Here are five steps to writing a professional business plan.
1. Create an Outline
Utilize a traditional business plan template. The ten sections of a typical business plan are, in order: Executive Summary, Company Analysis, Industry Analysis, Customer Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Marketing Plan, Operations Plan, Management Team, Financial Plan, and Appendix. Start by writing the sections you know, and don’t change the order of the business plan. Investors will expect a traditional business plan.
2. Do Your Homework
The majority of research you will do for a business plan will be for the Industry Analysis, the Customer Analysis, and the Competitive Analysis. Use sound, industry-trusted sources to find information on market trends, facts, and statistics. For the Marketing Plan, Operations Plan, and Financial Plan sections, research your potential start-up and operational expenses, business locations, if needed, and available employees in your market area. Don’t forget to find the facts and figures you need, including labor needs, for the Company Analysis.
3. Create a Strategy
Once you’ve completed your research, decide whether to continue on with your business plan. If there’s no market for your business, you may want to scrap your plan until you have a sound business idea. If your business is marketable, use your research to find potential revenue streams and outline how your company will reach customers and make money. This information will go into you Marketing Plan section. Also decide how your company will be operated; this information goes into the Operation Plan section.
4. Calculate Your Financials
Your financials comprise your Financial Plan. This section will include your activities, costs, and revenues, and will be used to create the critical pro forma (projected) financial information for your company. A spreadsheet program’s financial templates can assist you with organizing your information. An alternative is to bring in an outside accountant to assist you. Investors will carefully review this section, more than any other section of your business plan.
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5. Create your narrative
Write your business plan in this order: Industry Analysis, Customer Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Marketing Plan, Operations Plan, Company Analysis, Management Team, Financial Plan and Executive Summary. The Executive Summary summarizes the entire business and entices investors into reading the rest of your business plan. Move the Executive Summary to the front of your plan, and then add an Appendix, which is comprised of supporting information, such as infographics and expanded analyses.
New business plan writers often focus too narrowly on their own business, leaving out critical market and industry information. Make certain your plan addresses all of these areas thoroughly so you can attract the right investors.