Complete Guide To Writing A Business Plan

As lockdown measures across the world are being lifted and the economy begins to bounce back, we are seeing unprecedented opportunities arising for new businesses. Governments across the world are increasing small businesses loans, commercial and retail space is cheaper than it has ever been, and customers are beginning to spend again.

There has never been a better time to launch a company. If you are looking to start your own business then you will need a polished business plan ready to go, long before you launch.

Why Write a Business Plan?

A business plan is a necessity for any modern business. Whether you are going to be applying for a loan, seeking investors, or even if you are self-funding.  Putting together your business plan will help you to get a complete picture of what your business will look like, what it needs to run, and any complications you could face during launch.

If you are serious about attracting investors or getting a business loan, then you need a plan. Whoever said you don’t need a formal business plan to start or expand your business was certainly not addressing those who need funds from creditors and investors. That is why i wrote this guide for three set of individuals:

Man and woman making a business plan

Our Most Popular Sample Business Plans & Templates

1. Pressure Washing  |  2. Assisted Living Facility

3. Group Home  |  4. Non-Medical Home Care

5. HVAC  |  6. Insurance Agency

7. Staffing Agency  |  8. Adult Daycare

9. Immigration Consulting

10. Cleaning Service  |  11. Self Storage Unit

You don’t just write a business plan anyhow, there are laid down steps to follow so that your business plan will have a professional look and flow. This article will teach how to structure your business plan.

The Complete Guide to Writing a Business Plan to Attract Investors or Get Loans

1. Cover Letter

The cover letter serves the same purpose as it does when you submit one along with a resume as a job candidate; it introduces your business plan to the reader. Because your goal is to market your idea to prospective investors, creditors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders, all the parts of your plan must appeal to the reader. Here are the elements that you need to include in the cover letter:

  • Address of recipient
  • Date
  • Your address
  • Salutation (you must include a specific name as in, “Dear Mr James.”)
  • Body (state clearly that you are submitting a business plan for your business, which you can describe in one sentence; state clearly that you are seeking financial support for your business idea. Tell the reader what to expect in the following pages, and express your eagerness to hear back from them. Don’t forget to add your contact details)
  • Appreciation
  • Signature

2. Title Page

Remember, you will never get a second chance to make a first impression. So, you certainly don’t want to overdo this aspect. Since nobody will blame you for simplicity, stick with that option; which means you should avoid bright or contrasting colors and unnecessary fancy borders. The following are what to include on your title page:

  • Your business logo (if you have one)
  • The name of your business
  • Founder’s name
  • The words “Business Plan”
  • Date

3. Executive Summary

A team making a business plan

Your executive summary should be the opening page of your business plan. It is essential and shouldn’t be missed – any serious investor won’t read a business plan without an executive summaryYou should see an executive summary as the elevator pitch for your business plan. You need to grab the attention of your investors, summarize your business, and show that your plan is viable. 

You will want to sell your investors on your story and show that your business has the voice, the products, and the audience to back it up.  You will want to use short sentences throughout your executive summary, and use bullet points where possible. You will have a lot of information to cover and you don’t want to lose your investors’ attention. 

Each section in your executive summary will act as a sample for the later chapters of your business report. You will want to capture all the important information without getting too bogged down in the details.  Most investors don’t read the rest of the business plan if they aren’t grabbed by the executive summary. 

Components of a Business Plan Executive Summary
  • Business concept (what you do or what you intend to do)
  • Business goals and vision (what you want to achieve)
  • Product/service description and differentiation (what you offer and what makes it different)
  • Target market (who you want to sell to)
  • Marketing plan (how you plan to reach your customers)
  • Current financial state (what you currently make in revenue—for existing business looking at expansion, or how much you already have on ground—for startups)
  • Projected financial state (what you foresee making in revenue)
  • The request (how much funds you are asking for)
  • The team (who runs your business)
A description of products/services

You will want to begin by talking about what your business does. You may want to use the P.A.S introduction system – you present the problem, aggravate it, and then provide the solution to it. The solution being your product or service. 

Summary of your objectives

Use bullet points for this section. Summarize your business’ main objectives. You can talk about the number of potential sales you are aiming for, market positioning, and your other intentions. Most importantly, make sure the rest of your plan shows that you can achieve these goals with ease. 

Strong understanding of your market

This section should act as a taster menu for your market research and marketing plan. You need to show that you understand the market you want to move into, as well as past and current trends.  Briefly cover your advertising and social media plans. You may also want to give an idea of how you want your brand to look online. As well as, detailing some buzzwords you want to associate with your business. 

Potential for growth/ funding overview

In this section, you should lay out the amount of funding you are looking for (if you need funding), how you plan to spend it, and what kind of profits you are looking to make.  You should look at including 1 year, 3 year, 5 year, and 10 year profit predictions. You should also keep these figures realistic and make sure that they are backed up throughout the rest of the document. 

Your competitive advantage

In this section, you should explain how you are able to offer something your competitors can’t and how you are planning to eat into their market share. 

Company Description

You will want to use this section to introduce your company to the people reading your business plan. By the time they finish reading this section they should understand your company’s mission statement, its structure, what it plans to do, and how it plans to do it.  This section will be more detailed than your executive summary, and it will cover all the essential information about the day-to-day running of your company. 

Details about your company e.g. location 

Start this section by talking about where the company is going to be based. This will be very important for investors (and you), as it will affect what kind of tax will be paid on profits.  Then you should talk about whether your business will have a physical location, or whether it will function in another way. 

Talk about the different types of locations your business will need to function – i.e. a physical store, a warehouse, a server farm, etc. 

