Joseph is Director at Wise Business Plans, a firm helping clients with professionally written business plans, branding, licensing and more.
To someone who’s never done it before, crafting a business plan can seem like a complicated, magical process that regular people are incapable of accomplishing. The finished product looks so complex and informative — who even knows what goes into something like that?
But, in reality, business plans are less like magic and more like baking. Gather the right ingredients, put them together in the proper order, and ta-da! The finished product is a road map for the company’s future success.
With a little help from a professional or the right recipe, even the newest small-business owner will be baking up business plans in no time.
So, what is that recipe for planning perfection? Like bread and pastry, every business plan has some flair of its own, from custom graphic design to unique financial information.
But some sections are universal and absolutely necessary if a business owner wants to be taken seriously by investors and banks.
1. An Executive Summary
This concise, carefully written, first section of the plan offers an easy-to-follow introduction to the company, its purpose and its framework. This section sums up the information in your plan, so it can be helpful to go back and write it after the rest of the work is completed.
Pro Tip: In the opening statement, explain the business in one or two sentences. Once you have completed your business plan, write the Executive Summary last.
2. Company Overview
List the goods and services the company will provide, the market it will serve, short- and long-term goals for growth and a brief history of the company’s formation and past performance.
Pro Tip: Explain any momentum the company has made to date and future plans.
3. Products & Services
This section allows for a more complete explanation of the kinds of goods or services the business will be selling or providing. Make the descriptions compelling and engaging.
Pro Tip: List a detailed description of your products or services and their competitive advantages over the competition.
4. Market Analysis
Use this as an opportunity to showcase the research and knowledge company leaders have to bring to the table with regard to the people and entities they hope to serve or sell to. Include information on the industry the company belongs to and the state of the competition locally, nationally and even internationally, if relevant.
Pro Tip: Check out the census website for statistics and demographics.
5. Marketing Strategy
How does the business intend to get the word out about what it has to offer? This section should list plans for all expected marketing channels, from traditional advertising to social media outreach efforts.
Pro Tip: The marketing budget and strategy should be a focal point of your plan. This will ultimately drive sales.
6. Organization & Management
This can be broken into separate sections, but both leadership and plans for employees must be addressed. This should include a basic visual “tree” showing the number of employees expected to be hired, as well as the reporting structure for those people. The management portion should contain an introduction to the company’s leaders and their expertise and career achievements.
Pro Tip: Explain why you and your team are capable of executing the business goals and objectives.
Different kinds of plans will require slightly different financial information. However, every plan should show historical financial data, if available, and sensible projected expenditures and forecasted income. This section should also include an overview of the company’s current financial status.
Pro Tip: Every industry has a set of key performance indicators (KPIs). Benchmark your company against its peers in the market.
It’s a fact that a quality business plan contains complicated information about not only the business being built but also the market and industry the company plans to compete in. Looking at a business plan as a piece-by-piece process, rather than a completed whole, can make creating your own a little less daunting. Including the seven sections listed above is a great starting point for making a plan that will impress any investor or financial institution.