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8 Key elements of a business plan you need to know
Debbie austin fcca explains the importance of business plans and what to include in yours..
Everyone wants the perfect business; a money making, well oiled machine that’s leading in the market. If only it were as easy as just wanting it!
Being a potential business owner, you will set goals around things like profitability, productivity, and growth (just to name a few). In order to reach these goals amidst the daily meetings, phone calls and e-mails, you’ll need to create an effective business plan.
Starting a business can be a very complex process. Having a plan is important to the success of your venture as it maps out all of the details surrounding your concept and strategy.
If you’ve already started up and your business is growing, congratulations! Reviewing the key elements of a business plan can help you avoid crisis situations. Remember, your document is at the core of all that you do, that's why we've written this post because it will be a key facet to helping you achieve your goals .
What should a business plan include?
1. the executive summary, 2. a description of the business, 3. the market(s) the business will operate in, 4. a swot analysis.
5. Management team and personnel
6. The products or services offered
8. A financial plan
The contents of a business plan
This is placed as number one on our list of components of a business plan , but it can easily be the final stage. That's because sometimes it's easiest to write your summary after you've covered all the other details.
A great summary is one of the key features of a business plan. It serves as an overview of your entire business and the elements surrounding it.
Be sure to outline succinctly the 5 "W"s (Who, What, Why, When, Where) as well as the mission statement . Think about why you started the business along with where you would like it to be in the future, how will you get there? Your mission statement is the start of creating a culture that people in your organisation will live and work by.
This section should contain details of things such as your goals and the customers you will service. What are the products and services you will offer to your customers? You'll need to provide an overview of them and how they will address customers' needs and wants?
You've come up with this great business idea , but how will it do in the market? Or, more importantly, what is the market for it? How well do you know the market? What does a typical buyer look like, what is their income level? Does the business have the hallmarks of disruptive innovation ?
This is the time to research and determine who your target market is and ask specific questions that relate to your product or service. Put you idea to the test. What have others done before you and what can you do differently and better? Analyse what information you've uncovered and outline it's potential impact in your plan.
Create a detailed list of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This needs to be done with an open and honest approach, keep emotions out of it, focus on being objective when analysing your business and those of your competitors.
Any strengths you uncover will represent internal, positive factors in your business that are within your control. Weaknesses are also internal, but are negative factors that need to be improved.
Both opportunities and threats are external factors. While opportunities will potentially positively impact on your business, threats represent negative factors beyond your control. For example, are there high barriers to entering the market? Does a competitor have the market cornered due to brand loyal customers? These could harm your enterprise, so you need to strategise for it in your plan.
5. The management team and personnel
Who will run the business, who are the directors in the business? What are the skills of the management team and how do their different responsibilities make maximum use of their abilities. What is the chain of command in terms of decision making?
Also use this section to identify how the management team, and taking on employees will help maximise strengths, while addressing identified weaknesses to help improve the business.
Finally, which of the UK's business structures will you choose to operate through?
- Limited company
- Limited liability partnership
In this section you need to detail what will be produced and how it will be sold. You should explain how your product or service will meet a particular need in the marketplace, and how you'll get customers returning to make repeat purchases. Repeat custom is after all the lifeblood of many a good business.
Who will you rely on, in terms of suppliers, to help you assemble your products? What intellectual property, patents or copyright do you own, or might you be at risk of potentially infringing?
What is the branding to your business? What are the key messages you want to communicate with your target market and how will you go about reaching them? How will you achieve market share and at what cost in terms of your budget?
8. Let's talk money: A financial plan
Ideas are great, but how will you make them a reality and sustain a viable business. Creating a financial plan will give you the opportunity to address your financial concerns and talk money, think about start-up costs, financial projections , funding and investor pitches.
You'll need to list how much your start-up will cost, everything from stationary to leases should be outlined and balanced against your financial projections.
Don't fear change, your business plan isn't written in stone
It’s important to remember that your business plan isn’t written in stone. This is a document that you and your staff can improve and update as the business grows and changes. Your plan should be reviewed regularly.
Consider implementing a monthly review to track progress or make adjustments to your strategy. Accountability and motivation are key in making sure your goals are met, think about the people involved and what can you do to keep them inspired.
This post was created on 26/06/2018 and updated on 18/02/2022.
Please be aware that information provided by this blog is subject to regular legal and regulatory change. We recommend that you do not take any information held within our website or guides (eBooks) as a definitive guide to the law on the relevant matter being discussed. We suggest your course of action should be to seek legal or professional advice where necessary rather than relying on the content supplied by the author(s) of this blog.
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10 Important elements of a good business plan
Everybody plans before doing something big. don’t you think so? So, why not consider a business plan ? Just like on a road trip, a map is needed. Likewise, every start-up business or a full fledged running business needs a direction. This way you don’t have to sit back and let the waves rock your boat. We will discuss some key elements to pay attention to that we might miss when we are in planning mode no matter what stage your business is at. Find here the key elements of a business plan to consider when creating a business plan .
Also you can use this business plan and financial plan template to start writing your business plan
1. Executive Summary
The executive summary of your business plan should always be the last topic written in your plan, and it appears at the beginning of the paper. As the word summary implies, it should cover everything important to the one who is reading it; be they a lender, investor or financier. An executive summary is mainly highlighting the points that need to be discussed or known in order to make the favorable decision the reader is being asked to make.
A compellingly good summary is a summary that reveals the mission statement of the company, with a brief discussion of its services and products. The WHY question can be answered in the summary for the start-up business or the relevant experience of the entrepreneur can be added.
2. Company Description
The next thing that interests the reader in the business plan is the introduction of your company. It should have complete information about what the company provides or will be providing, its products and services, its targets or goals and the audience, prospects and customers it serves already or plans to serve. This description will also help the reader to find out why your business is different or differs from the competition that will help you cater the target audience.
3. Market Analysis
Your market analysis should be based on logical research or findings. Ideally, the market analysis shows if you know what are the trending ins and outs in that certain industry and the particular market you intend to enter. In this section when you discuss the data and the statistics, make sure you have coloured graphs, spreadsheets, and histograms to demonstrate your insights and the future goals of where the company will be and where it stands in the market. In addition, the details about the customers you will be marketing to need to also be shown, provided with the details of their income levels.
4. Competitive Analysis
To make your business plan a good one try to add as much clear and honest information you can in comparison with your direct and indirect competitors . Give the reader a clear picture to show how you can stack up against the competition, even when you know the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors. In addition, if at any point you think there could be possibilities, for example, of high outspoken costs that may prevent you from leaping into the market then it is better you say so in your business plan but this information will be revealed when you complete the competitive market analysis .
5. Management Positions and Business Structure
Create a clear outline of factors that influence your corporate culture. Show the management positions, who reports to whom, who holds each position and the job descriptions. Moreover, do not forget to mention how your business will operate legally. Will it be a partnership, a sole proprietorship or a different ownership business structure?
6. Products and Services Breakdown
Give an overview of what products and services your business provides, incorporate facts and extra information as available.
