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Starting a Business

Sections To Include In A Business Plan


Writing your business plan is a great opportunity to look into the past, present and future of your enterprise. You get to sell yourself, sell your idea, and prove why your company deserves to exist and prosper in today’s market. Here is a brief overview of all the pieces you’ll need to assemble a complete, well-rounded business plan.

 

  • Executive Summary

    First you’ll start with a two-page summary that highlights the key ideas of your business plan, including the current situation, your financial needs, and the key success factors that will drive your business. Your goal is to interest the reader in your overall business concept and encourage people to read the full plan. Even though it appears first, you’ll write this section last.
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  • Vision

    This section will describe your company vision – in essence, why your venture exists and what you hope to achieve in the world. It’s important that you describe: What needs do you serve? How does your business solve a problem for consumers? What are your guiding principles? You want this section to be as specific and action-oriented as possible. It’s okay to admit that your company’s main interest is creating profit for shareholders, but look for opportunities to tie this goal to broader social issues.
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  • Market Analysis

    Describe your venture’s place in the overall market. Answer: what is the size, location, characteristics, history, competitiveness, and profitability of your industry? Outline changes in the industry over the years. Analyze key market segments, talking only about the market segment that will be able to buy your product or service, rather than the broader market that may benefit from your offerings. Look at their demographics: Are they young, old, affluent, poor, rural, urban, Caucasian, multi-cultural? What factors affect their purchases?
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  • Competitive Analysis

    Define and profile your competitors with a critical eye for their strengths and weaknesses. Review their market share, relationship with customers, advertising practices, prices, distribution, product or service features, financial strength and their length of time in business.
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  • Strategy

    Where do you fit into the market with the competitors you’ve just described? Summarize your key competitive advantages. Own up to any potential weaknesses. Share your strategy for enticing clients away from the existing players and making your mark in the industry. How will you implement this strategy? (This need only be a brief summary, since you’ll be going into more detail in the next two sections.)

     

  • Products & Services

    So far, you have only described your product or service in generic terms. Now is your opportunity to get down to the nitty-gritty and explain what exactly you’re offering and how it will be used. Talk about benefits and features here, and how your venture addresses a current need. Include pictures, technical drawings, or diagrams. How will training, warranties, return policies, pricing, and distribution choices make your business competitive?

     

  • Marketing & Promotions

    How will you communicate value to prospective consumers? What promotional tools will you use to reach target audiences? How much money have you budgeted for promotional activities? What specific ideas do you have and what is your timeline for these events?

     

  • Operations

    This is where you’ll get into the logistics and internal structure of your enterprise. Explain what labor and materials you’ll need to operate. Mention where your facilities will be located. Consider any potential legal issues. Describe the partners and decision-making process. Speak to the qualifications of your organization to lead. What technical, managerial and financial skills do you have? Mention advisors you’ll have helping you and what credentials you’ll look for when drafting your inner circle.

     

  • Financial Projections

    Describe your current financial status and forecast the future return-on-investment over the next two to four years. Since most businesses do not begin making money until their second or third year, you will need to show that you will have enough money to succeed. If the purpose of your business plan is to get this capital, then ask for it here and describe how it will be used.

 

 

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Related Articles:
INC: Business Plan Outline
Purdue University: The Elements of a Business Plan – First Steps For New Entrepreneurs


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