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What Is a Business Plan?

Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

an essential part of business plan is

A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
  • There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."

Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.

Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.

While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.

While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.

Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.

The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.

These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:

  • Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
  • Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
  • Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
  • Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.

The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.

Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.

A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

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What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained

Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.

an essential part of business plan is

What is a business plan? It’s the roadmap for your business. The outline of your goals, objectives, and the steps you’ll take to get there. It describes the structure of your organization, how it operates, as well as the financial expectations and actual performance. 

A business plan can help you explore ideas, successfully start a business, manage operations, and pursue growth. In short, a business plan is a lot of different things. It’s more than just a stack of paper and can be one of your most effective tools as a business owner. 

Let’s explore the basics of business planning, the structure of a traditional plan, your planning options, and how you can use your plan to succeed. 

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a document that explains how your business operates. It summarizes your business structure, objectives, milestones, and financial performance. Again, it’s a guide that helps you, and anyone else, better understand how your business will succeed.  

Why do you need a business plan?

The primary purpose of a business plan is to help you understand the direction of your business and the steps it will take to get there. Having a solid business plan can help you grow up to 30% faster and according to our own 2021 Small Business research working on a business plan increases confidence regarding business health—even in the midst of a crisis. 

These benefits are directly connected to how writing a business plan makes you more informed and better prepares you for entrepreneurship. It helps you reduce risk and avoid pursuing potentially poor ideas. You’ll also be able to more easily uncover your business’s potential. By regularly returning to your plan you can understand what parts of your strategy are working and those that are not.

That just scratches the surface for why having a plan is valuable. Check out our full write-up for fifteen more reasons why you need a business plan .  

What can you do with your plan?

So what can you do with a business plan once you’ve created it? It can be all too easy to write a plan and just let it be. Here are just a few ways you can leverage your plan to benefit your business.

Test an idea

Writing a plan isn’t just for those that are ready to start a business. It’s just as valuable for those that have an idea and want to determine if it’s actually possible or not. By writing a plan to explore the validity of an idea, you are working through the process of understanding what it would take to be successful. 

The market and competitive research alone can tell you a lot about your idea. Is the marketplace too crowded? Is the solution you have in mind not really needed? Add in the exploration of milestones, potential expenses, and the sales needed to attain profitability and you can paint a pretty clear picture of the potential of your business.

Document your strategy and goals

For those starting or managing a business understanding where you’re going and how you’re going to get there are vital. Writing your plan helps you do that. It ensures that you are considering all aspects of your business, know what milestones you need to hit, and can effectively make adjustments if that doesn’t happen. 

With a plan in place, you’ll have an idea of where you want your business to go as well as how you’ve performed in the past. This alone better prepares you to take on challenges, review what you’ve done before, and make the right adjustments.

Pursue funding

Even if you do not intend to pursue funding right away, having a business plan will prepare you for it. It will ensure that you have all of the information necessary to submit a loan application and pitch to investors. So, rather than scrambling to gather documentation and write a cohesive plan once it’s relevant, you can instead keep your plan up-to-date and attempt to attain funding. Just add a use of funds report to your financial plan and you’ll be ready to go.

The benefits of having a plan don’t stop there. You can then use your business plan to help you manage the funding you receive. You’ll not only be able to easily track and forecast how you’ll use your funds but easily report on how it’s been used. 

Better manage your business

A solid business plan isn’t meant to be something you do once and forget about. Instead, it should be a useful tool that you can regularly use to analyze performance, make strategic decisions, and anticipate future scenarios. It’s a document that you should regularly update and adjust as you go to better fit the actual state of your business.

Doing so makes it easier to understand what’s working and what’s not. It helps you understand if you’re truly reaching your goals or if you need to make further adjustments. Having your plan in place makes that process quicker, more informative, and leaves you with far more time to actually spend running your business.

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What should your business plan include?

The content and structure of your business plan should include anything that will help you use it effectively. That being said, there are some key elements that you should cover and that investors will expect to see. 

Executive summary

The executive summary is a simple overview of your business and your overall plan. It should serve as a standalone document that provides enough detail for anyone—including yourself, team members, or investors—to fully understand your business strategy. Make sure to cover the problem you’re solving, a description of your product or service, your target market, organizational structure, a financial summary, and any necessary funding requirements.

This will be the first part of your plan but it’s easiest to write it after you’ve created your full plan.

Products & Services

When describing your products or services, you need to start by outlining the problem you’re solving and why what you offer is valuable. This is where you’ll also address current competition in the market and any competitive advantages your products or services bring to the table. Lastly, be sure to outline the steps or milestones that you’ll need to hit to successfully launch your business. If you’ve already hit some initial milestones, like taking pre-orders or early funding, be sure to include it here to further prove the validity of your business. 

Market analysis

A market analysis is a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the current market you’re entering or competing in. It helps you understand the overall state and potential of the industry, who your ideal customers are, the positioning of your competition, and how you intend to position your own business. This helps you better explore the long-term trends of the market, what challenges to expect, and how you will need to initially introduce and even price your products or services.

Check out our full guide for how to conduct a market analysis in just four easy steps .  

Marketing & sales

Here you detail how you intend to reach your target market. This includes your sales activities, general pricing plan, and the beginnings of your marketing strategy. If you have any branding elements, sample marketing campaigns, or messaging available—this is the place to add it. 

Additionally, it may be wise to include a SWOT analysis that demonstrates your business or specific product/service position. This will showcase how you intend to leverage sales and marketing channels to deal with competitive threats and take advantage of any opportunities.

Check out our full write-up to learn how to create a cohesive marketing strategy for your business. 

Organization & management

This section addresses the legal structure of your business, your current team, and any gaps that need to be filled. Depending on your business type and longevity, you’ll also need to include your location, ownership information, and business history. Basically, add any information that helps explain your organizational structure and how you operate. This section is particularly important for pitching to investors but should be included even if attempted funding is not in your immediate future.

Financial projections

Possibly the most important piece of your plan, your financials section is vital for showcasing the viability of your business. It also helps you establish a baseline to measure against and makes it easier to make ongoing strategic decisions as your business grows. This may seem complex on the surface, but it can be far easier than you think. 

Focus on building solid forecasts, keep your categories simple, and lean on assumptions. You can always return to this section to add more details and refine your financial statements as you operate. 

Here are the statements you should include in your financial plan:

  • Sales and revenue projections
  • Profit and loss statement
  • Cash flow statement
  • Balance sheet

The appendix is where you add additional detail, documentation, or extended notes that support the other sections of your plan. Don’t worry about adding this section at first and only add documentation that you think will be beneficial for anyone reading your plan.

Types of business plans explained

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. So, to get the most out of your plan, it’s best to find a format that suits your needs. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering. 

Traditional business plan

The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you’ll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual. 

This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix. We recommend only starting with this business plan format if you plan to immediately pursue funding and already have a solid handle on your business information. 

Business model canvas

The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea. 

The structure ditches a linear structure in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It’s faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations. This is really best for those exploring their business idea for the first time, but keep in mind that it can be difficult to actually validate your idea this way as well as adapt it into a full plan.

One-page business plan

The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan. This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. It basically serves as a beefed-up pitch document and can be finished as quickly as the business model canvas.

By starting with a one-page plan, you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan. This plan type is useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Now, the option that we here at LivePlan recommend is the Lean Plan . This is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance.

It holds all of the benefits of the single-page plan, including the potential to complete it in as little as 27-minutes . However, it’s even easier to convert into a full plan thanks to how heavily it’s tied to your financials. The overall goal of Lean Planning isn’t to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the Lean Planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and stable through times of crisis.

It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

Try the LivePlan Method for Lean Business Planning

Now that you know the basics of business planning, it’s time to get started. Again we recommend leveraging a Lean Plan for a faster, easier, and far more useful planning process. 

To get familiar with the Lean Plan format, you can download our free Lean Plan template . However, if you want to elevate your ability to create and use your lean plan even further, you may want to explore LivePlan. 

It features step-by-step guidance that ensures you cover everything necessary while reducing the time spent on formatting and presenting. You’ll also gain access to financial forecasting tools that propel you through the process. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results. 

Check out how LivePlan streamlines Lean Planning by downloading our Kickstart Your Business ebook .

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Kody Wirth

Posted in Business Plan Writing

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What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.

Bizee

A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

an essential part of business plan is

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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6 essential elements of a good business plan

Entrepreneurs, executives and venture capitalists discuss how to craft a business plan that will impress investors and be a good road map for your company.

road map travel salesman

Whether you are just starting out and need startup investment or are looking to expand your business and raise capital, a business plan is a must. Indeed, a business plan is not only essential if you want to get people to invest in your idea, it can help you articulate what it is you hope to accomplish with your business – your mission, goal(s) and values – and plot the company’s growth trajectory.

However, to be successful, a business plan cannot just be a bulleted list of an entrepreneur’s thoughts and musings, hopes and dreams. It needs to be a serious business document with the following six elements.