By this time, the reader should have a pretty decent knowledge of what you are planning to make and sell, the life of your products and their need.
Another good idea is to mention suppliers too. List the cost of production and how much financial backing you hope to secure and a list of related copyrights and patents can come in handy as well.
7. Marketing Plan
What is your main aim for this business plan? Outline your plan for marketing and promotions. You could use this marketing plan template . Describe how your audience will hear about, learn about and decide to take the next step to buy your product or service. Also outline the budget required for these strategies.
8. Sales Strategy
The most important question is to ask yourself: How will I sell my products? This answer is discussed with the sales strategy you plan. Be as precise as possible. Add numbers. How many agents will you hire? How? Add specific sales targets. Will you sell online, will you use sales reps?
If you are interested in getting funds devote an entire section to explain the amount of money you will need, and how you plan to put to use that capital. Even if there is need of extra money in the future in order to complete a particular project be explicit in explaining that as well. Here you can find a financial business plan .
10. Financial Projections
The last final section, you will reveal your financial goals and potentials based on the market research you completed. This section will have a report of your expected revenue for the coming year, also the annual anticipated earnings for the next five years.
Moreover, if there’s a need to apply for any loan, even a personal loan, you can add an additional section or an appendix that delivers additional fiscal information.
Download a business plan template
Download a financial plan template for your business
10 Rules of writing successful business plans
How to get help when you are writing your business plan, recent posts, a business plan creates 30% greater chance of growth, are you an entrepreneur do the test., the benefits of being an entrepreneur, business concepts and definitions.
We help you with creating excellent business plans for your business with great resources, ideas, templates, downloads and tips!
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Basic Elements of a Business Plan
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Business plans are essential to small businesses. They provide you with direction, help you stay focused on key activities and are required when seeking investment or finance.
At their core, business plans have 5 basic pieces of information. They include a description of your business, an analysis of your competitive environment, a marketing plan, a section on HR (people requirements) and key financial information.
The following is an explanation of the 5 key elements to a business plan.
1. Your business description
Your business description should give a brief, simple explanation of your business. Don’t go into too much information, as those reading it will either be short on time or have little understanding of your specific business.
The goal with your business plan is to be pragmatic, so include what the business is, the products or service you are (or will) provide and who your target audience is.
2. Your competition
Are your competitors someone in the same shopping strip or centre, or someone else local? Is your competition not defined by geographic location? Is the focus more on industry segment, or product/service? Is your business online, competing with others in this space?
The goal of defining your competition is as much for you as anyone reading your business plan. Do your ‘due diligence’ and thoroughly research your market. Try to determine who are the most successful players in your space and identify what makes them a success (e.g. product offering, best pricing, superior service). Once you have this information you then need to assess how you can beat them, however, it’s important to be realistic.
If they are a success because they have 20,000 products, don’t say you can beat them by having 21,000 products. The same with price. If you’re only focused on being the cheapest, then the person who’s willing to drop their price further will win. This ends up a race to the bottom and is an unsustainable business strategy.
Additionally, make sure you have ‘best case’ and ‘worse case’ scenarios of your modeling. Most small businesses overestimate their impact and projections in the short term, which is why they don’t survive long term.
3. Your marketing
Unless you have experience with marketing, this one may be a little bit hard. The first thing you need to do with your marketing is develop a ‘positioning statement’. A Positioning Statement is an organisational statement that defines the benefit of your product/service to your target customer and states how you’re different from your competitors. Once you have this statement, you can then start working on your marketing strategy.
Your marketing strategy should focus on the channels that are right for you. Most will include a website. If you’re in the consumer space, you may also focus on social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+. If you’re in the B2B space, you may focus your social media activity around LinkedIn. You may also want to consider PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, which is available on most online and digital channels.
The most important considerations with a marketing plan are knowing where your market is, knowing how to access them, and knowing what will create a ‘call to action.’
4. Your people
Does your business have face-to-face engagement with customers, or are your relationships digital? Do you currently have a team of people in place? If so, who are they, and what skills and experience do they bring to the table. If not, what people and skills do you need and for what roles. Most businesses still ultimately rely on people to be successful. Make sure you have the right people in the right roles.
With the ‘people’ section of your business plan, it’s helpful to create an organisational chart that includes roles and responsibilities. This organisational chart should also identify the people gaps that you may need to fill.
From an investor’s perspective, they want to see that you have your team in place and that they have the relevant experience to make your business a success.
5. Your Financial Data
This is where it’s important to have some basic bookkeeping and accounting skills. If you don’t have them, talk to Bizally for assistance.
Your business plans need to include a balance sheet (this outlines your current financial position in a universally accepted format), and your current profit and loss statement (also in a universally accepted format. Again, Bizally can help). Your financials should also include your income sources and costs (such as wages, rent, and other costs).
If you’re a start-up, your business plan should include start-up costs (such as plant, business registration, fit out ETC), at least the first year’s financial statements and a cash flow budget. The purpose of these figures is to demonstrate that you know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Depending on your sector and offer, try to create realistic cash flow projections over at least a 3 to 5 year period. This helps both investors and those providing finance that you have a strategy going forward.
‘I’m not confident in creating a business plan without help.’
If you’re starting a new business or even if you have been in business for some time, some of these items may be a little outside of your skill set and knowledge. That is where the help of an organisation such as Bizally can be invaluable. Bizally can demystify the whole process and help you with specific areas, such as projections and cash flow modeling, as well as profit and loss and balance sheets. Simply contact Bizally today and arrange a discussion.
- Business Strategy
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Main Components of a Business Plan
- Executive summary This is your five-minute elevator pitch. It may include a table of contents, company background, market opportunity, management overviews, competitive advantages, and financial highlights. It’s probably easiest to write the detailed sections first and then extract the cream to create the executive summary. Try to keep it to just a couple of pages.
- Business description and structure This is where you explain why you're in business and what you're selling. If you sell products, describe your manufacturing process, availability of materials, how you handle inventory and fulfillment, and other operational details. If you provide services, describe them and their value proposition to customers. Include other details such as strategic relationships, administrative issues, intellectual property you may own, expenses, and the legal structure of your company.
- Market research and strategies Spell out your market analysis and describe your marketing strategy, including sales forecasts, deadlines and milestones, advertising, public relations and how you stack up against your competition. If you can’t produce a lot of data analysis, you can provide testimonials from existing customers.
- Management and personnel Provide bios of your company executives and managers and explain how their expertise will help you meet business goals. Investors need to evaluate risk, and often, a management team with lots of experience may lower perceived risk.
- Financial documents This is where you provide the numbers that back up everything you described in your organizational and marketing sections. Include conservative projections of your profit and loss statements, balance sheet, and your cash flow statements for the next three years. These are forward-looking projections, not your current accounting outputs.
- Local SBA Small Business Development Centers provide free consulting and low cost training for building a business plan. Find one near you.
