Whether it’s for a bank, investors, validation, and/or a roadmap, your company needs a written business plan to convert your ideas into an organized, professional document.
The business plan format will change depending on why you’re writing it and who you’re writing it for. If you’re seeking validation, it’s best to start with a simple one-page pitch. On the other hand, if you’re pursuing funding, you’ll need a professional, formal business plan.
Regardless of the intentions behind your business plan, having a checklist of what needs to be included is helpful to make sure you’re effectively getting your ideas and strategies down on paper.
As a baseline, your business plan should include these 10 sections:
- Executive Summary
- Company Overview
- Industry Analysis
- Customer Analysis
- Competitive Analysis
- Marketing Plan
- Operations Plan
- Management Team
- Financial Plan
The Essential Business Plan Checklist
Here, I will explain the different elements you need to include in each section. Use this resource as a business plan questions checklist and mark them off as you go.
Your executive summary should explain the problem you are solving and how you intend to solve it. When reviewing your business plan, address the following:
- The function of your business
- Target customers
- Key financial highlights
- Key members of your team
- Business goals
Essentially, you want to ensure that your executive summary introduces your business in a detailed yet concise form, explaining the key parts of your business and the market.
Here, you will give a brief summary of your company as a whole and how it functions. Be certain to include:
- Company history
- Founding members
- Milestones you have achieved
- The legal structure of your business
Your industry analysis will provide a summary of your market research. After doing your research, include answers to the following questions in your business plan:
- How big is the market?
- Where is the market currently: growing or declining?
- Who are some of the key competitors?
- What is influencing the industry?
In your customer analysis, you will explain the audience you are targeting and expect to serve. Be sure to focus on your target customers and the customer needs. It should explain the:
- Demographic profile of your target market
- Customer segments within that market
Your competitive analysis will address your competition in the market. It should have three subsections as follows:
- Direct Competitors: other businesses in your market (example: if you own an ice cream shop, other ice cream shops are direct competitors)
- Indirect Competitors: other businesses that may not specifically be in your business’s market, but provide similar results to that of your company (example: if you own an ice cream shop, grocery stores that sell ice cream are indirect competitors)
For each competitor, identify both their strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to address the following:
- What features do they offer?
- What is their pricing?
- Who are their customers?
- What are they good at?
- What are their weaknesses?
Describe your competitive advantages or what your business will do better. Here, provide answers to the following questions:
- Will you offer more or better features?
- Will you ensure better results for your users?
- Will you offer better pricing?
- Will your customer service be more efficient?
Be sure that your competitive analysis describes just how your business will succeed and stand out in its competitive market.
Your plan should include the following marketing plan sections:
- Product: detail the specific features of your business’s product
- Price: identify your business pricing and if there will be different pricing levels (e.g., free, premium) and what exactly those levels will be
- Place: name where your business will be located
- Promotions: how you will attract customers to your business (social media advertising, pay-per-click advertising, magazine advertising, public relations, etc.)
Here, you will describe how your company will effectively meet the goals you identified in the earlier sections of your business plan. Your operations plan should have two sections:
- Every day short-term processes: all necessary daily operations completed simply for the function of your business (providing customer service, writing code, fixing bugs, etc.)
- Long-term goals: milestones you hope to achieve (reaching $X in sales, having Y amount of employees, etc.)
It is essential to have a strong management team for the function and success of your business. Be sure to include the following:
- Management team: highlight your key players’ backgrounds and describe their skills and talents
- Management team gaps: any experience that you think your business will need in order to succeed
- Board members
Your financial plan will document your 5-year financial projections, broken down in monthly or quarterly projections for the first year, and then annually thereafter. Your focus here is to show how much money you need, how much income you will earn, and when you will be profitable.
Your financial plan should include:
- Profit & Loss statement
- Cash flow statement
- Balance sheet
- Sales forecast
- Personnel plan
- Break-even analysis
To provide evidence to your numbers, include supporting documentation in your financial plan.
Your appendix will provide any and all other documentation or information that you believe supports your business plan. If necessary, your appendix can include:
- Resumes of key management, blurbs on other management members
- Job descriptions/titles
- Copies of forms
- Copies of licenses
- Personal and business tax returns (if applying for a loan)
- Marketing materials
To ensure that your business plan effectively portrays the mission and potential success of your business, go through this checklist and make sure you have included each concept mentioned. A fill in the blank business plan also includes each of these key sections and can help you quickly and easily complete your business plan.
Business Plan Checklist FAQs
We’ve completed the hard work for you! You can download this Business Plan Checklist PDF for quick reference as you complete your business plan.
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