In today’s fluid business environment, developing a structured and detailed business plan is essential for both small business startups, as well as large corporations. If you’re ready to develop a three-year business plan, you already know it is a thoughtful and essential approach to a sustained plan for growth and movement forward. However, tackling the complete business plan can be slightly overwhelming when you examine the components that go into such a document. We’re here to suggest solutions for a successful outcome in your process of completing a business plan. In this article, you’ll see the framework of a 3-year business plan template, segment by segment, which will create “digestible bites” for your thought processes; one step at a time. The many benefits of creating a three-year business plan are just ahead, so let’s get to work.
Three Year Business Plan Template
The initial portion of your business plan will offer an executive summary that includes a brief sketch of the essential components of your plan: a business overview, success factors, and a three-year financial plan. This snapshot of your business enables busy executives or other stakeholders an opportunity to quickly review your business and make a quick decision to more fully explore the complete business plan that follows. And, further to consider, many lenders or investors will make a decision regarding your business based on the executive summary alone. As a result, the executive summary is as critical in and of itself as is the remainder of your business plan.
It will detail the type of business you’ve started, the business location, and the industry in which it operates. Detail only the salient facts in this summary and offer your mission statement, as well. Include in a few brief remarks, the success factors already achieved, and outline a clear, concise picture of the financial status of your business. Using the business plan helps to rein in any temptation to oversell your business; keep it concise and clear overall.
Next, the company overview section of the business plan is presented. Start with general statements and refine them as the overview continues. For example, “company name” operates in the “industry” sector, leveraging our expertise in “specific skills/experience.” Started in “date,” our primary products/services include a “list of products/services.” And, we are targeting a “specific target customer”, aiming to meet their needs and surpass expectations.” From this general idea, move to the company’s complete list of products or services, including the legal structure of the business, how the business operates, and the location(s) of business. Crucial information will also include the plans to generate revenue within the current status and a three-year forecast of financial projections.
The company description should also include major milestones already achieved, key customers, long-term contracts in place, and other primary facts; such as number of customers served, prototypes or products built, leases secured and employees hired. Each of these details is an indicator of business health and comparative success within the industry sector.
Next, an industry analysis will need to be compiled and shared in the business plan. An industry analysis is a crucial component of any business plan, as it provides an in-depth understanding of the market dynamics, trends, and competitive landscape. Include in your business plan the current and projected market size, including potential opportunities for growth. And, finally, analyze the current trends and dynamics within the industry. This may include technological advancements, regulatory changes, consumer preferences, or shifts in distribution channels. Highlight any emerging trends that may affect your business.
A full market analysis of your target audience follows the industry analysis. Identify the target market and its demographics, preferences, and buying behavior. Who are your customers? Do they want speed of delivery, a set price point, or comfort in ordering? Reading the data and responding satisfactorily can make the difference between a company that fails within three years and one that will thrive through it.
Review the data outlining the current target market trends and dynamics within the industry. This may include technological advancements, regulatory changes, consumer preferences, or shifts in distribution channels. Highlight any and all emerging trends that may affect your business. If, at this point, you’re wondering why the analysis of the industry and target audience are so thorough, you’ll be glad to know the results are critically integral to the marketing plan and sales strategies that follow these sections of your business plan.
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The competitors you face in your industry need to be analyzed and thoroughly examined in order to win your target audience over the offers of your competitors. First, Identify your main competitors and evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, market share, and strategies. Determine what sets your business apart and how you can gain that competitive advantage if your business does not hold it already. Remember to support your analysis with relevant data, statistics, and market research. The industry analysis should demonstrate your knowledge of the industry and your ability to navigate its challenges successfully. Also, you’ll want to collect the data from secondary and indirect competitors, as well. Such competitors often take a leap into a larger market position while completely unnoticed.
In this section of the plan, turn the analysis on your business to examine the competitive advantages your business has to outperform both direct and indirect competitors. Expand on the advantages of the business, such as the products or services offered, operational systems that outperform others, the ideal location of the business, and the intellectual property held by your business. These are salient factors that give your business a boost in terms of relevance and advantage.
The marketing strategy for the business is based on the status of current marketing efforts and data collected during the analysis of the industry, customers, competitors and internal processes of the business. It makes sense to pull all the elements together to form a cohesive marketing plan directed exactly to the ideal customer base. Include in this portion of the plan the current products and/or services, pricing and promotions plans. The business to date should identify its capability to generate revenue, resulting in profitability, a quality highly desired by lenders and investors. It proves that you have a solid plan for reaching new customers, you can attain new customers profitably, and the customer acquisition cost is significantly less than the customer lifetime value. Include in the plan sub-sections highlighting products, services and pricing, promotions plan and the product distribution plan.
The operations plan is where reality meets expectations and, sometimes, it’s not a happy introduction. In a three-year business plan, much of the information is still speculative, while the present picture remains too new to extrapolate and analyze the data. A three-year business plan can, however, offer a healthy look at the present sales and revenue, strategic moves and options, paving the way to an informed look in years two and three ahead. The operations plan is affected by both the revenue collected or outstanding and the strategic moves that could follow.
Contained within the operations plan are the key day-to-day processes that have been accomplished within year one, as listed:
- Established a production facility/office that meets current and future needs.
- Developed strong supplier relationships to ensure a reliable supply chain.
- Implemented efficient inventory management systems to optimize stock levels.
- Hired and trained skilled personnel to handle production, sales, marketing strategy, and customer service.
- Implemented quality control measures to maintain high product/service standards.
The extent to which the key operational plan is detailed, lenders and investors will understand how developed your business is internally and externally, as well as how “hungry” for growth your business may be. These factors can exponentially affect future business.
The introduction of the key management team in this plan is also indicative of your attention to detail and the drive you have to move toward years three, ten and twenty. Offer the name, title and background of each management person and include the members of the board of directors or board of advisors, if such exist within the corporate structure. These are the hungry executives, ready to work hard to make the business better for all. As the business owner, be sure to highlight your specific qualifications to run a successful business.
Finally, introduce the financial plan at the end of the business plan. It is a multi-part framework for making decisions regarding how to parse out, invest, and best use the monies received. Based on the market analysis and sales forecasts, project the following financials for the next three years:
- Year 1: Revenue of [amount], with an operating expense of [amount].
- Year 2: Revenue of [amount], with an operating costs of [amount].
- Year 3: Revenue of [amount], with an operating expense of [amount].
Indicate when achieving profitability will occur, such as “by the end of Year One” and pinpoint when, at what date, the business expects steady revenue growth thereafter. The projections need to be based on conservative estimates and prudent financial management.
Provide a conclusion at the end of the business plan and construct the executive summary after the body of the business plan is complete. Indicate throughout the conclusion the processes that make it a viable document for the years ahead. Update the business plan as needed, during that time and continue to refer to the data and analyses collected, the conclusions formed and the ways in which competitors can be overcome by differentiation and better product positioning. After completing the business plan, you’ll have the confidence to share it as a viable, sustainable document that indicates a healthy foundation, a growing revenue stream and a solid plan for long-term growth and success ahead. Congratulations!