14 Reasons Why You Need a Business Plan

Female entrepreneur holding a pen and pointing to multiple sticky notes on the wall. Presenting the many ways having a business plan will benefit you as a business owner.

10 min. read

Updated October 27, 2023

There’s no question that starting and running a business is hard work. But it’s also incredibly rewarding. And, one of the most important things you can do to increase your chances of success is to have a business plan.

A business plan is a foundational document that is essential for any company, no matter the size or age. From attracting potential investors to keeping your business on track—a business plan helps you achieve important milestones and grow in the right direction.

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A business plan isn’t just a document you put together once when starting your business. It’s a living, breathing guide for existing businesses – one that business owners should revisit and update regularly.

Unfortunately, writing a business plan is often a daunting task for potential entrepreneurs. So, do you really need a business plan? Is it really worth the investment of time and resources? Can’t you just wing it and skip the whole planning process?

Good questions. Here’s every reason why you need a business plan.

  • 1. Business planning is proven to help you grow 30 percent faster

Writing a business plan isn’t about producing a document that accurately predicts the future of your company. The  process  of writing your plan is what’s important. Writing your plan and reviewing it regularly gives you a better window into what you need to do to achieve your goals and succeed. 

You don’t have to just take our word for it. Studies have  proven that companies that plan  and review their results regularly grow 30 percent faster. Beyond faster growth, research also shows that companies that plan actually perform better. They’re less likely to become one of those woeful failure statistics, or experience  cash flow crises  that threaten to close them down. 

  • 2. Planning is a necessary part of the fundraising process

One of the top reasons to have a business plan is to make it easier to raise money for your business. Without a business plan, it’s difficult to know how much money you need to raise, how you will spend the money once you raise it, and what your budget should be.

Investors want to know that you have a solid plan in place – that your business is headed in the right direction and that there is long-term potential in your venture. 

A business plan shows that your business is serious and that there are clearly defined steps on how it aims to become successful. It also demonstrates that you have the necessary competence to make that vision a reality. 

Investors, partners, and creditors will want to see detailed financial forecasts for your business that shows how you plan to grow and how you plan on spending their money. 

  • 3. Having a business plan minimizes your risk

When you’re just starting out, there’s so much you don’t know—about your customers, your competition, and even about operations. 

As a business owner, you signed up for some of that uncertainty when you started your business, but there’s a lot you can  do to reduce your risk . Creating and reviewing your business plan regularly is a great way to uncover your weak spots—the flaws, gaps, and assumptions you’ve made—and develop contingency plans. 

Your business plan will also help you define budgets and revenue goals. And, if you’re not meeting your goals, you can quickly adjust spending plans and create more realistic budgets to keep your business healthy.

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  • 4. Crafts a roadmap to achieve important milestones

A business plan is like a roadmap for your business. It helps you set, track and reach business milestones. 

For your plan to function in this way, your business plan should first outline your company’s short- and long-term goals. You can then fill in the specific steps necessary to reach those goals. This ensures that you measure your progress (or lack thereof) and make necessary adjustments along the way to stay on track while avoiding costly detours.

In fact, one of the top reasons why new businesses fail is due to bad business planning. Combine this with inflexibility and you have a recipe for disaster.

And planning is not just for startups. Established businesses benefit greatly from revisiting their business plan. It keeps them on track, even when the global market rapidly shifts as we’ve seen in recent years.

  • 5. A plan helps you figure out if your idea can become a business

To turn your idea into reality, you need to accurately assess the feasibility of your business idea.

You need to verify:

  • If there is a market for your product or service
  • Who your target audience is
  • How you will gain an edge over the current competition
  • If your business can run profitably

A business plan forces you to take a step back and look at your business objectively, which makes it far easier to make tough decisions down the road. Additionally, a business plan helps you to identify risks and opportunities early on, providing you with the necessary time to come up with strategies to address them properly.

Finally, a business plan helps you work through the nuts and bolts of how your business will work financially and if it can become sustainable over time.

6. You’ll make big spending decisions with confidence

As your business grows, you’ll have to figure out when to hire new employees, when to expand to a new location, or whether you can afford a major purchase. 

These are always major spending decisions, and if you’re regularly reviewing the forecasts you mapped out in your business plan, you’re going to have better information to use to make your decisions.

7. You’re more likely to catch critical cash flow challenges early

The other side of those major spending decisions is understanding and monitoring your business’s cash flow. Your  cash flow statement  is one of the three key financial statements you’ll put together for your business plan. (The other two are your  balance sheet  and your  income statement  (P&L). 

Reviewing your cash flow statement regularly as part of your regular business plan review will help you see potential cash flow challenges earlier so you can take action to avoid a cash crisis where you can’t pay your bills. 

  • 8. Position your brand against the competition

Competitors are one of the factors that you need to take into account when starting a business. Luckily, competitive research is an integral part of writing a business plan. It encourages you to ask questions like:

  • What is your competition doing well? What are they doing poorly?
  • What can you do to set yourself apart?
  • What can you learn from them?
  • How can you make your business stand out?
  • What key business areas can you outcompete?
  • How can you identify your target market?

Finding answers to these questions helps you solidify a strategic market position and identify ways to differentiate yourself. It also proves to potential investors that you’ve done your homework and understand how to compete. 

  • 9. Determines financial needs and revenue models

A vital part of starting a business is understanding what your expenses will be and how you will generate revenue to cover those expenses. Creating a business plan helps you do just that while also defining ongoing financial needs to keep in mind. 

Without a business model, it’s difficult to know whether your business idea will generate revenue. By detailing how you plan to make money, you can effectively assess the viability and scalability of your business. 

Understanding this early on can help you avoid unnecessary risks and start with the confidence that your business is set up to succeed.

  • 10. Helps you think through your marketing strategy

A business plan is a great way to document your marketing plan. This will ensure that all of your marketing activities are aligned with your overall goals. After all, a business can’t grow without customers and you’ll need a strategy for acquiring those customers. 

Your business plan should include information about your target market, your marketing strategy, and your marketing budget. Detail things like how you plan to attract and retain customers, acquire new leads, how the digital marketing funnel will work, etc. 

Having a documented marketing plan will help you to automate business operations, stay on track and ensure that you’re making the most of your marketing dollars.

  • 11. Clarifies your vision and ensures everyone is on the same page

In order to create a successful business, you need a clear vision and a plan for how you’re going to achieve it. This is all detailed with your mission statement, which defines the purpose of your business, and your personnel plan, which outlines the roles and responsibilities of current and future employees. Together, they establish the long-term vision you have in mind and who will need to be involved to get there. 

Additionally, your business plan is a great tool for getting your team in sync. Through consistent plan reviews, you can easily get everyone in your company on the same page and direct your workforce toward tasks that truly move the needle.

  • 12. Future-proof your business

A business plan helps you to evaluate your current situation and make realistic projections for the future.

This is an essential step in growing your business, and it’s one that’s often overlooked. When you have a business plan in place, it’s easier to identify opportunities and make informed decisions based on data.

Therefore, it requires you to outline goals, strategies, and tactics to help the organization stay focused on what’s important.

By regularly revisiting your business plan, especially when the global market changes, you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever challenges come your way, and pivot faster.

You’ll also be in a better position to seize opportunities as they arise.

  • 13. Tracks your progress and measures success

An often overlooked purpose of a business plan is as a tool to define success metrics. A key part of writing your plan involves pulling together a viable financial plan. This includes financial statements such as your profit and loss, cash flow, balance sheet, and sales forecast.

By housing these financial metrics within your business plan, you suddenly have an easy way to relate your strategy to actual performance. You can track progress, measure results, and follow up on how the company is progressing. Without a plan, it’s almost impossible to gauge whether you’re on track or not.  