How large the company is 

In this section, you will want to talk about two things- what your company is worth and how many people you will need to employ (or already employ) to keep it running.  These two topics go hand in hand, as you will have to prove that your business will be able to make enough money to support its payroll.  You do not need to cover the management structure of your business here. 

What your business actually does

In this section, you will want to present your mission statement for your company. This should include why your company exists, what its role is (are you a B2B or a B2C business), and what its overall goal is.  You should share your process in detail here. For example, if you are planning to sell hats, you should briefly talk about the process of getting the materials, making the hats, and how you plan to sell them at a profit. 

What you hope to accomplish

Here you should expand on your company’s overall goal. Include any smaller goals, you have as a company – for example if you plan to have stores in multiple cities within 3 years. 

In this section, you don’t have to show how you plan to make your dreams possible. But you should make sure that you do cover that in the rest of your business plan – investors will look for these answers and won’t be happy if they’re not there. 

4. Your Company’s Profile

A company profile is a formal introduction of your business. It usually contains all you would want potential clients, investors, and the general public to know about your business. It is used as a marketing tool and it is your company’s unique selling point.

A complete company profile is expected to contain the vision, mission, and goals of the company, a detailed description of the product and service offering of the company, the profile of the founding members of the company, a brief story of how the company got started and what they intend to achieve. So also, information like company name, address, phone number, website and email et al must be part of your company profile.

Components of your Company’s Profile
  • Structure of your business (sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, or an incorporated company)
  • The date your business was established (for existing businesses)
  • The nature of your business (what are you selling, or what are you planning to sell?)
  • The industry you are in
  • Business vision, mission, and values
  • Background information on your business or its history
  • Business Objectives (short and long-term)
  • The Business team

5. Products and Services

A company discussing their products and services on a round table

In this section, you will want to outline the products and services you are planning to provide when you launch. As well as any products or services you plan to launch in the future. You should present your ideas about prices and profits in this section too. 

A description 

This section should include a description of the products or services you are offering or plan to offer when your company launches.  By this point you should have made it clear why these products are necessary, so you will not need to waste space by explaining how they solve the problem you presented in your mission statement. 

How the products and services will be priced?

This is one of the most important parts of this section. Here you will show how your business plans to make money. If this section doesn’t sell your business to investors, nothing else will.  You should cover the price of your product, as well as breaking down the costs and profits of each item or service. Your expenses and markups should be clear to anyone, even if they are just skimming through the document. 

A comparison of the products or services your competitors offer in relation to yours

In this section, you will need to explain what makes your business and your products different from your competitors. You should talk about what new things you bring to the market. And how you plan to improve on your competitors’ business plans. 

This is particularly important if you are planning to charge more than your competitors. You will need to convince your investors that customers will want to choose your more expensive option. 

Sales literature 

Here you should include copies of any sales literature you plan to use. If you don’t have any yet then you should include some mockups of the final literature. This is not to be confused with the advertising you are planning to use. 

Any intellectual property, such as trademarks, or legal issues you need to address

In this section, you will want to detail any trademarks that you have made in the name of your company as well as any other intellectual property you have a claim to or are planning to trademark.  You should be honest in this section, if you have any legal issues you need to address as a company. It is better for your investors to find out about these things beforehand. 

Future products or services you plan to offer

This is the section where you can prove to your investors that you are not just a one-hit-wonder and that you have the knowledge to evolve and keep your company making money even after the market changes.  Here you should display any other products you plan to offer in the future. 

6. Your Industry Analysis

In this section of your business plan, you will demonstrate that the industry’s market size is worth going after, who your main competitors will be if you decide to take a plunge, and how you will be able to carve out a niche for yourself and give your competitors a run for their money. Planning a business goes beyond analyzing the potential of your offer. You must analyze the following three factors as well:

  • The strengths and weaknesses of your business
  • The competition
  • Who your customers are, what they want, and how they want it

These are the major components of a business plan’s market or industrial analysis and it is also known as a SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. This section of your business plan reveals the chances of your business to achieve success with its offers.

And that’s why the industry analysis is a very important section of your business plan, which must be carefully conducted and documented. This chapter covers everything you need to know about competition analysis, market size and target audience, market forces and trends, environment analysis and risk assessment.

7. Marketing Plan

Marketing team with a business plan

We find that many entrepreneurs find this section the hardest to put together. If you feel like you are struggling, we recommend hiring a marketing expert to help you put together a marketing plan – as this will be a section investors pay a lot of attention to.  It also answers your most important marketing questions about your customers/clients which include:

  • Where do they live?
  • What’s their age range?
  • What’s their level of education?
  • How many of them are there?
  • What are some common behavior patterns?
  • What do they spend their free time on?
  • Where do they work?
  • What technology do they use?
  • What ethnicity are they?
  • How much do they earn?
  • Where are they commonly employed?
  • What are their values, beliefs, or opinions?
Products and services and your unique selling proposition (USP)

What makes your product unique? Why should your customers spend their hard earned money on your product? What will keep them coming back for more? What makes your product better than your competitions’ products?  These are the questions that you will need to answer in this section. This should be a customer-focused section that really shows how your customer will benefit from your product and interacting with your business. 

Pricing strategy

Here, you will want to go back over your price point, your costs, profits, margins, and markups.  However, in this section, you will want to compare these figures to your competitors and their products. If you are spending more on materials you will need to justify it – i.e recycled plastic is more expensive with fits in with your mission statement to be environmentally friendly. 

If you can include exact details about your suppliers, then do. 

Sales and distribution plan

In this section, you will cover how your product (or service) is going to get from the factory and into the customer’s hands. 

