Unless you want your new business's future to be nothing more than a crapshoot, you will have to create a business plan that maps out the salient goals, strategies and financial needs your business will have for the next 3-5 years. A business plan is a simple and straight-forward document that outlines your business's projected growth. It can be used as both an internal marker for yourself and your team, and also as a tool to attract potential investors. In essence, a well-written business plan functions as a blueprint for your company's future.
Whether you're conceptualizing a tech startup in your garage, or contemplating the purchase of a franchise, your business plan should be a professional document deserving of the same level of respect that your business is. Keep it short, easy to read and to the point. Breaking your business plan up into sections will help potential funders get a better understanding of your goals.
When writing up a business plan, make sure to include:
Title Page – This page can include your business name, url and contact information as well as any tagline you may have.
Executive Summary – The executive summary is a brief outline that explains your vision and current finances. Key points to include are:
- Business owners, principals, the management team and board of directors
- Date of business formation and legal form of operation
- Current and projected sales, profits and cash flow
- Funding equity
- Contracts and patents obtained
- Achievements to date
- Potential client or customer base
Industry and Business Overview – Include a few paragraphs about the industry you will be infiltrating. Give solid information about your business and how you will compete, including your areas of strength and target growth. This should fully represent your understanding of your field and outline your unique attributes, including your mission, the type of staff you have or your product's special features.
Marketing Plan – Include key, broad-based strategies for reaching, attracting and maintaining a loyal customer base. The marketing plan should include in-depth information about your main customer demographics as well as an understanding of your competition and relevant trends of note in your area of focus.
Development Plan and Budget – Map out a succinct plan that charts your business's growth, describes any products you will be launching and explains their profit potential. The plan should establish a sound budget capable of sustaining an identified percentage of annual growth and profitability. The plan should include a calculated analysis of your current and projected market share, taking industry growth and customer trends into account.
Financial Data – Most business plans conclude with a cash flow statement, an income statement and a balance sheet.
Aesthetics – In keeping with today's fast-paced world and most people's attention spans, keep your business plan short, but make sure to highlight the most relevant and significant aspects of your business as well as accurate data. Print on high quality paper and use prose that is in keeping with your industry's persona. Graphs and charts that increase readability and tell a positive story are a plus.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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