Amanda Dixon | Smart Asset
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.
Let’s break down the 10 key components of a business plan.
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 — how much money they make, their buying habits, which services they want and need, etc. 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 to show how your business will stack up. And if any issues 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 of 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 about 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 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 you need to set up your business and how you plan to use the capital 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.
Every company is different so your business plan might look nothing like other entrepreneurs. 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.