Free Business Plan Tips: The 10 Key Sections to a Business Plan
A business plan is an orderly document which follows a standard outline containing the basic information that covers the who, what, where, when, how, and why of the business idea. With small changes, the same plan can be used for different types of funders (investors and lenders) as well as partners you are recruiting.
Every business plan should address these ten sections, in more or less the following order:
1. Executive Summary: Describes the contents of the entire business plan, creating a mini, 1-2 page version of the document.
2. Company Overview: Background, legal structure, key products and services. Answers "what is this company?" and "where does the company operate?"
3. Industry Analysis: The industry, its size and nature, significant trends it is experiencing. Answers "what industry is the business competing in?"
4. Customer Analysis: Definition of your customers, segmentation into groups, demographics and descriptions of each group. Answers "who are the products or services for?" and "why is this business needed?"
5. Competitive Analysis: Definition of competitors, descriptions of the top 3 or so, company method to achieve competitive advantage. Answers "who will the company compete against?"
6. Marketing Plan: Brand definition, promotion strategy (methods you will use and how they will work), pricing strategy. Answers "how will the business reach customers?"
7. Operations Plan: Operations description, functional roles to fill, operational milestones. Answers "how will the business operate?"
8. Management Team: Bios and expertise of the key management members, hiring plan for additional management team members. Answers "who is starting and running the company?"
9. Financial Plan: Revenue and cost drivers, startup costs, key assumptions to the financial statements, financial summary for the first five years. Answers "when will the business break-even and become profitable?" and "why should I invest in this company?"
10. Appendices: Additional supporting documents, pro forma statements (generally quarterly for the first 3 years and annual for the first 5 years), resumes for management team.
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