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Elements of a Business Plan There are seven major sections of a business plan, and each one is a complex document. Read this selection from our business plan tutorial to fully understand these components.
Mar 2, 2001
Now that you understand why you need a business plan and you've spent some time doing your homework gathering the information you need to create one, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get everything down on paper. The following pages will describe in detail the seven essential sections of a business plan: what you should include, what you shouldn't include, how to work the numbers and additional resources you can turn to for help. With that in mind, jump right in.
Within the overall outline of the business plan, the executive summary will follow the title page. The summary should tell the reader what you want. This is very important. All too often, what the business owner desires is buried on page eight. Clearly state what you're asking for in the summary.
The statement should be kept short and businesslike, probably no more than half a page. It could be longer, depending on how complicated the use of funds may be, but the summary of a business plan, like the summary of a loan application, is generally no longer than one page. Within that space, you'll need to provide a synopsis of your entire business plan. Key elements that should be included are:
- Business concept. Describes the business, its product and the market it will serve. It should point out just exactly what will be sold, to whom and why the business will hold a competitive advantage.
- Financial features. Highlights the important financial points of the business including sales, profits, cash flows and return on investment.
- Financial requirements. Clearly states the capital needed to start the business and to expand. It should detail how the capital will be used, and the equity, if any, that will be provided for funding. If the loan for initial capital will be based on security instead of equity, you should also specify the source of collateral.
- Current business position. Furnishes relevant information about the company, its legal form of operation, when it was formed, the principal owners and key personnel.
- Major achievements. Details any developments within the company that are essential to the success of the business. Major achievements include items like patents, prototypes, location of a facility, any crucial contracts that need to be in place for product development, or results from any test marketing that has been conducted.
When writing your statement of purpose, don't waste words. If the statement of purpose is eight pages, nobody's going to read it because it'll be very clear that the business, no matter what its merits, won't be a good investment because the principals are indecisive and don't really know what they want. Make it easy for the reader to realize at first glance both your needs and capabilities.
Tell them all about it.
The business description usually begins with a short description of the industry. When describing the industry, discuss the present outlook as well as future possibilities. You should also provide information on all the various markets within the industry, including any new products or developments that will benefit or adversely affect your business. Base all of your observations on reliable data and be sure to footnote sources of information as appropriate. This is important if you're seeking funding; the investor will want to know just how dependable your information is, and won't risk money on assumptions or conjecture.
When describing your business, the first thing you need to concentrate on is its structure. By structure we mean the type of operation, i.e. wholesale, retail, food service, manufacturing or service-oriented. Also state whether the business is new or already established.
In addition to structure, legal form should be reiterated once again. Detail whether the business is a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation, who its principals are, and what they will bring to the business.
You should also mention who you will sell to, how the product will be distributed, and the business's support systems. Support may come in the form of advertising, promotions and customer service.
Once you've described the business, you need to describe the products or services you intend to market. The product description statement should be complete enough to give the reader a clear idea of your intentions. You may want to emphasize any unique features or variations from concepts that can typically be found in the industry.
Be specific in showing how you will give your business a competitive edge. For example, your business will be better because you will supply a full line of products; competitor A doesn't have a full line. You're going to provide service after the sale; competitor B doesn't support anything he sells. Your merchandise will be of higher quality. You'll give a money-back guarantee. Competitor C has the reputation for selling the best French fries in town; you're going to sell the best Thousand Island dressing.
How Will I Profit?
Now you must be a classic capitalist and ask yourself, "How can I turn a buck? And why do I think I can make a profit that way?" Answer that question for yourself, and then convey that answer to others in the business concept section. You don't have to write 25 pages on why your business will be profitable. Just explain the factors you think will make it successful, like the following: it's a well-organized business, it will have state-of-the-art equipment, its location is exceptional, the market is ready for it, and it's a dynamite product at a fair price.
If you're using your business plan as a document for financial purposes, explain why the added equity or debt money is going to make your business more profitable.
Show how you will expand your business or be able to create something by using that money.
Show why your business is going to be profitable. A potential lender is going to want to know how successful you're going to be in this particular business. Factors that support your claims for success can be mentioned briefly; they will be detailed later. Give the reader an idea of the experience of the other key people in the business. They'll want to know what suppliers or experts you've spoken to about your business and their response to your idea. They may even ask you to clarify your choice of location or reasons for selling this particular product.
The business description can be a few paragraphs in length to a few pages, depending on the complexity of your plan. If your plan isn't too complicated, keep your business description short, describing the industry in one paragraph, the product in another, and the business and its success factors in three or four paragraphs that will end the statement.
While you may need to have a lengthy business description in some cases, it's our opinion that a short statement conveys the required information in a much more effective manner. It doesn't attempt to hold the reader's attention for an extended period of time, and this is important if you're presenting to a potential investor who will have other plans he or she will need to read as well. If the business description is long and drawn-out, you'll lose the reader's attention, and possibly any chance of receiving the necessary funding for the project.
Define your market.
Market strategies are the result of a meticulous market analysis. A market analysis forces the entrepreneur to become familiar with all aspects of the market so that the target market can be defined and the company can be positioned in order to garner its share of sales. A market analysis also enables the entrepreneur to establish pricing, distribution and promotional strategies that will allow the company to become profitable within a competitive environment. In addition, it provides an indication of the growth potential within the industry, and this will allow you to develop your own estimates for the future of your business.
Begin your market analysis by defining the market in terms of size, structure, growth prospects, trends and sales potential.
The total aggregate sales of your competitors will provide you with a fairly accurate estimate of the total potential market. Once the size of the market has been determined, the next step is to define the target market. The target market narrows down the total market by concentrating on segmentation factors that will determine the total addressable market--the total number of users within the sphere of the business's influence. The segmentation factors can be geographic, customer attributes or product-oriented.
For instance, if the distribution of your product is confined to a specific geographic area, then you want to further define the target market to reflect the number of users or sales of that product within that geographic segment.
Once the target market has been detailed, it needs to be further defined to determine the total feasible market. This can be done in several ways, but most professional planners will delineate the feasible market by concentrating on product segmentation factors that may produce gaps within the market. In the case of a microbrewery that plans to brew a premium lager beer, the total feasible market could be defined by determining how many drinkers of premium pilsner beers there are in the target market.
It's important to understand that the total feasible market is the portion of the market that can be captured provided every condition within the environment is perfect and there is very little competition. In most industries this is simply not the case. There are other factors that will affect the share of the feasible market a business can reasonably obtain. These factors are usually tied to the structure of the industry, the impact of competition, strategies for market penetration and continued growth, and the amount of capital the business is willing to spend in order to increase its market share.
Projecting Market Share
Arriving at a projection of the market share for a business plan is very much a subjective estimate. It's based on not only an analysis of the market but on highly targeted and competitive distribution, pricing and promotional strategies. For instance, even though there may be a sizable number of premium pilsner drinkers to form the total feasible market, you need to be able to reach them through your distribution network at a price point that's competitive, and then you have to let them know it's available and where they can buy it. How effectively you can achieve your distribution, pricing and promotional goals determines the extent to which you will be able to garner market share.
