How to Write a Business Plan: 5 Steps for First-Timers

Writing your business plan is a multiple stage process that may mean becoming familiar with a variety of business terms even for those who already consider themselves experts in the industry they will be entering. Tackling the following five steps, in this given order, will insure that you cover all of the bases required by funders reading the plan while also making sure you are certain of the business’s viability.


Start by outlining the plan completely, using a template or description of a business plan outline as a guide. You will find that the business plan outline is relatively standard, and it is best to disregard ideas which vary widely from this basic order: executive summary, company description, industry analysis, customer analysis, competitive analysis, marketing plan, operations plan, management team, and financial plan. While outlining, jot down notes for what you already know about each section to organize your current thought.


Research should begin with the market opportunity, looking for facts, statistics and trends to support the industry, customer, and competitive analysis sections. Research will also include potential locations if applicable, startup and operating costs, and the availability of the kind of labor you will need in your market. Take careful note of all of your findings.


Based on the viability of the market opportunity you uncovered, this is a perfect time to decide if the whole idea should simply be shelved. If you decide to move forward, choose a plan of attack for how you will bring in revenues and operate the company. These decisions will work their way into your marketing and operations plans.


Next, translate all of the activities, costs, and revenues of the company into accounting terms to create the pro format (projected) financial statements for your business. Use a financial model in Excel to shortcut this process. Building a robust financial model from scratch can be painstaking and require a much greater knowledge of accounting than you may have.


Finally, write through the narrative of the plan, using the research you uncovered, strategy you decided upon, and calculations you made. The last step of the writing process will be to create an executive summary which sums up the entire plan in one or two pages and hooks readers on the investment idea from the start.

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