1. Executive summary

“An executive summary is the ‘elevator pitch’ of your business plan,” explains David Mercer, founder, SME Pals , a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs. “More often than not, landing a new investor relies on hooking them with a great elevator pitch. Without grabbing their attention, your business plan, no matter how well researched and presented, may not stand out enough.”

The executive summary should, in brief, describe the “problem you are going to solve, and why that problem needs to be solved right now,” by you, says Peter Arvai, CEO, Prezi presentation software. “If you aren’t able to communicate that deeper purpose to others, you will have a very hard time convincing investors to fund your idea and people to join your team.” 

Tip: Write the Executive Summary last, after you’ve done all your research and put everything down on paper.

[ Related: 12 tips for creating a must-read business blog ]

2. Description and bios of your leadership/executive team

“The entrepreneur should clearly demonstrate what they are bringing to this venture – the idea, the technical ability or the passion,” says Hossein Rahnama, founder & CEO, Flybits . “Investors want to understand how you will execute using your personal strength.”

You should also “talk about the leadership team,” says Andrew Witkin, CEO, StickerYou . “If the leadership team has a previous track record of building and delivering businesses, this should be highlighted. Business plans serve multiple purposes, but one of them is to build trust, and the team is as important as the product to potential investors and partners.”

“Investors bet on jockeys, not horses, and knowing about who will execute on an idea is key to an investor making an investment decision,” says Richard J. Foster, president, Foster Management & Holdings. “Very frequently I’ll see multiple companies with the same idea, but the one to invest in is the one with the team who has the experience and the credentials to succeed. Having the best idea with the wrong team is a recipe for failure, but proving that your team is the [right] one to execute [your idea] can make all of the difference.”

3. Description of your product(s) or service(s)

“When developing a business plan, it’s crucial to clearly [explain] the need your product or service is trying to address,” says Elena Filimonova, senior vice president, global marketing and strategy, CGS . “Your business plan should highlight how the product or service will address the need, what is unique about your offering and why it would be difficult to replicate. To do this, you should outline key differentiators, features and why the product or service is something that stands out in the market.”

[ Related: 11 ways to build your online brand ]

4. Market/competitive analysis

“Every business plan should have a section that defines the target sales market – who you are selling to,” says Victor Clarke, owner, Clarke Inc. “This is the part that requires considerable research into areas such as industry sales data related to the service or product you are selling and trends within the industry. You should look at competitors and see who they are targeting, look at your current customer base and create a profile of an ideal customer or client for your product.”

“For a business plan to be effective and attractive to investors and partners, you must be able to provide tangible data and information that supports the notion that your demographic is strong and growing, and that market trends support the continued need for your service or product offering,” says Brock Murray, cofounder & COO, seoplus+ .

[ Related: 7 attributes of a successful CMO in the digital age ]

“Sequoia Capital has a great framework that every business plan should use: separate your Total Addressable Market (everyone who conceivably needs your product category), Serviceable Addressable Market (everyone who needs your specific product or service, limited by factors like where you can do business) and Serviceable Obtainable Market (the portion of the market you can realistically capture),” says Christopher S. Penn, vice president, Marketing Technology, SHIFT Communications . “For example, lots of companies say everyone is a customer, and while that may be a TAM, if the company has only one salesperson, their SOM is significantly smaller. VCs and investors especially want to understand what’s realistically obtainable, and splitting out your addressable markets… shows them you’re not just presenting pipe dreams.”

Also be sure to “include a competitive analysis section,” says Bryan Robertson, founder & chief revenue officer, Mindyra . “Every business has competition, so it’s a good idea to research companies in your industry who are fighting for the same customers. You should include specific details about their strengths and weaknesses. This forces you to become very familiar with your market. It also encourages you to think of ways to differentiate your business [from] the competition.”

5. Financials (how much cash you need and when you’ll pay it back)

“Make sure that the plan goes into exacting detail about how much startup capital will be needed, where it will come from and how it will be paid back,” says Bruce Stetar, executive director, Graduate Business Programs, SNHU .  “Equal importance should be given to how you [plan to] pay back capital as how you acquire it. Investors want to know when they will see a return.  Failing to plan adequately for capital acquisition and payback is one of the chief reasons that new businesses fail.” 

“Whether you’re hoping to receive funding to build a brick-and-mortar shop or a technology venture, you must have your numbers straight,” says Erica Swallow, founder & CEO, Southern Swallow . “For tech entrepreneurs, I’m a big fan of the  startup financial model template  developed by startup investor David Teten, in collaboration with a couple of colleagues. Based in a nearly fully-automated Excel worksheet, it enables early-stage entrepreneurs to map out their financial plan, without being too overwhelming. It’s the best startup financial model I’ve encountered over the past five years.”

6. Marketing plan

“It is critical to have a plan [for] how you are going to spend your marketing budget,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation . “Assess different options (paid search, salespeople, flyers, [social media], etc.) and the associated ROI with each.”

“The plan should cover both sales and advertising strategies and costs,” says Stetar, as well as customer acquisition costs. “Be conservative here since you will look good if your over achieve but it will cost you investor confidence if you under achieve.”

A successful business plan is one is easy to read and follow

You need to make your business plan easy to read and follow. “There’s nothing more daunting than to receive an all-text business plan, 30 pages in length,” says Swallow. “Keep your potential investors engaged by including product and user photos, team headshots, colorful headings, financial graphs, charts, tables, anything to make reading more of a pleasure. Even bullet points help.”

Indeed, “don’t underestimate the importance of visuals,” says Arvai. “Researchers have found that presentations using visual aids are, on average,  43 percent more persuasive  than those without.”

Finally, before you go public with your plan, “have trusted mentors and expert peers look over it [and give you] their feedback,” says Sam Lundin, CEO, Vimbly . “Having [someone] review your business plan [before you present it to investors] is crucial.”

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Home > Business > Business Startup

How To Write a Business Plan

Stephanie Coleman

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How-to-write-a-business-plan

Starting a business is a wild ride, and a solid business plan can be the key to keeping you on track. A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your business — outlining your goals, strategies, market analysis and financial projections. Not only will it guide your decision-making, a business plan can help you secure funding with a loan or from investors .

Writing a business plan can seem like a huge task, but taking it one step at a time can break the plan down into manageable milestones. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to write a business plan.

Table of contents

  • Write your executive summary
  • Do your market research homework
  • Set your business goals and objectives
  • Plan your business strategy
  • Describe your product or service
  • Crunch the numbers
  • Finalize your business plan

an essential part of business plan is

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Step 1: Write your executive summary

Though this will be the first page of your business plan , we recommend you actually write the executive summary last. That’s because an executive summary highlights what’s to come in the business plan but in a more condensed fashion.

An executive summary gives stakeholders who are reading your business plan the key points quickly without having to comb through pages and pages. Be sure to cover each successive point in a concise manner, and include as much data as necessary to support your claims.

You’ll cover other things too, but answer these basic questions in your executive summary:

  • Idea: What’s your business concept? What problem does your business solve? What are your business goals?
  • Product: What’s your product/service and how is it different?
  • Market: Who’s your audience? How will you reach customers?
  • Finance: How much will your idea cost? And if you’re seeking funding, how much money do you need? How much do you expect to earn? If you’ve already started, where is your revenue at now?

an essential part of business plan is

Step 2: Do your market research homework

The next step in writing a business plan is to conduct market research . This involves gathering information about your target market (or customer persona), your competition, and the industry as a whole. You can use a variety of research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and online research to gather this information. Your method may be formal or more casual, just make sure that you’re getting good data back.

This research will help you to understand the needs of your target market and the potential demand for your product or service—essential aspects of starting and growing a successful business.

Step 3: Set your business goals and objectives

Once you’ve completed your market research, you can begin to define your business goals and objectives. What is the problem you want to solve? What’s your vision for the future? Where do you want to be in a year from now?

Use this step to decide what you want to achieve with your business, both in the short and long term. Try to set SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound benchmarks—that will help you to stay focused and motivated as you build your business.

Step 4: Plan your business strategy

Your business strategy is how you plan to reach your goals and objectives. This includes details on positioning your product or service, marketing and sales strategies, operational plans, and the organizational structure of your small business.

Make sure to include key roles and responsibilities for each team member if you’re in a business entity with multiple people.

Step 5: Describe your product or service

In this section, get into the nitty-gritty of your product or service. Go into depth regarding the features, benefits, target market, and any patents or proprietary tech you have. Make sure to paint a clear picture of what sets your product apart from the competition—and don’t forget to highlight any customer benefits.

Step 6: Crunch the numbers

Financial analysis is an essential part of your business plan. If you’re already in business that includes your profit and loss statement , cash flow statement and balance sheet .

These financial projections will give investors and lenders an understanding of the financial health of your business and the potential return on investment.

You may want to work with a financial professional to ensure your financial projections are realistic and accurate.