For a business plan, you must be able to estimate market share for the time period the plan will cover. In order to project market share over the time frame of the business plan, you'll need to consider two factors:
- Industry growth which will increase the total number of users. Most projections utilize a minimum of two growth models by defining different industry sales scenarios. The industry sales scenarios should be based on leading indicators of industry sales, which will most likely include industry sales, industry segment sales, demographic data and historical precedence.
- Conversion of users from the total feasible market. This is based on a sales cycle similar to a product life cycle where you have five distinct stages: early pioneer users, early users, early majority users, late majority users and late users. Using conversion rates, market growth will continue to increase your market share during the period from early pioneers to early majority users, level off through late majority users, and decline with late users.
Defining the market is but one step in your analysis. With the information you've gained through market research, you need to develop strategies that will allow you to fulfill your objectives.
Positioning Your Business
When discussing market strategy, it's inevitable that positioning will be brought up. A company's positioning strategy is affected by a number of variables that are closely tied to the motivations and requirements of target customers within as well as the actions of primary competitors.
Before a product can be positioned, you need to answer several strategic questions such as:
- How are your competitors positioning themselves?
- What specific attributes does your product have that your competitors' don't?
- What customer needs does your product fulfill?
Once you've answered your strategic questions based on research of the market, you can then begin to develop your positioning strategy and illustrate that in your business plan. A positioning statement for a business plan doesn't have to be long or elaborate. It should merely point out exactly how you want your product perceived by both customers and the competition.
How you price your product is important because it will have a direct effect on the success of your business. Though pricing strategy and computations can be complex, the basic rules of pricing are straightforward:
- All prices must cover costs.
- The best and most effective way of lowering your sales prices is to lower costs.
- Your prices must reflect the dynamics of cost, demand, changes in the market and response to your competition.
- Prices must be established to assure sales. Don't price against a competitive operation alone. Rather, price to sell.
- Product utility, longevity, maintenance and end use must be judged continually, and target prices adjusted accordingly.
- Prices must be set to preserve order in the marketplace.
There are many methods of establishing prices available to you:
- Cost-plus pricing. Used mainly by manufacturers, cost-plus pricing assures that all costs, both fixed and variable, are covered and the desired profit percentage is attained.
- Demand pricing. Used by companies that sell their product through a variety of sources at differing prices based on demand.
- Competitive pricing. Used by companies that are entering a market where there is already an established price and it is difficult to differentiate one product from another.
- Markup pricing. Used mainly by retailers, markup pricing is calculated by adding your desired profit to the cost of the product. Each method listed above has its strengths and weaknesses.
Distribution includes the entire process of moving the product from the factory to the end user. The type of distribution network you choose will depend upon the industry and the size of the market. A good way to make your decision is to analyze your competitors to determine the channels they are using, then decide whether to use the same type of channel or an alternative that may provide you with a strategic advantage.
Some of the more common distribution channels include:
- Direct sales. The most effective distribution channel is to sell directly to the end-user.
- OEM (original equipment manufacturer) sales. When your product is sold to the OEM, it is incorporated into their finished product and it is distributed to the end user.
- Manufacturer's representatives. One of the best ways to distribute a product, manufacturer's reps, as they are known, are salespeople who operate out of agencies that handle an assortment of complementary products and divide their selling time among them.
- Wholesale distributors. Using this channel, a manufacturer sells to a wholesaler, who in turn sells it to a retailer or other agent for further distribution through the channel until it reaches the end user.
- Brokers. Third-party distributors who often buy directly from the distributor or wholesaler and sell to retailers or end users.
- Retail distributors. Distributing a product through this channel is important if the end user of your product is the general consuming public.
- Direct Mail. Selling to the end user using a direct mail campaign.
As we've mentioned already, the distribution strategy you choose for your product will be based on several factors that include the channels being used by your competition, your pricing strategy and your own internal resources.
With a distribution strategy formed, you must develop a promotion plan. The promotion strategy in its most basic form is the controlled distribution of communication designed to sell your product or service. In order to accomplish this, the promotion strategy encompasses every marketing tool utilized in the communication effort. This includes:
- Advertising. Includes the advertising budget, creative message(s), and at least the first quarter's media schedule.
- Packaging. Provides a description of the packaging strategy. If available, mockups of any labels, trademarks or service marks should be included.
- Public relations. A complete account of the publicity strategy including a list of media that will be approached as well as a schedule of planned events.
- Sales promotions. Establishes the strategies used to support the sales message. This includes a description of collateral marketing material as well as a schedule of planned promotional activities such as special sales, coupons, contests and premium awards.
- Personal sales. An outline of the sales strategy including pricing procedures, returns and adjustment rules, sales presentation methods, lead generation, customer service policies, salesperson compensation, and salesperson market responsibilities.
Once the market has been researched and analyzed, conclusions need to be developed that will supply a quantitative outlook concerning the potential of the business. The first financial projection within the business plan must be formed utilizing the information drawn from defining the market, positioning the product, pricing, distribution, and strategies for sales. The sales or revenue model charts the potential for the product, as well as the business, over a set period of time. Most business plans will project revenue for up to three years, although five-year projections are becoming increasingly popular among lenders.
When developing the revenue model for the business plan, the equation used to project sales is fairly simple. It consists of the total number of customers and the average revenue from each customer. In the equation, "T" represents the total number of people, "A" represents the average revenue per customer, and "S" represents the sales projection. The equation for projecting sales is: (T)(A) = S
Using this equation, the annual sales for each year projected within the business plan can be developed. Of course, there are other factors that you'll need to evaluate from the revenue model. Since the revenue model is a table illustrating the source for all income, every segment of the target market that is treated differently must be accounted for. In order to determine any differences, the various strategies utilized in order to sell the product have to be considered. As we've already mentioned, those strategies include distribution, pricing and promotion.
Identify and analyze your competition.
The competitive analysis is a statement of the business strategy and how it relates to the competition. The purpose of the competitive analysis is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within your market, strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage, the barriers that can be developed in order to prevent competition from entering your market, and any weaknesses that can be exploited within the product development cycle.
The first step in a competitor analysis is to identify the current and potential competition. There are essentially two ways you can identify competitors. The first is to look at the market from the customer's viewpoint and group all your competitors by the degree to which they contend for the buyer's dollar. The second method is to group competitors according to their various competitive strategies so you understand what motivates them.
Once you've grouped your competitors, you can start to analyze their strategies and identify the areas where they're most vulnerable. This can be done through an examination of your competitors' weaknesses and strengths. A competitor's strengths and weaknesses are usually based on the presence and absence of key assets and skills needed to compete in the market.
