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So You Want To Write A Business Plan?

via STANDARD Digital: We’ve received many requests from our readers for a step-by-step guide on writing a business plan, so let’s tackle that this week. A business plan describes the future you envision for your company. It details your plans, and how you’ll execute them.

While you can get free templates online, they’re not always the best option as they may skip over some details you need to cover for your specific industry. These are the main elements a business plan addresses.

What you’ll need: 1. Executive summary This offers an overview of your company, and what its plans are. It shouldn’t be longer than a page. In it, put down a problem statement (what you’ve identified as a need), solution summary (why your business is relevant), the market you’ve identified for your solution, what the competition is, and why you’ll be able to stand out. You can put in a sentence or two on what you think the future of your business is. Use non-technical language; you want anyone reading the plan to be clear on what you’re about.

2. Company description Here, you’ll go into details about your company and get specific about your mission, your product or service, who your customers are, the leadership structure you have in place, your financial projections and what growth plans you have in place. If you’ve settled on a location, explain why it’s strategic to your business plans. Describe your competitive advantage and highlight any other strengths. You may also go into your legal structure – whether it’s a partnership, sole proprietorship or a limited company. 3. Market research In this section, you’ll need to provide an industry outlook, clearly define your customer and detail how you plan to position your business to make the most of the market opportunities available. To do the analysis well, you’ll need to have done your research on the need for the product or service you’re providing, and have an understanding of what your competitors are doing right and what you can do better – and why. Include any industry regulations you’ve complied with.

3. Market research In this section, you’ll need to provide an industry outlook, clearly define your customer and detail how you plan to position your business to make the most of the market opportunities available. To do the analysis well, you’ll need to have done your research on the need for the product or service you’re providing, and have an understanding of what your competitors are doing right and what you can do better – and why. Include any industry regulations you’ve complied with.

4. Development plan This requires that you delve into the details of how you’ll roll out your product or service, and the development projections you have for it. List any patents you’ll be pursuing, or any research and development plans you have. You may also highlight the responsibilities of the team you have on board. Outline the product/service lifecycle you anticipate, and the budget required to meet milestones. Also, detail your pricing structure.

5. Sales and marketing strategy Detail your growth plan, including whether you plan to set up a website, whom you’ll network with to drum up sales and what kind of advertising you plan on investing in as the business grows. Explain how many employees you’ll have as you roll out your business, how you’ll grow awareness of your solution and what your social media plans are.

6. Financial projections The numbers tend to bring up the tail-end of a business plan. This is where you detail the costs you’ll incur to roll out your product or service, such as the cost of materials or of being members of an industry association. Also, explain how you’ll make money and outline your profit projections.

What you don’t need:

An overly detailed plan

A business plan in general shouldn’t be too long – few people will have the time to flip through tens of pages. But you can summarise your business model into a single page by using the lean start-up model. The model gives a basic overview of what the business is about and tends to be scanty on the details. In one or two sentences, you’ll identify the company, the problem, the solution the company provides, the target market and the competition. Add on the revenue streams anticipated, the marketing plan, expenses, who the members of your team are and what they’ll do, and finally, the milestones your business expects to hit. And it’s all on one page.

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