Step 7: Finalize your business plan

Once you’ve completed everything, it's time to finalize your business plan. This involves reviewing and editing your plan to ensure that it is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

You should also have someone else review your plan to get a fresh perspective and identify any areas that may need improvement. You could even work with a free SCORE mentor on your business plan or use a SCORE business plan template for more detailed guidance.

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The takeaway

Writing a business plan is an essential process for any forward-thinking entrepreneur or business owner. A business plan requires a lot of up-front research, planning, and attention to detail, but it’s worthwhile. Creating a comprehensive business plan can help you achieve your business goals and secure the funding you need.

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10 Essential Components of a Business Plan and How to Write Them

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Ayush Jalan

  • January 4, 2024

12 Min Read

10 Essential Business plan components and How to Write Them

A business plan is an essential document for any business, whether it’s a startup or an established enterprise. It’s the first thing any interested investor will ask for if they like your business idea and want to partner with you. 

That’s why it’s important to pay attention when writing your business plan and the components inside it. An incomplete business plan can give the impression that you’re unqualified—discouraging investors and lenders. 

A good business plan reduces ambiguity and communicates all essential details such as your financials, market analysis, competitive analysis, and a timeline for implementation of the plan. In this article, we’ll discuss the 10 important business plan components. 

10 Important Business Plan Components

A comprehensive and well-thought-out business plan acts as a roadmap that guides you in making sound decisions and taking the right actions at the right times. Here are its key components and what to include in them.

1. Executive summary

The executive summary is one of the most important parts of a business plan. It’s the first thing potential investors will read and should therefore provide a clear overview of your business and its goals.

In other words, it helps the reader get a better idea of what to expect from your company. So, when writing an executive summary of your business, don’t forget to mention your mission and vision statement.

Mission statement

A mission statement is a brief statement that outlines your objectives and what you want to achieve. It acts as a guiding principle that informs decisions and provides a clear direction for the organization to follow.

For instance, Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It’s short, inspiring, and immediately communicates what the company does.

A mission statement should be realistic, and hint towards a goal that is achievable in a reasonable amount of time with the resources you currently have or are going to acquire in the near future.

Vision statement

While a mission statement is more actionable and has an immediate effect on the daily activities of the company, a vision statement is more aspirational and has a much broader scope.

In other words, it highlights where the company aims to go in the future and the positive change it hopes to make in the world within its lifetime.

2. Company description

Company description Steps: 1) Overview 2) Products & Services 3) Company history

The second component of your business plan is the company description. Here, you provide a brief overview of your company, its products or services, and its history. You can also add any notable achievements if they are significant enough for an investor to know.

A company overview offers a quick bird’s-eye view of things such as your business model, operational capabilities, financials, business philosophy, size of the team, code of conduct, and short-term and long-term objectives.

Products and services

The products and services part of your company description explains what your business offers to its customers, how it’s delivered, and the costs involved in acquiring new customers and executing a sale.

Company History

Company history is the timeline of events that took place in your business from its origin to the present day. It includes a brief profile of the founder(s) and their background, the date the company was founded, any notable achievements and milestones, and other similar facts and details.

If you’re a startup, you’ll probably not have much of a history to write about. In that case, you can share stories of the challenges your startup faced during its inception and how your team overcame them.

3. Market analysis

Market analysis

The market analysis section of your business plan provides an in-depth analysis of the industry, target market, and competition. It should underline the risks and opportunities associated with your industry, and also comment on the attributes of your target customer.

Demographics and segmentation

Understanding the demographics of your customers plays a big role in how well you’re able to identify their traits and serve them.

By dividing your target audience into smaller and more manageable groups, you can tailor your services and products to better meet their needs.

You can use demographics such as age, gender, income, location, ethnicity, and education level to better understand the preferences and behaviors of each segment, and use that data to create more effective marketing strategies.     

Target market and size

Understanding your target market lies at the core of all your marketing endeavors. After all, if you don’t have a clear idea of who you’re serving, you won’t be able to serve well no matter how big your budget is.

For instance, Starbucks’ primary target market includes working professionals and office workers. The company has positioned itself such that many of its customers start their day with its coffee.

Estimating the market size helps you know how much scope there is to scale your business in the future. In other words, you’re trying to determine how much potential revenue exists in this market and if it’s worth the investment.

Market need

The next step is to figure out the market need, i.e., the prevalent pain points that people in that market experience. The easiest way to find these pain points is to read the negative reviews people leave on Amazon for products that are similar to yours.

The better your product solves those pain points, the better your chances of capturing that market. In addition, since your product is solving a problem that your rivals can’t, you can also charge a premium price.

To better identify the needs of your target customers, it helps to take into account things such as local cultural values, industry trends, buying habits, tastes and preferences, price elasticity, and more.

4. Product Summary

The product summary section of your business plan goes into detail about the features and benefits that your products and services offer, and how they differ from your competitors. It also outlines the manufacturing process, pricing, cost of production, inventory, packaging, and capital requirements.

5. Competitive analysis

Unless you’ve discovered an untapped market, you’re probably going to face serious competition and it’s only going to increase as you scale your business later down the line.

This is where the competitive analysis section helps; it gives an overview of the competitive landscape, introduces your immediate rivals, and highlights the current dominant companies and their market share.

In such an environment, it helps to have certain competitive advantages against your rivals so you can stand out in the market. Simply put, a competitive advantage is the additional value you can provide to your customers that your rivals can’t—perhaps via unique product features, excellent customer service, or more.

an essential part of business plan is

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6. Marketing and sales plan

an essential part of business plan is

The marketing and sales plan is one of the most important business plan components. It explains how you plan to penetrate the market, position your brand in the minds of the buyers, build brand loyalty, increase sales, and remain competitive in an ever-changing business environment.

Unique selling proposition

A unique selling proposition (USP) conveys how your products and services differ from those of your competitors, and the added value those differences provide.

A strong USP will stand out in a competitive market and make potential customers more likely to switch to your brand—essentially capturing the market share of your rivals.

Marketing Plan

Your product might be unique, but if people don’t even know that it exists, it won’t sell. That’s where marketing comes in.

A marketing plan outlines strategies for reaching your target market and achieving sales goals. It also outlines the budget required for advertising and promotion.

You may also include data on the target market, target demographics, objectives, strategies, a timeline, budget, and the metrics considered for evaluating success.

Sales and distribution plan

Once people are made aware of your product, the next step is to ensure it reaches them. This means having a competent sales and distribution plan and a strong supply chain.

Lay out strategies for reaching potential customers, such as online marketing, lead generation, retail distribution channels, or direct sales.

Your goal here is to minimize sales costs and address the risks involved with the distribution of your product. If you’re selling ice cream, for example, you would have to account for the costs of refrigeration and cold storage.

Pricing strategy

Pricing is a very sensitive yet important part of any business. When creating a pricing strategy , you need to consider factors such as market demand, cost of production, competitor prices, disposable income of target customers, and profitability goals.

Some businesses have a small profit margin but sell large volumes of their product, while others sell fewer units but with a massive markup. You will have to decide for yourself which approach you want to follow.

Before setting your marketing plans into action, you need a budget for them. This means writing down how much money you’ll need, how it will be used, and the potential return you are estimating on this investment.

A budget should be flexible, meaning that it should be open to changes as the market shifts and customer behavior evolves. The goal here is to make sure that the company is making the best use of its resources by minimizing the wastage of funds.

7. Operations plan

The operations plan section of your business plan provides an overview of how the business is run and its day-to-day operations. This section is especially important for manufacturing businesses.

It includes a description of your business structure, the roles and responsibilities of each team member, the resources needed, and the procedures you will use to ensure the smooth functioning of your business. The goal here is to maximize output whilst minimizing the wastage of raw material or human labor.

8. Management team

At the core of any successful business lies a dedicated, qualified, and experienced management team overlooking key business activities. 

This section provides an overview of the key members of your management team including their credentials, professional background, role and responsibilities, experience, and qualifications.

A lot of investors give special attention to this section as it helps them ascertain the competence and work ethic of the members involved.

Organizational structure

An organizational structure defines the roles, responsibilities, decision-making processes, and authority of each individual or department in an organization.

Having a clear organizational structure improves communication, increases efficiency, promotes collaboration, and makes it easier to delegate tasks. Startups usually have a flatter organizational hierarchy whereas established businesses have a more traditional structure of power and authority.

9. Financial Plan

Financials are usually the least fun thing to talk about, but they are important nonetheless as they provide an overview of your current financial position, capital requirements, projections, and plans for repayment of any loans. 

Your financial plan should also include an analysis of your startup costs, operating costs, administration costs, and sources of revenue.

Funding requirements

Once an investor has read through your business plan, it’s time to request funding. Investors will want to see an accurate and detailed breakdown of the funds required and an explanation of why the requested funds are necessary for the operation and expansion of your business.

10. Appendix

The appendix is the last section of your business plan and it includes additional supporting documents such as resumes of key team members, market research documents, financial statements, and legal documents. 

