Topics in Small Business: Writing a Business Plan
If you’re just getting your small business off the ground, chances are you’ll need funding. To win over investors, you need a stalwart business plan, with as many details and supporting evidence as possible. Putting together the document can be overwhelming, so to help you out, here’s a basic breakdown of the components you’ll need to assemble a winning plan:
1. Executive Summary
This should be a short and sweet statement of your business’ purpose. State the idea behind your product or service, but don’t get too specific. The details will follow.
Here’s where you can elaborate a little further. Provide what could be the “About Us” page on your company website. What is the vision behind your venture? How and when did everything get started? Where do you operate? Next, shine a light on your product. Explain how it works and how it can benefit your customer.
3. Market Analysis
Here’s where you have to do some homework. Assessing the market is crucial to assessing your product’s chances of survival and success among the competition. Provide a graph showing market trends. Break it down and identify your top competitors.Take time to study your consumers as well. Who and where are your customers and what are they demanding? How can you fill that demand in a way that your competitors can’t?
Step two of completing this section includes discussing your marketing strategy. What kind of campaigns will you launch to raise awareness? Print ads? Commercial spots? Email or social media campaigns? Include specifics like who on your team will manage which responsibilities, and what their budgets will be.
Time to move into the nitty gritty. Investors will want to know that you have the chops to pull of your plans. Show them the gears behind the machine by explaining basic operations, like how you’ll stock supplies, manufacture your product, get it on shelves, price it, manage your store, etc. Again, be specific with your personnel. Let your potential funders know who is on your team and what exactly they’ll be doing. This kind of info will help them see what the day-to-day will be like for your business, and reassure them that your company is reliable and consistent.
The same details should be included for online businesses. Instead of discussing brick-and-mortar things like stocking shelves, elaborate on how you’ll physically move your product or service to the customer and monitor those transactions online. Discuss the structure of your website and any costs related to development. Include how you’ll track web traffic and measure progress, as well as how you’ll connect with customer whose faces you never actually see.
Explain your team’s hierarchy. Who are the leaders and what tasks will they oversee? How will you communicate as a team?
6. Financial Data
Last but definitely not least is a detailed report of your businesses’ financial status. This section could include at least three vital reports: cash flow, profit and loss, and projected balance sheet. (For samples and templates galore, check here.) These can be some of the trickiest predictions to make, but should be analyzed to see if you’re budgeting your resources in the most rewarding way. Find an online calculator to help hash out your numbers into a complete, presentable report.
Include plenty of visual aid in your plan. Graphs and charts illustrate your projections and usually sink in more than simply listing numbers on the page. Breaking up text with colorful graphics also alleviates the strain of focusing on a detailed plan and keeps readers’ attention captivated.
Tailor your plan to your audience. Some business plans can look like small novels, but that doesn’t mean yours has to. Do what is necessary to convey your business’ trustworthiness to your potential investor, and don’t overextend yourself. Remember that there are certain aspects of the market that will affect your business that you have no control over. Attempting to plan for every contingency will not only be ineffective, it will drive you insane.
With that said… Good luck!