Small Business Resource Center

How to Write a Business Plan

Small business owner Marie shares her approach to writing her business plan.

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pro tip

Since you are sharing your business plan with experts in other fields (such as finance or importing), be sure to use language that is easy to follow and not filled with insider jargon.

After all your planning and anticipation, it’s time to bring your business to life. Here is a step-by-step plan for creating a business plan, which you will need for loan applications, or to show investors. But the most important reason of all is to help you define the road map ahead, and identify areas where you will need to fine-tune, rethink or recruit help for a successful busines launch.

Wondering how to start a business plan? Our experts recommend taking on your small business plan one section at a time, one piece at a time, and let the gradual progress eventually build momentum through the end of the planning period.

Executive Summary & Overview

Your Executive Summary is your opportunity to sell someone on your business in under one or two pages. Craft this section so that it is the shortest version of your company story and is immediately clear what value your business is providing.

This is a subhead. Smaller, less space above.

The accompanying Overview can be more lengthy and go into more detail about your business, including things such as your missiong statement, struction and ownership. It’s a great opportunity to paint a fuller picture of your company, with more details about your products or services as well as the opportunity in the marketplace.

Products & Target Market

This is the spark that started you down the path of business ownership: the idea of a product or service that you could provide better than anyone else. The Products section of your business plan details the problem you’re solving for your customers, and how it will be different from any competition offering similar goods or services.

Your Target Market section is an introduction to the customer who is going to love your product/service and, just as important, your business itself. A company cannot simply sell a product; ongoing branding efforts and customer engagement are important considerations in attracting and keeping loyal customers.

Management Team

Starting a new business means diving into untested waters. But you can build confidence in your business structure simply by spotlighting the experience and business chops of your fellow partners. The Management Team section of your business plan gives potential lenders and funders peace of mind by letting them get to know you as the founder, as well as the handpicked group of hardworking people by your side. And of course, in many small businesses, there’s only one person on the management team -- you!--and that’s totaly okay!

Financial Plans & Measures of Success

Measuring your business’s success requires careful tracking of your inclows and outflows. Investors and lenders will want to see financial documents that show that you anticipate this success, including a sales forecast, personnel plan, cash flow statement, profit/loss statement and balance sheet for at least three years out; some investors ask for projections even further into the future.

There are many resources online that offer detailed instructions on developing the sections above. Individually, these chapters are parts of your business story that you can revisit and evolve as your company becomes more established; as a whole, it will help you communicate with internal as well as external partners, conduct business reviews as your company grows and changes over time, and even help determine value should you decide to sell your business. All you need to do is start the plan -- and keep it moving forward.

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