Business Planning: What Do I Really Need in a Business Plan?

business plan

One of the top questions I receive from clients is what information they really need in their business plans.  The answer is a general “it depends”.

The information you need to present in your business plan will depend on what you plan on using the business plan for and your actual business idea.  Sometimes that can result in a concise 3-4 page business plan with just the basics and other times it results in a sixty page novella that tells the entire story.

The one thing that is certain is that you do need a business plan.  If it’s for your own internal use, you can determine what you need to include in the plan in order to keep your business on track.  That may be a notebook of key points, a pile of post-it notes or a formal document.  If it’s for bank financing, you need to follow the SBA guidelines to make sure you have fully thought through the entire business concept.  If you’re heading to family and friends, an executive summary may be all you need.  No matter what the purpose or length of the plan, you absolutely NEED a business plan if you hope to succeed in business.

Executive Summary:  This is the one section no business can skip when it comes to writing a business plan.  It is the introduction to your business with all the key points of why potential investors should take the time to read your entire plan and ultimately pony up the funds to help you grow your business.

Company Overview:  Once you have captured the reader’s attention in the Executive Summary, the company overview is where you can provide information on the company history, details of your products and services, and information on the management’s experience.

Company Mission and Vision:  One of the shortest sections of the business plan, it offers you the opportunity to wrap up your vision for the business and its future in a few short sentences.

Use of Funds:  A detailed listing of how much money you need and how you will spend it.

Market Analysis and Competition Analysis: Details on the size of the market potential and an analysis of your direct and indirect competitors.

Marketing Plan:  The four P’s of marketing – Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.

Organization and Management Team:  The “who” section of your business which will include the structure of your organization, details on the management team and how you will staff the business into the future.

Risk Analysis:  A thoughtful analysis on any risks that you are aware of and how you will address them.

Financial Plan:  Once you have sold investors on the idea of your business, this is where they find out the return on their investment.  It should include financial projections for the first 3 – 5 years of operations, a break-even analysis, and a listing of start-up costs.

About the author:    The Business Girl is Terri Sullivan Biehn.  I have been a professional business writer and management consultant for more than fifteen years.  As a management consultant, I work with entrepreneurs to develop business plans and other documents.  Through my consulting practice, I coach entrepreneurs and small business owners on their general start-up, marketing, financial, operational and management issues.