  • Will you sell your products online? In your own stores?
  • Will you have it stocked in larger stores? If so, how will you pick out stores that align with your brand values? 
  • What channels will you use to get your product out there? Will you sell via your website, a retailer, wholesaler, or a totally different channel?
  •  How will customers pay for your product?
  • What will your return policy look like? Will you offer any guarantees? If so, what will they look like?
  • What happens after a customer makes a purchase? What type of customer support will you provide?

You will need to talk about batch numbers and how much that will cost upfront.  

Advertising and promotions plan

This should be the longest section in your marketing plan.  Here you will cover how you will build buzz before the launch of your first product. Then how you will keep the excitement and sales going.  You should discuss how other companies have done this and show that you know the best way to advertise your target audience. 

You should talk about promotions, what response you expect to see from them, and how you will make up any money lost. 

  • Will you have a dedicated presence across many of the popular online channels (such as website, social media, relevant marketplace, etc) used today to gain brand awareness?
  • Will your marketing plan be primarily inbound focused (such as SEO, social media, blogging, etc), outbound focused (such as PPC, affiliate marketing, sales teams, etc), traditional focused (such as direct mail, brochures, and print advertising), or a mix of all three?
  • What are other low-cost yet effective marketing mediums that you will leverage to get attention?
  • What is your PR strategy? Why would the press be interested in your story?
Social media 

Long gone are the days when a company can get away with pitching without a social media plan.  The power of social media is strong right now, that with the right selection of pictures on Instagram companies can gain thousands of followers before anyone knows that they are selling. 

While poor social media presence won’t destroy a business. A good social media presence can make one a success.  When putting this plan together, you will want to make sure you show that you understand how your target audience uses social media, what social media they use, and when they use it.

For example, if you are planning to offer a B2B (business to business) service, then you should be present, posting, and advertising on Linkedin. If your social media plan focused on Instagram, your investors might be concerned that you hadn’t really researched your market. 

However, if you were looking at selling products to moms with teenagers – then Facebook would be the right place for you. Its average user is a female between 35-45.   If you do not feel like you understand the field of social media well enough then you may want to hire someone to help you put this plan together and implement it. 

8. Operational Plan

Operational Plan

This will be the least glamorous section of your business plan (and probably the most boring section to write). But that doesn’t make it any less important.  In this section, you will show your investors that you understand how your business will run on a day-to-day basis and that you are prepared for that. Here you will show your strategy and implementation plans. 

Objectives

This is the place to discuss the fundamental goals of your business.  For example, you want to be turning a profit after 6 months. You want to have 100 employees by the end of the first year. You would like to open a second store before the business turns 5. 

Here, you should step out these goals with a point-by-point plan underneath them. Depending on the type of goal you might want to put a timeframe on the goals or use some other tangible measure of success.  These goals should be related to keeping the business profitable – for example, talking about social media based goals in this section is irrelevant. 

Timeline

There are two different types of timelines you need to consider in this section.  Firstly, you should be looking at production timelines. These should include the timeline that covers you putting in an order for your product to the time when it arrives on the shelf.

This will give you an idea of how far in advance you will have to plan launches and how long restocking products might take. Secondly, if you are planning to expand or have set yourself tangible goals – you should have a timeline for achieving these goals set out. 

Procedures

In this section, you will want to break down the day-to-day operations of your business. Talk about opening hours, holidays, seasonal variables. Cover any of the assets that the business has or will acquire. Cover the equipment the business will be using. 

You will want to talk about your plans for product testing, for acquiring materials, and for meeting health and safety standards.  You will need to outline how any physical premises will be run. Talk about whether they will need power, water, drainage, etc.  You should provide a detailed cost analysis of everything that you have covered in this section.  

The Production Process
  • You will also need to give details of your entire production process, and that means answering the following questions:
  • How long it will take you to produce a single unit or a predefined number of units?
  • What measures have been put in place to integrate customer feedback into your product or service? As in, have you allotted time to create and test prototypes, pricing, or delivery mechanisms?
  • How will you deal with major influxes in demand? That is, what procedures or steps will you have in place when you offer a sale and orders come flying in?
The Supply Chain

Let’s start with the workflow that you will have to deal with to make your ideas a reality. Some of the things you will want to touch on are as follows:

  • Suppliers: Who will be providing you with all the materials that you won’t be manufacturing yourself?
  • Facilities: Where will you house your inventory (if any), or which office will you use for your operations?
  • Personnel: How many staff will you require for your daily operations? What will their duties look like?
  • Equipment: What tools and technology do you require to be up and running or to take your company to the next level? (This could include everything from computers to office desks and everything in between).
  • Shipping and fulfillment: Here you will have to outline whether you will be handling all the deliveries on your orders or if you will be using a third-party fulfillment partner.
  • Inventory: Here you will highlight how much you will keep on hand, where it will be stored, and how you will have it shipped to third-partners if applicable. Also, an important detail to note is how you will keep track of everything going in and out.
  • Customer support: How will support requests, refunds, and customer complaints be considered and integrated in your business workflow?

In essence, this section should signal to the reader that you have a good handle of running your business. It also passes the message that you have a contingency plan in place to account for uncertainty in the marketplace. By taking this advice into account you will create a more convincing operational plan.

9. Management Plan

Project managers with a business plan

This is the area of your business plan that you will have to update most frequently, particularly at the beginning of your journey when you are seeking funding.  When you first write this business plan, this section may be a proposal to possible lenders. With you offering them stakes in your company, rather than sharing concrete facts about who owns what. 

