A business plan is the backbone to any start-up. It gives an entrepreneur the opportunity to really flesh out his idea. It can convince possible investors to give their money in support of a new concept. It is the first major step in making business dreams become business reality.
If a business plan is the first major step in starting a business, then what’s the first step in writing a business plan? Planning the plan is the first chore to tackle. Determine how the business will be structured, number of staff needed, potential and secured financing, projected revenues (multi-year), planned location, and any other information the entrepreneur deems pertinent to a successful launch of his business.
Once all that information has been researched and compiled, then it can be separated into the various sections of the business plan. Both Entrepreneur Magazine and the U.S. Small Business Administration list the following sections as essential to any business plan:
• Executive Summary – clear statement of what the entrepreneur wants to achieve with the business plan
• Business Description – includes a brief description of the industry and a detailed explanation of the entrepreneur’s specific vision
• Market Strategies – detailed research of the market being targeted by the business, as well as how the entrepreneur plans to position his business within that market
• Competitive Analysis – analysis of the competitors within the chosen market; describes how others’ strengths and weaknesses influence the entrepreneur’s strategies
• Design and Development Plan – includes design of product, development path of product, and a development budget
• Operations and Management Plan – describes the day-to-day operations that will keep the business running smoothly
• Financial Factors – uses any and all financial data available (charts, graphs, etc.) to prove the viability and longevity of the business.
Even after doing all that research and reviewing the sections above, writing a business plan can still be difficult and tricky. Entrepreneurs should employ resources outside themselves to help get the ball rolling on this important document. Entrepreneur Magazine has a variety of articles on its website to help guide business developers through the writing process. Also, the U.S. Small Business Administration has a “Build Your Business Plan” system on its website. This allows entrepreneurs to input the information they’ve gathered and have it formatted online by the SBA.
And, lastly, it is important to have as many people as possible proof read the document when it’s finished. Take it to other known business owners or small business counselors like those at SCORE; the feedback will be invaluable.
Emma Claudius is the business librarian at the Main Kansas City, Kan., Public Library, 625 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, Kan.