In other words, anything important or relevant that couldn’t fit in any of the former sections of your business plan goes in the appendix.

Write a Business Plan Worth Reading

Starting a business is never easy, but it’s a little less overwhelming if you have a well-made business plan. It helps you better navigate the industry, reduce risk, stay competitive, and make the best use of your time and money.

Remember, since every business is unique, every business plan is unique too, and must be regularly updated to keep up with changing industry trends. Also, it’s very likely that interested investors will give you feedback, so make sure to implement their recommendations as well.

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About the Author

an essential part of business plan is

Ayush is a writer with an academic background in business and marketing. Being a tech-enthusiast, he likes to keep a sharp eye on the latest tech gadgets and innovations. When he's not working, you can find him writing poetry, gaming, playing the ukulele, catching up with friends, and indulging in creative philosophies.

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The Most Essential Elements of a Business Plan

an essential part of business plan is

A business plan helps you think strategically about how you’re going to meet your business goals. While it may be tempting to just dive into building your business, make sure you spend time planning. No matter the stage of the business or experience of the team, a well-developed business plan provides structure and outlines your vision for success. These are the essential components of a business plan you should include in yours.

Executive Summary

The executive summary is an eagle-eye view of your business. It should reflect the structure and content of the rest of your plan but be able to stand alone if needed. It’s like a trailer for a movie — it should entice your audience and share the very best pieces of the whole. You may want to write this section last so you have a complete picture of what the rest of the document will be. 

Consider including:

  • Your mission
  • A brief overview of each section of your plan, focusing on your highest priorities
  • An explanation of your company’s viability and growth potential
  • A summary of your plans, including your next steps and what you critically need to be successful

Company Overview

The company overview is an opportunity to share what inspired you to create your business, who you have on board, and what resources you have in place. This element of your business plan can help you connect with your audience on a more personal level. 

  • The history of your business and the inspiration behind your drive to create it
  • An overview of the company’s leadership and employees, including notable community members who are already on board with your business
  • Information about your location and operations that might be of interest to the public

Products or Services

The products/services section tells the reader what it is your business does. Paint a picture of the problem that you’re solving and tell your reader how you’re solving it. Include enough details to show that you’ve clearly thought things through but avoid too many specifics or technical jargon that might break the reader’s concentration or interest. 

  • A description of the products/services and the value they bring to the customer, including how they are different from competitors’ products/services
  • A brief overview of the production and/or procurement process and timeline of bringing your product/service to life
  • An outline of your vendor relationships
  • Pricing and lifespan/longevity of your product/service
  • Any patents or proprietary technology
  • Continued plans for research and development or growth (if applicable)

Market Analysis

The market analysis gives the reader an overview of your industry and explains how your business will stand out in the market. Add this element to your business plan to drill down on the importance of what your business offers.

  • A market and industry overview, including size, volatility and growth potential
  • A description of how your products/services are unique amongst your competitors
  • A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis
  • An overview of your top competitors, including their strengths and weaknesses
  • Industry trends that will work in your favor or that you will have to contend with

Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy describes your brand — how you are perceived in the market — and how you use that to sell your products/services. If your business is more established, you could include focused sections, such as entering new markets, introducing a new product/service, boosting sales of a particular product/service, cross-selling, etc.

  • A detailed description of your target market. Who are your intended customers? How big is this market? What is their spending power? What do they consider when making decisions about purchases similar to your products/services?
  • An overview of strategies your competitors have used (successfully and non-successfully) and what you can take from these successes or failures
  • Strategies to promote your business and reach your target audience using various channels, including but not only social media . You should also include definitions of what success looks like for each strategy and channel
  • A plan for building customer loyalty

Goals and Objectives

A goals and objectives section gives you a place to use all the research you have built up to create goals, objectives and tactics for succeeding in those goals. It is essentially the “next steps” section of your plan. This is also where you would include a funding request for the next 3-5 years if appropriate for your business and your audience.

  • SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound)
  • Objectives (or sub-goals) that will help you track progress toward your main goals
  • Tactics to help you achieve each goal
  • The support you need to reach these goals

Financial Analysis

Your financial analysis is the overview of the financial health of your organization. This section of your business plan should include both the current situation and the projected future finances. You can be aggressive with these projections as long as they are realistic and justified — have you looked at the potential risks and determined a strategy to minimize those risks? Have you taken into account the hidden costs of starting a business ? How do these projections compare to competitors?

  • Your current budget
  • A few ratios that demonstrate the financial health of your business (such as a common size ratio, a current ratio, a quick ratio, and an inventory turnover ratio)
  • Any relevant tax information
  • Your sales targets and financial projections

Best Practices for Your Business Plan

Your plan should be concise: no longer than 15-20 pages — and, in some cases, can be just a page. You are focusing on the key information — you can get into the details in your internal documents. Even in a full-length business plan, longer elements that you might want to include, such as a patent application, can be added in the appendix. A short version, such as a one-page plan, still requires you to think through each component of your business plan and make a compelling case.

Have other people read your plan. They can often see things that you aren’t able to — a fresh set of eyes may catch a typo and someone outside the planning process can point out areas where you need to add detail or clarify.

Be flexible — keep revising your plan. This isn’t a static — it’s meant to grow as you and your business do. At the very least, review your plan annually to record accomplishments, changes, and the ways that your trajectory has shifted in the past year.

A business plan is no substitute for a great idea, experience, business insights and the proper protection . Talk to your Farm Bureau agent today to make sure you have the bases covered before launching your business.

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9 essential components of a business plan.

9 Essential Components of a Business Plan

Maybe you’re a small business owner that has been in business for years. Or, you could be going through the process of starting a business. Regardless of where you’re at with your career, tasks and responsibilities will come at you quickly.

You need to worry about to-do lists, scheduled meetings, accounting processes and everything in between. When are you supposed to find the time to put your business plan together? It can be an intimidating process to go through, but having a well-thought-out business plan is incredibly important.

There’s no perfect recipe for a business plan, but one of the best things that you can do is write it before you start your business. It can act as a roadmap for where your business is going in the future and how you’re going to get there. So, where do you start?

Let’s take a look at everything that you need to know for writing a business plan that can get you ahead.

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

What Is a Business Plan?

Tips to make your business plan stand out, 9 components of a business plan, key takeaways.

Think about the last time you needed to get somewhere you hadn’t been before. You might drive, ride your bike or take the train. But no matter the way you get there, you first need to know how to get there. You might put the directions into a GPS, follow a bike path or look up the train schedules.

A business plan works in the exact same way, only it’s a roadmap for your business. It’s a comprehensive document that outlines how your small business is going to grow and develop.

Throughout a business plan, you’re going to communicate who your business is, what you plan on doing and how you plan on doing it. This can give valuable insights into your business for potential investors or hiring new talent.

That all said, a business plan is completely different from a general business concept or business idea. A business plan acts as a blueprint for your business and will highlight who you are. Most banking institutions and venture capitalists won’t invest in a small business unless they have a good business plan.

Potential investors are going to want to know that you have a product or service that fits in the market with a good team in place. Plus, it can show the scalability of your business and how you will grow sales volume.

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When Do You Need a Business Plan?

First and foremost, a business plan is important to have regardless of the industry you’re in or the products you offer your customers. It will not only keep you focused and efficient, but a well-written business plan can have other benefits.

A business plan can be helpful when:

  • You need new investments, funding or loans
  • You are searching for a new partner for your business
  • You are attracting and retaining top talent
  • You are experiencing slower growth than expected and want a change

Every business plan is going to be a little different compared to others. This is since your business is unique and your business plan is going to reflect that. But, if your plan is badly written or missing key bits of information then it won’t be as attractive to potential investors.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your business plan and make it stand out.

  • Make it as easy to read as possible. Investors want something that’s easily scannable and is divided into distinct sections. This way, they can quickly look through the plan and spot the key information.
  • Keep it brief. Most business plans are going to range anywhere from 10 – 20 pages. But, as long as you cover the essentials and highlight the key points, less can often be more.
  • Make sure you proofread and edit. Always double-check for grammatical errors and that it’s formatted properly. Typos and mistakes are not going to reflect positively for your business.
  • Have a quality design. Make sure you have the proper layout, formatting and brand messaging throughout. Bookbinding your business plan can make it look more professional.
  • Know all your business margins. Include each and every cost that your business incurs. You can make sure that you’re organizing and assigning those costs to the right product or service you offer.

One of the best things that you can do before writing your business plan is to determine who your audience is going to be. Are you pitching to a room full of potential investors? Do you have a meeting with your local financial institution’s venture funding department? Or, do you just want to create an internal document to help guide your business forward?

Being able to define who your audience is going to be will help you figure out how to write your business plan. For example, the language in your business plan might be different depending on who you want to highlight your business to.

Here are the 9 essential components of a business plan.