Additionally, by evaluating your successes and failures, you learn what works and what doesn’t and you can make necessary changes to your plan. In short, having a business plan gives you a framework for measuring your success. It also helps with building up a “lessons learned” knowledge database to avoid costly mistakes in the future.

  • 14. Your business plan is an asset if you ever want to sell

Down the road, you might decide that you want to sell your business or position yourself for acquisition. Having a solid business plan is going to help you make the case for a higher valuation. Your business is likely to be worth more to a buyer if it’s easy for them to understand your business model, your target market, and your overall potential to grow and scale. 

identify and discuss the reasons for drawing up a business plan

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  • Writing your business plan

By taking the time to create a business plan, you ensure that your business is heading in the right direction and that you have a roadmap to get there. We hope that this post has shown you just how important and valuable a business plan can be. While it may still seem daunting, the benefits far outweigh the time investment and learning curve for writing one. 

Luckily, you can write a plan in as little as 30 minutes. And there are plenty of excellent planning tools out there if you’re looking for more step-by-step guidance. Whatever it takes, write your plan and you’ll quickly see how useful it can be.

See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.

identify and discuss the reasons for drawing up a business plan

Table of Contents

  • 6. You’ll make big spending decisions with confidence
  • 7. You’re more likely to catch critical cash flow challenges early

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The importance of a business plan

Business plans are like road maps: it’s possible to travel without one, but that will only increase the odds of getting lost along the way.

Owners with a business plan see growth 30% faster than those without one, and 71% of the fast-growing companies have business plans . Before we get into the thick of it, let’s define and go over what a business plan actually is.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a 15-20 page document that outlines how you will achieve your business objectives and includes information about your product, marketing strategies, and finances. You should create one when you’re starting a new business and keep updating it as your business grows.

Rather than putting yourself in a position where you may have to stop and ask for directions or even circle back and start over, small business owners often use business plans to help guide them. That’s because they help them see the bigger picture, plan ahead, make important decisions, and improve the overall likelihood of success. ‍

Why is a business plan important?

A well-written business plan is an important tool because it gives entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as their employees, the ability to lay out their goals and track their progress as their business begins to grow. Business planning should be the first thing done when starting a new business. Business plans are also important for attracting investors so they can determine if your business is on the right path and worth putting money into.

Business plans typically include detailed information that can help improve your business’s chances of success, like:

  • A market analysis : gathering information about factors and conditions that affect your industry
  • Competitive analysis : evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors
  • Customer segmentation : divide your customers into different groups based on specific characteristics to improve your marketing
  • Marketing: using your research to advertise your business
  • Logistics and operations plans : planning and executing the most efficient production process
  • Cash flow projection : being prepared for how much money is going into and out of your business
  • An overall path to long-term growth

10 reasons why you need a business plan

I know what you’re thinking: “Do I really need a business plan? It sounds like a lot of work, plus I heard they’re outdated and I like figuring things out as I go...”.

The answer is: yes, you really do need a business plan! As entrepreneur Kevin J. Donaldson said, “Going into business without a business plan is like going on a mountain trek without a map or GPS support—you’ll eventually get lost and starve! Though it may sound tedious and time-consuming, business plans are critical to starting your business and setting yourself up for success.

To outline the importance of business plans and make the process sound less daunting, here are 10 reasons why you need one for your small business.

1. To help you with critical decisions

The primary importance of a business plan is that they help you make better decisions. Entrepreneurship is often an endless exercise in decision making and crisis management. Sitting down and considering all the ramifications of any given decision is a luxury that small businesses can’t always afford. That’s where a business plan comes in.

Building a business plan allows you to determine the answer to some of the most critical business decisions ahead of time.

Creating a robust business plan is a forcing function—you have to sit down and think about major components of your business before you get started, like your marketing strategy and what products you’ll sell. You answer many tough questions before they arise. And thinking deeply about your core strategies can also help you understand how those decisions will impact your broader strategy.

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2. To iron out the kinks

Putting together a business plan requires entrepreneurs to ask themselves a lot of hard questions and take the time to come up with well-researched and insightful answers. Even if the document itself were to disappear as soon as it’s completed, the practice of writing it helps to articulate your vision in realistic terms and better determine if there are any gaps in your strategy.

3. To avoid the big mistakes

Only about half of small businesses are still around to celebrate their fifth birthday . While there are many reasons why small businesses fail, many of the most common are purposefully addressed in business plans.

According to data from CB Insights , some of the most common reasons businesses fail include:

  • No market need : No one wants what you’re selling.
  • Lack of capital : Cash flow issues or businesses simply run out of money.
  • Inadequate team : This underscores the importance of hiring the right people to help you run your business.
  • Stiff competition : It’s tough to generate a steady profit when you have a lot of competitors in your space.
  • Pricing : Some entrepreneurs price their products or services too high or too low—both scenarios can be a recipe for disaster.

The exercise of creating a business plan can help you avoid these major mistakes. Whether it’s cash flow forecasts or a product-market fit analysis , every piece of a business plan can help spot some of those potentially critical mistakes before they arise. For example, don’t be afraid to scrap an idea you really loved if it turns out there’s no market need. Be honest with yourself!

Get a jumpstart on your business plan by creating your own cash flow projection .

4. To prove the viability of the business

Many businesses are created out of passion, and while passion can be a great motivator, it’s not a great proof point.

Planning out exactly how you’re going to turn that vision into a successful business is perhaps the most important step between concept and reality. Business plans can help you confirm that your grand idea makes sound business sense.

A graphic showing you a “Business Plan Outline.” There are four sections on the left side: Executive Summary at the top, Company Description below it, followed by Market Analysis, and lastly Organization and Management. There was four sections on the right side. At the top: “Service or Product Line.” Below that, “Marketing and Sales.” Below that, “Funding Request.” And lastly: “Financial Projections.” At the very bottom below the left and right columns is a section that says “Appendix.

A critical component of your business plan is the market research section. Market research can offer deep insight into your customers, your competitors, and your chosen industry. Not only can it enlighten entrepreneurs who are starting up a new business, but it can also better inform existing businesses on activities like marketing, advertising, and releasing new products or services.

Want to prove there’s a market gap? Here’s how you can get started with market research.

5. To set better objectives and benchmarks

Without a business plan, objectives often become arbitrary, without much rhyme or reason behind them. Having a business plan can help make those benchmarks more intentional and consequential. They can also help keep you accountable to your long-term vision and strategy, and gain insights into how your strategy is (or isn’t) coming together over time.

6. To communicate objectives and benchmarks

Whether you’re managing a team of 100 or a team of two, you can’t always be there to make every decision yourself. Think of the business plan like a substitute teacher, ready to answer questions any time there’s an absence. Let your staff know that when in doubt, they can always consult the business plan to understand the next steps in the event that they can’t get an answer from you directly.

Sharing your business plan with team members also helps ensure that all members are aligned with what you’re doing, why, and share the same understanding of long-term objectives.

7. To provide a guide for service providers

Small businesses typically employ contractors , freelancers, and other professionals to help them with tasks like accounting , marketing, legal assistance, and as consultants. Having a business plan in place allows you to easily share relevant sections with those you rely on to support the organization, while ensuring everyone is on the same page.

8. To secure financing

Did you know you’re 2.5x more likely to get funded if you have a business plan?If you’re planning on pitching to venture capitalists, borrowing from a bank, or are considering selling your company in the future, you’re likely going to need a business plan. After all, anyone that’s interested in putting money into your company is going to want to know it’s in good hands and that it’s viable in the long run. Business plans are the most effective ways of proving that and are typically a requirement for anyone seeking outside financing.

