A business plan is one of your most important documents. It lives. It breathes. It expands along with you. And it helps you organize your thoughts and solidify a direction.
Below is an example of a business plan outline. Yours will likely be broken down into subgroups. Don’t worry too much about the length right away. And if you’re finding holes in your plan—this is a good thing. It means you have a chance to fill in the gaps now, instead of later when you’re sitting in a potential investor’s office unable to answer his or her questions!
This will include all of the main points that you’ve made in the rest of the document; consider it the abstract of your business plan. For this reasons, it’s usually best to write this section last.
Here, you’ll talk about your company. Are you a corporation or an LLC? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you have a mission statement?
Talk about any relevant statistics for your type of business. Perhaps a recent study has shed light on a need that isn’t being fulfilled by other companies. Perhaps the industry is likely to grow. In this section, you’ll paint a picture of the landscape against which you’re positioning your company.
Products and Services:
This section should take a close look at exactly what it is your company has to offer—and why you think people need it. In other words, how will your company add to, take advantage of, and fit into the industry landscape you’ve described above?
Who constitutes your target market? How old are they? What gender are they? What is their level of education and income? Are there any trends or growth patterns that have emerged from your research? Defining your market is the first step toward selling to them.
Once you’ve defined your target market, how do you plan to reach them? Where are they shopping now? Who are your competitors when it comes to gaining their attention and loyalty? How does your business stack up against your competitors?
Here’s where you get down to the nuts and bolts of your business. How, physically, are you going to operate your business? Where will you be located? Will you own or lease your space? Do you have a solid plan to stay in compliance with your local and state laws? Are you working with third-party vendors? This section can, and should, be detailed.
Give the names, addresses, and titles of your management team, along with their specific individual duties, meeting information, and any other relevant organizational information.
Financial Plan and Analysis:
Here is where you will take all of the above information and put it to use in real terms. How much startup capital will you need, based on the calculations and details you’ve been doing throughout the entirety of the business plan? Where will that startup capital come from — investors? a bank loan? a personal loan? What are your projected profits and losses? Charts are valuable, and they’ll help any potential investors understand at a glance where you’re coming from.