Anne-Marie Saint-John, Alva, Long Island City, NY >
It doesn’t matter whether you are starting a small business or already established, knowing how to write a business plan is a key skill that will both support and guide your actions for the years to come. Aside from this, if you are looking at any type of financing for your small business, then a lender will almost always ask to see a copy of your business plan when considering your application.
In this post, we outline the key stages of business planning and give you a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan to help you research and write everything you need.
This section will give you eight key areas to write about in your business plan. Regardless of whether you have experience with business planning in the past or not, if you follow each stage in this post, you will end up with a comprehensive business plan that you can either use to get funding for your small business or as a guide to your strategy and actions going forward.
Use each of the following eight areas as individual sections of your business plan template.
#1 – The Executive Summary
This should be the first section on your business plan document, and it’s where you outline the purpose and goal of your business in a nutshell summary. Here are the key points to include.
If you are going to be using the business plan for funding, then you should also include a brief summary of any specific funding requirements.
Essentially, this is a summary of how your business is going to succeed.
#2 – The Company Description
This is going to be the shortest section of your business plan, and it simply provides an overview of your company. It should speak to someone who knows nothing of your business, so try to remember this when writing. Introduce yourself and your team members, and provide a snappy summary that states why your company is unique and what makes it stand out.
Be sure to include the Who, What, When, Why, and How of your company.
#3 – The Services and Products Section
Just as you’d expect, this outlines all of the products and services you will offer. Instead of simply listing each item, try to extend these descriptions by highlighting any unique features of your offerings, along with the items listed below.
A good product description section is more than a list of standard features and benefits. It tells the reader about the intricacies of what you are offering, where it comes from, how much it costs, your relative knowledge, the support available to customers, and payment options.
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#4 – The Marketing Summary
You should expect this section to take some time and consideration. Marketing a small business requires a good understanding of your target market, along with their pain points. As such, the marketing summary section should clearly show that you understand your prospects and that your products and services meet their needs. A good marketing summary section will also serve as a guide to your activities and help you stay on track and on point.
To help you get started, here are a few points to consider.
The other major element of small business marketing is deciding on the right marketing channels to use for your business. From knowing how to use and build a social media presence as a small business, to deciding between investing in Google Ads and other forms of digital advertising, there are lots of questions to consider.
We’ve written a few articles on these topics, including one about Digital Advertising Guidance for Small Businesses, which you might find relevant when you come to write your marketing plan.
#5 – The Operational Summary
This section of your business plan provides a clear picture of the day-to-day operations of the company. It outlines the nuts and bolts of how things will work and assigns responsibility and costings for each of the tasks. Here’s what to include as a minimum.
The main point to remember when you write your operational plan is that you are aiming to provide a clear picture of all the tasks, duties, resources, and costs involved in running the business. This section reveals the granular details that sit behind the overall business strategy and demonstrates how you will achieve everything you have planned.
#6 – The Management and Organization Summary
This is a relatively quick and easy section of your business planning process. Here, you are detailing the company structure, team members, and their relative responsibilities, along with summarizing the experience and background of your people.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a sole proprietor, an LLC, or a corporation, setting out how you will run the business is an important part of writing a business plan. An org chart is the most effective way to present this information, and we’ve put together a quick list of things to include for you below.
This is the most important information you can include, and while not all of it is essential, it is often quite useful to see this all laid out in a centralized (confidential) document.
#7 – The Financial Summary
Now for the fun part of the business planning process – it’s time to crunch those numbers!
For any business of any size, the financial plan is a mission-critical piece of work that details how you will afford to do everything you have already outlined in your business plan.
There are three main documents that form a good financial plan. These are the income statement, the balance sheet, and the cash flow projections; more on each of these below.
This demonstrates your revenue, expenses, and profits for a given period of time. It can be updated and reported on a monthly or quarterly basis.
This provides an immediate picture of your company’s net worth. It centralizes all of your financial data and segments into assets, liability, and equity.
Just as the name suggests, this looks at all the money within your business from an inbound and outbound perspective. If you are looking to secure funding for your small business, this document will be able to help you understand exactly how much you might need to borrow.
#8 – Appendices
This is essentially another name for a document library. Once you have taken the time to research and write a business plan, you then need to collate all of the supporting documentation to accompany this document. Clarity and organization are key; don’t include documents if they’re irrelevant.
Items such as contracts, bank statements, receipts, quotations, tax returns, and inventories are often included here. To make things clear for readers, it’s also a good idea to include a table of contents. Always make sure you detail how many pages long each document is.
A business plan isn’t something you can pull together overnight. Each individual section in this post is incremental, and we encourage you to dedicate the time needed to write a business plan that makes your company proud. Take each section on at a time, and revisit the executive summary when all of your research and writing is complete.
The great thing about writing a business plan in this way is that it can be used to support an application for funding, but also as a key strategic company document that guides your ongoing actions and keeps you on track to meet your business objectives.
Once your business planning document is complete, revisit it on a quarterly basis to review your progress and update it accordingly.