Writing a Business Plan

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Now that you have evaluated your idea and see that there is a market that wants to buy what you are selling, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get everything down on paper. The following pages will describe in detail the seven essential sections of a business plan: what you should include, what you shouldn’t include, how to work the numbers and additional resources you can turn to for help. With that in mind, jump right in.

Executive Summary
Within the overall outline of the business plan, the executive summary will follow the title page. This section briefly explains the rest of your business plan in no more than typically one to two pages. The executive summary should include;

  • Owners’ names and credentials
  • Products and services
  • Market(s) and competition
  • Amount of money needed

Be sure to clearly state what you’re asking for from the reader in the executive summary.

Business Description
The business description usually begins with a short description of the industry. When describing the industry, discuss the present outlook as well as future possibilities. You should also provide information on all the various markets within the industry, including any new products or developments that will benefit or adversely affect your business.

In this section, you are painting a picture of your business and the opportunity you see in the marketplace.  Keep in mind that if this plan is looking for funding, be very descriptive as you may never get a chance to talk to the people who may be making the decision to fund your project or be able to further explain any questions they may have.

Managers & Employees
This section will lay out your team’s ability to execute the vision of the business.  If you lack direct experience in this industry, you may want to bring up related experience or hire consultants or employees who possess this experience.

Remember too that even though you may be great at the technical part of the business, you as the business owner will wear several other hats such as bookkeeping, marketing, human resources, etc. If you don’t have this experience you may want to consider learning it or hiring it out so you can focus on what you do best.

When working through the employee section, consider your growth plan over the next three years and figure out what people you will need to run the various aspects of the business and what they will cost.

Operations & Location
Describe the physical space needs for your business.  While you may not have an exact location picked out yet, make an estimate for the cost of this location.  Be sure to include overhead expenses such as utilities, water, etc.

Marketing
The marketing section is perhaps the most important part of the business plan because if customers don’t know about your business you won’t be in business long. This section is typically overlooked by many clients as they are focusing on the product and service that is being offered.  This can be a costly mistake.  Take the time now to come up with a plan to determine who your most likely customers are, how to find them and how much it will cost to market to them.

Competitive Analysis
The purpose of the competitive analysis is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of competitors within your market, strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage, barriers that can be developed in order to prevent competition from entering your market, and any weaknesses the competition has.

Financial Projections
Financial data is always at the back of the business plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important than up-front material such as the business concept and the management team.  Be detailed on how you will be spending a backer’s or a lender’s money and be sure to include your portion of 10%-50% of the project cost as your investment. Additionally, a bank is going to require a three-year pro forma statement, tax returns and a personal financial statement.

Financial projections are what many entrepreneurs struggle with, but the SBDC at SIU is more than happy to help.

Business Planning Resources
Below you will find some resources to help you with writing a business plan.  The SBDC at SIU is available confidentially and free of charge to help you put a business plan together and also to provide a review and make sure it is ready to go to the bank.

Contact us at sbdc@siu.edu or 618-536-2424 to set up an appointment.

SBDC Business Plan Workbook

SBA Business Plan Guide