As you are gathering investors, you should make sure to update your management plan between meetings. You don’t want to bring people into a team with accidental false promises or with an incorrect idea about their position in the company.  

Ownership 

This is the section where you will outline who owns what parts of your business.  If the company is very new then it may just be owned by you and your fellow founders. If you have put money into the business then you may want to list yourself as a stakeholder. 

How you list yourself will affect the tax you pay on the company’s profits. If you are looking to draw investors into your business then you can use this section to show what percentage of the business is up for sale and the predicted profits for the future owner. 

Management

In this section, you will be detailing the experience and the roles of the management team you have in place to run the business.  The idea behind this section is that you want to reassure possible investors that the business is being run by experts in the field who know what they are doing. 

An experienced management team is less of a risk for your investors.  If you don’t have a team put together yet then you can just discuss the structure of the team you hope to build. Your investors may want to have a say in who you hire or how the team is structured. 

If that is something you are open to, you can mention that in this section. 

Board

The final part of your management plan should be about the board of directors at your company.  Company’s that are in the early stages of fundraising will not have a board in place. This is nothing to worry about. Take a similar approach with this section to your ownership section. 

Talk about the kind of board you would like to set up and how someone would earn their place on this board. Talk about the kind of people you want talking up those spots -you can talk about both experience and attitude.  If you do have a board then you want to talk about their roles and experience in this section. Show possible investors that your board members will look after their money.  

10. Business Growth Strategy

In this chapter, you will learn how to devise your short and long term business growth strategy. This is important because investors want to know your long term expansion plans and where your company will be in the next five to ten years.

How to Present your Business Growth Strategy
  1. Explain the development options and opportunities in detail.
  2. Review and document the financial requirements for each option.
  3. Document the marketing strategies you will need to accomplish and nurture your chosen growth option.
  4. Review the financial breakdown of internal or external capital and how the capital will be made available throughout the growth process.
  5. Document a breakdown of other things that will be needed, expanded, or ditched.
  6. Print your growth plan and review it regularly until you are ready to implement it.

11. Financial Plan

Financial team planning for the business

This is another section that many entrepreneurs struggle with.  It is very important to get the numbers in this section right, as you do not want your investors to think that you are trying to mislead them. If you don’t feel like you can put together a financial plan on your own you should hire someone to help you do it. 

In this section, you are going to cover all the financial elements of your business. Including what kind of investment you are looking for, how much the day-to-day running of the business costs, and any new investment you think you will need over the next 5 years. 

The amount of money to set up  or maintain the business

This section will be different for every business, but you should have a clear figure at the top of the page that shows how much it will cost you to set up your business (or to maintain it in its current state). 

Underneath that, you should have a breakdown of all the different costs that make up that final number. Try to keep this section to a page. If needed you can put more detailed notes in an appendix and refer the reader to that page for more complicated sums.  You want to keep this section as clear as possible.  

The amount needed for the next few years

Next, you will want to take a deep dive into how you think the day-to-day running costs of the business will change over the next few years.  You should also discuss any big expense that you can foresee. For example, if your bakery business picks up, you might need to buy a second over to meet demand and hire an extra baker. 

You may want to do a couple of sets of calculations showing how different rates of growth would affect the costs of running your business. For example, slower than expected growth, expected rate of growth, 5% faster growth. 

How do you plan to spend funds?

This section is about mapping out what you will do with the money you are requesting and any money you make as a business. This will include loans, investments, grants, sales, and profits.  You should talk about how you will be spending your money and how it will benefit the company or why it is essential you spend the money in that way. 

For example, you may want to invest in electric vehicles for the company’s fleet. While the initial outgoings will be higher than buying petrol cars, the fuel costs will quickly make up for this. 

Ongoing business expenses e.g. salaries

Finally, you are going to want to break down the ongoing costs of running your business.  These are costs that are unavoidable and shouldn’t be ignored when you are working out how much it costs to run your business.  Three key examples of ongoing costs are salaries (the wages you pay your employees), taxes (the money you pay to the government), and rent on your buildings. 

You should explain what the tax rules are in your state in this part of the document, as business taxes vary wildly across the country. This will be especially important for any international investors. 

12. Projections

a team discussing their projections

The role of your projections section is to convince the people reading your business plan that your business is built to make money. You want to show possible investors that your company and ideas aren’t a risky investment. Instead, they are a great opportunity. 

In this section, you will want to be optimistic but not unrealistic. Again, you do not want to bring investors in with false promises, as this could get you in legal trouble in the future. 

Components of a Business Plan Financial Statement
  • Income statement

This beautiful composition of numbers tells the reader what exactly your sources of revenue are and which expenses you spent your money on to arrive at the bottom line. Essentially, for a given time period, the income statement states the profit or loss (revenue-expenses) that you made.

Balance sheet & Cash flow statement 

This section is only for businesses that are already established and are looking for further investments.  In this section, you will want to include as much financial information about your company as possible. This is in order to give investors the opportunity to see that your business is already making money and is not a sinkhole for cash. 

You should include these documents for the last 5 years or however long your business has been open if less than that: 

  • A complete set of balance sheets 
  • All your cash flow statements 
  • List of company expenses 
  • Income statements 
  • Payroll details 
Financial Outlook 

In your financial outlook, you want to paint a similar picture of success. You want to use this section to show how your investor’s money could be put to work and make them even more money in return.  You should prepare your predictions for the next 5 years.

You should devote more space to the first year, covering it with quarterly reports, rather than annual ones. We would also recommend that you put two 6 month reports in for the 2nd year.  You should include the following information in your financial outlook. 

