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  • Building Your Business Plan

    Game Plan

    In-Depth

    Main Components of a Business Plan

    A business plan can take many forms, depending on the venture. A four-person management consulting firm may produce a leaner plan focused on service expertise and industry experience compared to a 20-employee widget maker, which would also have to describe products, manufacturing techniques, competitive forces and marketing needs, among other details. But most plans will include the following main sections:

    • Executive summary
      This is your five-minute elevator pitch. It may include a table of contents, company background, market opportunity, management overviews, competitive advantages, and financial highlights. It’s probably easiest to write the detailed sections first and then extract the cream to create the executive summary. Try to keep it to just a couple of pages.
       
    • Business description and structure
      This is where you explain why you're in business and what you're selling. If you sell products, describe your manufacturing process, availability of materials, how you handle inventory and fulfillment, and other operational details. If you provide services, describe them and their value proposition to customers. Include other details such as strategic relationships, administrative issues, intellectual property you may own, expenses, and the legal structure of your company.
       
    • Market research and strategies
      Spell out your market analysis and describe your marketing strategy, including sales forecasts, deadlines and milestones, advertising, public relations and how you stack up against your competition. If you can’t produce a lot of data analysis, you can provide testimonials from existing customers.
       
    • Management and personnel
      Provide bios of your company executives and managers and explain how their expertise will help you meet business goals. Investors need to evaluate risk, and often, a management team with lots of experience may lower perceived risk.
       
    • Financial documents
      This is where you provide the numbers that back up everything you described in your organizational and marketing sections. Include conservative projections of your profit and loss statements, balance sheet, and your cash flow statements for the next three years. These are forward-looking projections, not your current accounting outputs.