In your head, you’ve got your business plan all together. You’re going to do this, that and the other, and you’ll be on your way. But alas, it’s not that simple. You’re going to need to put your vision to paper, both for yourself, and others. Here are some smart business plan tips to get you going.
What is a Business Plan?
Let’s start there. Basically, a business plan is a formal document that outlines a business’s goals, and strategies and timeframe for achieving them.
Why Do I Need One?
Well, such a plan can help you get funding. Sort of important, yes? It can also serve as a guide as your business grows and can help you reach business milestones. In addition, a business plan can be used to:
Show that you’re serious about your undertaking.
Understand your competition better.
Gauge the feasibility of your endeavor.
Show how your business will make money.
Minimize opportunity costs.
Force you to know your market.
Lure partners and a top-notch management team.
Position your brand.
Discover even more opportunities.
Business Plan Contents
When checking out sample business plans, you can see that while everyone’s document is different, they all include certain items in their 20 to 50 pages:
Executive summary. You want this to be tight and to the point. The document should be one four pages long and should be able to stand on its own, really. It should summarize the main items that are delineated in each section of your plan.
Overview. Here, you’re basically describing your business. You’ll cover the business type, how it’s structured under the law, how the business came to be, where the business is located, and whether you’ll be conducting business through the Internet, mail order or a brick-and-mortar store.
How the business will function. This is your operations plan. You’ll describe the physical setup and all responsibilities for all tasks.
Market overview. Here, you’ll present an overarching look at the market, buttressed by data. You want to define your target market and how you expect to reach it.
Describe what you’re offering. This is where you discuss the product or service being offered.
How you plan to sell. Sales and marketing info go here. Talk about why your target audience will purchase what you’re offering as well as what marketing and advertising efforts will be used to reach it.
Competitive analysis. In this section you’ll break down your direct and indirect rivals, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Key players. Concisely list all major players on your business’s management team.
Financial info. This is a biggie, obviously. In your financial plan, you’ll need to include all financial data. That means how much you need to start or maintain your business, how much will be required to cover the next two to five years, how you’re going to use the funds, anticipated needs for extra funding, and ongoing expenses such as salaries and insurance.
Projections. In this section you’ll provide projected income statements and balance sheets for up to three years.
Be sure to back up your business plan with any documents such as resumes of leadership team members or news articles that feature you and your startup.
With these smart business plan tips, you can put forth a rock-solid document that will not only keep you on track but will help others – especially potential funders – understand what you’re doing.