Whether you’re planning to open a shop that makes the best coffee around 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 its goals. If you’re trying to create one, check out 10 key components of a business plan.
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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 you’re entering.
2. Company Description
The next section that should appear in your business plan is a company description. It’s best to include key information about your business, your goals and the customers you plan to serve.
Your company description should also discuss how your business will stand out from others in the industry and how the products and services you’re providing will be helpful to your target audience.
3. Market Analysis
Ideally, your market analysis will show that you know the ins and outs of the industry and the specific market you’re planning to enter. In that section, you’ll need to use data and statistics to talk about where the market has been, where it’s expected to go and how your company will fit into it. In addition, you’ll have to provide details about the consumers you’ll be marketing to, such as their income levels.
4. Competitive Analysis
A good business plan will present a clear comparison of your business to your direct and indirect competitors. You’ll need to show that you know their strengths and weaknesses and you know how your business will stack up. If there are any issues that could prevent you from jumping into the market, like high upfront costs, it’s best to say so. This information will go in your market analysis section.
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5. Description of Management and Organization
Following your market analysis, your business plan will outline the way that your organization will be set up. You’ll introduce your company managers and summarize their skills and primary job responsibilities. If you want to, you can 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
If you didn’t incorporate enough facts about your products and services into your company description (since that section is meant to be an overview), it might be a good idea to include extra information about them in a separate section. Whoever’s reading this portion of your business plan should know exactly what you’re planning to create and sell, how long your products are supposed to last and how they’ll meet an existing need.
It’s a good idea to mention your suppliers, too. If you know how much it’ll cost to make your products and how much money you’re hoping to bring in, those are great details to add. You’ll need to list anything related to patents and copyright concerns as well.
7. Marketing Plan
In your business plan, it’s important to describe how you intend to get your products and services in front of potential clients. That’s what marketing is all about. As you pinpoint the steps you’re going to take to promote your products, you’ll need to mention the budget you’ll need to implement your strategies.
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8. Sales Strategy
How will you sell the products you’re building? That’s the most important question you’ll answer when you discuss your sales strategy. It’s best to be as specific as possible. It’s a good idea to throw in the number of sales reps you’re planning to hire and how you’ll go about finding them and bringing them on board. You can also include sales targets.
9. Request for Funding
If you need funding, you can devote an entire section to talking about the amount of money you need and how you plan to use the capital you’re trying to raise. If you’ll need extra cash in a year or two to complete a certain project, that’s something that’s important to disclose.
10. Financial Projections
In the final section of your business plan, you’ll reveal 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.
If you’re trying to apply for a personal loan or a small business loan, you can always add an appendix or another section that provides additional financial or background information.
The Bottom Line
Every company is different so your business plan might look nothing like another entrepreneur’s. 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.
Update: If you’re looking for added professional advice to give your business an edge, check out SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor matching tool to get paired with a financial expert who can strategize with you based on your particular needs.
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