  • Capital expenditure budgets
  • A complete set of balance sheets 
  • All your cash flow statements 
  • List of company expenses 

13. Business Exit Strategy

You are not going to die with your business; neither are your investors. This is why you need to prepare an exit plan not just for yourself but also for your investors. An exit strategy is a method by which entrepreneurs and investors, especially those that have invested large sums of money in startup companies, transfer ownership of their business to a third party, or by which they recoup money invested in the business.

Some forms of exit strategies include, being acquired by another company, the sale of equity, a management-employee buyout, et al

Types of Exit Strategy
  1. Initial public offering (IPO)
  2. Selling your business
  3. Acquisitions and mergers
  4. Liquidation of assets
  5. Management buyout
  6. Family succession

11. Present your Business Plan with PowerPoint

Raising capital is one of the toughest challenges entrepreneurs face in business. Writing a business plan is one thing, doing a business plan presentation to investors is another thing and walking away with the needed capital is the ultimate achievement.

PowerPoint is an efficient way to present anything including a business plan. In the game of business presentations, one key fact that the audience look out for is the simplicity of the information shared. If you are dealing with investors, they would want to see the workability of the business idea and every other details of the project.

List of Equipment for a Business Plan Presentation
  • Lecture stick
  • Laptop or desktop computer or tablet PC
  • Whiteboard
  • Projector
  • Microsoft PowerPoint software

Appendices – Prototypes, statements, contracts, legal documents, etc

Appendices of a plan

In this final section, you should include anything that is relevant to your business proposal as well as anything you refer to throughout the document.  You should not expect your investors to go online and find an article for themselves, instead include it in your appendix. 

To make your appendix easier to follow, we would include a contents page and clearly label and the appendices. You could even use a color-coding system – i.e. all the appendices related to your financial plan have a green bar across the top of the page. 

Chapter A: Understanding the Difference Between Feasibility Study Report and Business Plan

Most people intertwine a business plan with a feasibility study report, but they are definitely not the same.  A feasibility study is carried out with the aim of finding out the workability and profitability of a business venture. Before anything is invested in a new business venture, a feasibility study is carried out to know if the business venture is worth the time, effort and resources.

On the other hand, a business plan is developed only after it has been established that a business opportunity exist and the venture is about to commence. This simply means that a business plan is prepared after a feasibility study has been conducted. This chapter will help you understand the difference between the two and their specific role in the business planning process.

Chapter B: Understanding the Difference Between a Business Plan and a Strategic Plan
  • Is a strategic plan the same with a business plan? The answer is YES and NO; depending on the perspective you are looking at it. This chapter will highlight the differences.
Chapter C: The Basic Components of a Business Plan
  • In this chapter, you will learn the fundamental factors that make up a business plan. Without these factors, your business plan will not achieve its purpose.
Chapter D: Preparing Yourself for the Business Planning Process
  • This chapter teaches you in detail how to get in the right mindset, prepare your business plan cover letter, write your title page and table of content. You will also learn about the various tools you need to write faster and accurately.

Summary 

A team with a business plan

Your business plan will help you to gain investors for your business, help you win grants, and get a loan from the bank. However, they don’t stop being useful after you have got the money. Your business plan will continue to be a document you refer to as your company grows. 

When you are pitching your business to investors you need to be prepared for anything they could ask. If you put in the time now and follow the guide above, you will be prepared.  Spending time on it now will pay off exponentially in the future.

7 Success Keys to Planning a Business That Wins

Many people only dream of building a business empire; others dare the consequences and take the leap into the business world. Statistics reveals that 90% of all businesses started fail in their first five years. Of these failed businesses, 80% were failures right from day one. They fail even before launching because the business was poorly planned. This reminds me of a quote from my mentor:

A successful business is created before there is a business.” – Rich Dad

For your business to be successful, it has to be strategically planned correctly from the very scratch. It’s just like building a house; you must first plan the structural design before ever embarking on laying the foundation. The same is applicable to starting a business. Below are seven steps to planning a business that wins:

I. Plan a business that can grow with or without you

The first step to planning a business that wins is to make sure the business is modeled to grow with or without you. This is actually where most new entrepreneurs miss it; they build a business around themselves. They start a business to run it themselves; they cherish the idea of being your own boss and doing things their own way.

But building a business with you as the sole proprietor is a poorly planned business and it will not stand the test of time. The point i am trying to emphasize is this; you must design a business that will not lean solely on your shoulders.

II. Create a business that will be driven by your vision

The next step is to plan a business that will be driven by your visions and aspirations. Today, i see businesses without future plans and visions. In the process of designing your business, you must set target milestones to achieve. You must set five year and ten year goals for your business.

But formulating a vision for your business is not as important as making sure that this business of yours is driven by the vision. Your employees, team and the entire system of your business must share in the pursuit of your visions.

III. Create a business that will be bounded by your core values

The third step is to design a business that will be bounded by your core values. Your core belief and values must be instilled on your business. I will drive home my point with the following examples; Sam Walton believed in taking care of his employees and he made it his company’s core value. That’s why Wal-Mart implements a profit sharing plan with its employees.

Debbi Fields, during her early start up years was reputed to dispose over $500 worth of cookies because of its poor quality. Debbi has a reputation for insistence on quality even if it means a reduction in profit margin. Quality was her core value and that’s why her company’s motto goes: “Good enough never is.

Now that’s for Debbi Fields and Sam Walton, what about you? Is your company bounded by your core belief and values? If yes, then make sure it is included in your business plan.

IV. Plan a business that will constantly increase its customer’s value

Customers are insatiable and their wants are endless. So it’s up to you to design your business in such a way that it will always on increase its customer’s value. Your business must continuously strive to give the customers the best of service. Take a look at Apple Computers; they have grown an army of loyal customers because of their ability to satisfy their customers by constantly offering them technological innovation.

