We talked about a few things to consider as you are preparing to write your business plan, but the biggest question on most business owners’ minds is “how do I structure it?”
When it comes down to it, other than the bookend Executive summary at the beginning and the appendix at the end, the order doesn’t matter. The key is you need to make sure your business plan tells a story that will grab the attention of and leave the right impression on investors, financial institutions, partners, and your team. The reality is that every business is unique with unique goals, so your business plan shouldn’t fall into a cookie cutter template.
Here are 7 sections you absolutely should include in your business plan in some way:
Executive Summary: This should come first, but write it last. Your executive summary should be able to act as a standalone document. You may be reaching out to an executive who doesn’t have a lot of time. They should be able to read your executive summary and know all the important points in your business plan. When it comes time to vetting you further, then a team will look into your plan in full detail.
Make sure you include:
- Short company overview
- Product/Service description
- Target audience
- Industry overview
- Marketing overview
- Financial overview
Company Profile: The profile section introduces your company/organization in detail.
- Company Overview: Talk about who you are as a company and a bit of your history.
- Products and Services
- Objectives: You should have up to five business objectives that are specific and measurable.
- Organizational Structure
- Leadership: Include short bios for the top leaders.
- Personnel plan: Talk about your team and your plans for growth/hiring.
- Board of advisors/Directors: Include short bios for each member/advisor.
Market Analysis: To believe in and invest in what it is you are offering, you have show the value in terms of how you fit into the overall industry that you are working in.
This section should include:
- Industry Overview (do your research!)
- Market needs
- Market trends
- Market growth
- Company analysis: Identify your strengths and weaknesses in relation to the industry.
- Competitive analysis: Identify your direct competitors and their strengths and weaknesses.
Marketing Plan: Here is where you will outline how you plan to reach your target audience(s). While you don’t have to get into every detail, you should be clear about the types of tactics you plan to use (ie. Events, social media contests, loyalty programs, etc.)
- Audience segmentation
- Positioning statement
- Product strategy
- Pricing strategy
- Promotion strategy
- Placement strategy
Operational Plan: Describe how you plan on achieving your goals by identifying key milestones. Essentially, it is an implementation plan for your business. It also indicates where you want to be after certain periods of time.
- Facilities & production
- Suppliers (if any)
- Distribution (if any)
- 1-year goals
- 5-year goals
- Risks & mitigations: Don’t pretend like everything is perfect. Show that you are aware of potential issues and how you will overcome them.
Financial Plan: Potential investors need to know how you will make money and when you expect to be operating at a profit.
- Assumptions: When forecasting you have to make certain assumptions about your revenue growth, market conditions, etc. Identify these before you present your forecasting.
- Start-up costs/Use of investment capital: This outlines your ask if you are looking for financing.
- Revenue forecasts
- Profit/Loss Projections
- Cash flow projections
- Break even analysis
Appendix: If you have any supporting documentation explaining in further detail what you have in your business plan, you may want to include this in your appendix. Documentation could include:
- Financial statements
- Website screen shots
- Product shots
Imagine your business plan is pre-answering questions you might get about your business. If you have left no stone unturned, then you are ready to take your business to the next phase!