How to Start a Business Plan

By Jill Mead , last updated June 22, 2011

You've had a great idea for a small business and now you can't stop daydreaming about becoming your own boss. Are you ready to take the next step and write a business plan? The process of creating a business plan is actually just as important as the finished project. While creating your business plan, you will expose and work out any weaknesses in your plan, educate yourself about your industry, and create a clear articulation of your plan and goals.

You can start a business plan using free business plan templates online (startupdaddy.com offers one) or buy business plan software from any office store. For more in-depth business plan help, you can enroll in a business plan course offered by your local branch of the Small Business Association (SBA) or Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

The main elements of a business plan are as follows:

  • Executive summary: The executive summary is the first section of any business plan, but it should be the last thing you write. The executive summary includes information such as the mission and goals of the company as well as a concise summary of the entire plan. Executive summaries are generally 1-2 pages in length and seek to make a strong positive impact.
  • Company summary: The company summary is a snapshot of the company, including such information as location, number of employees, etc.
  • Products and services: What your company is selling.
  • Market analysis summary: A market analysis breaks down and identifies the different segments of the target market. It also contains information about trends, predictions of expected growth, competitors and market leaders.
  • Strategy and implementation summary: The strategies that your company plans to use to capture market share, for example, where is your competitive edge, what is your pricing strategy, and how will you promote your company, among other concerns
  • Financial plan: A cash flow statement that details all money entering and leaving the company on a time line. This will give you a realistic idea of how much money your business will earn.
  • Management summary: A breakdown of the roles of every employee in the company.

Remember, your business plan is a living document that you should be reviewing and updating every 6 months as you move forward. Knowing this business plan inside and out will benefit you at the same time that it presents a clear picture to potential partners and investors and increases your chances of small business success.

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