To determine just what constitutes a key asset or skill within an industry, David A. Aaker in his book, Developing Business Strategies , suggests concentrating your efforts in four areas:
- The reasons behind successful as well as unsuccessful firms
- Prime customer motivators
- Major component costs
- Industry mobility barriers
According to theory, the performance of a company within a market is directly related to the possession of key assets and skills. Therefore, an analysis of strong performers should reveal the causes behind such a successful track record. This analysis, in conjunction with an examination of unsuccessful companies and the reasons behind their failure, should provide a good idea of just what key assets and skills are needed to be successful within a given industry and market segment.
Through your competitor analysis, you will also have to create a marketing strategy that will generate an asset or skill competitors don't have, which will provide you with a distinct and enduring competitive advantage. Since competitive advantages are developed from key assets and skills, you should sit down and put together a competitive strength grid. This is a scale that lists all your major competitors or strategic groups based upon their applicable assets and skills and how your own company fits on this scale.
Create a Competitive Strength Grid
To put together a competitive strength grid, list all the key assets and skills down the left margin of a piece of paper. Along the top, write down two column headers: "weakness" and "strength." In each asset or skill category, place all the competitors that have weaknesses in that particular category under the weakness column, and all those that have strengths in that specific category in the strength column. After you've finished, you'll be able to determine just where you stand in relation to the other firms competing in your industry.
Once you've established the key assets and skills necessary to succeed in this business and have defined your distinct competitive advantage, you need to communicate them in a strategic form that will attract market share as well as defend it. Competitive strategies usually fall into these five areas:
Many of the factors leading to the formation of a strategy should already have been highlighted in previous sections, specifically in marketing strategies. Strategies primarily revolve around establishing the point of entry in the product life cycle and an endurable competitive advantage. As we've already discussed, this involves defining the elements that will set your product or service apart from your competitors or strategic groups. You need to establish this competitive advantage clearly so the reader understands not only how you will accomplish your goals, but also why your strategy will work.
Design and Development Plan
What you'll cover in this section.
The purpose of the design and development plan section is to provide investors with a description of the product's design, chart its development within the context of production, marketing and the company itself, and create a development budget that will enable the company to reach its goals.
There are generally three areas you'll cover in the development plan section:
- Product development
- Market development
- Organizational development
Each of these elements needs to be examined from the funding of the plan to the point where the business begins to experience a continuous income. Although these elements will differ in nature concerning their content, each will be based on structure and goals.
The first step in the development process is setting goals for the overall development plan. From your analysis of the market and competition, most of the product, market and organizational development goals will be readily apparent. Each goal you define should have certain characteristics. Your goals should be quantifiable in order to set up time lines, directed so they relate to the success of the business, consequential so they have impact upon the company, and feasible so that they aren't beyond the bounds of actual completion.
Goals For Product Development
Goals for product development should center on the technical as well as the marketing aspects of the product so that you have a focused outline from which the development team can work. For example, a goal for product development of a microbrewed beer might be "Produce recipe for premium lager beer" or "Create packaging for premium lager beer." In terms of market development, a goal might be, "Develop collateral marketing material." Organizational goals would center on the acquisition of expertise in order to attain your product and market-development goals. This expertise usually needs to be present in areas of key assets that provide a competitive advantage. Without the necessary expertise, the chances of bringing a product successfully to market diminish.
With your goals set and expertise in place, you need to form a set of procedural tasks or work assignments for each area of the development plan. Procedures will have to be developed for product development, market development, and organization development. In some cases, product and organization can be combined if the list of procedures is short enough.
Procedures should include how resources will be allocated, who is in charge of accomplishing each goal, and how everything will interact. For example, to produce a recipe for a premium lager beer, you would need to do the following:
- Gather ingredients.
- Determine optimum malting process.
- Gauge mashing temperature.
- Boil wort and evaluate which hops provide the best flavor.
- Determine yeast amounts and fermentation period.
- Determine aging period.
- Carbonate the beer.
- Decide whether or not to pasteurize the beer.
The development of procedures provides a list of work assignments that need to be accomplished, but one thing it doesn't provide are the stages of development that coordinate the work assignments within the overall development plan. To do this, you first need to amend the work assignments created in the procedures section so that all the individual work elements are accounted for in the development plan. The next stage involves setting deliverable dates for components as well as the finished product for testing purposes. There are primarily three steps you need to go through before the product is ready for final delivery:
- Preliminary product review . All the product's features and specifications are checked.
- Critical product review . All the key elements of the product are checked and gauged against the development schedule to make sure everything is going according to plan.
- Final product review . All elements of the product are checked against goals to assure the integrity of the prototype.
Scheduling and Costs
This is one of the most important elements in the development plan. Scheduling includes all of the key work elements as well as the stages the product must pass through before customer delivery. It should also be tied to the development budget so that expenses can be tracked. But its main purpose is to establish time frames for completion of all work assignments and juxtapose them within the stages through which the product must pass. When producing the schedule, provide a column for each procedural task, how long it takes, start date and stop date. If you want to provide a number for each task, include a column in the schedule for the task number.
That leads us into a discussion of the development budget. When forming your development budget, you need to take into account all the expenses required to design the product and to take it from prototype to production.
Costs that should be included in the development budget include:
- Material . All raw materials used in the development of the product.
- Direct labor . All labor costs associated with the development of the product.
- Overhead . All overhead expenses required to operate the business during the development phase such as taxes, rent, phone, utilities, office supplies, etc.
- G&A costs . The salaries of executive and administrative personnel along with any other office support functions.
- Marketing & sales . The salaries of marketing personnel required to develop pre-promotional materials and plan the marketing campaign that should begin prior to delivery of the product.
- Professional services . Those costs associated with the consultation of outside experts such as accountants, lawyers, and business consultants.
- Miscellaneous Costs . Costs that are related to product development.
- Capital equipment . To determine the capital requirements for the development budget, you first have to establish what type of equipment you will need, whether you will acquire the equipment or use outside contractors, and finally, if you decide to acquire the equipment, whether you will lease or purchase it.
As we mentioned already, the company has to have the proper expertise in key areas to succeed; however, not every company will start a business with the expertise required in every key area. Therefore, the proper personnel have to be recruited, integrated into the development process, and managed so that everyone forms a team focused on the achievement of the development goals.
Before you begin recruiting, however, you should determine which areas within the development process will require the addition of personnel. This can be done by reviewing the goals of your development plan to establish key areas that need attention. After you have an idea of the positions that need to be filled, you should produce a job description and job specification.
Once you've hired the proper personnel, you need to integrate them into the development process by assigning tasks from the work assignments you've developed. Finally, the whole team needs to know what their role is within the company and how each interrelates with every position within the development team. In order to do this, you should develop an organizational chart for your development team.
Finally, the risks involved in developing the product should be assessed and a plan developed to address each one. The risks during the development stage will usually center on technical development of the product, marketing, personnel requirements, and financial problems. By identifying and addressing each of the perceived risks during the development period, you will allay some of your major fears concerning the project and those of investors as well.
Operations & Management
The operations and management plan is designed to describe just how the business functions on a continuing basis. The operations plan will highlight the logistics of the organization such as the various responsibilities of the management team, the tasks assigned to each division within the company, and capital and expense requirements related to the operations of the business. In fact, within the operations plan you'll develop the next set of financial tables that will supply the foundation for the "Financial Components" section.
The financial tables that you'll develop within the operations plan include:
- The operating expense table
- The capital requirements table
- The cost of goods table
There are two areas that need to be accounted for when planning the operations of your company. The first area is the organizational structure of the company, and the second is the expense and capital requirements associated with its operation.
The organizational structure of the company is an essential element within a business plan because it provides a basis from which to project operating expenses. This is critical to the formation of financial statements, which are heavily scrutinized by investors; therefore, the organizational structure has to be well-defined and based within a realistic framework given the parameters of the business.
Although every company will differ in its organizational structure, most can be divided into several broad areas that include:
- Marketing and sales (includes customer relations and service)
- Production (including quality assurance)
- Research and development
These are very broad classifications and it's important to keep in mind that not every business can be divided in this manner. In fact, every business is different, and each one must be structured according to its own requirements and goals.
The four stages for organizing a business are:
Calculate Your Personnel Numbers
Once you've structured your business, however, you need to consider your overall goals and the number of personnel required to reach those goals. In order to determine the number of employees you'll need to meet the goals you've set for your business, you'll need to apply the following equation to each department listed in your organizational structure: C / S = P
In this equation, C represents the total number of customers, S represents the total number of customers that can be served by each employee, and P represents the personnel requirements. For instance, if the number of customers for first year sales is projected at 10,110 and one marketing employee is required for every 200 customers, you would need 51 employees within the marketing department: 10,110 / 200 = 51
Once you calculate the number of employees that you'll need for your organization, you'll need to determine the labor expense. The factors that need to be considered when calculating labor expense (LE) are the personnel requirements (P) for each department multiplied by the employee salary level (SL). Therefore, the equation would be: P * SL = LE
Using the marketing example from above, the labor expense for that department would be: 51 * $40,000 = $2,040,000
Calculate Overhead Expenses
Once the organization's operations have been planned, the expenses associated with the operation of the business can be developed. These are usually referred to as overhead expenses. Overhead expenses refer to all non-labor expenses required to operate the business. Expenses can be divided into fixed (those that must be paid, usually at the same rate, regardless of the volume of business) and variable or semivariable (those which change according to the amount of business).
Overhead expenses usually include the following:
- Maintenance and repair
- Equipment leases
- Advertising & promotion
- Packaging & shipping
- Payroll taxes and benefits
- Uncollectible receivables
- Professional services
- Loan payments
In order to develop the overhead expenses for the expense table used in this portion of the business plan, you need to multiply the number of employees by the expenses associated with each employee. Therefore, if NE represents the number of employees and EE is the expense per employee, the following equation can be used to calculate the sum of each overhead (OH) expense: OH = NE * EE
Develop a Capital Requirements Table
In addition to the expense table, you'll also need to develop a capital requirements table that depicts the amount of money necessary to purchase the equipment you'll use to establish and continue operations. It also illustrates the amount of depreciation your company will incur based on all equipment elements purchased with a lifetime of more than one year.
In order to generate the capital requirements table, you first have to establish the various elements within the business that will require capital investment. For service businesses, capital is usually tied to the various pieces of equipment used to service customers.
Capital for manufacturing companies, on the other hand, is based on the equipment required in order to produce the product. Manufacturing equipment usually falls into three categories: testing equipment, assembly equipment and packaging equipment.
With these capital elements in mind, you need to determine the number of units or customers, in terms of sales, that each equipment item can adequately handle. This is important because capital requirements are a product of income, which is produced through unit sales. In order to meet sales projections, a business usually has to invest money to increase production or supply better service. In the business plan, capital requirements are tied to projected sales as illustrated in the revenue model shown earlier in this chapter.
For instance, if the capital equipment required is capable of handling the needs of 10,000 customers at an average sale of $10 each, that would be $100,000 in sales, at which point additional capital will be required in order to purchase more equipment should the company grow beyond this point. This leads us to another factor within the capital requirements equation, and that is equipment cost.
If you multiply the cost of equipment by the number of customers it can support in terms of sales, it would result in the capital requirements for that particular equipment element. Therefore, you can use an equation in which capital requirements (CR) equals sales (S) divided by number of customers (NC) supported by each equipment element, multiplied by the average sale (AS), which is then multiplied by the capital cost (CC) of the equipment element. Given these parameters, your equation would look like the following: CR = [(S / NC) * AS] * CC
The capital requirements table is formed by adding all your equipment elements to generate the total new capital for that year. During the first year, total new capital is also the total capital required. For each successive year thereafter, total capital (TC) required is the sum of total new capital (NC) plus total capital (PC) from the previous year, less depreciation (D), once again, from the previous year. Therefore, your equation to arrive at total capital for each year portrayed in the capital requirements model would be: TC = NC + PC - D
Keep in mind that depreciation is an expense that shows the decrease in value of the equipment throughout its effective lifetime. For many businesses, depreciation is based upon schedules that are tied to the lifetime of the equipment. Be careful when choosing the schedule that best fits your business. Depreciation is also the basis for a tax deduction as well as the flow of money for new capital. You may need to seek consultation from an expert in this area.
Create a Cost of Goods Table
The last table that needs to be generated in the operations and management section of your business plan is the cost of goods table. This table is used only for businesses where the product is placed into inventory. For a retail or wholesale business, cost of goods sold --or cost of sales --refers to the purchase of products for resale, i.e. the inventory. The products that are sold are logged into cost of goods as an expense of the sale, while those that aren't sold remain in inventory.
For a manufacturing firm, cost of goods is the cost incurred by the company to manufacture its product. This usually consists of three elements:
As in retail, the merchandise that is sold is expensed as a cost of goods , while merchandise that isn't sold is placed in inventory. Cost of goods has to be accounted for in the operations of a business. It is an important yardstick for measuring the firm's profitability for the cash-flow statement and income statement.
In the income statement, the last stage of the manufacturing process is the item expensed as cost of goods, but it is important to document the inventory still in various stages of the manufacturing process because it represents assets to the company. This is important to determining cash flow and to generating the balance sheet.
That is what the cost of goods table does. It's one of the most complicated tables you'll have to develop for your business plan, but it's an integral part of portraying the flow of inventory through your operations, the placement of assets within the company, and the rate at which your inventory turns.
In order to generate the cost of goods table, you need a little more information in addition to what your labor and material cost is per unit. You also need to know the total number of units sold for the year, the percentage of units which will be fully assembled, the percentage which will be partially assembled, and the percentage which will be in unassembled inventory. Much of these figures will depend on the capacity of your equipment as well as on the inventory control system you develop. Along with these factors, you also need to know at what stage the majority of the labor is performed.
Financial statements to include.
Financial data is always at the back of the business plan, but that doesn't mean it's any less important than up-front material such as the business concept and the management team. Astute investors look carefully at the charts, tables, formulas and spreadsheets in the financial section, because they know that this information is like the pulse, respiration rate and blood pressure in a human--it shows whether the patient is alive and what the odds are for continued survival.