Learn what you need to get a small business loan.

9. To better understand the broader landscape

No business is an island, and while you might have a strong handle on everything happening under your own roof, it’s equally important to understand the market terrain as well. Writing a business plan can go a long way in helping you better understand your competition and the market you’re operating in more broadly, illuminate consumer trends and preferences, potential disruptions and other insights that aren’t always plainly visible.

10. To reduce risk

Entrepreneurship is a risky business, but that risk becomes significantly more manageable once tested against a well-crafted business plan. Drawing up revenue and expense projections, devising logistics and operational plans, and understanding the market and competitive landscape can all help reduce the risk factor from an inherently precarious way to make a living. Having a business plan allows you to leave less up to chance, make better decisions, and enjoy the clearest possible view of the future of your company.

Understanding the importance of a business plan

Now that you have a solid grasp on the “why” behind business plans, you can confidently move forward with creating your own.

Remember that a business plan will grow and evolve along with your business, so it’s an important part of your whole journey—not just the beginning.

Related Posts

Now that you’ve read up on the purpose of a business plan, check out our guide to help you get started.

identify and discuss the reasons for drawing up a business plan

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identify and discuss the reasons for drawing up a business plan

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20 Reasons Why You Need a Business Plan in 2024

Written by Dave Lavinsky

20 Reasons Why you need a business plan

What is the Purpose of a Business Plan?

The purpose of a business plan is to provide a clear roadmap for the company’s future. It outlines the vision, goals, and strategies of the business, guiding entrepreneurs and stakeholders in understanding its operations and objectives. A well-crafted business plan template helps attract investors and funding by showcasing the potential for profitability and growth.

Top 20 Reasons Why you Need a Business Plan

1. to prove that you’re serious about your business.

A formal business plan is necessary to show all interested parties — employees, investors, partners and yourself — that you are committed to building the business. Creating your plan forces you to think through and select the strategies that will propel your growth.

2. To Establish Business Milestones

The business plan should clearly lay out the long-term milestones that are most important to the success of your business. To paraphrase Guy Kawasaki, a milestone is something significant enough to come home and tell your spouse about (without boring him or her to death). Would you tell your spouse that you tweaked the company brochure? Probably not. But you’d certainly share the news that you launched your new website or reached $1M in annual revenues.

3. To Better Understand Your Competition

Creating the business plan forces you to analyze the competition. All companies have competition in the form of either direct or indirect competitors, and it is critical to understand your company’s competitive advantages. And if you don’t currently have competitive advantages, to figure out what you must do to gain them.

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4. To Better Understand Your Customer

Why do they buy when they buy? Why don’t they when they don’t? An in-depth customer analysis is essential to an effective business plan and to a successful business. Understanding your customers will not only allow you to create better products and services for them, but will allow you to more cost-effectively reach them via advertising and promotions.

5. To Enunciate Previously Unstated Assumptions

The process of actually writing the business plan helps to bring previously “hidden” assumptions to the foreground. By writing them down and assessing them, you can test them and analyze their validity. For example, you might have assumed that local retailers would carry your product; in your business plan, you could assess the results of the scenario in which this didn’t occur.

6. To Assess the Feasibility of Your Venture

How good is this opportunity? The business plan process involves researching your target market, as well as the competitive landscape, and serves as a feasibility study for the success of your venture. In some cases, the result of your planning will be to table the venture. And it might be to go forward with a different venture that may have a better chance of success.

7. To Document Your Revenue Model

How exactly will your business make money? This is a critical question to answer in writing, for yourself and your investors. Documenting the revenue model helps to address challenges and assumptions associated with the model. And upon reading your plan, others may suggest additional revenue streams to consider.

8. To Determine Your Financial Needs

Does your business need to raise capital? How much? One of the purposes of a business plan is to help you to determine exactly how much capital you need and what you will use it for. This process is essential for raising capital for business and for effectively employing the capital. It will also enable you to plan ahead, particularly if you need to raise additional funding in the future.

9. To Attract Investors

A formal business plan is the basis for financing proposals. The business plan answers investors’ questions such as: Is there a need for this product/service? What are the financial projections? What is the company’s exit strategy? While investors will generally want to meet you in person before writing you a check, in nearly all cases, they will also thoroughly review your business plan.

10. To Reduce the Risk of Pursuing the Wrong Opportunity

The process of creating the business plan helps to minimize opportunity costs. Writing the business plan helps you assess the attractiveness of this particular opportunity, versus other opportunities. So you make the best decisions.

11. To Force You to Research and Really Know Your Market

What are the most important trends in your industry? What are the greatest threats to your industry? Is the market growing or shrinking? What is the size of the target market for your product/service? Creating the business plan will help you to gain a wider, deeper, and more nuanced understanding of your marketplace. And it will allow you to use this knowledge to make decisions to improve your company’s success.

12. To Attract Employees and a Management Team

To attract and retain top quality talent, a business plan is necessary. The business plan inspires employees and management that the idea is sound and that the business is poised to achieve its strategic goals. Importantly, as you grow your company, your employees and not you will do most of the work. So getting them aligned and motivated will be key to your success.

13. To Plot Your Course and Focus Your Efforts

The business plan provides a roadmap from which to operate, and to look to for direction in times of doubt. Without a business plan, you may shift your short-term strategies constantly without a view to your long-term milestones. You wouldn’t go on a long driving trip without a map; think of your business plan as your map.

14. To attract partners

Partners also want to see a business plan, in order to determine whether it is worth partnering with your business. Establishing partnerships often requires time and capital, and companies will be more likely to partner with your venture if they can read a detailed explanation of your company.

15. To Position Your Brand

Creating the business plan helps to define your company’s role in the marketplace. This definition allows you to succinctly describe the business and position the brand to customers, investors, and partners. With the industry, customer and competitive insight you gain during the business planning process, you can best determine how to position your brand.

16. To Judge the Success of Your Business

A formal business plan allows you to compare actual operational results versus the business plan itself. In this way, it allows you to clearly see whether you have achieved your strategic, financing, and operational goals (and why you have or have not).

17. To Reposition Your Business to Deal with Changing Conditions

For example, during difficult economic conditions, if your current sales and operational models aren’t working, you can rewrite your business plan to define, try, and validate new ideas and strategies.

18. To Document Your Marketing Plan

How are you going to reach your customers? How will you retain them? What is your advertising budget? What price will you charge? A well-documented marketing plan is essential to the growth of a business. And the marketing strategies and tactics you use will evolve each year, so revisiting your marketing plan at least annually is critical.

19. To Understand and Forecast Your Company’s Staffing Needs

After completing your business plan, you will not be surprised when you are suddenly short-handed. Rather, your business plan provides a roadmap for your staffing needs, and thus helps to ensure smoother expansion. Importantly your plan can not only help you understand your staffing needs, but ensure your timing is right as it takes time to recruit and train great employees.

20. To Uncover New Opportunities

Through the process of brainstorming, white-boarding and creative interviewing, you will likely see your business in a different light. As a result, you will often come up with new ideas for marketing your product/service and running your business. It’s coming up with these ideas and executing on them which is often the difference between a business that fails or just survives and one that thrives.

Business Plan FAQs

What is a business plan.

A business plan is a document that details your business concept and strategy for growth.

A business plan helps guide your company's efforts and, if applicable, gives investors and lenders the information they need to decide whether or not to fund your company. A business plan template helps you to most easily complete your plan.

Why Do You Need a Business Plan?

A business plan provides details about your company, competition, customers and industry so that you make the best possible decisions to grow your company.

What is the Importance of a Business Plan?

The 3 most important purposes of a business plan are 1) to create an effective strategy for growth, 2) to determine your future financial needs, and 3) to attract investors (including angel investors and VC funding ) and lenders.

