Business Planning for Entrepreneurs

A business plan captures your intents and strategies as you develop your business. It's a "living document", meaning that it needs to be kept current as your situation evolves. The key, though, is that, while the plan itself is important, the process of developing your plan is extremely valuable, as this is where you will gather crucial information and make key decisions.

Here is an outline for a complete business plan. The basic elements (shown in blue) form a "strategic plan" that all start-ups should have to guide their daily activities. Include the additional elements (those in black) to form a complete business plan suitable for sound business management as well as working with bankers, investors and others on a more formal basis.

  1. Executive Summary: a recap of the plan that summarizes the business case in a page or less.
  2. Introduction and description
    1. Business description
    2. Market to be served
    3. Mission Statement
  3. About the Business
    1. Product Line or Services (initial and follow-on) description
    2. Goals
    3. Situational Analysis (SWOT)
      1. Strengths (to be deployed)
      2. Weaknesses (to be compensated or overcome)
      3. Opportunities (to be exploited)
      4. Threats (to be monitored and avoided)
  4. Product or Service Development Strategy
    1. Resources used
    2. Milestones: Accomplishments and Timeline
    3. Anticipated costs
  5. The Market
    1. Market information
      1. Requirements, especially unmet requirements
      2. Size
      3. Dynamics
    2. Competition
      1. Competitors
      2. Competitor Strengths and Weaknesses
  6. Marketing Strategy
  7. Sales Projections / Market Penetration
  8. Financial Projetions
    1. Assumptions
    2. Finacial summary / comments
  9. Appendix A: Financial pro forma (3 yrs)
  10. Appendix B: Key individuals with short bio