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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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