Why is a Business Plan Important to an Entrepreneur?

Business plans help entrepreneurs take their visions and turn them into tangible action plans for success.

Need help with your business plan? 

  • Speak with a professional business plan consultant from our team.
  • Use our simple business plan template .
  • Check out our business plan examples .
  • Or, if you’re creating your own PPM, you can save time and money with Growthink’s private placement memorandum template .
  • Learn more about us via our Growthink Business Plan Review page

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The importance of business plan: 5 key reasons.

The Importance of Business Plan: 5 Key Reasons

A key part of any business is its business plan. They can help define the goals of your business and help it reach success. A good business plan can also help you develop an adequate marketing strategy. There are a number of reasons all business owners need business plans, keep reading to learn more!

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

What Is a Business Plan?

5 reasons you need a well-written business plan, how do i make a business plan, key takeaways.

A business plan contains detailed information that can help determine its success. Some of this information can include the following:

  • Market analysis
  • Cash flow projection
  • Competitive analysis
  • Financial statements and financial projections
  • An operating plan

A solid business plan is a good way to attract potential investors. It can also help you display to business partners that you have a successful business growing. In a competitive landscape, a formal business plan is your key to success.

identify and discuss the reasons for drawing up a business plan

Check out all of the biggest reasons you need a good business plan below.

1. To Secure Funding

Whether you’re seeking funding from a venture capitalist or a bank, you’ll need a business plan. Business plans are the foundation of a business. They tell the parties that you’re seeking funding from whether or not you’re worth investing in. If you need any sort of outside financing, you’ll need a good business plan to secure it.

2. Set and Communicate Goals

A business plan gives you a tangible way of reviewing your business goals. Business plans revolve around the present and the future. When you establish your goals and put them in writing, you’re more likely to reach them. A strong business plan includes these goals, and allows you to communicate them to investors and employees alike.

3. Prove Viability in the Market

While many businesses are born from passion, not many will last without an effective business plan. While a business concept may seem sound, things may change once the specifics are written down. Often, people who attempt to start a business without a plan will fail. This is because they don’t take into account all of the planning and funds needed to get a business off of the ground.

Market research is a large part of the business planning process. It lets you review your potential customers, as well as the competition, in your field. By understanding both you can set price points for products or services. Sometimes, it may not make sense to start a business based on the existing competition. Other times, market research can guide you to effective marketing strategies that others lack. To have a successful business, it has to be viable. A business plan will help you determine that.

4. They Help Owners Avoid Failure

Far too often, small businesses fail. Many times, this is due to the lack of a strong business plan. There are many reasons that small businesses fail, most of which can be avoided by developing a business plan. Some of them are listed below, which can be avoided by having a business plan:

  • The market doesn’t need the business’s product or service
  • The business didn’t take into account the amount of capital needed
  • The market is oversaturated
  • The prices set by the business are too high, pushing potential customers away

Any good business plan includes information to help business owners avoid these issues.

identify and discuss the reasons for drawing up a business plan

5. Business Plans Reduce Risk

Related to the last reason, business plans help reduce risk. A well-thought-out business plan helps reduce risky decisions. They help business owners make informed decisions based on the research they conduct. Any business owner can tell you that the most important part of their job is making critical decisions. A business plan that factors in all possible situations helps make those decisions.

Luckily, there are plenty of tools available to help you create a business plan. A simple search can lead you to helpful tools, like a business plan template . These are helpful, as they let you fill in the information as you go. Many of them provide basic instructions on how to create the business plan, as well.

If you plan on starting a business, you’ll need a business plan. They’re good for a vast number of things. Business plans help owners make informed decisions, as well as set goals and secure funding. Don’t put off putting together your business plan!

If you’re in the planning stages of your business, be sure to check out our resource hub . We have plenty of valuable resources and articles for you when you’re just getting started. Check it out today!

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6 Reasons You Really Need to Write A Business Plan

Published: October 14, 2020

Starting a busine ss can be a daunting task, especially if you’re starting from square one.

marketer writing a business plan

It’s easy to feel stuck in the whirlwind of things you’ll need to do, like registering your company, building a team, advertising, the list goes on. Not to mention, a business idea with no foundation can make the process seem incredibly intimidating.

Thankfully, business plans are an antidote for the new business woes that many entrepreneurs feel. Some may shy away from the idea, as they are lengthy documents that require a significant amount of attention and care.

However, there’s a reason why those who take the time to write out a business plan are 16% more likely to be successful than those who don’t. In other words, business plans work.

→ Download Now: Free Business Plan Template

What is a business plan, and why does it matter?

In brief, a business plan is a roadmap to success. It's a blueprint for entrepreneurs to follow that helps them outline, understand, and cohesively achieve their goals.

Writing a business plan involves defining critical aspects of your business, like brand messaging, conducting market research, and creating pricing strategies — all before starting the company.

A business plan can also increase your confidence. You’ll get a holistic view of your idea and understand whether it's worth pursuing.

So, why not take the time to create a blueprint that will make your job easier? Let’s take a look at six reasons why you should write a business plan before doing anything else.

Six Reasons You Really Need To Write a Business Plan

  • Legitimize your business idea.
  • Give your business a foundation for success.
  • Obtain funding and investments.
  • Hire the right people.
  • Communicate your needs.
  • It makes it easier to sell your business.

1. Legitimize your business idea.

Pursuing business ideas that stem from passions you’ve had for years can be exciting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a sound venture.

One of the first things a business plan requires you to do is research your target market. You’ll gain a nuanced understanding of industry trends and what your competitors have done, or not, to succeed. You may find that the idea you have when you start is not likely to be successful.

That may feel disheartening, but you can always modify your original idea to better fit market needs. The more you understand about the industry, your future competitors, and your prospective customers, the greater the likelihood of success. If you identify issues early on, you can develop strategies to deal with them rather than troubleshooting as they happen.

It’s better to know sooner rather than later if your business will be successful before investing time and money.

2. Give your business a foundation for success.

Let's say you’re looking to start a clean beauty company. There are thousands of directions you can go in, so just saying, “I’m starting a clean beauty company!” isn’t enough.

You need to know what specific products you want to make, and why you’re deciding to create them. The Pricing and Product Line style="color: #33475b;"> section of a business plan requires you to identify these elements, making it easier to plan for other components of your business strategy.

You’ll also use your initial market research to outline financial projections, goals, objectives, and operational needs. Identifying these factors ahead of time creates a strong foundation, as you’ll be making critical business decisions early on.

You can refer back to the goals you’ve set within your business plan to track your progress over time and prioritize areas that need extra attention.

All in all, every section of your business plan requires you to go in-depth into your future business strategy before even acting on any of those plans. Having a plan at the ready gives your business a solid foundation for growth.

When you start your company, and your product reaches the market, you’ll spend less time troubleshooting and more time focusing on your target audiences and generating revenue.

3. Obtain funding and investments.

Every new business needs capital to get off the ground. Although it would be nice, banks won’t finance loans just because you request one. They want to know what the money is for, where it’s going, and if you’ll eventually be able to pay it back.

If you want investors to be part of your financing plan, they’ll have questions about your business’ pricing strategies and revenue models. Investors can also back out if they feel like their money isn’t put to fair use. They’ll want something to refer back to track your progress over time and understand if you’re meeting the goals you told them you’d meet. They want to know if their investment was worthwhile.

The Financial Considerations section of a business plan will prompt you to estimate costs ahead of time and establish revenue objectives before applying for loans or speaking to investors.

You’ll secure and finalize your strategy in advance to avoid showing up unprepared for meetings with potential investors.

