Starting a business can be an exciting yet daunting experience. You have a vision that you are passionate about, and you’re ready to put your time and energy into it. Regardless of how far along you are in the process of starting your business, every company needs a business plan. When it’s done well, a business plan guides the direction of your business by bringing rationale and reason for every decision you have to make along the way. Plus, if you’re looking for investors, they will definitely ask to see your plan.
At a high level, a business plan will explain what your company does, outline its corporate structure, spell out your marketing strategy, and project revenue and profit. Think of your plan as a road map that shows the route you plan to take. But like any journey, you may have to navigate around some roadblocks along the way.
Here’s our take on what you should include in your plan:
- An executive summary provides a concise snapshot of your business. Obviously, you should explain what your company does and why it will be successful. List what products or services you will be selling, where you’ll be located, long and short term goals, and what your team will look like. For investors, you should also include some financial information.
- The company description gives a more detailed explanation of what your business does. What value will your company bring, and who will your customers be? Why do you think your company is a better solution for them than the existing competition?
- Your mission statement tells the world what your goal is as a business owner. It should inspire you and your team to come to work every day to make your business succeed.
- An organization chart shows how you see your company is structured. Who will run it? Who will report to them? What teams and roles do you plan to build out in the future to support the business?
- A list of services or products clearly defines everything you plan to sell. You can get more specific here, calling out product specifications, menu items, tiers of service, etc.
- Market analysis supplies research on your industry, market, and competitors. It should make a case for you to continue down the path of starting your business. What have you learned about competitors? What do you know about consumers and their needs? What differentiates your product or service?
- The marketing and sales strategy details your sales approach and how you plan to package, advertise and sell your business and products. What are the demographic and psychographic traits of your future customers, and what are you going to do to bring them into your business? Will you be doing business online or in a brick and mortar location? Are you going to spend any money on advertising, and if so, what are your plans?
- Financial projections show that you’ve done your homework and you know what it will take financially to start and maintain your business. If you’re looking for outside funding, you should highlight your finding needs here. What is your projected return on investment? What are your short-term and long-term financial strategies?
- A timeline should highlight the key milestones in launching your business and when you expect to reach them.
It may seem like a lot, but once you have it all down on paper, it will feel great to know that you’ve put in the time and work to create a strategy to make your business succeed. And don’t forget, Cerity is here to help! Check out our learning center for lots of tips on running your business. Your passion is your small business, and our passion is protecting it.