Whether your business is already established or if it is just getting started, having a well-devised written business plan is critical to your success. A business plan can help you:
- Identify and proactively respond to both opportunities and challenges that could arise in all aspects of your business, including financing, marketing, sales, and more.
- Demonstrate your commitment to your venture, which can be helpful if you need to obtain investor financing or loans from financial institutions.
- Stay focused and on-target as the business grows.
Don’t let lack of a thoughtful business plan prevent you from attaining success. BusinessOwnerSpace.com partners can help you develop your own business plan. First, read through this description of the key elements of a business plan:
Part 1: Table of Contents
Your business plan should include these features:
- Executive Summary
- Market Analysis
- Company Description
- Organization & Management
- Sales & Marketing
- Services or Products
- Funding Request
- Financial Information
Part 2: Executive Summary
Even though the executive summary comes first in the business plan document, it is usually best to write it last -- after you have developed the rest of the plan. Just like the opening to a good novel, the executive summary is what catches the reader’s attention, whether the reader is a potential employee, lender, client, or another person whose involvement you seek.
Altogether, the executive summary should be 4 pages or less. Areas covered in the executive summary include the following:
- Mission statement
- Facts about the business
- Services or goods provided
- Money matters
- Past growth and future plans
Mission statement: A mission statement summarizes in one or two sentences the essence of your business. Although the statement is brief, it is perhaps the most important part of the business plan, as it should serve as the guide for all who are involved in the venture.
Facts about the business: This part of the executive summary describes the facts about your business. It should include the following information:
- Date the business began
- Names and functions of the business founders
- Number of employees
- The headquarters and other locations of the business
- A physical description of the business facilities
Services or goods provided: Your executive should provide information about the services or products you provide. Some of the questions to answer include these:
- What services or goods do you provide?
- What led you to believe that there was a need for these services or goods?
- How did you develop the services or goods to meet this need?
- What differentiates your services or goods from others that are similar?
Money matters: Do you have any banking or investor relationships already established? Describe all such relationships in this section of the executive summary.
Past growth and future plans: This section can be difficult if you are just beginning a business. However, even if your business has no past growth, you can describe your own related experience in similar positions.
If your business is new, you may have little information for some of these categories. Instead, focus on the previous experience and expertise that you bring to the business. For example, you may not be able to summarize the growth of your business, since it has only recently begun, but perhaps you could mention previous success at another related business, such as helping to increase sales or winning awards for performance.
Part 3: Market Analysis
Why have you decided to start this particular business? It is likely you saw a particular need for a product or service that was not being filled. This section of the business plan is your chance to document this need, and to show why your business can successfully fulfill that need. The market analysis should include these sections:
- Industry description and outlook
- Target market
- Competitive analysis
- Any potential barriers
Industry description and outlook: What is the specific industry, including its size, past and future expected growth, and any other trends?
Target market: Who are the major customer groups? Describe all aspects of your customers, including their needs (met and unmet), geography, demographics, potential size, and how frequently they might buy your products or use your services. In this section, you should also include information about how you would price your products or services for your target market. If you have conducted market tests, describe the outcomes here.
Competitive analysis: In this section, describe in detail all your potential competitors, including their strengths and weaknesses. Describe your own business’s strengths and weaknesses as well, including how you hope to overcome any challenges posed by your competitors.
Any potential barriers: Potential barriers to the success of your business may include government regulations that affect your business, any changes in regulations or technology that may occur in the future, or any requirements posed by potential customers. Describe how you plan to overcome these potential barriers.
Part 4: Company Description
This section is a straightforward “birds eye” view of your business. It should include the following information:
- The type of business
- Factors for success, such as a convenient location, highly skilled employees, or competitive price
- Market needs
- Specific groups or organizations who have these needs
Part 5: Organization & Management
In this section, describe how the business is structured, including information about the owners, managers, and board of directors. Describe the education, experience, and expertise that make these key players vital to your success. Provide details about salaries, benefits, and other incentives for managers, directors, and employees. Describe the percentage of interest each owner holds in the business. You may want to include an organizational chart as well.
Part 5: Sales & Marketing
Describe your overall marketing strategy, including these key elements:
- How your business will penetrate the market
- How you plan to grow the business
- How you will distribute the product or services
- How you will reach your customers
Once a marketing strategy is articulated, then you can base your sales strategies on it. Your description of sales strategies might include the following:
- Will you use a sales force? If so, how will you recruit them? Will they be based in one location or spread out? How will you train and compensate the sales force?
- What sales activities will you incorporate? Common activities include identifying and prioritizing prospective customers, establishing quotas for sales calls, identifying how many sales calls you need in order to make one sale, and determining the dollar amount per sale or per customer.
Part 6: Services or Products
In this section, describe in detail the services or products that the business plans to provide. While you may want to list the products or services, you should also describe what makes these products and services special to your customers. This is often referred to as features and benefits. Information to consider includes the following:
- Detailed descriptions of products or services
- Benefits to the customer for the products or services provided
- Unique product or service characteristics, such as its lifecycle or copyright or patent information
- Your research and development program for future products and services
Part 7: Funding Request
How much funding does the business need to start or grow? This section is where you present these details. Factors to consider including are as follows:
- Best-case and worst-case scenarios
- Current requirements and future needs
- How you expect to use any funds received
- The type of funding and terms you would prefer
- The purpose of the funds, such as for capital expenditures, acquisitions, or debt retirement
- Strategic information that affects finances, such as a plan to go public in the future
You will need specific financial data or other documentation to support any of the information presented in this section.
Part 8: Financial Information
This section provides detailed financial information about the business. Include the following:
- Historical data about the business’s performance in the past, if available
- Prospective data, such as what you expect the business will earn in the first 5 years, including projected income statements, balance sheets, cash flow, and capital expenditures for each year. You may want to provide monthly estimates for the first year, quarterly for the second year, and annual thereafter.
- Summary analysis of this data, including ratio and trend analysis
Part 9: Appendix
This section contains all the supporting documents for claims made in previous sections of the business plan. The appendix may include credit histories, resumes, product photos, licenses and other legal documents, contracts, and any other documentation a reader of your plan might request.
An Ongoing Plan
Business plans are always-changing documents. Make it a habit to review your plan regularly and update it as needed. Taking a look at the plan periodically can also help you refocus your energies on the core aspects of your business.
Don’t Become Overwhelmed
Writing a business plan requires determination and a lot of research. You may not even be familiar with many of the terms used in this short description of the plan. Don’t give up! BOS partners serve as invaluable resources for helping you through the process of developing a business plan.
How BOS Partners Can Help:
For further information and support in writing and updating a business plan, be sure to contact one or more of the BOS partners below -– each has information and resources that can assist you:
- Alliance for Community Development
- AnewAmerica - San Jose
- Environmental Business Cluster
- Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of Santa Clara County
- Gilroy Economic Development Corporation (GEDC)
- Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Silicon Valley
- Japanese American Chamber of Commerce of Silicon Valley
- Northern California Minority Business Enterprise Center
- San Jose BioCenter
- Silicon Valley Black Chamber of Commerce
- Silicon Valley SCORE - Counselors to America's Small Business
- US Market Access Center
- Women's Initiative for Self Employment
Additional Online Resources: