When thinking about writing a business plan, the first thing you need to consider is: What is the purpose of this plan? Is this a document for your own edification to help grow your business and ensure there is an end result which will be profitable, is this for an investor meeting to raise capital, is this for the purpose of obtaining a loan, or is this simply something you’re doing because you heard it’s a good thing to have? If this is for the purpose of obtaining a loan or investor funding, then there is likely a template that they expect you to use when creating your business plan because there are specific things they want to see. In this case, you simply follow the template and explain the reason your business is going to succeed.
But if the reason for your business plan is to truly understand your business and to ensure you will succeed, or if there is no template to go on, then you need to create a template of sorts for yourself. Without some kind of a foundation, it will be impossible to stay focused and create an actionable plan.
Traditionally, a business plan is made up of an Executive Summary, Business Description, Competitive Analysis, Market Strategies, and plans for corporate development, operations, and management. Finally, a good business plan has financial data either interspersed within the document or laid out at the end. So with this basic template in mind, it is time to start thinking about the design of your business plan.
For most, a traditional flip-book style business plan is the expectation. It will be anywhere from four to four hundred pages in length, will cover a myriad of topics based upon the aforementioned headers, and will dive into countless sub-descriptions within each topic. But this is not the only type of business plan. There is a growing trend, for instance, of one-page business plans. Some look like a resume, others utilize a four quadrant system on the page, and still others are a seemingly unintelligible grouping of numbers and phrases. Some people also create question-based business plans, which is simply a series of questions and answers related to how the business will operate, function, and succeed. So you need to consider what is right for your situation, which will be the most practical, and which will help you accomplish your goals.
Finally, you need to sit down and write your business plan. I generally recommend you start with your Executive Summary and Business Description. This explains everything about your business, why it was formed, and in what space it belongs. Then, you want to think about where your end results are in the business plans (these can be 1 year, three years, five years, or longer into the future) and what those projections look like. Finally, you want to work backwards from that end result to the present to ensure there is a realistic path to succeed. If not, you need to adjust your goals and start over. But by working backwards, it can often help to set loftier goals; help to find happiness in the small, incremental gains; and ensure there is a true strategy being put in place.
Once you have all of that in place, you want to ensure feasibility. This is done with the Competitive Analysis and Market Strategies. Once they are in place and feasibility is confirmed, you need to create a plan for how the company will operate, both from a corporate structure standpoint and a day-to-day operations standpoint like concrete solutions managed to do. You will also need plans for the management of the company, including a description of key stakeholders and their duties, and a plan for the development of the company to help it remain relevant and continue to grow to hit the projections and targets.
By building a business plan in this manner, you will ensure your plan is feasible, attainable, and goal oriented, which will help to ensure you follow it and reach your projections.