In writing a business plan, defining what a business plan is and what it contains is important. A business plan is a written collection of goals for the business along with the research and strategies to help achieve them. A business plan should include a business description, management, marketing and financials.
To begin writing a business plan, set concrete goals, responsibilities and deadlines to guide the business. These items should be in the business description. This should be simple and easy to understand. Enough information should be in the statement to peak the interest of the reader but not all the details of the plan.
The product or service information needs to follow the company description. This section should describe the product or service that is being promoted. A detailed description should include time elements of when the service will be completed or any circumstance in which the product could be used. Be sure and focus on the benefits to the customer.
A marketing analysis should be the next part of the plan. This is where the information shows how the product or service is needed. Customer needs should be explored including where the customers are and how to reach them. This component is usually the weakest part of a business plan. Care should be taken when writing this part of the plan.
Following the marketing section, should be the strategy and implementation ideas. Be very specific in the part of the plan. Management responsibilities with dates and a budget should be located in the section. Communication with management is very important and they should be able to use this part of the plan to keep them on a timeline with the product or service. The management team should be able to follow the schedule located here to track their progress.
The last section of the business plan is the financial section. Profit and loss, cash flow, the balance sheet, break even analysis, assumptions and business ratios should be included in this part of the plan. Use business charts to illustrate numbers so projections are easier to absorb. This section should be updated periodically to keep its facts and figures current.
Now that the business plan has been discussed, a look at some of the common business plan mistakes is needed. Do not wait too long to write a plan. Banks and investors will want to see a plan before taking a chance on a company. Do not over estimate the importance of an idea. A great idea does not start a business. Time, money, perseverance and common sense do that. Do not be afraid or dread making the business plan. Good books, business schools and software can help with this. A good, readable plan should be less than fifty pages.
A business plan is a road map for the business. It is often used to obtain necessary funding. It also is not set in stone but should change and evolve as the business does. Remember to match the contents of the plan with the purpose of the business.