Whether you are starting a new business or are revisiting a current one, a business plan is an important roadmap for success. It helps business owners think about all the details involved with running a business and how they intend to grow revenues. Most business plans project three to five years in advance, and they should be referred to on a regular basis. The following outline will help you design a business plan that will help lead to success.
This introduction should focus on the strengths of your plan, and it will give an overall view of your company. It briefly describes your business, why your business idea is going to be successful, and where you want to take it. If you are starting a new business, focus on your background and experience and what led you to start it in the first place.
This section talks about the goals of your business and what makes it unique. Describe the general nature of the company and how your services and products meet marketplace needs. List the target markets that you will be serving and how you will be successful in reaching them. Focus on your competitive advantages in terms of expert personnel, your location, the value you offer clients, or your efficient operations.
This section demonstrates your knowledge of the market and your industry. The following is a list of the topics to include in your analysis:
- Target market information
- Industry description and outlook
- Distinguishing characteristics of your target market
- Size and purchase data of your target market
- Number of customers and percentage share of the market that you are expecting
- Pricing configuration and gross margin targets
- Competitive analysis
- Regulatory restrictions
Organization and Management
In this section you should include the organizational structure of the business, ownership details, summary of your management team, and the board of directors’ qualifications. Along with making it clear who is in charge, there should be a detailed description and function of each department. You may also choose to include the type of salary, benefits package, promotions, and incentives that are being offered to your staff.
Service or Product Line
This section will describe your product or service, focusing on the benefits to potential and current clients. If you have pending or existing intellectual property, this is the section to list them and any legal agreements pertaining to them.
Marketing and Sales
This section should focus on your overall marketing and sales strategies. Your marketing strategy should include a plan for market penetration, growth, channels of distribution, and communication. The sales strategy should include your sales activities as well as your sales force plan.
If you are using your business plan as part of a request for funding, this is the section where you will outline your requirements. The following information should be included in the funding request:
- Your request for current funding
- Any funding requirements you will need over the next five years
- What the funds will be used for
- Any future financial situational plans such as selling your business, a potential buyout, or a debt repayment plan
Whether the business is a startup or is established, this section requires prospective financial data. This includes balance sheets, cash flow statements, forecasted income statements, and capital expenditure budgets for each year into the five year future. Quarterly projections should also be included. If you are requesting funds, make sure the projections match your request. Established businesses should also include past financial performance for the last three to five years.
Conclude with a summary of your business objectives and goals, and reiterate your commitment for business success. Review your plan with a business associate or trusted friend before making an appointment with your lender. The plan should be revised on a periodic basis as your business changes.