Financial statements, like bad news, come in threes. The news in financial statements isn't always bad, of course, but taken together it provides an accurate picture of a company's current value, plus its ability to pay its bills today and earn a profit going forward.
The three common statements are a cash flow statement, an income statement and a balance sheet. Most entrepreneurs should provide them and leave it at that. But not all do. But this is a case of the more, the less merry. As a rule, stick with the big three: income, balance sheet and cash flow statements.
These three statements are interlinked, with changes in one necessarily altering the others, but they measure quite different aspects of a company's financial health. It's hard to say that one of these is more important than another. But of the three, the income statement may be the best place to start.
The income statement is a simple and straightforward report on the proposed business's cash-generating ability. It's a score card on the financial performance of your business that reflects when sales are made and when expenses are incurred. It draws information from the various financial models developed earlier such as revenue, expenses, capital (in the form of depreciation), and cost of goods. By combining these elements, the income statement illustrates just how much your company makes or loses during the year by subtracting cost of goods and expenses from revenue to arrive at a net result--which is either a profit or a loss.
For a business plan, the income statement should be generated on a monthly basis during the first year, quarterly for the second, and annually for each year thereafter. It's formed by listing your financial projections in the following manner:
- Income . Includes all the income generated by the business and its sources.
- Cost of goods . Includes all the costs related to the sale of products in inventory.
- Gross profit margin . The difference between revenue and cost of goods. Gross profit margin can be expressed in dollars, as a percentage, or both. As a percentage, the GP margin is always stated as a percentage of revenue.
- Operating expenses . Includes all overhead and labor expenses associated with the operations of the business.
- Total expenses . The sum of all overhead and labor expenses required to operate the business.
- Net profit . The difference between gross profit margin and total expenses, the net income depicts the business's debt and capital capabilities.
- Depreciation . Reflects the decrease in value of capital assets used to generate income. Also used as the basis for a tax deduction and an indicator of the flow of money into new capital.
- Net profit before interest . The difference between net profit and depreciation.
- Interest . Includes all interest derived from debts, both short-term and long-term. Interest is determined by the amount of investment within the company.
- Net profit before taxes . The difference between net profit before interest and interest.
- Taxes . Includes all taxes on the business.
- Profit after taxes . The difference between net profit before taxes and the taxes accrued. Profit after taxes is the bottom line for any company.
Following the income statement is a short note analyzing the statement. The analysis statement should be very short, emphasizing key points within the income statement.
Cash Flow Statement
The cash-flow statement is one of the most critical information tools for your business, showing how much cash will be needed to meet obligations, when it is going to be required, and from where it will come. It shows a schedule of the money coming into the business and expenses that need to be paid. The result is the profit or loss at the end of the month or year. In a cash-flow statement, both profits and losses are carried over to the next column to show the cumulative amount. Keep in mind that if you run a loss on your cash-flow statement, it is a strong indicator that you will need additional cash in order to meet expenses.
Like the income statement, the cash-flow statement takes advantage of previous financial tables developed during the course of the business plan. The cash-flow statement begins with cash on hand and the revenue sources. The next item it lists is expenses, including those accumulated during the manufacture of a product. The capital requirements are then logged as a negative after expenses. The cash-flow statement ends with the net cash flow.
The cash-flow statement should be prepared on a monthly basis during the first year, on a quarterly basis during the second year, and on an annual basis thereafter. Items that you'll need to include in the cash-flow statement and the order in which they should appear are as follows:
- Cash sales . Income derived from sales paid for by cash.
- Receivables . Income derived from the collection of receivables.
- Other income . Income derived from investments, interest on loans that have been extended, and the liquidation of any assets.
- Total income . The sum of total cash, cash sales, receivables, and other income.
- Material/merchandise . The raw material used in the manufacture of a product (for manufacturing operations only), the cash outlay for merchandise inventory (for merchandisers such as wholesalers and retailers), or the supplies used in the performance of a service.
- Production labor . The labor required to manufacture a product (for manufacturing operations only) or to perform a service.
- Overhead . All fixed and variable expenses required for the production of the product and the operations of the business.
- Marketing/sales . All salaries, commissions, and other direct costs associated with the marketing and sales departments.
- R&D . All the labor expenses required to support the research and development operations of the business.
- G&A . All the labor expenses required to support the administrative functions of the business.
- Taxes . All taxes, except payroll, paid to the appropriate government institutions.
- Capital . The capital required to obtain any equipment elements that are needed for the generation of income.
- Loan payment . The total of all payments made to reduce any long-term debts.
- Total expenses . The sum of material, direct labor, overhead expenses, marketing, sales, G&A, taxes, capital and loan payments.
- Cash flow . The difference between total income and total expenses. This amount is carried over to the next period as beginning cash.
- Cumulative cash flow . The difference between current cash flow and cash flow from the previous period.
As with the income statement, you will need to analyze the cash-flow statement in a short summary in the business plan. Once again, the analysis statement doesn't have to be long and should cover only key points derived from the cash-flow statement.
The Balance Sheet
The last financial statement you'll need to develop is the balance sheet. Like the income and cash-flow statements, the balance sheet uses information from all of the financial models developed in earlier sections of the business plan; however, unlike the previous statements, the balance sheet is generated solely on an annual basis for the business plan and is, more or less, a summary of all the preceding financial information broken down into three areas:
To obtain financing for a new business, you may need to provide a projection of the balance sheet over the period of time the business plan covers. More importantly, you'll need to include a personal financial statement or balance sheet instead of one that describes the business. A personal balance sheet is generated in the same manner as one for a business.
As mentioned, the balance sheet is divided into three sections. The top portion of the balance sheet lists your company's assets. Assets are classified as current assets and long-term or fixed assets. Current assets are assets that will be converted to cash or will be used by the business in a year or less. Current assets include:
- Cash . The cash on hand at the time books are closed at the end of the fiscal year.
- Accounts receivable . The income derived from credit accounts. For the balance sheet, it's the total amount of income to be received that is logged into the books at the close of the fiscal year.
- Inventory . This is derived from the cost of goods table. It's the inventory of material used to manufacture a product not yet sold.
- Total current assets . The sum of cash, accounts receivable, inventory, and supplies.
Other assets that appear in the balance sheet are called long-term or fixed assets. They are called long-term because they are durable and will last more than one year. Examples of this type of asset include:
- Capital and plant . The book value of all capital equipment and property (if you own the land and building), less depreciation.
- Investment . All investments by the company that cannot be converted to cash in less than one year. For the most part, companies just starting out have not accumulated long-term investments.
- Miscellaneous assets . All other long-term assets that are not "capital and plant" or "investments."
- Total long-term assets . The sum of capital and plant, investments, and miscellaneous assets.
- Total assets . The sum of total current assets and total long-term assets.
