So you’ve decided to start a business. You’ve thought of a business name. You’ve purchased a domain and web hosting. You’ve claimed your social media channels. What’s next in order to get your business to take off?
Every successful business needs a business plan. A business plan helps you find investors, apply for loans, expand your client base, and acts as an overall roadmap. Although business plans may vary between business to business, each plan consists of some variation of the following sections.
1. Executive Summary
The Executive Summary is the entirety of your business plan summarized into a page or two. It’s usually best to write this at the very end after your business plan is written and all the details ironed out. Executive summaries usually include the problem you are trying to solve, the solution, your target market, team, and financial forecast. Keep your summary brief and enticing.
2. Business Description
Your business description should include everything about your business, including a mixture of the following:
- Company name
- Business structure
- Company history
- Target market
- Mission statement
A business description should answer all of the reader’s questions about who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
3. Market Analysis
You need to understand your target market: the types of customers you are looking for, what their needs are, and how to reach them.
You also need to understand who your competitors are. A market analysis will help you determine where you stand in relation to other companies, and the strengths and opportunities you may have as an advantage over them. A SWOT analysis is a great approach to doing this, where you outline the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for your and your competitor’s businesses.
4. Products and Services
This section differentiates your product from what your competitors are offering. Here is where you should list all of the features and benefits of your product in the way that would appeal to potential customers. Make sure to include:
- Product/service description
- Product comparison
- Accreditations/intellectual property (such as trademark, copyright, or patent)
- Lifecycle (the stage your product is at currently)
- Sales and distribution strategy
5. Sales and Marketing
This is arguably the most important part of your business plan because it deals with the actual acquisition of what no business can survive without—customers. Think of marketing as getting people to know, like, and trust you. Think of sales as the part where a customer actually chooses and pays for a product or service from you.
This section deals with how you will convey your brand and attract customers. It’s important to you know your market and develop your brand accordingly.
If you have a brick and mortar business, your website will be its second home, so take the time to carefully plan your website’s look and feel.
6. Operations and Management Plan
This section deals with the administrative tasks associated with your business, including:
- Managerial hierarchies
- Legal issues
7. Development Plan
This is where your future aspirations come in. Write about your company plans for the future, and don’t be afraid to use your imagination! This part is essential because your business’s development will dictate how it fares against rising competition. So keep returning to this plan frequently.
8. Financial Factors
Your business plan isn’t complete without the numbers to back it up. This section includes a full record of all your financial activities, including:
- Sales forecast
- Expense budget
- Financial history
- Cash-flow statement
The Canada Business Network has provided a list of multiple business plan templates which can be used to make business plans easily if you’re a Canadian business. Good luck and let us know if you have any questions along the way!