V. Create a business that will be led by a strong team

Another important key to business success is to plan your business to be powered by a strong team. One entrepreneurial rule of thumb is this; you must hire people smarter than you. If you are the smartest on your team, your business is doomed.

Just take a look at how Microsoft Corporation has been driven forward by their management and team of computer wizards. If you take the pain to build a formidable business team, then your business will undergo positive leaps.

VI. Plan a business that will be a good corporate citizen

Most entrepreneurs don’t put into consideration their corporate social responsibility when designing their business. But every good and successful entrepreneur put into consideration his society when designing his or her business. As an entrepreneur, you must factor in your community in your business plan and also figure out how your business will positively impact on the surrounding environment.

For instance; if you intend starting a mining business or any business that occasionally results to environmental degradation, then you must plan that business to also give back to the environment as a mark of being a good corporate citizen.

VII. Create a business that will help you achieve your primary aim

Be you an employee, entrepreneur, student or unemployed; we all have personal aspirations and goals. Just as our goals are different; so also are our paths to achieving them different. As an entrepreneur, you have to design your business to fall in line with your primary aim.

You must factor in a way to use your business as a leverage to achieve some or all of your primary aim. No matter what your primary aim is; you must find a way to leverage your business in pursuing that aim of yours. So when designing a business, make sure your personal aims and objectives are also considered.

In conclusion, i believe i have been able to pass an entrepreneurial lesson across. Always bear in mind that properly designing a business before starting it will reduce the likelihood of failure. As a final note, i leave you with this quote:

A successful business is created before there is a business. – Rich Dad

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What Is The Format Of A Business Plan?

In terms of writing a business plan format, there are ten basic elements you are expected to cover. The standard contents or format of a business plan includes:

  • An overview
  • Executive summary
  • General company description
  • The opportunity
  • Industry and market
  • Your strategy
  • The team
  • A marketing plan
  • Operational plan
  • Financial plan
  • An appendix.
  1. Can You Pay Someone To Write Your Business Plan?

Yes, you can pay someone to write your business plan, but it is always advisable you write your business plan yourself. If you are a good writer, you can simply hire a consultant to guide and advise you, but still do most of the writing yourself.

  1. When Should I Write A Business Plan, Before Or After Starting The Business?

Before starting a business is the best time to write a business plan. Even if you don’t finish it right away, the process itself will help you get organized.

  1. What Are The Basic Steps To Create A Business Plan?

When writing a business plan, it is advisable you follow whatever example a bank or loan agency gives you down to the letter. However, for a regular plan, as long as you address all the key points, there can be room for some creativity. Nonetheless, the basic steps to create a business plan include;

  • Create your executive summary.
  • Add your company overview.
  • Perform your market analysis.
  • Define your business’s organization.
  • Describe your products and services.
  • Explain your marketing and sales plan.
  • Detail your financial plan and projections.
  • Add an appendix.
  1. How Do You Write A Small Business Plan?

When writing a small business plan, you don’t have to stick to any exact business plan outline. Instead, use the sections that make the most sense for your business and your needs. However, according to the US Small Business Administration, small business plans use some combination of these nine sections;

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Organization and management
  • Service or product line
  • Marketing and sales
  • Funding request
  • Financial projections
  • Appendix
  1. How Do You Write A Business Plan For A Start-up?

If you have an idea for a start-up company but not sure how to get started with a business plan, here’s what you need to know to get started.

  • Make sure your company has a clear objective.
  • Identify your target market.
  • Analyze your competition.
  • Budget accordingly.
  • Identify your goals and financial projections.
  • Clearly define the power structure.
  • Discuss your marketing plan.
  • Keep it short and professional.
  1. How Long Should A Business Plan Take To Write?

It depends on how quickly you can answer the most pressing questions, and access some data to back up your assumptions. After that, it is all about making the various sections of the plan mutually consistent, and coherent, depending on the intended audience. If you have the required data, then it is possible to complete within 4 to 5 hours, otherwise it certainly takes time to ideate and research.

  1. Is Writing A Business Plan Hard?

Yes, writing a business plan is difficult, but it is necessary.

  1. What Is Another Name For Business Plan?
  • Strategic plan
  • Operational plan
  • Internal plan
  • Lean Plan and many others.
  1. How Do You Create A Plan?

Creating a powerful action plan always starts with having a clear purpose, vision or goal in mind. Note that with a detailed plan, you can achieve virtually any goal you set out to accomplish. Here are steps you can take to create your own plan of action.

  • Make Sure Your Goals Are SMART.
  • Work Backwards to Set Milestones.
  • Determine What Needs to Happen to Reach Your Goals.
  • Decide What Actions Are Required to Reach Your Goals.
  • Put Your Actions Into a Schedule.
  • Follow Through.
  1. What Is A Business Model Example?

At its core, your business model is a description of how your business makes money. It is an explanation of how you deliver value to your customers at an appropriate cost. However, examples of business model include;

  • Direct sales
  • Franchising
  • Advertising-based
  • Brick-and-mortar
  • Freemium
  • Subscription
  1. What Does The Management Team Section Look Like?

The management team section of your business plan should include an organizational chart of your small business, including departments, department managers and employees. Biographical information about you, the owner, and any other owners! Specify your ownership percentage and exactly what your day-to-day responsibilities will be.

  1. What Are The Two Main Reasons For Writing A Business Plan?
  • To Test the Feasibility of Your Business Idea
  • To Give Your New Business the Best Chance of Success
  1. How Do You Write The Perfect Business Plan?

