- Business Strategy
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- Building Your Business Plan
Main Components of a Business Plan
- Executive summary This is your five-minute elevator pitch. It may include a table of contents, company background, market opportunity, management overviews, competitive advantages, and financial highlights. It’s probably easiest to write the detailed sections first and then extract the cream to create the executive summary. Try to keep it to just a couple of pages.
- Business description and structure This is where you explain why you're in business and what you're selling. If you sell products, describe your manufacturing process, availability of materials, how you handle inventory and fulfillment, and other operational details. If you provide services, describe them and their value proposition to customers. Include other details such as strategic relationships, administrative issues, intellectual property you may own, expenses, and the legal structure of your company.
- Market research and strategies Spell out your market analysis and describe your marketing strategy, including sales forecasts, deadlines and milestones, advertising, public relations and how you stack up against your competition. If you can’t produce a lot of data analysis, you can provide testimonials from existing customers.
- Management and personnel Provide bios of your company executives and managers and explain how their expertise will help you meet business goals. Investors need to evaluate risk, and often, a management team with lots of experience may lower perceived risk.
- Financial documents This is where you provide the numbers that back up everything you described in your organizational and marketing sections. Include conservative projections of your profit and loss statements, balance sheet, and your cash flow statements for the next three years. These are forward-looking projections, not your current accounting outputs.
- Local SBA Small Business Development Centers provide free consulting and low cost training for building a business plan. Find one near you.
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Top 10 Components of a Business Plan
Whether you’re planning to open a shop that makes the best coffee or you want to sell eco-friendly office supplies, you’ll need to explain why your business is necessary and how it’ll differ from its competitors. That’s where your business plan comes in. It provides investors, lenders and potential partners with an understanding of your company’s structure and goals. If you want to gain the financial autonomy to run a business or become an entrepreneur, a financial advisor can help align your finances.
1. Executive Summary
Your executive summary should appear first in your business plan. It should summarize what you expect your business to accomplish. Since it’s meant to highlight what you intend to discuss in the rest of the plan, the Small Business Administration suggests that you write this section last.
A good executive summary is compelling. It reveals the company’s mission statement, along with a short description of its products and services. It might also be a good idea to briefly explain why you’re starting your company and include details about your experience in the industry that you’re entering.
2. Company Description
A company description includes key information about your business, goals and the target customers that you want to serve. This is where you explain why your company stands out from other competitors in the industry and break down its strengths, including how it offers solutions for customers, and the competitive advantages that will give your business an edge to succeed.
3. Market Analysis
This is where you show that you have a key understanding of the ins and outs of the industry and the specific market you plan to enter. Here you will substantiate the strengths that you highlighted in your company description with data and statistics that break down industry trends and themes. Show what other businesses are doing and how they are succeeding or failing. Your market analysis should also help visualize your target customers. This includes how much money they make, what their buying habits are, which services they want and need, among other target customer preferences. Above all, the numbers should help answer why your business can do it better.
4. Competitive Analysis
A good business plan will present a clear comparison of your business vs your direct and indirect competitors. This is where you prove your knowledge of the industry by breaking down their strengths and weaknesses. Your end goal is show how your business will stack up. And if there are any issues that could prevent you from jumping into the market, like high upfront costs, this is where you will need to be forthcoming. Your competitive analysis will go in your market analysis section.
5. Description of Management and Organization
Your business must also outline how your organization is set up. Introduce your company managers here and summarize their skills and primary job responsibilities. An effective way could be to create a diagram that maps out your chain of command.
Don’t forget to indicate whether your business will operate as a partnership, a sole proprietorship or a business with a different ownership structure. If you have a board of directors, you’ll need to identify the members.
6. Breakdown of Your Products and Services
While your company description is an overview, a detailed breakdown of your products and services is intended to give a complementary but fuller description about the products that you are creating and selling, how long they could last and how they will meet existing demand.
