Writing a business plan is not only useful going forward, the process will be helpful now as you give real thought to what the business does and how that will change in the future. It should plot your course to a future three to five years out and help you to evaluate exactly where you are going and what is required to get there. Below is an outline for a simple plan.
This is the first section in your plan, but the last one you write. It will summarize where the company is now, where you are going and how you propose to get there. You will be in a much better position to write after you’ve done the plan. This is also the most important part of your plan to outsiders (such as bankers or investors) because if you don’t grab them here, you’ve probably lost them altogether.
This section will contain the following, but should be one page, one and half at the most.
Your mission statement (What do you do? Why do you exist?)
Basic information about the company (when, where and by whom were you founded? How many employees? )
Your products and/or services.
Brief summary of future plans.
Brag a bit. Have a terrific sales trend? Successful new product launch? Notice in the trades? This is the place to mention it.
II. Company Description
Describe what your company does, specifically. Describe your are products and services and explain the market needs you are satisfying and how you are meeting those needs. Discuss your market, your customers and what competitive advantages you have. This could include anything from expert customer assistance to location or unique packaging.
III. Market Analysis
This is a statement about the industry you work in, the market for its products and services, the competitive environment and future impacts which will affect your business. For the broader information try professional or trade associations. They often publish their market analysis by area (state, region, market). You may also find articles on coming threats, market shifts, demographic changes and legislation which could affect your business.
Depending on the industry, you may also need to address your immediate area. A restaurant or small plumbing company should certainly discuss the competitive environment near them.
IV. Organization and Management
How is your company structured? Are you a sole proprietor, do you have partners or stock holders? What percentage is owned by each? Describe your organization chart. Note key employee positions and who they report to. Do you have a board of directors? How much power do they have and how do they interface with staff? Explain how you function.
V. Describe Your Products and Services
In this you give the reader an in-depth explanation of your products and services. What benefits do they have to the customer? How are you uniquely meeting customer needs, or meeting them differently than your competitors? What advantage does your product or service have over others in the market?
What is the future for your product? Is it near the end of its existence (Blockbuster stores) or at the beginning? What will influence the future of the product, for good or ill?
What outside threats and opportunities exist for this product? How will you deal with both?
Do you have patents or copyrights? Are there non-disclosure or non-compete agreements in force? What makes this product or service different or unique?
What are you doing to develop future products or services (Research & Development), what are others in the industry doing?
First write a piece on how you are marketing the business now. What channels of distribution do you use for your products? How are you selling your products (directly, through distributors, sales organizations, the internet)? How do you communicate with current and future customers? Outline all your advertising, promotion, public relations, print and online marketing, customer loyalty programs…everything.
Then outline your strategy for the future. Define how you will drive sales and customer loyalty. What is working for you, what’s not and how will your approach change? Layout your entire program.
VII. Financial Projections
You will need three to five years of monthly profit and loss projections, cash flow projections and quarterly balance sheets, at minimum.
Begin with your current statements and extrapolate what the cost of each item in your plan will be on a monthly basis. For instance, if you have laid out a marketing plan which includes print advertising, you will show the cost for this new feature in your financials in the appropriate months and show anticipated income growth from this print marketing in the following months. The reader must be able to track your expenditures, cost reductions, income growth (whatever you laid out in the plan) to your financials.
While you are groaning, consider how much you will learn and how useful this process will be. Perhaps you been thinking of expanding to a second location, this will force you to look carefully at the real cost of such a move and the timing of expenditures against the probable income.
This is not a required part of the plan, but you may wish to use this to add detail information which would not appear elsewhere. Consider who may be reading the plan to determine what you want to include in this section. For instance:
- Resumes of key people
- Copies of articles, letters, press
- Leases, contracts, permits,
- Patents, copyrights, other legal documents
- Marketing Samples
- Designs, building plans
We have created a business plan template. (Word Format) You’ll find the file saved. Some notes are included to help guide you on your path to success! Good luck!