Having a business plan is essential to running and growing your business. It gives you a concrete set of directions for the future and allows you to further examine and learn about the market you are entering.
Successful business plans clearly explain a company’s business model, objectives, strategies, and competitive advantages. Use our business plan questionnaire below for a list of the questions you should answer in each section of your business plan to ensure clarity and understanding of your business’s hopes and mission.
What Questions Should Be Asked in a Business Plan?
The business plan questionnaire can help you get started on your business plan. It will give you a concrete set of directions for the future and allow you to further examine and learn about the market you are entering. Be sure to provide answers to the following questions in each key section of your business plan.
The executive summary is the introduction to your business plan and is responsible for grabbing the reader’s attention and spiking their interest in your business. Here, you want to explain your business in a detailed yet concise form.
You may ask yourself:
- What is the issue your business is addressing?
- How are you solving it?
- What are your business’s strengths?
- Why should an investor be interested in your business?
The company analysis section will specify the type of business you are operating.
Ask yourself the following:
- What is your business’ mission?
- What is your history?
- What are some of your past achievements?
- What is your business’ legal structure?
- Where is your business located?
- Why did you start the business?
- How do you measure your business success?
Here, you will provide a summary of the market that your business is in and its current status.
Include the answers to the following questions:
- What is the size of the market?
- What are the characteristics of the market: growth trends, units sold, employment?
- What factors are influencing growth or decline in the market?
- Are there any barriers to entering the market?
- Are there any government regulations that affect the market?
Explain the target audience that you currently serve or are preparing to serve.
Be sure to include the following in your analysis:
- What is the size of the target customer market?
- Where are these prospective customers located?
- What are their desires and needs, and how will your business meet those needs?
- In descriptive terms, who is your target market? (what motivates them to purchase, what influences their purchasing decisions)
- Why will your target customers seek out your business?
- What trends/purchasing shifts could occur in the market?
- How will you monitor customer satisfaction? (e.g., surveys, reviews, etc.)
Your competitive analysis will discuss your competition in the market, and how you plan to be more successful.
First, simply focus on your competition and what they are up to.
Address the following:
- Who are your direct competitors? (e.g., other businesses in your genre)
- Who are your indirect competitors? (e.g., other companies that may not be specified in your business’s genre, but provide similar results to that of your business)
- What are your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses?
- What are their products and pricing like?
Then, look into your business’ competitive advantage to describe how your business will be better.
- 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?
- Will you offer a better overall customer experience?
The marketing plan you establish will lay out your business’ strategy to communicate its benefits, products, and services.
A complete plan will include the following:
- How will you communicate to your target customers about your product or service?
- Why are you choosing these specific avenues (e.g., website, Social Media, etc.)?
- What materials do you have or need, and what will be the cost of this?
- What do you plan to spend on marketing per prospect and per client?
- How will you retain existing customers?
- How will your business attract publicity?
- What media will you target?
- How will your products/services be delivered to the market?
- How might future changes impact your marketing?
- How will you price your product relative to others in the market to be competitive yet profitable?
- What type of payment will you accept?
- Overall, how will your marketing strategy be effective to your target customers?
The most successful businesses have a clear-cut operations foundation. The focus here is to explain just how your business will meet its goals, and what processes and systems will be put in place to reach success.
Consider the following:
- What equipment is needed, and what is the cost?
- What are your hours of operation and number of shifts?
- How many employees will you have?
- What are the skill sets required when looking to hire new employees?
- What are your practices for scheduling, managing, and hiring personnel?
- What are the processes you will use to produce and sell your product or service?
- What is your purchasing process?
- How will finished goods be distributed?
- How will quality be measured and improved over time?
- What will your procedures to keep track of inventory look like?
Your management team is the core of your business’s function and success. It is also a critical element that many investors base their investment decisions on.
In this section, answer the following:
- Who are your founding members and what is their background?
- Who are your support team members and what are their responsibilities? (include position title, person’s name, and role)
- Do you offer any ownership options to attract key management?
- Do you have any Board of Directors?
- Do you have any outside consultants that will work with your business as it grows?
- What is your business’ organizational structure?
The financial plan you establish will present your revenue model, financial projections, and funding requirements.
Your financial plan should include:
- Profit & Loss statement
- Cash flow statement
- Balance sheet
- Sales forecast
- Personnel plan
- Break-even analysis
Here, you must gather data and convey just how much money your business will need and how much income you will earn, as well as when your business will be profitable.
Be sure to consider the following:
- How were your numbers calculated?
- Why are the salaries and office expenses you have calculated reasonable to your business?
- Why are your expense estimates realistic?
- How have you budgeted for unexpected costs?
- Is there any debt the business currently has?
- What is the amount of equity the owners and stockholders have?
- What is your annual interest expense?
- What is the percentage of sales issued for returns?
- What is your average daily inventory value?
- Are you using a fixed or variable inventory method?
- What is the limit on your line of credit and the average interest rate?
- What is your minimum checking account balance to have at all times?
Your financial plan should prove that you are informed and knowledgeable on the numbers around your business. It should prove that you are aware of all potential unexpected costs or other out-of-the-blue setbacks.
The appendix section wraps up your business plan, tying up any loose ends. Its purpose is to provide supporting documentation for anything referenced in the previous sections of your plan.
Appendices may be anywhere from just a few pages to a hundred or more.
Your appendix can include:
- Resumes of key management, blurbs on other management members
- Job descriptions/titles
- Copies of any agreements having bearing on the business plan
- Copies of licenses
- Personal and business tax returns (if applying for a loan)
- Marketing materials
- Photos or sketches of the building, property, equipment, products
- Industry studies or other information supporting industry trends
- Summaries of secondary market studies
The business plan questionnaire should be a guide for you to use as an outline and checklist of items that will need to be addressed in your company’s business plan. Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template includes each of these key elements and more to help your business succeed.
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