Even experts who create business plans on a regular basis have difficulty defining the perfect finished product. However, certain components are expected to appear in successful business plans. However, to put together a perfect business plan, consider the following.

  • Research and analyze your product, your market and your objective expertise. Consider spending twice as much time researching, evaluating and thinking as you spend actually writing the business plan.
  • Write every section as clearly and concisely as possible. Avoid subjective or unverifiable information, however compelling it may appear.
  • Create a focused and thorough executive summary. Include your business goals and objectives, achievement of which is supported by stating your strategies, vision, mission and expertise to create the finished product the remainder of the plan describes.
  • Outline your management team strengths and experience. If you’re a one-person management team, clearly define your expertise and the way you plan to outsource other important components, like accounting, marketing, production, legal, and/or sales.
  • Develop a strong market analysis, including information on the competitive challenges you face.
  • Design and predict your financial results for the coming five years. Include income and cash flow statements month-by-month for the first two years. For years three through five, predict these results on a quarterly and annual basis.
  1. What Ranks High In Terms Of Importance In A Business Plan?

The executive summary is ranked as the most important part of a business plan, and it is perhaps the only section that will be read so it is advisable you make it perfect! The executive summary has only one objective: get the reader to read the rest of your business plan.

  1. What Is A Good Business Plan?

Qualities of a good business plan, in order of importance, include;

  • It fits the business need
  • It is realistic and can be implemented
  • It is specific and you can track results against plan.
  • It clearly defines responsibilities for implementation
  • It clearly identifies assumptions
  • It is communicated to the people who have to run it
  • It gets people committed
  • It is kept alive by follow up and planning process
  1. How Do You Create A Start-up?

Unlike regular businesses and ventures, start-ups have the uniqueness of growing at an exponential rate over a short period of time. Here are steps to create a start-up;

  • Ideation and Solution/Validation.
  • Find your Dream Team.
  • Customer Persona & Customer Validation.
  • Prototype & Validation.
  • Marketing Plan & Building a Landing Page.
  • Business and Revenue Model.
  1. How Can You Set Up Public Relations Activities To Help Market Your Business?

Public relations more or less mean connecting a brand or company to the public, and more specifically, its own target audience. A public relations function can help marketing to refine the messages and pick which ones that can be developed into storylines that appeal to the media and its target audience. Steps to set up public relation activities to help market your business include;

  • Define and write down your objectives.
  • Establish Clear Goals
  • Identify Your Target Market
  • Research Opportunities
  • Create a Schedule
  • Measure Your Progress
  1. What Are The 3 Main Purposes Of A Business Plan?
  • Establish a business focus
  • Secure funding
  • Attract executives
  1. What Are The 4 Types Of Business Plans?
  • One-page Business Plan
  • Traditional Business Plan
  • Business Model Canvas
  • Business Pitch
  1. Given What You Know About Existing Business Conditions, How Will You Market Your Product Or Company?

Coming up with a new product or company is indeed a daunting task, which unfortunately does not stop once it is ready—launching and promoting it is the other half of the equation. You could be offering the best new product or service around, but if you don’t promote it properly, you’re likely to miss out on opportunities or even end up losing money down the line. Ways to market an existing product or company include;

  • Get organized
  • Get a website
  • Leverage social media
  • Set up and claim your business online
  • Use Google AdWords
  • Create local awareness and establish a network
  • Offer coupons or free products/services
  • Advertise
  1. What Is A Simple Business Plan?

A simple business plan consists of a single document divided into several sections including a description of the organization, the market research, competitive analysis, sales strategies, capital and labour requirements, and financial data.

  1. What Are The 12 Components Of A Business Plan?

Note that not every business plan needs to be extensive. The important thing is that the reader understands what the venture is about. A business plan has fixed components. The 12 main components shall be introduced in the following passages.

  • Executive Summary
  • Founder (team) and business leadership
  • Product or Service
  • Market and sector
  • Distribution and marketing
  • Co-workers and business coordination
  • Legal form
  • Chances and risks
  • Capital requirement
  • Finance plan
  • Further documents
  • The right measure
  1. How Will You Determine If Your Initial Marketing Efforts Are Successful?

Measurement is the key to optimizing any process, and marketing campaigns are no exception. When you create and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) for your marketing campaigns, you can extensively see what works and what doesn’t. You can then channel your marketing funds toward the most effective campaigns to achieve marketing success.

Here are some of the common KPIs you should measure for each of your efforts, regardless of the type, channel or medium:

  • Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Cost per Win (Sale)
  • Cost per Lead
  • Conversion Rate (or Goal Completion Rate)
  • Incremental Sales
  • Purchase Funnel
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Multi-Channel Funnels and Attribution
  1. How Can You Make Your Product Or Service Fit Into The Market?

It is tough to distinguish a good idea from a great idea that will sell, especially before actually launching your product. But there are some things you can do in your earliest stages of product development to make sure your great idea also has great market fit.

  • Get the right feedback from the right customers
  • Make sure customers will buy in—literally
  • Focus on fit, not reach
  • Revisit market needs often
  1. What Should Not Be Included In A Business Plan?

When assembled properly, a business plan can be a very impressive manuscript that will attract quality investors and employees. Conversely, it can also be the downfall of an otherwise perfect pitch. Here are few critical things not to include in your business plan.

  • Unedited Work
  • Too Little or Too Much Detail
  • Unrealistic Financial Projections
  1. What Are The Do’s And Don’ts Of Starting A Business?

Many different issues must be considered when starting a small business. It is important to plan properly and avoid common pitfalls. When starting your business, here are some practical dos and don’ts to get you on track.