4. Hire the right people.

After you’ve completed your business plan and you have a clear view of your strategies, goals, and financial needs, there may be milestones you need to meet that require skills you don’t yet have. You may need to hire new people to fill in the gaps.

Having a strategic plan to share with prospective partners and employees can prove that they aren’t signing on to a sinking ship.

If your plans are summarized and feasible, they’ll understand why you want them on your team, and why they should agree to work with you.

5. Communicate your needs.

If you don’t understand how your business will run, it’ll be hard to communicate your business’s legitimacy to all involved parties.

Your plan will give you a well-rounded view of how your business will work, and make it easier for you to communicate this to others.

You may have already secured financing from banks and made deals with investors, but a business’ needs are always changing. While your business grows, you’ll likely need more financial support, more partners, or just expand your services and product offers. Using your business plan as a measure of how you’ve met your goals can make it easier to bring people onto your team at all stages of the process.

6. It makes it easier to sell your business.

A buyer won’t want to purchase a business that will run into the ground after signing the papers. They want a successful, established company.

A business plan that details milestones you can prove you’ve already met can be used to show prospective buyers how you’ve generated success within your market. You can use your accomplishments to negotiate higher price points aligned with your business’ value.

A Business Plan Is Essential

Ultimately, having a business plan can increase your confidence in your new venture. You’ll understand what your business needs to succeed, and outline the tactics you’ll use to achieve those goals.

Some people have a lifetime goal of turning their passions into successful business ventures, and a well-crafted business plan can make those dreams come true.

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What Is a Business Plan, and Why Is It Important?

What Is a Business Plan, and Why Is It Important?

If you’re planning to launch a business, the first thing you’ll need to do is develop a business plan. This can be a daunting task, especially if you’re launching your first business. 

But with a few important things in mind, writing a business plan can become much easier–in this article, we’ll discuss what a business plan is, why you need one, the components that make up a comprehensive plan, and how you can use it to grow your business. Let’s begin!

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that outlines your business goals, strategies, and activities. It’s often used to attract investors or secure loans from banks. Even if you’re not looking for outside funding, a business plan can still be a helpful tool. It can help you develop a road map for your business and keep you on track as you grow.

When it comes to developing a business plan, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The length and structure of your plan will vary depending on the type of business you’re starting, the market you’re entering, your own goals and objectives, and the business plan writer you hire. 

However, there are some key components that should be included in every business plan:

  • The executive summary : This is a brief overview of your business plan. It should include your company’s mission statement, a description of your products or services, an overview of your market analysis, and your financial goals. 

This is the most important part of your plan because it helps investors decide if they will continue reading your document, so be sure to learn how to write a good executive summary for your business plan .  

  • The company description : This section should provide more detail about your company, including its history, ownership structure, and location.
  • The product or service : In this section, you should describe the products or services your company will offer. You’ll also want to discuss your target market, how you plan to sell your product or service, and who your competition is.
  • The marketing strategy : Here, you’ll include details about how you plan to promote your business. This may include social media marketing efforts, public relations, advertising, and partnerships with other businesses.
  • The financials : This is where you’ll include information about your business’ finances, including sales forecasts, cash flow statements, and profit and loss reports.

As you can see, a business plan is more than just numbers and words on paper–it consists of everything that you stand for as an entrepreneur, including important details about your company, your goals, and the strategies you’ll use to achieve those goals. Because of this, it’s important to make sure your business plan is as thorough as possible.

Why Is a Business Plan Important?

There are many benefits of developing a business plan, including:

  • It helps you to clarify your goals and objectives.
  • It can help you identify any potential challenges or risks you’ll face as you grow your business.
  • It serves as a roadmap for your business, helping you stay on track as you develop new products, enter new markets, and hire more employees.
  • It gives potential investors or lenders an idea of what your business is all about and how you plan to achieve your goals.
  • It can help you stay organized and focused on your business, even when things get busy and hectic.
  • It can help you determine whether your new product or service is viable and how to best position it in the market.

How to Use Your Business Plan to Grow Your Business

Once you’ve written your business plan, it’s important to put it into action and use it as a tool to help you grow your business. It should be a living document that grows and changes with your business–as you gain new insights or identify new opportunities, be sure to update your plan so it always reflects your current business goals. 

Remember, your plan will serve as a map for you to navigate through the business world. If you start neglecting it because you’re making progress, your success will be short-lived and you’ll soon lose your way.

Additionally, if you’re looking for funding from investors or lenders, your business plan will be a key part of your pitch. Be sure to review your plan carefully before you meet with potential investors, as they’ll likely have questions about your business and your plans for growth, so be sure to have clear and detailed answers in mind.

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What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.

ZenBusiness

ZenBusiness

A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

identify and discuss the reasons for drawing up a business plan

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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Do you REALLY need a business plan?

The top three questions that I get asked most frequently as a professional business plan writer will probably not surprise you:

  • What is the purpose of a business plan – why is it really required?
  • How is it going to benefit my business if I write a business plan?
  • Is a business plan really that important – how can I actually use it?

Keep reading to get my take on what the most essential advantages of preparing a business plan are—and why you may (not) need to prepare one.

Business Plan Purpose and Importance

The importance, purpose and benefit of a business plan is in that it enables you to validate a business idea, secure funding, set strategic goals – and then take organized action on those goals by making decisions, managing resources, risk and change, while effectively communicating with stakeholders.

Let’s take a closer look at how each of the important business planning benefits can catapult your business forward:

1. Validate Your Business Idea

The process of writing your business plan will force you to ask the difficult questions about the major components of your business, including:

  • External: industry, target market of prospective customers, competitive landscape
  • Internal: business model, unique selling proposition, operations, marketing, finance

Business planning connects the dots to draw a big picture of the entire business.

And imagine how much time and money you would save if working through a business plan revealed that your business idea is untenable. You would be surprised how often that happens – an idea that once sounded so very promising may easily fall apart after you actually write down all the facts, details and numbers.

While you may be tempted to jump directly into start-up mode, writing a business plan is an essential first step to check the feasibility of a business before investing too much time and money into it. Business plans help to confirm that the idea you are so passionate and convinced about is solid from business point of view.

Take the time to do the necessary research and work through a proper business plan. The more you know, the higher the likelihood that your business will succeed.

2. Set and Track Goals

Successful businesses are dynamic and continuously evolve. And so are good business plans that allow you to:

  • Priorities: Regularly set goals, targets (e.g., sales revenues reached), milestones (e.g. number of employees hired), performance indicators and metrics for short, mid and long term
  • Accountability: Track your progress toward goals and benchmarks
  • Course-correction: make changes to your business as you learn more about your market and what works and what does not
  • Mission: Refer to a clear set of values to help steer your business through any times of trouble

Essentially, business plan is a blueprint and an important strategic tool that keeps you focused, motivated and accountable to keep your business on track. When used properly and consulted regularly, it can help you measure and manage what you are working so hard to create – your long-term vision.

As humans, we work better when we have clear goals we can work towards. The everyday business hustle makes it challenging to keep an eye on the strategic priorities. The business planning process serves as a useful reminder.

3. Take Action

A business plan is also a plan of action . At its core, your plan identifies where you are now, where you want your business to go, and how you will get there.

Planning out exactly how you are going to turn your vision into a successful business is perhaps the most important step between an idea and reality. Success comes not only from having a vision but working towards that vision in a systematic and organized way.

A good business plan clearly outlines specific steps necessary to turn the business objectives into reality. Think of it as a roadmap to success. The strategy and tactics need to be in alignment to make sure that your day-to-day activities lead to the achievement of your business goals.

