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A business plan is a written document that provides detail on the business and how it is going to achieve its goals. It helps to lay out a written plan from a marketing, financial and operational viewpoint. Business plans are critical to allow a company to lay out its goals and attract investment. They are also a way for companies to keep themselves on track going forward.
While business plans are especially useful for new companies, every company should have a business plan. A company must revisit the plan periodically to see if goals have been met or have changed and evolved. Sometimes, a new business plan is prepared for an established business that is moving in a new direction.
The main objective of a business plan of any company is to show you that your business is worth starting and the idea is worth pursuing. It provides you with the possibilities to get a detailed look at your goals. In case there is something to change and improve, it’s high time to do it before the business plan of your company becomes implemented.
A business plan is integral in selling your company to potential investors and bankers. But as important, the process of writing involves you and your partners taking a real look at what you want the future of your company to look like and how you’re going to make it happen.
Whether you’re building a business plan to raise money and grow your business or just need to figure out if your idea will work, every business plan needs to cover 6 key points. Here’s a quick overview of each point.
1. Executive summary - The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally only one to two pages. Most people write it last, though. While appearing first in the business plan, the executive summary is a section that is usually written last as it is a summary of the entire business plan. It provides an overview of your business including your mission statement and details about what you offer. It's critical that your executive summary is outstanding, especially if you're seeking funding.
2. Business Description- Provide information about the business you're starting, including what sort of problem your product or services solve, and who the most likely buyer is. Provide an overview of the industry that your business will be a part of, including trends, major players in the industry, and estimated industry sales. This business overview section should also provide a summary of your business's place within the industry, along with your or your team's expertise as well as your competitive advantage.
3. Market Analysis - The market analysis is a crucial section of the business plan, as it helps you identify your best customers or clients. In the market analysis, research the primary target market for your product or service, including geographic location, demographics, your target market's needs and how these needs are currently being met. Your purpose here is to have a thorough knowledge of the people you are planning to sell your goods and/or services to so that you can make informed predictions about how much they might buy.
4. Competitive Analysis -In the competitive analysis section, you'll learn how successful your direct and indirect competitors are in the marketplace, with an assessment of their competitive advantage and how you'll set yourself apart from them. It also includes an analysis of how you will overcome any entry barriers to your chosen market. You also need to distinguish your business from the competition, which is especially important in persuading potential funding sources that you'll be able to compete in the marketplace.
5. Sales and Marketing Plan - The sales and marketing section offers a detailed explanation of your sales strategy, pricing plan, proposed advertising and promotion activities, and product or service's benefits. This is where you outline your business's unique selling proposition, describe how you're going to get your goods and/or services to market, and how you're going to persuade people to buy them.
6. Ownership and Management Plan - This section gives an outline of your business's legal structure and management resources, including your internal management team, external management resources, and human resources needs. Include experience or special skills each person in your management team brings to the business. If the goal of your business plan is to get funding, it's wise to make sure that your management plan includes an advisory board as a management resource.
7. Operating Plan - The operating plan gives information on how your business will be run. It provides a description of your business's physical location, facilities and equipment, kinds of employees needed, inventory requirements, suppliers, and any other applicable operating details, such as a description of the manufacturing process.
8. Financial Plan - Starting a business is generally about making a profit, and so having a solid sense of your current finances, funding needs, as well as projected income is important. In the financial section, provide a description of your funding requirements, your detailed financial statements, and a financial statement analysis. This part of the business plan is where you present the three main financial documents of any business; the balance sheet, the income statement, and the cash flow statement, or in the case of a new business, a cash flow projection.
9. Appendices and Exhibits - In addition to the sections outlined above, at the end of your business plan, include any additional information that will help establish the credibility of your business idea, such as marketing studies, photographs of your product, permits, intellectual property rights such as a patent, credit histories, resumes, marketing materials, and/or contracts or other legal agreements pertinent to your business.
There is no particular order to a business plan, but the Executive Summary, as an overview, should ideally come first. The order generally depends on your goals. If the business plan is meant to help you gather information and create your business roadmap, organize it in a way that helps you achieve your goals. It makes sense to have all similar content together, such as all the material relating to markets (the Industry Overview, the Marketing Analysis, the Competitive Analysis, and the Marketing Plan).
If your objective is to seek funding, organize the plan with a focus on leading with the best first. If you have a stellar group of people serving on your new business's advisory board, put that section directly after the Executive Summary. Highlighting your new business's strengths will encourage your reader to continue reading your plan.
1. What is the need for a business plan?
Irrespective of whether you need to raise finance or not a business plan is a vital part of giving your new business idea the best chance of succeeding. Writing a plan helps to give you focus and acts as a map as you set off on your start-up journey.
2. What does a business plan comprise of?
Your business plan should include details of what your business or service is, who your customers will be and why they will buy from you. You will also need to include assumptions around how much people will buy and where you will market your product or service. Download one of our Business Plan templates.
3. How many pages should a business plan be?
There is no hard and fast rule for how many pages a business plan should be. You will need to include as many details as necessary for it to be a useful document and if you intend to use it to raise finance you will need to have completed each section on the business plan template thoroughly.
4. Can I hire someone to write the business plan?
You can hire the services of a professional business plan writer but before you do this remember that not only will this be costly but that the person you hire will not know your idea like you do.
A business plan is a blueprint for any business. Starting a business without a business plan is risky since business is never static. The business plan for any business will change over time as the business grows and evolves. A business may have multiple business plans as its objectives change. It makes sense to follow a structured approach while writing a business plan.
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