This is where you should mention your suppliers, as well as other key information about how much it will cost to make your products and how much money you are hoping to bring in. You should also list here all relevant information pertaining to patents and copyright concerns as well.
7. Marketing Plan
This is where you describe how you intend to get your products and services in front of your target customers. Break down here the steps that you will take to promote your products and the budget that you will need to implement your strategies.
8. Sales Strategy
This section should answer how you will sell the products that you are building or carry out the services that you intend to offer. Your sales strategy must be specific. Break down how many sales reps you will need to hire and how you will recruit them and bring them on board. Make sure to include your sales targets as well.
9. Request for Funding
If you need funding, this section focuses on the amount of money that you need to set up your business and how you plan to use the capital that you are raising. You might want to include a timeline here for additional funding that you may require to complete other important projects.
10. Financial Projections
This final section breaks down the financial goals and expectations that you’ve set based on market research. You’ll report your anticipated revenue for the first 12 months and your annual projected earnings for the second, third, fourth and fifth years of business.
If you’re trying to apply for a personal loan or a small business loan, you can always add an appendix or another section that provides additional financial or background information.
Every company is different so your business plan might look nothing like another entrepreneur’s. But there are key components that every good plan needs to have, and it’s always a good idea to provide a clear and accurate summary of your business goals in your business plan.
Tips for Business Owners
- A financial advisor can help you align your personal finances to give you an edge as a business owner or an entrepreneur. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now .
- If you are thinking of buying real estate, equipment, developing new products and other big-ticket activities for your business, you should consider using a capital asset pricing model to determine whether an investment is worth your risk.
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The 10 Key Components of a Business Plan
Written by Dave Lavinsky
Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 1 million entrepreneurs and business owners write business plans. These plans have been used to raise funding and grow countless businesses.
Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here >
From working with all these businesses, we know there are 10 elements in any great business plan. Providing a comprehensive assessment of each of these components is critical in attracting lenders, angel investors , venture capitalists or other equity investors.
Get started with a title page that includes your company name, logo and contact information, since interested readers must have a simple way to find and reach out to you. After that be sure to include the 10 parts of a business plan documented below.
The 10 Key Business Plan Components
The 10 components or sections of a business plan that you must include are as follows:
1. Executive Summary
The executive summary provides a succinct synopsis of the business plan, and highlights the key points raised within. It often includes the company’s mission statement and description of the products and services. It’s recommended by me and many experts including the Small Business Administration to write the executive summary last.
The executive summary must communicate to the prospective investor the size and scope of the market opportunity, the venture’s business and profitability model, and how the resources/skills/strategic positioning of the company’s management team make it uniquely qualified to execute the business plan. The executive summary must be compelling, easy-to-read, and no longer than 2-4 pages.
2. Company Analysis
This business plan section provides a strategic overview of the business and describes how the company is organized, what products and services it offers/will offer, and goes into further detail on the business’ unique qualifications in serving its target markets. As any good business plan template will point out, your company analysis should also give a snapshot of the company’s achievements to date, since the best indicator of future success are past accomplishments.
3. Industry or Market Analysis
This section evaluates the playing field in which the company will be competing, and includes well-structured answers to key market research questions such as the following:
- What are the sizes of the target market segments?
- What are the trends for the industry as a whole?
- With what other industries do your services compete?
To conduct this market research, do research online and leverage trade associations that often have the information you need.
4. Analysis of Customers
The customer analysis business plan section assesses the customer segment(s) that the company serves. In this section, the company must convey the needs of its target customers. It must then show how its products and services satisfy these needs to an extent that the customer will pay for them.
The following are examples of customer segments: moms, engaged couples, schools, online retailers, teens, baby boomers, business owners, etc.
As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of business you operate as different segments often have different needs. Try to break out your target customers in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, including a discussion of the ages, genders, locations and income levels of the customers you seek to serve. With regards to psychographic variables, discuss whether your customers have any unique lifestyles, interests, opinions, attitudes and/or values that will help you market to them more effectively.