4. Manage Resources

A business plan also provides insight on how resources required for achieving your business goals will be structured and allocated according to their strategic priority. For example:

Large Spending Decisions

  • Assets: When and in what amount will the business commit resources to buy/lease new assets, such as computers or vehicles.
  • Human Resources: Objectives for hiring new employees, including not only their pay but how they will help the business grow and flourish.
  • Business Space: Information on costs of renting/buying space for offices, retail, manufacturing or other operations, for example when expanding to a new location.

Cash Flow It is essential that a business carefully plans and manages cash flows to ensure that there are optimal levels of cash in the bank at all times and avoid situations where the business could run out of cash and could not afford to pay its bills.

Revenues v. Expenses In addition, your business plan will compare your revenue forecasts to the budgeted costs to make sure that your financials are healthy and the business is set up for success.

5. Make Decisions

Whether you are starting a small business or expanding an existing one, a business plan is an important tool to help guide your decisions:

Sound decisions Gathering information for the business plan boosts your knowledge across many important areas of the business:

  • Industry, market, customers and competitors
  • Financial projections (e.g., revenue, expenses, assets, cash flow)
  • Operations, technology and logistics
  • Human resources (management and staff)
  • Creating value for your customer through products and services

Decision-making skills The business planning process involves thorough research and critical thinking about many intertwined and complex business issues. As a result, it solidifies the decision-making skills of the business owner and builds a solid foundation for strategic planning , prioritization and sound decision making in your business. The more you understand, the better your decisions will be.

Planning Thorough planning allows you to determine the answer to some of the most critical business decisions ahead of time , prepare for anticipate problems before they arise, and ensure that any tactical solutions are in line with the overall strategy and goals.

If you do not take time to plan, you risk becoming overwhelmed by countless options and conflicting directions because you are not unclear about the mission , vision and strategy for your business.

6. Manage Risk

Some level of uncertainty is inherent in every business, but there is a lot you can do to reduce and manage the risk, starting with a business plan to uncover your weak spots.

You will need to take a realistic and pragmatic look at the hard facts and identify:

  • Major risks , challenges and obstacles that you can expect on the way – so you can prepare to deal with them.
  • Weaknesses in your business idea, business model and strategy – so you can fix them.
  • Critical mistakes before they arise – so you can avoid them.

Essentially, the business plan is your safety net . Naturally, business plan cannot entirely eliminate risk, but it can significantly reduce it and prepare you for any challenges you may encounter.

7. Communicate Internally

Attract talent For a business to succeed, attracting talented workers and partners is of vital importance.

A business plan can be used as a communication tool to attract the right talent at all levels, from skilled staff to executive management, to work for your business by explaining the direction and growth potential of the business in a presentable format.

Align performance Sharing your business plan with all team members helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the long-term vision and strategy.

You need their buy-in from the beginning, because aligning your team with your priorities will increase the efficiency of your business as everyone is working towards a common goal .

If everyone on your team understands that their piece of work matters and how it fits into the big picture, they are more invested in achieving the objectives of the business.

It also makes it easier to track and communicate on your progress.

Share and explain business objectives with your management team, employees and new hires. Make selected portions of your business plan part of your new employee training.

8. Communicate Externally

Alliances If you are interested in partnerships or joint ventures, you may share selected sections of your plan with the potential business partners in order to develop new alliances.

Suppliers A business plan can play a part in attracting reliable suppliers and getting approved for business credit from suppliers. Suppliers who feel confident that your business will succeed (e.g., sales projections) will be much more likely to extend credit.

In addition, suppliers may want to ensure their products are being represented in the right way .

Professional Services Having a business plan in place allows you to easily share relevant sections with those you rely on to support the organization, including attorneys, accountants, and other professional consultants as needed, to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Advisors Share the plan with experts and professionals who are in a position to give you valuable advice.

Landlord Some landlords and property managers require businesses to submit a business plan to be considered for a lease to prove that your business will have sufficient cash flows to pay the rent.

Customers The business plan may also function as a prospectus for potential customers, especially when it comes to large corporate accounts and exclusive customer relationships.

9. Secure Funding

If you intend to seek outside financing for your business, you are likely going to need a business plan.

Whether you are seeking debt financing (e.g. loan or credit line) from a lender (e.g., bank or financial institution) or equity capital financing from investors (e.g., venture or angel capital), a business plan can make the difference between whether or not – and how much – someone decides to invest.

Investors and financiers are always looking at the risk of default and the earning potential based on facts and figures. Understandably, anyone who is interested in supporting your business will want to check that you know what you are doing, that their money is in good hands, and that the venture is viable in the long run.

Business plans tend to be the most effective ways of proving that. A presentation may pique their interest , but they will most probably request a well-written document they can study in detail before they will be prepared to make any financial commitment.

That is why a business plan can often be the single most important document you can present to potential investors/financiers that will provide the structure and confidence that they need to make decisions about funding and supporting your company.

Be prepared to have your business plan scrutinized . Investors and financiers will conduct extensive checks and analyses to be certain that what is written in your business plan faithful representation of the truth.

10. Grow and Change

It is a very common misconception that a business plan is a static document that a new business prepares once in the start-up phase and then happily forgets about.

But businesses are not static. And neither are business plans. The business plan for any business will change over time as the company evolves and expands .

In the growth phase, an updated business plan is particularly useful for:

Raising additional capital for expansion

  • Seeking financing for new assets , such as equipment or property
  • Securing financing to support steady cash flows (e.g., seasonality, market downturns, timing of sale/purchase invoices)
  • Forecasting to allocate resources according to strategic priority and operational needs
  • Valuation (e.g., mergers & acquisitions, tax issues, transactions related to divorce, inheritance, estate planning)

Keeping the business plan updated gives established businesses better chance of getting the money they need to grow or even keep operating.

Business plan is also an excellent tool for planning an exit as it would include the strategy and timelines for a transfer to new ownership or dissolution of the company.

Also, if you ever make the decision to sell your business or position yourself for a merger or an acquisition , a strong business plan in hand is going to help you to maximize the business valuation.

Valuation is the process of establishing the worth of a business by a valuation expert who will draw on professional experience as well as a business plan that will outline what you have, what it’s worth now and how much will it likely produce in the future.

Your business is likely to be worth more to a buyer if they clearly understand your business model, your market, your assets and your overall potential to grow and scale .

Related Questions

Business plan purpose: what is the purpose of a business plan.

The purpose of a business plan is to articulate a strategy for starting a new business or growing an existing one by identifying where the business is going and how it will get there to test the viability of a business idea and maximize the chances of securing funding and achieving business goals and success.

Business Plan Benefits: What are the benefits of a business plan?

A business plan benefits businesses by serving as a strategic tool outlining the steps and resources required to achieve goals and make business ideas succeed, as well as a communication tool allowing businesses to articulate their strategy to stakeholders that support the business.

Business Plan Importance: Why is business plan important?

The importance of a business plan lies in it being a roadmap that guides the decisions of a business on the road to success, providing clarity on all aspects of its operations. This blueprint outlines the goals of the business and what exactly is needed to achieve them through effective management.

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Nine reasons why you need a business plan

Building a great business plan helps you plan, strategize and succeed. Presented by Chase for Business .

identify and discuss the reasons for drawing up a business plan

Making the decision to create a new business is an exciting yet stressful experience. Starting a business involves many tasks and obstacles, so it’s important to focus before you take action. A solid business plan can provide direction, help you attract investors and ensure you maintain momentum.

No matter what industry you plan on going into, a business plan is the first step for any successful enterprise. Building your business plan helps you figure out where you want your business to go and identify the necessary steps to get you there. This is a key document for your company to both guide your actions and track your progress.

What is the purpose of a business plan?

Think of a business plan like a roadmap. It enables you to solve problems and make key business decisions, such as marketing and competitive analysis, customer and market analysis and logistics and operations plans.