Do’s

  • Innovate
  • Ask for outside advice
  • Have a solid plan and measure your progress
  • Hire the best and keep them engaged
  • Build strong relationships with your key suppliers

Don’ts

  • Don’t leave contingency planning until it is too late
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of effective financial management
  • Don’t ignore what’s happening in your market
  • Don’t rely on too few customers
  • Don’t wait too long to get help
  1. What Is The Most Important Part Of A Business Plan?

The most important part of the plan is the executive summary that says specifically what is going to happen. The core of a business plan is the collection of detailed dates, deadlines, responsibilities, and commitments, and the executive summary is expected to cover all these.

  1. Why Do Business Plans Fail?

For some people, it is simply a matter of not investing enough time and effort into creating it. However, there are some common problems that can prevent a business plan from becoming successful. They include;

  • Unachievable Goals and Aspirations
  • Lack of Market Research
  • Productivity and Motivation Issues
  • Improper Budgeting
  • Pursuing a Bad Idea
  • Neglecting the Finances
  1. What Is The Timeline For Bringing New Products And Services To Market?

Companies rise or fall on the success or failure of a new product launch. As the marketing leader, you play a pivotal role in bringing the new offering to market. Here are four steps to ensure you get it right:

  • Finalize strategy
  • Product management
  • Launch readiness
  • Launch, measure & iterate
  1. How Will You Acquire Customers Based On The Market Research Of Your Target Audience And Competitive Analysis?

Here are simple strategies to acquire customers based on the market research of your target audience and competitive analysis.

  • Create an ideal customer profile
  • Conduct market research
  • Reassess your offerings
  • Research your competitors
  • Leverage existing customer data
  1. What Marketing And Operational Channels Are The Best For Businesses?

These best marketing and operational channels for businesses include;

  • Word of Mouth Marketing
  • Content Marketing and SEO
  • Your Website
  • Email Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Pay-Per-Click Marketing
  1. What Is The Hardest Part Of A Business Plan?

The hardest part of a business plan is the financial section. It is difficult to project figures on a brand-new business with, possibly, a brand-new concept. There is no roadmap, no one to follow. The best you can do is find a similar company and try to gauge what they are making.

  1. How Do You Differentiate In The Market When Marketing Your Products?

To differentiate your product, first think about who wants to buy your product, why they want it, how they want it to look, where they want to purchase it, and how much they will pay for it. If you’re not sure about any of those considerations, conducting marketing research is a great way to find answers. However, here are few ways to differentiate your product in the market when marketing;

  • Have unbeatable customer service
  • Niche down
  • Add a personal touch
  • Use price as a distinguishing factor
  • Give your customers options to customize your products
  • Be socially responsible
  • Use speed to your advantage.
  1. But How Can You Reach Prospects Who Might Benefit From Your Product Or Service?

Prospecting is one of the key stages of the sales process. And, yet, it is also one of the more difficult ones. Here are few ways to reach prospects that might benefit from your product or service:

  • Create an ideal prospect profile
  • Identify ways to meet your ideal prospects
  • Actively work on your call lists
  • Send personalized emails
  • Ask for referrals
  • Become a know-it-all
  • Build your social media presence
  • Send relevant content to prospects
  • Demonstrate your sales skills in video format
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up
  1. How Will You Compete In Terms Of Price, Product, Or Service?

To become a successful business, you need to find ways to stay a step ahead of your competition. Doing so is often easier said than done, and there’s no simple answer to how to beat your competition.

  • Compete in Terms of Price: One of the easiest ways to beat your competition is to offer more affordable pricing. To determine the ideal price point, you need a clear picture of what your competition’s goods or services are priced at. Research which competitors offer the best value. Then you need to determine if what you are offering brings more value to the table and thus should be priced higher.
  • Compete in Terms of Product: Product differentiation is a marketing strategy established to distinguish a company’s products or services from the competition. Successful product differentiation includes identifying and communicating the unique qualities of a product or company while highlighting the distinct differences between that product or company and its competitors.
  • Compete in Terms of Service: Providing great, and memorable, customer service is a great way to build loyalty among your customers and differentiate yourself from the competition. Put a priority on hiring employees who have a full understanding of not just your products and services, but your brand as a whole.
  1. What Marketing Strategy Will Bring You The Best Return On Investment?

Thanks to its multifaceted range of effects, permanent value, and potential for compounding returns, Content marketing and SEO is the best way to spend your marketing budget.

  1. How Is Your Value Proposition Going To Be Communicated To Your Customers?

A value proposition states the value you’ll deliver for your customers and gives the main reasons a prospect should choose to buy from you. It more or less states how your product and service relieves their pain points by offering specific benefits, and how this is different from your competition. The best value propositions have the following characteristics in common. T

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Unique
  • Relevant
  • Differentiated
  • Tailored
  • Low-hype
  • Consistent
  1. How Will You Approach Angel Investors or Venture Capitalists?
  • Approach them in your niche
  • Show them how successful your past business ventures were
  • You’ve got to know the numbers involved
  • Make it a priority to do proper research
  • Stay confident
  1. What Channels Will You Use To Attract And Communicate With Customers?

It is imperative to offer your customers as many contact channels as possible to ensure they’re able to contact you in the most convenient way for them. To help you decide which contact channels you should consider for your business, here is a list of the most prominent customer contact channels:

  • Live web chat
  • Chat bots
  • Messenger Apps
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Post
  • Web forms
  • Traditional Phone Calls
  • Web calling
  • Call backs
  • Video chat
  • In-store appointments
Ajaero Tony Martins