5. Analysis of Competition
All capable business plan writers discuss the competitive landscape of your business. This element of your plan must identify your direct and indirect competitors, assesses their strengths and weaknesses and delineate your company’s competitive advantages. It’s a crucial business plan section.
Direct competitors are those that provide the same product or service to the same customer. Indirect competitors are those who provide similar products or services. For example, the direct competitors to a pizza shop are other local pizza shops. Indirect competitors are other food options like supermarkets, delis, other restaurants, etc.
The first five components of your business plan provide an overview of the business opportunity and market research to support it. The remaining five business plan sections focus mainly on strategy, primarily the marketing, operational, financial and management strategies that your firm will employ.
6. Marketing, Sales & Product Plan
The marketing and sales plan component of your business plan details your strategy for penetrating the target markets. Key elements include the following:
- A description of the company’s desired strategic positioning
- Detailed descriptions of the company’s product and service offerings and potential product extensions
- Descriptions of the company’s desired image and branding strategy
- Descriptions of the company’s promotional strategies
- An overview of the company’s pricing strategies
- A description of current and potential strategic marketing partnerships/ alliances
7. Operations Strategy, Design and Development Plans
These sections detail the internal strategies for building the venture from concept to reality, and include answers to the following questions:
- What functions will be required to run the business?
- What milestones must be reached before the venture can be launched?
- How will quality be controlled?
8. Management Team
The management team section demonstrates that the company has the required human resources to be successful. The business plan must answer questions including:
- Who are the key management personnel and what are their backgrounds?
- What management additions will be required to make the business a success?
- Who are the other investors and/or shareholders, if any?
- Who comprises the Board of Directors and/or Board of Advisors?
- Who are the professional advisors (e.g., lawyer, accounting firm)?
9. Financial Plan
The financial plan involves the development of the company’s revenue and profitability model. These financial statements detail how you generate income and get paid from customers,. The financial plan includes detailed explanations of the key assumptions used in building the business plan model , sensitivity analysis on key revenue and cost variables, and description of comparable valuations for existing companies with similar business models.
One of the key purposes of your business plan is to determine the amount of capital the firm needs. The financial plan does this along with assessing the proposed use of these funds (e.g., equipment, working capital, labor expenses, insurance costs, etc.) and the expected future earnings. It includes Projected Income Statements, Balance Sheets (showing assets, liabilities and equity) and Cash Flow Statements, broken out quarterly for the first two years, and annually for years 1-5.
Importantly, all of the assumptions and projections in the financial plan must flow from and be supported by the descriptions and explanations offered in the other sections of the plan. The financial plan is where the entrepreneur communicates how he/she plans to “monetize” the overall vision for the new venture. Note that in addition to traditional debt and equity sources of startup and growth funding that require a business plan (bank loans, angel investors, venture capitalists, friends and family), you will probably also use other capital sources, such as credit cards and business credit, in growing your company.
The appendix is used to support the rest of the business plan. Every business plan should have a full set of financial projections in the appendix, with the summary of these financials in the executive summary and the financial plan. Other documentation that could appear in the appendix includes technical drawings, partnership and/or customer letters, expanded competitor reviews and/or customer lists.
Find additional business plan help articles here.
Expertly and comprehensively discussing these components in their business plan helps entrepreneurs to better understand their business opportunity and assists them in convincing investors that the opportunity may be right for them too.
In addition to ensuring you included the proper elements of a business plan when developing your plan always think about why you are uniquely qualified to succeed in your business. For example, is your team’s expertise something that’s unique and can ensure your success? Or is it marketing partnerships you have executed? Importantly, if you don’t have any unique success factors, think about what you can add to make your company unique. Doing so can dramatically improve your success. Also, whether you write it on a word processor or use business plan software , remember to update your plan at least annually. After several years, you should have several business plans you can review to see what worked and what didn’t. This should prove helpful as you create future plans for your company’s growth.
