Writing out a business plan does not need to be a daunting task when you break it down into achievable steps and prepare for the process. These simple steps to creating a business plan for your startup will guide you through the process and provide a powerful roadmap that enables you to reach your goals and achieve your mission.
What Is Included in a Business Plan?
Your business plan might be for your own use, or it might be intended to attract investors or apply for a small business loan. In either case, a formal business plan contains these sections:
- An executive summary
- Business mission statement and description
- Products and services that will be offered
- Your target market of potential customers
- An analysis of the local and regional market
- An analysis of your competitors
- Plans for management and operation
- A strategy for sales and marketing
- A sound financial plan for profitability
If your business plan is for internal use only, the sections may be relatively simple but the needs of your business are the same. If your business plan needs to be submitted to banks or investors, your work on each section of your business plan will need to be more detailed, but the process is the same.
1. The Executive Summary
This is a high-level overview of the business itself and should include things like your business name, a description of the products and/or services offered, and a brief description of the financial outlook when the business is up and running. Start here, but be prepared to finetune this summary again when your plan is complete. You will gain valuable insights during the process of writing a business plan.
2. Company Description and Mission Statement
In the next section, fully describe your company, including:
- Registered business name
- Physical location(s) and mailing address
- Names of owners, partners, managers, officers, and members
- Highlighting the unique skills, experience, and expertise of these key stakeholders
- The business structure whether sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership, or corporation
- The history of your company (if any) and/or what has already been accomplished,
including your company’s mission statement and a description of your business goals; outlining both long-term and short-term goals, solidifying and clarifying what your business will accomplish
3. Describe Details of Products and Services
As the next part of your business plan, describe the products or services that your business will provide. Launch into some detail and describe:
- How your product or service works and the competitive advantages of your business
- The pricing model and expected customer profile
- How you will obtain necessary supplies and fulfill orders
- Discussion of any current or pending applications for patents or trademarks needed
4. Describe Your Target Audience of Potential Customers
Do some research and describe your target audience—the people who will purchase your product or service. What is their income level, what are their priorities, what criteria do they use to make a purchase decision? By clearly describing your potential customer or target market, you can research census information or market trends to more accurately plan marketing strategies and financial projections.
5. Include an Analysis of Local and Regional Markets
Complete your market research on your target customers, and describe current market trends and anticipated growth in your chosen industry. You can use industry websites for their analysis and combine this with your own findings from local businesses or regional examples in your niche market. Establish as part of creating a successful business plan the true potential of your business to succeed in the current market.
6. Analyze the Competition
Are there similar businesses in your area or region of the country and are they thriving? What sets your business apart from the competition and how saturated is the area? These are important questions answered by analyzing other businesses like yours. Both published market analysis and direct contact can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of competing companies, allowing you to fill the gaps or improve on their business models.
7. Outline Plans for Smooth Operation and Growth
Include a plan for startup personnel, including a management structure and employee positions to be filled. Outline how your operations will function and who will perform each part of your workflow. Discuss how complaints or issues will be handled and how you will identify the need to add additional employees or equipment as your company grows.
8. Detail Plans for Marketing and Sales
Plan in detail what types of marketing you will use and how you will promote sales. Will you need salespeople in a physical location or trained customer service on the phone? Plan and budget for appropriate marketing in local publications, online, and by participating in community events. Reaching those potential customers you’ve identified and selling the advantages of your unique business is an essential part of demonstrating that you can reach your financial goals.
9. Provide a Sound Financial Plan for Profitability
Having thought through the sections above, it is now much easier to describe how much money you will need to start or expand your business. You also have an understanding of your local market and the cost of marketing. With this information documented, you can create a financial plan to reach your goal of profitability.
Most businesses do not immediately become profitable, but successful businesses are working toward that goal and can project when they will begin operating in the black. This is equally important if you are financing your own business out of pocket or applying for loans. A solid financial plan should show your business making a profit in three to five years.
The First Step for a Successful Small Business
Creating a successful business plan is one of the first steps in small business success. When you are ready to get started, register your business name and file for the permits you need to do business with FastFilings. Our online service helps you avoid the headaches of multiple state office portals and keeps you on the fast track to reaching all your business goals. Make FastFilings part of your business plan and get started today with our no-hassle, error-checked business filing service.