It can also help you organize your thoughts and goals, as well as give you a better idea of how your company will work. Good planning is often the difference between success and failure.

Here are nine reasons your company needs a business plan.

1. Prove your idea is viable

Through the process of writing a business plan, you can assess whether your company will be successful. Understanding market dynamics, as well as competitors, will help determine if your idea is viable.

This is also the time to develop financial projections for your business plan, like estimated startup costs, a profit and loss forecast, a break-even analysis and a cash flow statement . By taking time to investigate the viability of your idea, you can build goals and strategies to support your path to success.

A proper business plan proves to all interested parties—including potential investors, customers, employees, partners and most importantly yourself — that you are serious about your business.

2. Set important goals

As a business owner, the bulk of your time will mostly likely be spent managing day-to-day tasks. As a result, it might be hard to find time after you launch your business to set goals and milestones. Writing a business plan allows you to lay out significant goals for yourself ahead of time for three or even five years down the road. Create both short- and long-term business goals. 

3. Reduce potential risks

Prevent your business from falling victim to unexpected dangers by researching before you break ground. A business plan opens your eyes to potential risks that your business could face. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions that may need research and analysis to answer. This is also good practice in how your business would actually manage issues when they arise. Incorporate a contingency plan that identifies risks and how you would respond to them effectively.

The most common reasons businesses fail include:

  • Lack of capital
  • Lack of market impact or need
  • Unresearched pricing (too high or low)
  • Explosive growth that drains all your capital
  • Stiff competition

Lack of capital is the most prevalent reason why businesses fail. To best alleviate this problem, take time to determine how your business will generate revenue. Build a comprehensive model to help mitigate future risks and long-term pain points. This can be turned into a tool to manage growth and expansion.

4. Secure investments

Whether you’re planning to apply for an SBA loan , build a relationship with angel investors or seek venture capital funding, you need more than just an elevator pitch to get funding. All credible investors will want to review your business plan. Although investors will focus on the financial aspects of the plan, they will also want to see if you’ve spent time researching your industry, developed a viable product or service and created a strong marketing strategy.

While building your business plan, think about how much raised capital you need to get your idea off the ground. Determine exactly how much funding you’ll need and what you will use it for. This is essential for raising and employing capital.

5. Allot resources and plan purchases

You will have many investments to make at the launch of your business, such as product and services development, new technology, hiring, operations, sales and marketing. Resource planning is an important part of your business plan. It gives you an idea of how much you’ll need to spend on resources and it ensures your business will manage those resources effectively.  

A business plan provides clarity about necessary assets and investment for each item. A good business plan can also determine when it is feasible to expand to a larger store or workspace.

In your plan, include research on new products and services, where you can buy reliable equipment and what technologies you may need. Allocate capital and plan how you’ll fund major purchases, such as with a Chase small business checking account or business credit card .

6. Build your team

From seasoned executives to skilled labor, a compelling business plan can help you attract top-tier talent, ideally inspiring management and employees long after hiring. Business plans include an overview of your executive team as well as the different roles you need filled immediately and further down the line.

Small businesses often employ specialized consultants, contractors and freelancers for individual tasks such as marketing, accounting and legal assistance. Sharing a business plan helps the larger team work collectively in the same direction. 

This will also come into play when you begin working with any new partners. As a new business, a potential partner may ask to see your business plan. Building partnerships takes time and money, and with a solid business plan you have the opportunity to attract and work with the type of partners your new business needs.

7. Share your vision 

When you start a business, it's easy to assume you'll be available to guide your team. A business plan helps your team and investors understand your vision for the company. Your plan will outline your goals and can help your team make decisions or take action on your behalf. Share your business plan with employees to align your full staff toward a collective goal or objective for the company.  Consider employee and stakeholder ownership as a compelling and motivating force. 

8. Develop a marketing strategy

A marketing strategy details how you will reach your customers and build brand awareness. The clearer your brand positioning is to investors, customers, partners and employees, the more successful your business will be.

Important questions to consider as you build your marketing strategy include:

  • What industry segments are we pursuing?
  • What is the value proposition of the products or services we plan to offer?
  • Who are our customers?
  • How will we retain our customers and keep them engaged with our products or services and marketing?
  • What is our advertising budget?
  • What price will we charge?
  • What is the overall look and feel of our brand? What are our brand guidelines?
  • Will we need to hire marketing experts to help us create our brand?
  • Who are our competitors? What marketing strategies have worked (or not worked) for them?

With a thoughtful marketing strategy integrated into your business plan, your company goals are significantly more in reach.

9. Focus your energy

Your business plan determines which areas of your business to focus on while also avoiding possible distractions. It provides a roadmap for critical tradeoffs and resource allocation.

As a business owner, you will feel the urge to solve all of your internal and customers’ problems, but it is important to maintain focus. Keep your priorities at the top of your mind as you set off to build your company.

As a small business owner, writing a business plan should be one of your first priorities. Read our checklist for starting a business, and learn how to take your business from a plan to reality. When you’re ready to get started, talk with a Chase business banker to open a Chase business checking or savings account today.

For Informational/Educational Purposes Only: The views expressed in this article may differ from other employees and departments of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Views and strategies described may not be appropriate for everyone and are not intended as specific advice/recommendation for any individual. You should carefully consider your needs and objectives before making any decisions and consult the appropriate professional(s). Outlooks and past performance are not guarantees of future results.

JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. Equal Opportunity Lender, ©2023 JPMorgan Chase & Co

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Top 4 Reasons to Write a Business Plan

  • Posted in Marketing
  • Posted by Impact

Would you buy a car without ever looking at the specs, or jump headfirst into building a home without ever seeing a blueprint? Probably not! Unfortunately, many business owners approach their businesses with this mindset.

Much of the time, entrepreneurs get tied up in all of the logistical to-dos that demand immediate attention when opening a business. However, in order to prepare for potential roadblocks and to streamline your company’s vision and purpose, creating a business plan is crucial.

Check out the top 4 reasons to write a business plan and what it can do for your company:

1. Defines and Refines Your Market

One of the most common things that gets overlooked when starting up a business is defining and refining your market and audience. When writing a business plan, you have the chance to really research your market and figure out if you want to reach a particular niche. You may discover you want to target by gender, age, income, or even job status (i.e., business owners, veterans, etc.).

By narrowing down your market, you can tailor your marketing materials, website, services, and products to better meet the needs of your exact audience. You can also beta test what methods work and which ones are better left on the drawing board.

2. Irons Out Realistic Profit and Revenue Goals

Business continues whether you have time to sit down and create goals or not. However, it’s important to set financial goals to ensure that your company is accomplishing what you need and want in terms of finances. Really looking into your current costs and taking the chance to set realistic profit and revenue goals can help you decide what you want from your company and where to cut back.

3. Clarifies Company Mission and Values

When creating a business plan, it’s the perfect time to focus in on what your company’s mission and values are. Let’s take the example of TOMS shoes. When they began, they started with the broad idea of providing shoes to children in need across the world. They were able to define their mission with their One for One® plan. For every one pair of shoes they sold, they were able to provide a pair of shoes to a child in need.

As they’ve expanded their product model, they still stand by their One for One® mission, whether selling eyewear for eyesight, bags for safer births around the world, or coffee for clean water. Their company looks different than it did at the beginning, but it still stands by the same idea of improving the lives of others through their business.

By evaluating and zeroing in on your mission, vision, and values, you can create a model that can expand while still keeping with your original intent.

4. Narrows Down Elevator Pitch for Potential Partners & Lenders

You’ve probably seen Shark Tank at one point or another. There’s almost nothing more cringe-worthy than when an entrepreneur enters the “tank” and tries to sell a product or service without a well-formed plan or hard-hitting pitch. The sharks are hardly more brutal than when someone comes in unprepared to sell their company.