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Business Plan Definition
A business plan is an executive document that acts as a blueprint or roadmap for a business. It is quite necessary for new ventures seeking capital, expansion activities, or projects requiring additional capital. It is also important to remind the management, employees, and partners of what they represent.
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Creating a business plan is an indispensable part of any business. The main purpose of creating such a document is to attract prospective investors to provide capital to the enterprise. Therefore, the plan should cover all the important perspectives of a business – financial, operational, personnel, competition, etc.
Table of contents
- Business Plan Explained
- Types of Business Plan
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Recommended articles, key takeaways.
- A business plan is a critical document for any business – whether a start-up or a well-established one. It can be considered a self-written bible for the company.
- The purpose of this plan should not just be restricted to convincing investors, but it should also extend to the company’s morals and ethics, and every stakeholder should be aware of it.
- It can communicate the business idea’s viability and, most importantly, the entrepreneurs’ dedication to the business. As this dedication keeps them going, the investors are generally motivated to approve a venture when it is evident from the plan.
Business Plan Explained
Business plan writers are responsible for crafting the face of a business organization they hope to build. It cannot be easy because a business plan should be a versatile document that covers various perspectives and aspects of the business that the readers might expect.
It should talk about the company’s unique selling proposition ( USP ), business culture, and what the company is. Finally, and most importantly, it is not a static document. With the company’s growth, it needs to change by incorporating more relevant information and goals.
The outline of a business plan should be prepared from three perspectives – first, the market; second, the investors; and finally, the company. However, most plans tend to become business-oriented rather than focusing on the market and the investors. This might create a negative impression on the investors.
First, the entrepreneurs must understand a demand-supply gap from the market’s perspective. This gap can be the perfect opportunity for the company. Or maybe the company has an innovative product or service idea, which they believe will have a high demand. Either way, the market should accept the product.
According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Enterprise Forum, 1978, investors are more likely to approve market-driven businesses rather than technology or service-driven ones.
Also, the plan should address the investors’ needs. What is in it for the investor? Since they invest a lot of money, they expect higher returns. Of course, no investor would demand profits upfront. But it’s important to tell them when they can expect returns and how much. So the business should provide them with the data on the estimated payback period .
Types of Business Plans
There are many types of business plans based on the size of the document and its scope.
First, depending on the size of the plan, there are traditional and lean start-up plans. The traditional plan is a lengthy document with more than 20 pages. It covers various facets of the business in such a way as to answer the different questions that may arise in the readers’ minds. But the disadvantage of this plan is that it might hold the readers’ concentration only for a limited time.
The lean start-up plan is a concise and brief version of an actual plan, usually consisting of a single page. The demerit of this plan is that it might be too small and not include all the important and relevant information. But the entrepreneurs must be ready to provide the investors with a detailed document if required.
The second classification is based on the scope of the plan. It can be a start-up plan for new businesses seeking capital or an internal plan to communicate with different departments on a new project. Other types based on scope include strategic, feasibility, operations, and growth.
A strategic plan can communicate how the business will achieve its goal, while a feasibility plan can focus on the feasibility of the company’s offerings. For example, the operations plan focuses on production and supply operations. In contrast, a business prepares the growth plan for its aspiring expansion projects, focusing on additional investments and financial projections .
The outline of a business plan should be carefully designed to incorporate all the focus points deemed essential by the audience. These are the elements of a business plan:
- Executive summary – Also known as the elevator pitch , the executive summary is the most important element of any business plan, best fitted in a page or two. A business should draw its plan from the mission and vision, which are the founding principles of any business. Next, it provides an idea and an overview of the company. It also introduces the product or service the company aims to offer. Finally, it is a summary of the plan.
- Business description – This is an elaboration of the company goals and objectives. It includes the market or industry the business belongs to, its target audience, etc. It can also provide information on the company structure and how it operates.
- Market research and analysis – Market research is the concrete floor on which the business plan stands. It should include facts and figures and give the readers an understanding of the market, its preferences, classifications, and the number and size of competitors. Analyzing the market lets businesses identify a gap and fill it. The plan should also inform the market’s acceptance of the product or service.
