Need A Business Plan Template?
Visit one of these websites for a template that works for you & your business:
Business Model Canvas
You can also map out your business plan on the Business Model Canvas. Visit https://strategyzer.com/ for practical tools to help you understand customers, design better value propositions, and find the right business model.
You can download a Business Model Canvas template here: http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/downloads/business_model_canvas_poster.pdf
Not quite ready to start writing your business plan yet? The Entrepreneurship 101 series of webinars is a great resource before you start writing your business plan: http://www.marsdd.com/entrepreneurship-101/
Writing Your Business Plan
Although business plans vary in terms of length and scope, all successful business plans contain common elements. The plan should take into consideration your particular business and its environment. Here are some sections that you may want to include in your business plan:
1. Executive summary
The executive summary is an overview of the key points contained in your business plan and is often considered the most important section. It is usually the first section that a potential investor or lender will read, and may be the only section to be read if it is not prepared properly. This important summary should:
Although the executive summary is the first section of the plan, you should write it last.
2. Business strategy
This section should briefly but clearly describe what your business is all about. This segment should include the following elements:
This section should give readers a very brief overview of your business — where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you’re going in the future. Include:
You should also include the date the business was registered/incorporated, the name of the business, its address, and all contact information.
Find out which type of business structure is right for your business: incorporation, a partnership, a sole proprietorship or a co-operative.
How does your business measure up to others in your industry? Benchmarking allows you to evaluate your performance and ensure that your business is operating at an optimum level.
You’ve decided it’s time to expand, but there’s plenty to consider before you begin.
Explore various business activities that could help you expand and grow your business.
3. Marketing strategy
Describe the activities you will use to promote and sell your product or service. You should touch on each of the “four Ps” of the marketing mix:
Your marketing strategy should also include information about your budget — how much money have you budgeted for marketing and sales costs?
You may also want to include a profile of your “ideal customers”. You can create profiles based on customer type — consumers, retailers, or wholesalers — or base your segments on demographic information such as age, location, and income level.
Keep in mind that solid market research is the backbone of an effective marketing strategy. You will want to back up your statements with facts — explain how you reached your conclusions and include statistics from reliable sources.
Brush up on key marketing concepts, learn how to develop a marketing plan, and assess strategic marketing options for your company.
Discover how market research can help your business succeed and learn how to conduct a variety of market research activities.
4. Operational plan
Your business plan should outline your current operational requirements as well as your projected requirements for the next 3 to 5 years. Your inventory management and accounting systems should have the ability to produce up-to-date reports.
You can include:
You may also want to include your operations manual as an appendix to your business plan.
Successfully managing the ups and downs of daily operations is the backbone of your business.
5. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis
Conducting a SWOT analysis is an important part of business planning. A properly prepared SWOT analysis shows investors that you have realistically and objectively considered these elements.
Banks and other lenders understand that businesses will encounter difficulties at some point, and want to know how you will deal with these challenges. Remember that overestimating strengths and opportunities or ignoring potential problems will undermine your credibility.
Putting time and effort into conducting a comprehensive SWOT analysis can help you:
A periodic business health assessment should be a staple of your ongoing business planning cycle.
Are you sitting on a golden opportunity for growth? Your current operations may be more fruitful than you think.
6. Human resources plan
This section addresses how you plan to manage your employees and human resources processes. You should also discuss your short-term and long-term plans for employee recruitment, training, and retention. If appropriate, discuss any advisors, mentors, consultants that offer you support.
You may want to include:
Don’t underestimate the importance of this part of your plan. Investors need to know that you and your employees have the necessary balance of skills, drive and experience to enable your business to succeed. It is also advisable to outline any recruitment or training plans, including timelines and costs.
Seeking the advice of peers, professional business counsellors and coaches can help you transition from new business owner to experienced entrepreneur.
Learn how to measure your employees’ performance on the job, to help them understand what is expected of them and to deal with performance problems.
Find out the processes and methods you will need to set up your management team.
7. Social responsibility strategy
Implementing good environmental and social practices is good business — it can give you a competitive advantage and help foster goodwill toward your business. In this section you should discuss ways in which your business honours ethical values and respects people, your community, and the environment.
You may want to include information about:
Find environmental programs and resources that could help improve your business.
In order to stay competitive in today’s market, you might want to consider where corporate social responsibility fits into your operations.
8. E-business strategy
Effectively using information technology is an important part of managing a business. In this section, you should outline how you plan to use internet technologies to reach customers, manage your business, and reduce costs. You should include information about:
Keep in mind that implementing e-business strategies can save money — if this is the case for you, you may want to highlight potential savings in this section.
Discover some of the many ways you can use information communications technologies to your advantage.
9. Financial forecasts and other information
This section of your business plan essentially turns your plans into numbers. As part of any business plan, you will need to provide financial projections for your business. Your forecasts should run for the next 3 to 5 years. However, the first 12 months’ forecasts should have the most detail, including assumptions both in terms of costs and revenues, so investors can clearly see the thinking behind your numbers.
As you put your plans down on paper, remember the importance of thinking objectively. Analyzing your venture from three points of view — optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic — can give you a solid idea of what to expect as you move forward.
Your financial forecasts should include:
Things to consider:
Find out how your business measures up to others within your industry with this benchmarking tool.
10. Business exit strategy
This section of your business plan addresses your future plans — when the time comes, how will you exit your business? Early planning will give you the opportunity to consider all of your options, including strategies that may take time to implement. For example, if you plan on passing your business on to your children, you’ll need sufficient time to train them and integrate them into your business.
Once you considered your options and set objectives, it’s time to add an exit strategy to your business plan. Although you may not be exiting your business for some time, a solid strategy will be a roadmap to your future goals.
Find the right strategy for handing over or selling your business to someone else.
11. Additional resources
You’ll want to thoroughly review your plan once it’s done. Try to avoid using jargon — the person reading your plan may not understand your businesses as well as you do. You can ask friends, family, associates, and mentors to review it. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from professionals such as lawyers and accountants. You may also want to consider hiring a professional proofreader to check for errors.
Remember, your business plan represents your business, so you want it to be as professional as possible.