1. Executive Summary

Your executive summary is going to be at the front of your plan and be one of the first things that someone reads. But, writing the executive summary should be the last thing that you do, even though it’s first on the list. For now, you can leave your executive summary blank.

Why? Because it lays out every piece of vital information that’s included in your business plan, usually in one page or less. It’s basically a high-level summary of each of the sections in the plan. This means you can’t really write the executive summary first.

2. Company Description

This is where you’re going to highlight your business and what you do. Your company description will include three different things: a mission statement, company history and business objectives.

First, let’s look at your mission statement .

A mission statement is basically the main reason why you’re in business. It’s not necessarily about what you do or the products or services that you sell. Rather, it’s all about why your business does what it does.

Try and make your mission statement inspirational, motivational and even emotional. It’s going to be the foundation on which your business is built. Put some thought into the things that motivate you and the reasons why you started your business in the first place. What do you want to get out of it? Why are you doing it?

You can also think about the causes or different experiences which led you to start your business and the problems it can solve for your customers.

Next, let’s look at your company history .

This doesn’t need to be a long or in-depth section, but more of a highlight of what your business has done in the past and where you stand today. To help make things easier, you can even write about your company history in the form of a profile. Here’s some of the important information you can include in your company history.

  • The date you founded or started your business
  • Any major milestones worth highlighting
  • Your business location, or locations
  • How many employees you have
  • Your executive leadership and the roles that they have within your company
  • The flagship services or products that you offer your customers

Finally, let’s look at your business objectives .

Your business objectives are your guiding lights. They’re the goals that you plan on achieving and they will outline how you plan on getting there. When developing your business objectives, base them on the process of SMART goals.

These are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Basically, each objective gets tied to the key results you want to achieve. If you don’t clearly define your business objectives, it can make it more difficult for your employees to work efficiently towards a common goal.

3. Market Research and Business Potential

This is the section of your business plan where you outline your target demographic and ideal customer base. You’re also going to do research into the potential and actual size of the market you’re going to enter into. Target markets are going to identify specific information about your customers.

Usually, you can research and find the following information for your target customers:

  • Location and average income
  • Age and gender
  • Education level and profession
  • Any activities or hobbies that are relevant

Getting as specific as possible will allow you to illustrate your expertise and get a sense of confidence when it comes to your business. For example, if your target market is extremely broad, it will show investors that it might be more difficult to generate revenue.

4. Competitive Analysis

What is your competition doing? Competitor research is going to start by identifying any companies that are currently in the market you want to enter into. Understanding everything you can about your competition can seem overwhelming and intimidating.

But having this information is extremely useful and will help you make more informed business decisions in the future. Here are a few common questions that you can ask yourself when you’re doing competitive research.

  • Where are they investing most in marketing and advertising?
  • Do they get any press coverage? If they do, how are they getting it?
  • What is their customer service like? Does your customer service stack up against theirs?
  • What are their pricing strategies and what are their sales?
  • Do they have good reviews on third-party rating platforms?

One of the best ways to do competitive research is to check out your competition’s website. Read through their About Us page or their value and mission statements. This will give you a better understanding of who they are, what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

Being able to distinguish your business from your competition is a critical element of any business plan. Take some time to think about what sets your business apart and how you’re going to provide a solution to a problem.

5. Describe You Products or Services

What do you offer your customers? What product or service is your business built on? This section of your business plan is going to detail everything about your product or service. Plus, it’s going to highlight why what your business offers is better than the competition.

Touch on the benefits that your product or service offers, the production process and the product life cycle.

When you’re describing the benefits, try and focus on things like unique features and how they translate into benefits. You can also highlight intellectual property rights or patents that differentiate your products.

For the production process, you can explain how you create your existing or new products or services and how you source the raw materials. Other things such as quality control, quality assurance and supply chain logistics can get included.

With your product life cycle, you can highlight any cross-sells, down-sells or upsells. As well as your future plans for research and development.

an essential part of business plan is

6. Marketing and Sales Strategy

You could spend weeks putting together an in-depth business plan that highlights your company and what you do. But, if you don’t have a solid marketing and sales strategy in place then it won’t matter how good your business plan is. You still need to know how you’re going to generate sales.

This part of your plan is entirely dependant on the type of products or services that you offer. You can include your company’s value proposition, ideal target market and your existing customer segments. Then, you can start with some more specifics.

What’s the launch plan that you have in place to help attract new business? What are your growth tactics to help your business expand in the future? Do you have any retention strategies in place, such as customer loyalty or referral programs? What about advertising across print, social media, search engines or television?

These are all good questions to ask yourself when putting together your sales and marketing strategy. You can use this part of the business plan to highlight your business strengths and how you differentiate from the competition.

7. Business Financials

If you are just starting your business then you aren’t going to have much financial data. You won’t have things like financial statements or an income statement. But, you still need to put together some type of financial plan and budget. If you have been operating for a while, you will have some important information to include, such as:

  • Profit and loss statements
  • Income statements
  • Cash flow statement
  • Balance sheets
  • Revenue vs net income
  • The ratio of liquidity to debt repayment

Make sure that the data and figures that you include are accurate. For example, things like costs, profit margins and sale prices can be closely linked together. If you don’t have access to historical data, you can put together financial projections.

8. Management and Organization

The people that you have working for your business are the driving force behind your overall success. Without the right people in place, your business won’t likely be successful. This is the part of your business plan where you’re going to highlight your team.

Identify the members of your team and explain how they are going to help turn your business idea into a reality. Plus, you can highlight the qualifications and expertise of each team member. This will position your business as one that’s worth potentially investing in.

9. Include an Appendix

This is where you’re going to compile and include everything that both investors and your team will need access to. Include everything that’s useful for an investor to conduct due diligence.

Here are some of the most common official documents you can include in a well-organized appendix.

  • Any legal documents, local permits or deeds
  • Professional licenses or business registries
  • Any patents or intellectual property
  • Any industry memberships or associations
  • Your business identification numbers or codes
  • Any key purchase orders or customer contracts that you have in place

It can also be helpful to include a table of contents in your appendix. This can make it easier to find the right information or allow you to highlight the most important documents.

It’s worth noting that a business plan doesn’t just have to be a way to attract potential investors. There are several other reasons why having a business plan is important.

You can better clarify the goals and objections that you want your business to accomplish and you can gain insights into your target market. Team members can have a much better sense as to the direction the business is going and how they can contribute to its success and growth. Plus, you can establish and define the roles of each team member, all while setting achievable benchmarks.

Creating a business plan will act as a roadmap for your business. It’s going to highlight the goals and objectives you have. As well as touch on things like marketing, advertising, your management team and financials. Here’s a quick review of the 9 essential components of a business plan.

  • Executive summary, which you will write after you have completed steps 2 – 9
  • Company description, including a mission statement, company history and business objectives
  • Competitive analysis
  • Market research and business potential
  • Your products or services
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Business financials
  • Management and organization

Follow the 9 components outlined in this article to help you develop a business plan. You can clearly define your business goals and have a roadmap to help your business be successful.

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Table of Contents

What is a business plan, the advantages of having a business plan, the types of business plans, the key elements of a business plan, best business plan software, common challenges of writing a business plan, become an expert business planner, business planning: it’s importance, types and key elements.

Business Planning: It’s Importance, Types and Key Elements

Every year, thousands of new businesses see the light of the day. One look at the  World Bank's Entrepreneurship Survey and database  shows the mind-boggling rate of new business registrations. However, sadly, only a tiny percentage of them have a chance of survival.   

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, about 50% in their fifth year.

Research from the University of Tennessee found that 44% of businesses fail within the first three years. Among those that operate within specific sectors, like information (which includes most tech firms), 63% shut shop within three years.

Several  other statistics  expose the abysmal rates of business failure. But why are so many businesses bound to fail? Most studies mention "lack of business planning" as one of the reasons.

This isn’t surprising at all. 

Running a business without a plan is like riding a motorcycle up a craggy cliff blindfolded. Yet, way too many firms ( a whopping 67%)  don't have a formal business plan in place. 

It doesn't matter if you're a startup with a great idea or a business with an excellent product. You can only go so far without a roadmap — a business plan. Only, a business plan is so much more than just a roadmap. A solid plan allows a business to weather market challenges and pivot quickly in the face of crisis, like the one global businesses are struggling with right now, in the post-pandemic world.  

But before you can go ahead and develop a great business plan, you need to know the basics. In this article, we'll discuss the fundamentals of business planning to help you plan effectively for 2021.  

Now before we begin with the details of business planning, let us understand what it is.

No two businesses have an identical business plan, even if they operate within the same industry. So one business plan can look entirely different from another one. Still, for the sake of simplicity, a business plan can be defined as a guide for a company to operate and achieve its goals.  

More specifically, it's a document in writing that outlines the goals, objectives, and purpose of a business while laying out the blueprint for its day-to-day operations and key functions such as marketing, finance, and expansion.