- Competitive analysis – Competitors can make or break any business. Therefore, before entering the market, the businesses must evaluate how the competitors operate, their profits and costs, their offerings, etc. This will give the enterprise an idea of what it can do differently from the competitors to have the edge over them. This should be effectively communicated to the investors, as it might convince them of the venture’s success.
- Marketing and sales plan – The whole point of any business is to make sales. For this, they need marketing campaigns and strategies targeting the right audience with minimal cost but maximum returns. For example, a firm selling study tools and materials will target students, especially through social media. Like this, businesses should plan their campaigns and decide their advertising channels.
- Operating plan – As the term implies, it talks about how the business is operated. The manufacturing and supply patterns, strategies like agile or lean, inventory approach, etc., decided by the management come under this. In addition, the expected quantity to be produced and supplied in a given period and the reverse logistics plan are good additions to the operating plan .
- Organization description – This gives information on the total employees, departments, management qualifications, job description, and total skill set of the organization’s human resources. The decided salary and wages, HR policies, etc., are also part of an organization’s description.
- SWOT analysis – SWOT analysis helps the business identify its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, which will help them choose the critical approach. The business should take advantage of its strengths and opportunities while simultaneously working on the weaknesses and finding the best strategy to deal with the threats. This will balance the company and its internal and external environment.
- Financials – These refer to the financial projections, including the budget , estimated costs , payments, expected break-even point, payback period, etc. Forecasts on expected revenue and costs for at least one year or until the business breaks will be necessary. Also, the net capital requirements with proper accounting calculations must be part of the plan.
- Appendices – This can include other important or relevant documents to prepare the plan. For example, financial documents, proof of people’s acceptance of products, resumes of the management, study on competition, etc.
Presentation is as important as the content. Therefore, it is best to add graphs, pie charts, 3D models, and other visuals, which will enhance the presentation and understandability of the plan. In addition, factual data and simple statistical tools can make the plan look genuine and instill investor confidence.
Creating a business plan is more important due to the negative impression its absence can cause rather than the benefits it might provide. The impression is what matters when it comes to a plan. So, let’s understand the importance of making a good impression.
Perhaps the reason why most businesses make a plan is for the investors. These investors can be venture capitalists or financial institutions . For these investors, new ventures are like investments. Hence, before putting in money, they want to be sure if the investment will be worth it.
Therefore, presenting all the important details in an understandable format helps them realize the clarity and the level of commitment the entrepreneurs have towards their business. The business plan writer should also give due to the executive summary and financials while creating the plan.
Secondly, every business needs a blueprint based on which it operates. It should govern the functions of a business and especially in decision-making. Usually, when a plan is created before the enterprise starts functioning, it speaks about the business and what it stands for. Even after the business takes off and expands, it should stick to its roots, which would evolve with the company’s growth.
Making every stakeholder – employees, partners, suppliers, investors, etc. – aware of the plan would increase commitment and sense of belonging to the enterprise. This, too, is important to improve the productivity and contribution of everyone.
The elements of a business plan comprise an executive summary, company description, market research, competitive analysis, SWOT analysis, marketing strategy, operating plan, financial projections, etc.
Businesses create plans on their own by putting relevant content on paper and using their basic computer skills to make it look attractive. Ideally, plans are not expenses. Instead, they are created from the effort of the entrepreneurs.
All plans need not be highly visual. However, adequate data charts, graphs, 3-D models, etc., can make the document look attractive and creates an impression about the effort that has gone into furnishing the plan. It also increases the understandability of the document.
Businesses can draft plans for any period – maybe a year, three years, or just three months. Some plans are also created until the payback period. But it doesn’t mean that the plan is rendered useless after the expiry of the period. On the contrary, a company should always have a constantly updated plan better suited to evolving needs.
