A well-conceived business plan does much more than merely describe what will become your business. Your business plan must first and foremost portray you as a competent and trustworthy professional and furthermore sell your entrepreneurial concept.
Along with a description of the products or services you’ll offer, your plan will also describe a promising business model, the marketplace in which you’ll compete, reasonable estimates of start-up and monthly operating expenses and when the business can be expected to turn a profit. If outside funding is required, then the plan must convince lenders or investors that you are prepared and qualified to build a significantly profitable enterprise. A good business plan will do the following:
- Describe the products and services
- Identify target customers
- Identify and evaluate major competitors
- Describe the business environment
- Present a profitable business model
- Detail the marketing plan
- Detail the operations plan
- Detail the financial projections
- Present the qualifications of the management team
- Provide an exit strategy
Here are business plan options for three scenarios:
The Executive Summary
An expanded Executive Summary can serve as a useful business plan, in particular for those who will launch a venture that will have modest start-up costs and operating expenses. A detailed Executive Summary can provide a good road map from which to launch a business venture, yet it is not a business plan option for those who will approach lending institutions or investors.
The expanded Executive Summary will include a description of products and services that will be sold, identify primary client groups and competitors and give an overview of the business environment. The business model, marketing plan, operations plan and financial data will also be provided. To be useful, the Executive Summary business plan must fully integrate the above components and demonstrate how the business will become profitable.
The Operational Business Plan
An Operational Business Plan is produced by an existing organization with several years’ performance history, usually with a goal to either apply for expansion capital or prepare for the sale of the company. Operational Business Plans may also be used to upgrade and streamline how a business runs, functioning as a guide for the management team.
The Operational Business Plan delves into great detail about production, customers, competitors, the marketplace and business environment, sales distribution channels, management and staffing. Historical data are available and five years of financial statements are typically included, along with financial projections that forecast the company’s expected performance over the next three years.
The business plan to attract investors
When outside investment is sought, it goes without saying that the potential for strong profits must be demonstrated. The more money that is requested, the bigger the promised profits must be and the more quickly realized. A break-even analysis, which shows the timeline for when revenues and operating expenses will equalize and the business will be positioned to earn a profit, along with credible financial assumptions and revenue projections, are critical in this scenario.
If the business is an existing one, the financial projections must appear to be attainable, based on the five-year financial history given. Make sure that your business and personal credit scores are 700+, as lending institutions are highly selective and conservative in regards to awarding loans.
Venture capitalists and angel investors may be somewhat more forgiving of a less than perfect credit rating if your business concept and model are extraordinary. Beta test the products/services, business model and operations with a sampling of target customers to verify product demand and your ability to efficiently deliver the goods to the marketplace.
For VCs, the potential for big profits is king. They are in it for the pot of gold that comes when the company goes public and stock is offered. Angels are not totally dissimilar to VCs, but they are drawn to an entrepreneur’s vision and passion in addition to the pay-off.
Regardless of the type of business that you choose to launch and whether you will self-finance or seek funding from others, a well-written business plan will ensure that you think critically about your ability to build a business, either alone or with partners. Your business plan is the road map to entrepreneurial success.