A good business plan can be a game-changer for startups that are looking to raise funds to grow and scale. It convinces prospective investors that the venture will be profitable and provides a realistic outlook on how much profit is on the cards and by when it will be attained. 

However, it's not only new businesses that greatly benefit from a business plan. Well-established companies and large conglomerates also need to tweak their business plans to adapt to new business environments and unpredictable market changes. 

Before getting into learning more about business planning, let us learn the advantages of having one.

Since a detailed business plan offers a birds-eye view of the entire framework of an establishment, it has several benefits that make it an important part of any organization. Here are few ways a business plan can offer significant competitive edge.

  • Sets objectives and benchmarks: Proper planning helps a business set realistic objectives and assign stipulated time for those goals to be met. This results in long-term profitability. It also lets a company set benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) necessary to reach its goals. 
  • Maximizes resource allocation: A good business plan helps to effectively organize and allocate the company’s resources. It provides an understanding of the result of actions, such as, opening new offices, recruiting fresh staff, change in production, and so on. It also helps the business estimate the financial impact of such actions.
  • Enhances viability: A plan greatly contributes towards turning concepts into reality. Though business plans vary from company to company, the blueprints of successful companies often serve as an excellent guide for nascent-stage start-ups and new entrepreneurs. It also helps existing firms to market, advertise, and promote new products and services into the market.
  • Aids in decision making: Running a business involves a lot of decision making: where to pitch, where to locate, what to sell, what to charge — the list goes on. A well thought-out business plan provides an organization the ability to anticipate the curveballs that the future could throw at them. It allows them to come up with answers and solutions to these issues well in advance.
  • Fix past mistakes: When businesses create plans keeping in mind the flaws and failures of the past and what worked for them and what didn’t, it can help them save time, money, and resources. Such plans that reflects the lessons learnt from the past offers businesses an opportunity to avoid future pitfalls.
  • Attracts investors: A business plan gives investors an in-depth idea about the objectives, structure, and validity of a firm. It helps to secure their confidence and encourages them to invest. 

Now let's look at the various types involved in business planning.

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Business plans are formulated according to the needs of a business. It can be a simple one-page document or an elaborate 40-page affair, or anything in between. While there’s no rule set in stone as to what exactly a business plan can or can’t contain, there are a few common types of business plan that nearly all businesses in existence use.  

Here’s an overview of a few fundamental types of business plans. 

  • Start-up plan: As the name suggests, this is a documentation of the plans, structure, and objections of a new business establishments. It describes the products and services that are to be produced by the firm, the staff management, and market analysis of their production. Often, a detailed finance spreadsheet is also attached to this document for investors to determine the viability of the new business set-up.
  • Feasibility plan: A feasibility plan evaluates the prospective customers of the products or services that are to be produced by a company. It also estimates the possibility of a profit or a loss of a venture. It helps to forecast how well a product will sell at the market, the duration it will require to yield results, and the profit margin that it will secure on investments. 
  • Expansion Plan: This kind of plan is primarily framed when a company decided to expand in terms of production or structure. It lays down the fundamental steps and guidelines with regards to internal or external growth. It helps the firm to analyze the activities like resource allocation for increased production, financial investments, employment of extra staff, and much more.
  • Operations Plan: An operational plan is also called an annual plan. This details the day-to-day activities and strategies that a business needs to follow in order to materialize its targets. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of the managing body, the various departments, and the company’s employees for the holistic success of the firm.
  • Strategic Plan: This document caters to the internal strategies of the company and is a part of the foundational grounds of the establishments. It can be accurately drafted with the help of a SWOT analysis through which the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be categorized and evaluated so that to develop means for optimizing profits.

There is some preliminary work that’s required before you actually sit down to write a plan for your business. Knowing what goes into a business plan is one of them. 

Here are the key elements of a good business plan:

  • Executive Summary: An executive summary gives a clear picture of the strategies and goals of your business right at the outset. Though its value is often understated, it can be extremely helpful in creating the readers’ first impression of your business. As such, it could define the opinions of customers and investors from the get-go.  
  • Business Description: A thorough business description removes room for any ambiguity from your processes. An excellent business description will explain the size and structure of the firm as well as its position in the market. It also describes the kind of products and services that the company offers. It even states as to whether the company is old and established or new and aspiring. Most importantly, it highlights the USP of the products or services as compared to your competitors in the market.
  • Market Analysis: A systematic market analysis helps to determine the current position of a business and analyzes its scope for future expansions. This can help in evaluating investments, promotions, marketing, and distribution of products. In-depth market understanding also helps a business combat competition and make plans for long-term success.
  • Operations and Management: Much like a statement of purpose, this allows an enterprise to explain its uniqueness to its readers and customers. It showcases the ways in which the firm can deliver greater and superior products at cheaper rates and in relatively less time. 
  • Financial Plan: This is the most important element of a business plan and is primarily addressed to investors and sponsors. It requires a firm to reveal its financial policies and market analysis. At times, a 5-year financial report is also required to be included to show past performances and profits. The financial plan draws out the current business strategies, future projections, and the total estimated worth of the firm.

The importance of business planning is it simplifies the planning of your company's finances to present this information to a bank or investors. Here are the best business plan software providers available right now:

  • Business Sorter

The importance of business planning cannot be emphasized enough, but it can be challenging to write a business plan. Here are a few issues to consider before you start your business planning:

  • Create a business plan to determine your company's direction, obtain financing, and attract investors.
  • Identifying financial, demographic, and achievable goals is a common challenge when writing a business plan.
  • Some entrepreneurs struggle to write a business plan that is concise, interesting, and informative enough to demonstrate the viability of their business idea.
  • You can streamline your business planning process by conducting research, speaking with experts and peers, and working with a business consultant.

Whether you’re running your own business or in-charge of ensuring strategic performance and growth for your employer or clients, knowing the ins and outs of business planning can set you up for success. 

Be it the launch of a new and exciting product or an expansion of operations, business planning is the necessity of all large and small companies. Which is why the need for professionals with superior business planning skills will never die out. In fact, their demand is on the rise with global firms putting emphasis on business analysis and planning to cope with cut-throat competition and market uncertainties.

While some are natural-born planners, most people have to work to develop this important skill. Plus, business planning requires you to understand the fundamentals of business management and be familiar with business analysis techniques . It also requires you to have a working knowledge of data visualization, project management, and monitoring tools commonly used by businesses today.   

Simpliearn’s Executive Certificate Program in General Management will help you develop and hone the required skills to become an extraordinary business planner. This comprehensive general management program by IIM Indore can serve as a career catalyst, equipping professionals with a competitive edge in the ever-evolving business environment.

What Is Meant by Business Planning?

Business planning is developing a company's mission or goals and defining the strategies you will use to achieve those goals or tasks. The process can be extensive, encompassing all aspects of the operation, or it can be concrete, focusing on specific functions within the overall corporate structure.

What Are the 4 Types of Business Plans?

The following are the four types of business plans:

Operational Planning

This type of planning typically describes the company's day-to-day operations. Single-use plans are developed for events and activities that occur only once (such as a single marketing campaign). Ongoing plans include problem-solving policies, rules for specific regulations, and procedures for a step-by-step process for achieving particular goals.

Strategic Planning

Strategic plans are all about why things must occur. A high-level overview of the entire business is included in strategic planning. It is the organization's foundation and will dictate long-term decisions.

Tactical Planning

Tactical plans are about what will happen. Strategic planning is aided by tactical planning. It outlines the tactics the organization intends to employ to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan.

Contingency Planning

When something unexpected occurs or something needs to be changed, contingency plans are created. In situations where a change is required, contingency planning can be beneficial.

What Are the 7 Steps of a Business Plan?

The following are the seven steps required for a business plan:

Conduct Research

If your company is to run a viable business plan and attract investors, your information must be of the highest quality.

Have a Goal

The goal must be unambiguous. You will waste your time if you don't know why you're writing a business plan. Knowing also implies having a target audience for when the plan is expected to get completed.

Create a Company Profile

Some refer to it as a company profile, while others refer to it as a snapshot. It's designed to be mentally quick and digestible because it needs to stick in the reader's mind quickly since more information is provided later in the plan.

Describe the Company in Detail

Explain the company's current situation, both good and bad. Details should also include patents, licenses, copyrights, and unique strengths that no one else has.

Create a marketing plan ahead of time.

A strategic marketing plan is required because it outlines how your product or service will be communicated, delivered, and sold to customers.

Be Willing to Change Your Plan for the Sake of Your Audience

Another standard error is that people only write one business plan. Startups have several versions, just as candidates have numerous resumes for various potential employers.

Incorporate Your Motivation

Your motivation must be a compelling reason for people to believe your company will succeed in all circumstances. A mission should drive a business, not just selling, to make money. That mission is defined by your motivation as specified in your business plan.

What Are the Basic Steps in Business Planning?

These are the basic steps in business planning:

Summary and Objectives

Briefly describe your company, its objectives, and your plan to keep it running.