This article is a guide to Business Plan and its definition. Here, we explain its types, components, outline, and importance. You can also go through our recommended articles on corporate finance –
- Business Strategy
- Business Plan Template
- Business Continuity Planning
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What should a business plan include?
1. the executive summary, 2. a description of the business, 3. the market(s) the business will operate in, 4. a swot analysis.
5. Management team and personnel
6. The products or services offered
8. A financial plan
The contents of a business plan
This is placed as number one on our list of components of a business plan , but it can easily be the final stage. That's because sometimes it's easiest to write your summary after you've covered all the other details.
A great summary is one of the key features of a business plan. It serves as an overview of your entire business and the elements surrounding it.
Be sure to outline succinctly the 5 "W"s (Who, What, Why, When, Where) as well as the mission statement . Think about why you started the business along with where you would like it to be in the future, how will you get there? Your mission statement is the start of creating a culture that people in your organisation will live and work by.
This section should contain details of things such as your goals and the customers you will service. What are the products and services you will offer to your customers? You'll need to provide an overview of them and how they will address customers' needs and wants?
You've come up with this great business idea , but how will it do in the market? Or, more importantly, what is the market for it? How well do you know the market? What does a typical buyer look like, what is their income level? Does the business have the hallmarks of disruptive innovation ?
This is the time to research and determine who your target market is and ask specific questions that relate to your product or service. Put you idea to the test. What have others done before you and what can you do differently and better? Analyse what information you've uncovered and outline it's potential impact in your plan.
Create a detailed list of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This needs to be done with an open and honest approach, keep emotions out of it, focus on being objective when analysing your business and those of your competitors.
Any strengths you uncover will represent internal, positive factors in your business that are within your control. Weaknesses are also internal, but are negative factors that need to be improved.
Both opportunities and threats are external factors. While opportunities will potentially positively impact on your business, threats represent negative factors beyond your control. For example, are there high barriers to entering the market? Does a competitor have the market cornered due to brand loyal customers? These could harm your enterprise, so you need to strategise for it in your plan.
5. The management team and personnel
Who will run the business, who are the directors in the business? What are the skills of the management team and how do their different responsibilities make maximum use of their abilities. What is the chain of command in terms of decision making?
Also use this section to identify how the management team, and taking on employees will help maximise strengths, while addressing identified weaknesses to help improve the business.
Finally, which of the UK's business structures will you choose to operate through?
- Limited company
- Limited liability partnership
In this section you need to detail what will be produced and how it will be sold. You should explain how your product or service will meet a particular need in the marketplace, and how you'll get customers returning to make repeat purchases. Repeat custom is after all the lifeblood of many a good business.
Who will you rely on, in terms of suppliers, to help you assemble your products? What intellectual property, patents or copyright do you own, or might you be at risk of potentially infringing?
What is the branding to your business? What are the key messages you want to communicate with your target market and how will you go about reaching them? How will you achieve market share and at what cost in terms of your budget?
8. Let's talk money: A financial plan
Ideas are great, but how will you make them a reality and sustain a viable business. Creating a financial plan will give you the opportunity to address your financial concerns and talk money, think about start-up costs, financial projections , funding and investor pitches.
You'll need to list how much your start-up will cost, everything from stationary to leases should be outlined and balanced against your financial projections.
Don't fear change, your business plan isn't written in stone
It’s important to remember that your business plan isn’t written in stone. This is a document that you and your staff can improve and update as the business grows and changes. Your plan should be reviewed regularly.
Consider implementing a monthly review to track progress or make adjustments to your strategy. Accountability and motivation are key in making sure your goals are met, think about the people involved and what can you do to keep them inspired.
This post was created on 26/06/2018 and updated on 18/02/2022.
Please be aware that information provided by this blog is subject to regular legal and regulatory change. We recommend that you do not take any information held within our website or guides (eBooks) as a definitive guide to the law on the relevant matter being discussed. We suggest your course of action should be to seek legal or professional advice where necessary rather than relying on the content supplied by the author(s) of this blog.
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