Business Planning 101

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For a startup business, the business plan explains your goals for the formation, operation, and success of the business. You should plan to spend two to four weeks gathering information and writing your business plan.

Content of Your Startup Business Plan

Although no set format is perfect for every plan, there is some information that is usually included.

1. Executive Summary – Summarizes the basic elements of your business
2. Company Description – Identifies the nature of your company and your business concept
3. Industry analysis – Provides a picture of the environment in which your business will be conducted
4. Market and Competition – Evaluates your anticipated market share
5. Strategies and Goals – Analyzes the market and your competition and determines how and where your product or service fits with the goal of maximizing your position in your target market
6. Products or Services – Describes your product or service and how it fits with your strategies and goals
7. Marketing and Sales – Your plan to market your product or service and a forecast of sales

(based on #s 4, 5, and 6)
8. Management and Organization – Presents the management and personnel and how their experience and expertise will lead to success
9. Operations – Explains how the business will conduct day-to-day operations
10. Financial Pro Forma: Forecasts successful financial performance
11. Financial Requirement – Presents the type and amount of financing needed (based upon all previous sections)
12. Exhibits – Any supporting material

If your business plan’s purpose is to obtain financing, present the financial requirement section as either a loan request or an investment-offering proposal, titled accordingly. The Presentation You want to create a good first impression with the presentation of your small business plan. Keep the following in mind:

Format
Present your startup business plan in a dark or rich colored folder with a label on the front. Use an easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman, Calibri, or Garamond. Justify the margins for paragraphed information.

Pages
Include a title page and a table of contents. Paragraphs, lines, and characters should not be too closely spaced. Use white space to create balance.

Tabs and Titles
Each section should have a centered title and be keyed to the table of contents. Tabs make it easier to locate sections, especially if you are doing a presentation. Colored partitions also work well.

Charts, Graphs, and Illustrations
Inclusion is acceptable if they appropriate to the text. It is best to use primary colors such as red, blue, and use the same colors consistently throughout the plan. Caption any photographs included with font styles consistent with the rest of the business plan.

Printing
Use a laser or ink-jet printer and print on paper of stationery quality in white, soft gray, or ivory. Use the same type of paper for all pages of the business plan for a professional look.

Proofreading and Copyediting
Have your accountant check your figure and get someone else to proofread and edit your final document. Typos, missing words, poor sentence construction, and figures that do not add up can destroy the credibility of your startup business plan.

Some Points to Remember:

• Convey professionalism and credibility with an easy-to-read, accurate, and well-organized business plan conveys.
• Create a favorable first impression by using the professional, high-tech materials.
• Include a cover letter with your business plan, as someone who has no previous knowledge about your or your startup business may review your plan.
• Place the emphasis on the most important sections of your business plan avoiding attempts to balance material in all sections.

Although gathering the material and writing your startup business plan may seem like a monumental task, the time spent is well worth it. Creating the plan will help you develop knowledge and understanding of your business and improve your chances of success.