Step by step guide

A  business plan is an essential roadmap for business success. This living  document generally projects 3-5 years ahead and outlines the route a  company intends to take to grow revenues.

                   Executive summary

The purpose of your executive summary is to give readers a high-level view of the company and the market before delving into details. Your  executive summary is a snapshot of your business plan as a whole and  touches on your company profile and goals. Read these tips about what to  include.

The executive summary should be about a page long, and should cover (in 1–2 paragraphs each):

  • Overview: Briefly explain what the company is, where you’ll be located, what you’ll sell, and who you’ll sell to.
  • Company Profile: Briefly explain the business  structure, who owns it and what prior experience/skills they’ll bring to  the table, and who the first hires might be.
  • Products or Services: Briefly explain what you’ll sell.
  • The Market: Briefly explain your main findings from your market analysis.
  • Financial Considerations: Briefly explain how you plan to fund the business and what your financial projections are.

                    Company description

Your  company description provides information on what you do, what  differentiates your business from others, and the markets your business  serves.

Here’s where you have the chance to give a summary of what your company does, your mission statement, bussines structure and  business owner details, location details, the marketplace needs  that your business is trying to meet, and how your products or services  actually meet those needs.

                    Market analysis

Before launching your business, it is essential for you to research your business industry, market and competitors.

One  of the first questions to ask yourself when you’re testing your  business idea is whether it has a place in the market. The market will  ultimately dictate how successful your business will be. What’s your target market, and why would they be interested in buying from you?

Get specific here. For example, if you’re selling bedding, you  can’t just include everyone who sleeps in a bed in your target market.  You need to target a smaller group of customers first, like teenagers  from middle-income families. From there, you might answer  questions like: How many teenagers from middle-income families are  currently in your country? What bedding do they typically need? Is the  market growing or stagnant?

Include both analysis of research that others have done,  as well as primary research that you’ve collected yourself, whether by  surveys, interviews, or other methods.

This is also where you’ll include a competitive analysis. In  our example, we’d be answering the question: how many other bedding  companies already have a share of the market, and who are they? Outline  the strengths and weaknesses of your potential competitors, as well as  strategies that will give you a competitive advantage.

                   Organization and management

Every business is structured differently. Find out the best organization and management structure for your business.

                    Service or product line

What  do you sell? How does it benefit your customers? What is the product  lifecycle? Get tips on how to tell the story about your product or  service.

go into detail about what you’re selling and how it benefits your customers. If you aren’t able to articulate how you’ll help your customers, then your business idea may not be a good one.

Start by describing the problem you’re solving. Then, go into how you  plan to solve it and where your product or service fits into the mix.  Finally, talk about the competitive landscape: What other companies are  providing solutions to this particular problem, and what sets your  solution apart from theirs?

                    Marketing and sales plan

How  do you plan to market your business? What is your sales strategy? Read  more about how to include this information in your plan.

plan  out your comprehensive marketing and sales strategies that’ll cover how  you actually plan to sell your product. Before you work on your  marketing and sales plan, you’ll need to have your market analysis  completely fleshed out, and choose your target buyer personas, i.e.,  your ideal customers

On  the marketing side, you’ll want to cover answers to questions like: how  do you plan to penetrate the market? How will you grow your business?  Which channels will you focus on for distribution? How will you  communicate with your customers?

On the sales side, you’ll need to cover answers to questions like:  what’s your sales strategy? What will your sales team look like, and how  do you plan to grow it over time? How many sales calls will you need to  make to make a sale? What’s the average price per sale? Speaking of  average price per sale, here’s where you can go into your pricing  strategy.

                    Financial plan

If you are seeking funding for your business, find out about the necessary information you should include in your plan.

Outline  your financial model in detail, including your start-up cost, financial  projections, and a funding request if you’re pitching to investors.

Your start-up cost refers to the resources you’ll need to get  your business started — and an estimate of how much each of those  resources will cost. Are you leasing an office space? Do you need a  computer? A phone? List out these needs and how much they’ll cost, and  be honest and conservative in your estimates. The last thing you want to  do is run out of money.

Once you’ve outlined your costs, you’ll need to justify them by  detailing your financial projections. This is especially important if  you’re looking for funding for your business. Make sure your financial  model is 100% accurate for the best chance of convincing investors and  loan sources to support your business.

                    Financial projections

If  you need funding, providing financial projections to back up your  request is critical. Find out what information you need to include in  your financial projections for your small business.

                    Appendix

An  appendix is optional, but a useful place to include information such as  resumes, permits and leases. Find additional information you should  include in your appendix.

                    How to make your busibess plan stand out

What  makes your business unique? Determining this could help you stand out  from the crowd and give you advantages over your competitors.

Narrow down what makes you different.

Before you start whipping up a business plan, think carefully about  what makes your business unique first. If you’re planning to start a new  athletic clothing business, for example, then you’ll need to  differentiate yourself from the numerous other athletic clothing brands  out there.

What makes yours stand out from the others? Are you planning to make  clothing for specific sports or athletic activities, like yoga or hiking  or tennis? Do you use environmentally friendly material? Does a certain  percentage of your proceeds go to charity? Does your brand promote  positive body image?

Remember: You’re not just selling your product or service —  you’re selling a combination of product, value, and brand experience. Think through these big questions and outline them before you dive in to the nitty-gritty of your business plan research.

Keep it short.

Business plans are more short and concise nowadays than they used to  be. While it might be tempting to include all the results of your market  research, flesh out every single product you plan to sell, and outline  exactly what your website will look like, that’s actually not helpful in  the format of a business plan.

Know these details and keep them elsewhere, but exclude everything  but the meat and potatoes from the business plan itself. Otherwise, you  might risk losing your readers’ attention.

Format for easy skimming.

Your business plan shouldn’t just be a quick(ish) read — it should  be easy to skim, too. That’s where formatting becomes particularly  important. Use headers and bullet points, bold or highlight the key  lines or metrics you want the reader to take away, and even  attach labeled tabs to your copies (paper and digital) for easy  reference.

You can (and should) change it as you go.

Keep in mind that your business plan is a living, breathing document.  That means you can update your business plan as things change. For  example, you might want to update it a year or two down the road if  you’re about to apply for a new round of funding.credit

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