After the assets are listed, you need to account for the liabilities of your business. Like assets, liabilities are classified as current or long-term. If the debts are due in one year or less, they are classified as a current liabilities. If they are due in more than one year, they are long-term liabilities. Examples of current liabilities are as follows:
- Accounts payable . All expenses derived from purchasing items from regular creditors on an open account, which are due and payable.
- Accrued liabilities . All expenses incurred by the business which are required for operation but have not been paid at the time the books are closed. These expenses are usually the company's overhead and salaries.
- Taxes . These are taxes that are still due and payable at the time the books are closed.
- Total current liabilities . The sum of accounts payable, accrued liabilities, and taxes.
Long-term liabilities include:
- Bonds payable . The total of all bonds at the end of the year that are due and payable over a period exceeding one year.
- Mortgage payable . Loans taken out for the purchase of real property that are repaid over a long-term period. The mortgage payable is that amount still due at the close of books for the year.
- Notes payable . The amount still owed on any long-term debts that will not be repaid during the current fiscal year.
- Total long-term liabilities . The sum of bonds payable, mortgage payable, and notes payable.
- Total liabilities . The sum of total current and long-term liabilities.
Once the liabilities have been listed, the final portion of the balance sheet-owner's equity-needs to be calculated. The amount attributed to owner's equity is the difference between total assets and total liabilities. The amount of equity the owner has in the business is an important yardstick used by investors when evaluating the company. Many times it determines the amount of capital they feel they can safely invest in the business.
In the business plan, you'll need to create an analysis statement for the balance sheet just as you need to do for the income and cash flow statements. The analysis of the balance sheet should be kept short and cover key points about the company.
Source: The Small Business Encyclopedia , Business Plans Made Easy, Start Your Own Business and Entrepreneur magazine.
Business Plan Guide
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6 Key Elements of a Business Plan
As an entrepreneur starting a business, or even planning a scale-up, a business plan is a very important part of the process. This strategic tool helps define your short and long-term goals while providing a blueprint for your next steps.
Most business plans are developed during the first stages of a start-up, but that’s not to say that they aren’t important when you enter the growing phase of your business.
Your business plan is not a 'set it & forget it' document. As your venture develops and grows, revisiting your plan will be crucial to measuring your success and to continue supporting your journey during a new set of challenges.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a document that defines the goals of your business and how they will be achieved. It is an essential resource that provides strategic direction for your business.
When putting your business plan together you should ensure that you address these 6 key areas:
- Your executive summary
- The vision statement and goal overview of your business
- Target audience and competitor research
- Your products and services
- Business structure and operations
- Your financial plan
#1 The Executive Summary
Your executive summary briefly outlines the main points of your business plan and provides a glimpse of what your company does and how it operates.
It should include your mission statement which is a short description (1-2 sentences) describing your company, its purpose, and its values.
Remembering to keep your executive summary clear and concise, think about:
- Why you’re in business
- What services and products you offer
- Who your customers are
- How you’re different from your competitors
- What role you and your team will have
- What your goals are and how you’ll reach them
- Key relationships and how they will be maintained
Don’t be afraid to brainstorm with others connected to your business. This could be individuals directly involved such as employees, investors, or business partners.
Another option is discussing your executive summary and mission statement with those who play an external support role in your business such as your advisor or accountant.
Not only will they have knowledge of your venture, but they also have strategic planning experience. This will help reveal the strengths and weaknesses in your statement, as well as identify things you may have missed.
#2 Vision Statement and Goal Overview
You should have a section of your business plan dedicated to the future aspirations of your business. Your vision statement will articulate what you want to achieve and in turn provide a common direction for the entire team.
It’s important to keep your goals S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based).
Five questions to ask about your goals:
- Are they clear and specific?
- How will the goals be evaluated?
- Is the goal 100% achievable?
- How will the goal improve the business?
- Do your goals have due dates?
#3 Target Audience and Competitor Research
In order to sell your product or service, you need to define your target audience. A target audience is a group of people you have identified as potential customers.
To help determine your target audience you will generally look at demographic traits such as:
You’ll then look at your product or service and the specific problem it solves. This, combined with the demographic data will help you fine tune the details surrounding your defined audience.
Defining your target audience will help you plan and execute your marketing strategy in the most efficient and effective way.
Once you've identified who you're selling to, research your market and identify your competitors. Evaluate how they promote their product or service as this will give you a better understanding of the overall market, allow you to identify any gaps, and help you develop or improve your business's strategy.
As an additional project, it would be a good idea to perform and SWOT analysis and include this in your business plan. This detailed list of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats will give you further perspective of both your business and your competitors.
#4 Products and Services
This section of your business plan will describe what your business offers to its consumers.
Although descriptions of each product or service is needed, don’t over complicate it. Keep wording easy to understand and ensure you’re including how your product or service differs from the competition.
If you own or have applied for any of the following, you should also include these in this section:
#5 business structure and operations.
The business structure you choose will have significant implications on the tax you pay and your liability.
There are four main types of business structures in the UK:
- Sole Trader - business is run and owned by one individual
- Partnership - business is owned and managed by two or more parties
- Limited Liability Partnership - business structure where liabilities are limited to the amount each individual has invested in the business
- Limited Company - business is separate from the individual and run as its own legal entity
Operations include the physical necessities required to run your business, businesses typically engage in these activities on a daily basis and they are essential to providing the highest quality product or service.
Four key areas of business operations you should address:
- Process - systems and procedures you will have in place
- Location - where you will do business (bricks and mortar/online)
- Team - who will be doing the work
- Equipment - the tools you will use
#6 Financial plan
A financial plan is not just where all the numbers come in, it’s the moment where you start turning your ideas into a reality.
In your financial plan, you’ll want to consider:
- Start-up or expansion costs
- Various business expenses
- Funding requirements
- Financial projections
A good plan of action would be to sit down and create a list that outlines what costs will be associated with your business.
For those revisiting their business plan and making adjustments during a phase of growth, these may be familiar things like lease fees, but at a higher amount. It could also be completely new costs or funding needs that are required to expand the business.
If you’re in the start-up stage, you will have to build your list from scratch as you won’t have the same historical financial information as an established business.
This is a list of some of the common businesses expenses to help you get started:
- Marketing, sales and advertising costs
- Office supplies
- Lease payments
- Licenses and permits
- Staff and employment
- Professional fees
The importance of the expert second opinion
Whether you’re in the start-up or growth stage, a business plan will play an important role in the success of your venture.
Bringing an expert on board will help build a solid foundation and uncover challenges you may face moving forward.
Working with your accountant will:
- Provide a second opinion backed by experience
- Offer constructive feedback on the key areas of your business plan
- Give you advice on the legal structure of your business and the financial implications of each
- Help make important decisions and offer other beneficial elements you may want to consider
Working with DSA Prospect
The DSA team have worked with clients across all industries, helping them get their business off the ground and prepare for the challenges ahead.
We have a wealth of knowledge that can help you develop a business plan that will guide you through your business journey, as well as a dedicated team here to support your individual needs and vision.
Title: How to write a business plan: 6 key components to a good plan
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