There is a misconception held by many start-up business owners: A business plan is only used for fundraising. Actually, a business plan is a tool for measuring progress, devising strategy, attracting key employees, and establishing an understanding of business operations.
By creating a plan, one can test assumptions, identify probabilities, and address potential issues. Mike McKeever, an economics professor and author of How to Write a Business Plan, states, “Writing a business plan helps beat the odds. It will give you a clear course toward the future.”
Business Plan Consulting: What Should Be Covered?
According to business plan consulting professionals, the document should include:
- The Executive Summary: An overview of your business
- Company Description: Your mission, vision, and value proposition
- Service and Product Offering: What your company sells
- Market Analysis: Information on your industry and target customers
- Competitive Analysis: An analysis of your direct and indirect competition and how you will stay ahead of them
- Organization and Management: Organizational structure and management hierarchy
- Funding Information: The money you need for the next 3-5 years
- Financial Projections: The income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement
- Appendix: An optional section that could include resumes, permits, and other supplemental information
Business Plan Preparation Steps:
Plan preparation might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be when the process is broken down:
- Research: Before you begin writing, research and analyze your business model, the market, and customer needs.
- Determine your plan’s purpose: This is a roadmap; define your plan and outline your goals.
- Create a Company Profile: This includes your organization’s history, products and services offered, targeted market and audience, available resources, and why your company is unique.
- Devise a strategic marketing plan: Assess how you will achieve your marketing objectives.
- Adapt to varied audiences: Write so you can easily modify the plan to fit different readers’ needs.
- Explain your passion: Tell a reader why you are pursuing this endeavor and the difference it’s going to make. If you can create an emotional connection with a reader, you are more likely to gain support.
Finally, there is debate on whether a startup should use a business plan template. Ultimately, this isn’t the best strategy as a business plan template can produce a “cookie cutter” result. It’s best to create the plan from scratch so that you tell your story with an authentic voice. Of course, if you hit a roadblock, it is also perfectly acceptable to contact a business plan consulting pro and get their advice.