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Plan Your Business

Plan Your Business

Every successful business idea starts with a plan. A business plan will help you outline the steps, goals, and priorities your business needs to succeed. In addition, your business plan will allow you to access capital, plan your marketing strategy, and give you a clear vision of your business 3-5 years into the future.

According to the Small Business Administration, an effective business plan contains these 8 essential elements:

Executive Summary

Some would argue that the Executive Summary is the most important section of the business plan. Although it is typically the first section reviewed by a reader, it should be written last – after the details of your plan have been flushed out. The Executive Summary should provide an enthusiastic snapshot of your company, explaining who you are, what you do and why. It should be less than 2 pages in length and easy to read. After reviewing this section, the reader should have a good basic understanding about your company, but most importantly, want to learn more about your business.

Business Description & Vision

The Business Description & Vision component of the plan is pretty basic. It describes the business. In this section, you should include a crisp mission statement; a focused statement about the company’s vision; specific business goals and objectives for a prescribed time-period; and, background information about the company. You should also identify the key principals or owners of the business.

Definition of the Market

Defining your market is an important part of the business plan. Let’s face it, before you can sell something, you have to know who might buy it. The first step in defining you market should be to describe the industry you operate in, as well as the potential or prospects for your business within that industry. Your industry knowledge as well as the prospects for your business should be clearly illustrated in the plan.

Description of Products and Services

In this section you will identify and describe all of the products and services your business sells or provides. You should also explain how the items you sell are priced. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, this section should explain how your products and services are competitive. The real value this section brings to the plan is providing the reader with a crystal clear understanding of why you are in business, what you sell and how you compete. Keep this section focused, easy to follow and emphasize your competitiveness.

Organization & Management

Specifically, it should explain the legal form of ownership. Are you organized as a proprietorship, partnership or corporation and why? It should also describe the leadership of your company and include an organization chart, if you have one. In this section, you should also explain how things get done in the company. You should describe the processes that support what your company does.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

Earlier in this course we talked about “defining the market.” In this component of the business plan, Marketing and Sales Strategy, we will discuss reaching customers. Marketing is defined as the activities associated with researching prospective customers and selling products and services. In simple terms, marketing activities and strategies result in making products available that satisfy customers while making profits for the companies that offer those products

Financial Management

The financial management component of the plan should include financial statements and forecasts for the business. This important section will explain your revenue projections, how much money you have and need, and when and how the business expects to make a profit. It will also reveal what your marketing and operational processes and plans will cost. The Financial Management component of your plan should include your estimated start-up costs, a projected balance sheet, a projected income statement and a projected cash flow statement for twelve months. All statements should be projected one year forward.

Appendices

The Appendix section of your business plan will include any attachments and documents to support your plan. This is where you will include your financial statements, business charts, design and artwork, as well as your building and construction plans, if applicable. 

Additional Resources

 Download Business Plan Template

Need help getting started? Not sure how to being? Download this basic business plan template and answer the simple questions to start writing down your plan.