A business plan essentially serves as a foundation for a small business. It should provide you with a roadmap on what your business will look like, how it will make money, and some of the little things that don’t always come to mind when starting it up and ultimately running it. According to Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, a business plan should consist of the following core sections:
1) Profile of the business
The plan should begin with a basic and broad-ranging profile of the business. This may be a summary that you put together after you finish the rest of your plan. Summarize what the business will do, what kinds of products or services it will offer, and what the market for these items actually is.
2) Detailed description of the business
This description should detail the basic structure of the small business, what makes it unique from others, and which markets it serves. Define your role with the business other than “owner” or “manager.” If you plan to hire employees, outline what their roles may be and how much you will need them to work. Establishing this organization is key to being prepared beforehand.
3) Industry & market analysis
According to Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, the next step is to closely analyze the industry and market in which your business will exist. What is the history, the current state, and the future of this particular industry? Which other companies already exist in the industry? Which markets will your business serve, and where are you most likely to maximize your revenue in terms of location?
4) Detailed description of your products/services
Explain in detail what products or services you will offer. How will they benefit your customers? Do similar products or services exist? If so, how will yours be different? Consider how much they will cost to produce, what the best ways are to market them, and how much to charge for them.
5) Marketing ideas
Develop a list of specific marketing ideas you plan to use. Will you buy ads in newspapers? Will you run commercials on TV or the radio? Will you have a website? The name of your business and the products or services offered play the biggest role in how to market your business. There is a big difference between marketing a retail store versus marketing a consulting business. In addition, define your sales strategy by coming up with ideas on effective ways to sell what you offer.
6) Financial responsibilities/profit projections
Write down the financial requirements and profit projections of the small business. If you will need funding to get the business off the ground, estimate how much you may need and where this funding will come from. Research topics like business loans and crowdfunding. Define any other startup costs for equipment and materials. Will you work out of your home or a brick-and-mortar location? A home office can be a big money-saver, particularly when considering the home office deduction. Put some estimates on pricing for your products or services along with acceptable payment methods and rules that apply to each. How long will it take you to recoup your startup costs or pay off your business loan? This will be based on profit projections.
7) Reference section
Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, says to conclude your business plan with some type of appendix or reference section. This should contain resumes, leases, permits, and any other important documents related to your business. Keep them organized for easy future reference. The entire business plan could go in a binder, and you may want to maintain a digital version as well that includes scans of these supplemental documents.