Amidst that rush, the idea of writing a business plan—much less following a business plan template—often feels time-consuming and intimidating. It’s more than the old cliche, “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” In fact, a wealth of data now exists on the difference a written business plan makes.
Even better—if you’re pressed for time—we’ve compiled the 10 steps and examples into a downloadable (PDF) template: But, first things first …
Small businesses just looking to stay organized benefit from the objective-strategy structure of the standard business plan while bigger businesses or those hoping to expand can fully summarize every element of their businesses so investors and loan agents get a better understanding of the mission of that business—and whether or not they want to invest.
Whether you're writing a web design business plan or a tutoring business plan, there are several key components that must be included in the introduction to the document in order for the plan to be considered viable, including a summary of the business and its goals and the key components that indicate success.
Calling out objectives like "emphasize service and support" or "focus on target markets" and describing how the company will go about doing this shows investors and business partners that you understand the market and what needs to be done to take your company to the next level.
Once you've outlined each element of your company's strategy, you'll then want to end the business plan with sales forecasts, which detail your expectations after implementing each element of the business plan itself.
Finally, every good business plan needs to include a section detailing the company's marketing, pricing, promotions, and sales strategies—as well as how the company plans to implement them and what sales forecasts have been discovered as a result of these plans.
The introduction to this section should contain a high-level view of the strategy and their implementation including bulleted or numbered lists of objectives and the viable steps that can be taken in order to achieve them.
This section should start with a clear introductory overview to what the company offers consumers as well as the voice and style in which the company wishes to present itself to those customers—for example, a software company might say "we don't just sell good accounting software, we change the way you balance your checkbook." The products and services section also details competitive comparisons—how this company measures up to others that offer the same good or service—as well as technology research, sourcing for materials, and future products and services the company plans to offer to help drive competition and sales.
In order to properly project what goods and services a company might want to offer in the future, a comprehensive market analysis section should also be included in your business plan.