Services and Products

Add specifics to your detailed description of the product or service you intend to offer. Where, why, and how much you plan to sell your product or service and any special offers.

Conduct research on your industry and the ideal customers to whom you want to sell. Identify the issues you want to solve for your customers.

Operations are the process of running your business, including the people, skills, and experience required to make it successful.

How are you going to reach your target audience? How you intend to sell to them may include positioning, pricing, promotion, and distribution.

Consider funding costs, operating expenses, and projected income. Include your financial objectives and a breakdown of what it takes to make your company profitable. With proper business planning through the help of support, system, and mentorship, it is easy to start a business.

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an essential part of business plan is

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Parts of a Business Plan

Whether you are starting a pizza shop or a plumbing business, a flower shop or a factory, you need a solid plan. In fact, your Business Plan will be an essential tool throughout the life of your business – from starting out to cashing in. It will help you to start out on the right foot, stay focused, get financing, manage your growth, and more.

Not every Business Plan will be the exactly same, but every Plan should incorporate several key elements.

The Parts of the Plan

Here are the key pieces to a solid Business Plan.

  • The title, or heading, of the plan, and very brief description of the business.
  • The name of the owner
  • The company name and location
  • A copyright or confidentiality notice

Table of Contents

  • A list of the individual sections and their page numbers, starting with the Title Page and ending with a section for Special Materials (references, etc.).

Summary/Overview

  • A brief, but focused statement (a few sentences or paragraphs) stating why the business will be successful. This is the most important piece of a Business Plan because it brings everything together.

Market Analysis

  • Identifies specific knowledge about the business and its industry, and the market (or customers) it serves.
  • An analysis that identifies and assesses the competition.

Description of the Company

  • Information about the nature of the business and the factors that should make it successful .
  • Special business skills and talents that provide the business with a competitive advantage, such as a unique ability to satisfy specific customer needs, special methods of delivering a product or service, and so on.

Organization & Management

  • The company’s organizational and legal structure, Is it a sole proprietorship? A partnership? A corporation? (See: “ Ownership Structures “)
  • Profiles of the ownership and management team: What is their background, experience and responsibilities?

Marketing & Sales

  • The company’s process of identifying and creating a customer base. (See: “ Market Research “)

Description of Product or Service

  • How they will benefit from the product or service?
  • Specific needs or problems that the business can satisfy or solve, focusing especially on areas where the business has the strongest skills or advantages.
  • The amount of current and future funding needed to start or expand the business. Includes the time period that each amount will cover, the type of funding for each (i.e., equity, debt), and the proposed or requested repayment terms.
  • How the funds will be used: For equipment and materials? Everyday working capital? Paying off debt?
  • Explains or projects how the company is expected to perform financially over the next several years. (Sometimes called a “pro-forma projection.”)  Because investors and lenders look closely at this projection as a measure of your company’s growth potential, professional input is strongly recommended.
  • Credit histories (personal & business)
  • Resumes of key personnel and partners
  • Letters of reference
  • Details of market studies
  • Copies of licenses, permits, patents, leases, contracts, etc.
  • A list of business consultants, attorneys, accountants, etc.

These are just the basic essentials to creating a Business Plan. Each plan should be tailored to the specific business. (See: Business Plan Assistance )

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Dealstruck > Resources > General > The Essential Parts of a Business Plan

The Essential Parts of a Business Plan

an essential part of business plan is

Written by: Joe Harris April 30, 2019

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Are you ready to be your own boss? Are you prepared to pursue the passion project of your wildest dreams? These are  two of the top reasons  for entrepreneurs—like yourself—to start the long, challenging, and rewarding journey of opening a business.

A business starts as a vision and evolves from there. Are you ready to make your vision a tangible reality? What are the next steps required for bringing this to life?

First things first: you need a plan. You need to carefully consider all parts of a business plan and lay out what your company hopes to do  and  how they hope to accomplish it. This essential information is what you’ll show investors, the city, employees. . .

Spend your time crafting one that embodies your company’s mission. Make it unique to you. Someone may read your executive summary and realize they’re ready to invest right then!

Here are the bare bones of what to include in your business plan. It’s up to you to fill in the spaces.

1. An Executive Summary

This is an essential first part of every great business plan. It does what it describes: summarizes what’s to come with the plan. An executive summary should be good enough to stand on its own!

What does that mean?

An executive summary includes everything your business plan includes, but in a briefer manner. It should describe the following:

  • Your company’s name and location
  • The products or services you’re planning to offer
  • A thoughtfully-crafted mission statement

Your summary is like a proposal or a cover page. Make it compelling and straightforward.

2. A Company Overview

Here’s where you can start getting into some more detail. At this point, your business plan can be as long as it needs to be.

This is the time to explain what your company is all about.

  • What is your name and what does it mean?
  • What is its history of conception? History of ownership?
  • What are its short-term and long-term goals?

Let’s run through one example.

If you’re opening a brewpub, here is where you can explain the styles of beer that you’d like to focus on brewing or the type of food you plan to sell. You can tell a bit about where your location will be and how the building is getting used.

3. An Industry Analysis

You need to prove that you’ve done your research.

What audience is your industry targeting? What demographics is it most popular with? Per our brewpub example—what age group is drinking craft beer right now?

Your industry analysis is an excellent place to state this.

Not only that, but what’s the competition look like? Or the industry itself? You need to have an idea of the projected future of the industry you’re attempting to enter into.

Now is your chance to state the facts and then provide your solution. Explain the fundamentals of your business and why (and how) it’s going to impact the industry.

4. Your Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan says everything about how you hope to attract, get, and keep customers.

It answers some basic but  essential questions :

  • Who are your target customers? (By this point, you know the answer)
  • How do you plan to reach those customers?
  • How do you plan to retain those customers and keep them coming back?

Use your Unique Selling Proposition (or USP) to your advantage in this area. This explains how your company is unique, how you distinguish yourself from others.

You need to think about marketing materials, which includes everything from  a quality website  to paper brochures. It also includes promotional tactics like social media accounts, event advertising, or whatever is specific to your company.

5. Your Ownership/Team

If someone is going to invest in your company, it helps to know the history of who’s behind it. Whether that’s you, the solo entrepreneur, or a small team that you work with, investors (and others) need to know the people involved. This will help them make informed decisions and know who they’re connecting with.

What is your history and how does it affect your company? What skills, knowledge, and experience are you bringing to the table? Did you go to school, and if so, what was your area of focus?

A small look into you (or your team) humanizes your project. This space also allows you to highlight your strengths.

6. Your Financial Plan

You knew this was coming—it’s time to talk money.

Now, this shouldn’t be a hurriedly scrambled-together piece. You need to prepare this portion of your business plan with the utmost care. Talk to an accountant and bring real numbers to the table.

At this point, you’ve considered the state of your industry and ran some numbers. Now put these numbers into place with an account and make some tangible projections.

Your  financial plan  should include information like:

  • Your startup costs
  • The cost of maintaining
  • A projection of the next few years to come
  • How you plan to use and allocate funds
  • How you plan to pay employees or do salaries
  • Your plan with investors

Let’s go back to our example of the brewpub.

In your plan, you’d include things like the cost of the brewing equipment, the price of Front of House furniture and supplies, the construction costs. Anything of that nature deserves careful consideration—and a place on your business plan.

7. Your Products and Services

Here’s where you get to talk about the fun stuff!

It’s time to go into precise detail about your plan. The things that you think about day in and day out—you get to brag about them here. Talk about your concept, your vision, your mission!

Are you going to give your spent grain to local farms for cow feed? State that here.

Are you featuring locally-sourced goods? Tell your investors here.

Is your space going to be so aesthetically pleasing, no one will ever want to leave?

You get the idea. This is where you pour a little of your heart and soul out into the plan. You can even include a “Q & A,” allowing whoever you’re sharing the presentation with to ask any questions they have about your product.

This space is also an excellent place to mention any plans for community involvement, such as events, collaborations, or unique things you plan to do. This can mean anything of importance for your business, whether it be hosting a fundraising event or ultimately creating your own charity.

Don’t be afraid to set some high goals here. This section of your business plan can focus on as far into the future as you’ve imagined thus far!

Why Do I Even Need a Business Plan?

A business plan is right for you, your future investors, and your business. Without it, you’ve got nothing to show for your work, investors don’t trust you, and your business doesn’t have outlined goals. As you can see by now, the best business plan considers all factors of business carefully.

It has some positive benefits, too. If you’re still on the fence about crafting a plan, here are some  things to know :

  • A business plan helps you get finances (unless, of course, you don’t need those)
  • It gives you credibility
  • It enables you to prioritize your goals, both short-term and long-term
  • It gives you an outline you can revisit and update regularly to meet your company’s needs
  • It allows you to have more control in the decision-making and operations
  • It instills you with helpful knowledge that you can use throughout your company’s existence
  • It gives you a competitive edge over others who have not prepared as well
  • It gives your product or service a better chance at success

You can show your business plan to bankers, investors, accountants, the city. When you go to apply for permits, bring your policy with you. When you go to ask an investor for funding— bring your business plan with you .

