers, points of sale, and your unfair advantage.
Business Environment Analysis. The business environment analysis section of your business plan is a summary of both internal and external factors that can have an impact on your business operations. Internal influences include your company’s background and culture, organization and management. External factors include trends, laws, and technology that can either help or hinder your business goals. Your environmental analysis should identify all of these factors and state how you will modify your strategy if these factors begin to impact your operations.
Industry Analysis. This section is a complete description of your unique market. Your analysis needs to outline trends and historical data of your industry, factors that influence the industry either positively or negatively, and how you will set up your business within this particular industry.
Competitive Analysis. This is the section of your business plan where you need to identify all of your competitors and highlight their strengths and weaknesses. Describe your company’s unique role in the market and how you plan to overcome these competitors. It’s important to have an honest picture of the competitors, both positive and negative, so you can operate a successful business.
Market Analysis. For your market analysis, thoroughly research the niche market you plan to enter before writing. Once you have a complete picture of the market and your place within it, write a concise outline of the marketplace, where your competitors stand, and how you will surpass them.
Marketing Plan. The marketing plan section is one that will need to be revised from time to time, based on industry trends and updates. Overall, it should explain how you will reach your potential customers and what you will do to highlight your unfair advantage.
Operations Plan. Your operations plan is the foundation for your day-to-day business strategy. This section can be thought of as a complete guide for your team that they can refer back to if they’re unsure of what to do. Outline your daily operations, tasks, and strategies that will keep your business running on a daily basis.
Team and Management Plan. The complexity of this section will depend on the size of your company. Your team and management plan should be a full list of your company’s personnel and their individual roles in your operations. This section will be the main foundation for assigning promotions and increasing pay rates.
Financial Projections. For companies already in operation, include financial data from the past and how you will modify your structure to increase success in the future. For new companies, include an analysis of current financial situations in your industry and a clear outline of your projected income statements, balance sheets, cash flow and capital expenditure budget.
Appendix. Always listed last, the appendix section of your business plan include information for which top management may want to limit access. It should be in table of content format with references to the supporting information within the document.
It’s a daunting task, but writing a business plan is crucial for your overall success. For more help, work from one of these sample business plans to help you get started.