If you care about the success of your passion project, it’s clear: you need a plan.

The Necessary Parts of a Business Plan

They’re all right here. The rest is easy—and if it’s not (say, you’re not the most excellent writer, or you’re terrible at math)—don’t be afraid to ask for professional help.

Many people have done this before you, and many of them are willing to impart some knowledge. And if you’re not lucky enough to know some of those entrepreneurs, well, that’s why you hire them!

Of course, there are optional parts of a business plan—such as your professional advisors. Who are you looking to for inspiration and information? Having a substantial list of advisors may help you look more credible to potential investors.

Let this list guide you in the right direction, not steer you into a box!

Good luck on your startup journey. Making your dreams a reality is rewarding work. And whatever you do, avoid these  ten common startup mistakes  at all costs!

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Start » strategy, 9 steps to creating a procurement process for your small business.

An effective procurement strategy is the foundation for implementation success. Learn how to plan your approach, choose the right technologies, and find suitable suppliers.

 A small business owner checks a delivery. Before her is an open box. She is holding the shipping invoice in her right hand and comparing it against the goods delivered.

Disruptions, shortages, and out-of-stock situations impact your uptime and ability to meet customer expectations. Indeed, in the second quarter of 2023, supply chain issues remained a top concern for 23% of small business owners, according to the MetLife and U.S. Chamber Small Business Index . A procurement strategy increases supply chain visibility and resiliency while reducing your financial and operational risks.

In addition, a purposeful approach to procurement can save your company money and bolster relationships with suppliers. Follow this step-by-step guide to develop a procurement process suitable for your business goals and needs.

1. Assess your needs, goals, and budget

Procurement cycles differ by company; small and medium businesses (SMBs) should refrain from trying to create a one-size-fits-all plan. Instead, complete an internal review to learn what goods and services each department requires. Categorize these as direct (raw materials or services for production) or indirect (supports business activities). Then, break them into goods or services. Remember to include pricing and quantities to understand the spend for each group.

This step aims to see how much your business spends on direct and indirect goods and services. These figures will give you an idea of how procurement can benefit your company and how a strategy can help you overcome supply chain challenges .

[ Read more: 6 Ways to Protect Your Business From a Supply Chain Disruption ]

2. Establish metrics to measure your procurement performance

Procurement key performance indicators (KPIs) track your company’s efficiency and process goals. Monitoring metrics increases visibility into your supply chain and shows where you’re improving or need further action. You should set small business KPIs before beginning any new process.

Consider tracking the following metrics:

  • Rate of emergency purchases.
  • Procurement return on investment (ROI) and benefits.
  • Supplier defect rate.
  • Purchase order (PO) and invoice accuracy.
  • Compliance rate.
  • Supplier lead time.
  • Vendor availability.
  • PO cycle time.
  • Cost per invoice and PO.
  • Procurement ROI and benefits.
  • Spend under management.
  • Price competitiveness.

[ Read more: Big Brands’ Inventory Management Partners Share Top Tips to Slay Supply Chain Snarls ]

3. Consider current and new procurement technologies

Capterra stated, “Nearly 30% of SMBs plan to implement a new supply chain management tool in 2023.” Moreover, MHI predicts that “digital supply chains will be the norm” by 2033.

Although companies can choose an all-in-one procure-to-pay suite, Capterra found that many organizations opt for specialized tools. Niche programs are easier to use, integrate, and deploy.

See if your current software supports your procurement process, and while planning your strategy, look for opportunities to automate tasks using supply chain tech . Doing so can decrease errors and save time, allowing your procurement team to focus on high-value activities instead of data entry.

Procurement software solutions fall into the following categories (and several tools cover multiple areas):

  • Accounts payable and spend analysis: This software helps companies understand the procurement process and find cost-saving opportunities. Solutions include Coupa , SAP Ariba , Precoro , and PRM360 .
  • Procure to pay: These end-to-end platforms centralize many procurement activities. Consider solutions like mjPRO , Procurify , Precoro , Basware , and MHC Software .
  • Purchasing: Automate your approval workflows and view real-time spend data with SAP S/4HANA Cloud , Emburse Certify Expense , Spendwise , Veeqo , Unleashed , Planergy , Teampay , and Order.co .
  • Request for proposal (RFP): Create a central database for your procurement documents and use artificial intelligence (AI) tools to improve your workflows. Software solutions include Responsive (formerly RFPIO), Loopio , Avnio Response Cloud , RFP360 , QorusDocs , and RocketDocs .
  • Spend management: Manage your expenses automatically and visualize your costs with software like BILL Spend & Expense (Formerly Divvy), Ramp , Brex , Airbase , and Spendesk .
  • Strategic sourcing: Automate your sourcing and procurement process with software such as aPriori , Procol , and Anvyl .
  • Vendor management: Review, track, and manage suppliers with solutions from QuickBooks Online , Vanta , SAP Fieldglass , Venminder , Ncontracts , and Tradeshift Pay .

4. Find and evaluate suppliers

Identify vendors for each good, electronic component, service, raw material, or service your business requires. Obtain supply market intelligence using free resources from the U.S. Small Business Association and the U.S. Census Bureau . Also, consider paid services, such as IBIS World , Crain’s , Bloomberg , and Gartner . Consider each vendor’s cost structure, market information, past performance, and commodity profile.

This prescreening process is enough to move to the next stage for some services and goods (office supplies or standard maintenance items like grease). However, you should further evaluate complex parts and essential production components when the products substantially impact your budget and production capacity. The more risk that’s involved, the more time you should dedicate to the vetting process.

Consider criteria such as the following:

  • Location: Review the geographic stability, distance from your company, and supply chain infrastructure.
  • Cultural and language differences: Determine if barriers will cause communication issues during the process.
  • Working conditions: Focus on health and safety practices, child labor usage, and general working conditions.
  • Employee capabilities: See if there is a history of labor disputes or strikes, the turnover rate, and the workforce skill level.
  • Cost structure: Go over the total costs, including production, marketing, material, administrative, and supply chain expenses.
  • Technological capabilities: Consider the company’s approach to technology in design, equipment, processes, methods, and any current or future investments in research and development.
  • Quality control: Look at what system they use and record to ensure consistency for current and anticipated demand.

In the second quarter of 2023, supply chain issues remained a top concern for 23% of small business owners, according to the MetLife and U.S. Chamber Small Business Index.

5. Choose a sourcing strategy

After approving a purchase, your procurement team must select a supplier and either buy directly from them, send an RFP or a request for quote (RFQ), or enter into an agreement.

An RFP solicits bids from suppliers. It should outline your project and provide delivery requirements, financial terms, pricing structure, and product or service details. Alternatively, a company uses an RFQ when they only need a price quote, not information about products or services.

[ Read more: Do You Have a Supply Chain Backup Plan? How to Plan Ahead ]

6. Select suppliers and negotiate

Once you review the documents and choose a supplier, it’s time to negotiate vendor contracts . The agreement should outline the scope of work, delivery dates, budget, contract duration, legalities, terms, and conditions.

It’s important to remember that, ideally, you’re building a long-term relationship. You need to get the best deal possible. At the same time, compromise is part of negotiation.

7. Finalize documents and keep records

The onboarding process begins immediately after signing and approving the contract. Larger organizations often require individuals to complete a purchase requisition (PR). This form requests the procured goods or services and requires approval from an internal department manager or leader.

From there, the business creates a purchase order (PO). This document goes to the supplier and details the services or goods and negotiated terms and conditions.

Small businesses should keep all records on file, whether those records are paper files or digital forms. Doing so helps show your overall ROI and can support you when negotiating future vendor payment terms . Moreover, it’s essential for business tax and audit purposes.

Store the following documents:

  • Supplier invoices.
  • Delivery reports.
  • Company policies.
  • Purchase orders.
  • Packing lists.
  • RFPs and RFQs.
  • Procurement budget approvals.
  • Goods received note.

8. Inspect shipments and pay suppliers

Check out your first shipment to ensure everything is in good condition and in the correct quantity. Also, note if the supplier met the delivery schedule and satisfied the services outlined in the contract. If you have any concerns, contact the vendor for a meeting. Otherwise, you can go over the invoice for payment.

Companies often use the three-way matching method. It compares the purchase order, invoice, and itemized list for accuracy. From there (depending on your payment terms), your financial department will process the payment and send it to the supplier.

9. Review and adjust your procurement strategy

All business strategies are living documents. Nothing, including contracts, is set in stone.

Your procurement KPIs will highlight opportunities for improvement and areas where you could save money by adjusting your process or negotiating better contract terms. Likewise, you may realize inefficient processes are driving up administrative costs. In this case, automated spend management software or vendor management tools can boost productivity while reducing errors and ensuring policy compliance.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here .

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