When you’re creating a business plan, you’re defining that hard-hitting elevator pitch. Whether you’re trying to discover new clients, expand your market with potential partners, or get backing from investors or lenders, a refined elevator pitch is crucial to prove you have what it takes to earn their trust and support.

Learn More About Writing a Business Plan

Want to write a business plan but aren’t sure how to? Look out for our upcoming blog post outlining how to write a business plan!

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Stephen Odom, CEO of The Impact Partnership

STEPHEN ODOM

Chief Executive Officer

Stephen started in the insurance marketing business in 2001 as a new business consultant. In 2002 he was promoted to Director of Sales and built a 200 million book of business from scratch. By 2005, he was one of the top wholesalers in the country, working with some of the top financial advisors and insurance agents across the USA. In 2008, Stephen was promoted to Co-President of one of the largest IMOs in the country.

In 2011, Stephen continued his entrepreneurship path and co-founded The Impact Partnership, an INC 5000 company. Stephen is responsible for the strategic vision of Impact and is laser-focused on creating a culture of growth for both internal teammates and our amazing customers.

Stephen lives in Kennesaw, GA, with his wife of more than 20 years, Kendra. They are blessed with three beautiful children Katie, Tyler, Anna Brooke, and Laya, their German Shepherd and Luna, their BernieDoodle.

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Business Planning: Ultimate Guide to Writing a Business Plan for Investors

identify and discuss the reasons for drawing up a business plan

If you are planning to start, grow or sell a business, it is almost essential you have a plan of attack.

A traditional business plan is much more than a general list of things that you need to do.

An effective plan focuses on short-term and long-term business goals, with information that outlines how you intend to reach them.

A formal business plan will be one of the most valuable tools that you will use in raising capital from investors and for building and growing your business.

Like the businesses themselves, business plans come in many types and forms.

Oftentimes even established business owners and managers underestimate the effectiveness of a qualified business plan.

Some mistakenly think business plans are only used in the venture capital world of start-up finance.

This simply is not true. Enterprise planning is often required for anything from SBA lending and debt financing to internal planning and partnership qualification.

Many find they regularly refer to a previously-written business plan to ensure they stay on track and under budget.

A business plan can also help you establish a framework for your dream business, including structure and planning goals.

In addition, business planning is often a fluid process and a living document, with changes occurring mid-stream which means those best prepared have already done their homework and are prepared to pivot.

Crafting Your Business Plan(s)

Discovering a business idea, introductory page, executive summary, industry analysis, description of the venture, production or service plan, marketing plan, organization and management, assessment of risk, financial plan, start-up plan, internal plans, operations plans, growth plans, type 1 and type 2 business plans, type 3 and type 4 business plans, type 5 business plan, type 6 business plan, benefits of an outsourced business plan, business plan executive summary, financial statements & financial plan, how long should a business plan be, expert forecasting, market estimates from past data, common sense market estimations, porter’s five forces – industry, porter’s five forces, porter’s five forces – macroenvironmental factors, macroeconomic forces, legal/political forces, social & cultural forces, technological forces, demographic forces, global forces, porter’s five forces – scorecard, capital costs, economies of scale, brand loyalty, absolute cost advantages, customer switching costs, laws & regulation, summary of barriers to entry , defining market type boundaries, a recap of market boundaries , the importance of the tim, tam, sam, tm and som, scalable, high growth company, successful, mid-sized privately held businesses, lifestyle businesses, target marketing, time expectations as an entrepreneur, business plan writing, why write a business plan, standard evaluation and review, the business plan writing process, terms & conditions, pricing & cost of your business plan, business plans for financing, pro forma financial plans, marketing business plan.

You will essentially create two plans. The first is known as the  internal or initial start-up business plan . This plan includes your company’s mission statement, product/service description, marketing strategy plan and initial start-up goals. Most importantly, the initial plan will also include a market analysis. Performing research on the market helps both internal managers understand whether the business concept or business idea is viable and worth pursuing and to attract investors.

If it is, the initial plan will morph into something suitable for angel investors, venture capitalists and private equity groups. Typically, your final secondary plan will incorporate the details in your initial start-up plan into a more finalized version ready for publication. InvestmentBank.com assists throughout this entire process.

How you go about your business plan process is dependent on the audience for which it will be created.

For example, if you will be seeking a business loan, you need to create  business plan for bank loans . Conversely, if you are seeking investment capital in equity financing, you’ll most likely need a  venture capital business plan . Regardless of the audience any typical business plan will generally include the following:

  • A company description, including a description of your business and the products and/or services offered
  • A detailed description of the target market and how they will best be served
  • Information regarding the management team and key employees within the company
  • Detailed information about cash flow and financial analysis, budget and market penetration
  • An  Executive Summary  for a snapshot 30,000 foot view of all aspects of the business and how it will be successful

Discovering a business idea is the first step towards creating a business model hypothesis. Specifically, a business idea worth investigating further is a “proto-business model” – the embryo of a viable business model. The business idea is essentially your best guess that describes your Value Proposition (the thing you want to sell) and your Customer Segment(s) (the target customers you want to sell to). This is your initial pass at creating a viable Value Proposition – Customer Segment “fit”.

finding the right biz model

At a minimum, a business idea worth investigating further should have one or more Customer Segments and a corresponding Value Proposition to match each Customer Segment. Completing the following steps will validate that your business idea is worth investigating further.

  • Identify Value Proposition – Customer Segment pairings.  This step involves pinpointing the type and number of Customer Segment(s) your business is going to serve and what your business’s Value Proposition will be for each of those Customer Segments. This will create one or more Value Proposition – Customer Segment pairings.
  • What your Customer Segment is trying to do (i.e. eat dinner, find a date, get in shape…). What are your Customer Segment’s problems (they are hungry and don’t want to cook, they can’t find a suitable boyfriend/girlfriend, they are out of shape…). What does your Customer Segment expect to gain from accomplishing whatever they want to do (eat a tasty meal, find a pleasant date, loose a few pounds and feel better)?
  • What your company can offer your Customer Segment (i.e. a good quick meal, a matchmaking service, a place to work out…). How will your offer solve your Customer Segment’s problems? What benefits will your offer create for your Customer Segment? The best business solves real-world problems.

Business Plan Outline

A business plan may contain many types of information depending on the nature, size, and financing needs of the company. One general business plan template can be developed with the help of our JDs, MBAs and expert business planning professionals. While various institutions like the Small Business Administration (SBA) help provide guidelines, it is often best to get your detailed business plan drafted by professionals who know what it takes to get funded and what investors are looking for when they sift through thousands of plans.

This is the title or cover page. This page will contain the information of the names and addresses of business enterprise and entrepreneurs, a paragraph describing the nature of business, and the vision and mission statement of the company.

An executive summary of the comprehensive business plan report should be presented within four pages, summarizing the whole report and emphasizing on business purpose, industry analysis, market opportunity, key elements of the business, revenue, and planning.

This segment of a viable business plan will show the present conditions of the industry, in which the entrepreneur desires to enter. This section should include present and future outlook and demographic developments, analysis of competitors, market segmentation, and industry financial forecasts.

In this segment of the business plan a detailed picture of the venture should be outlined with particular reference to products, services, office equipment, machinery, personnel, size of business, and background of entrepreneurs.

This portion of the business plan is indeed an operational plan. The operational activities of manufacturing, trading and service business are different. So the operational plans of different types of enterprises will be different. For example operational plan of a manufacturing business may cover unique aspects such as manufacturing process,equipment, names of the providers of the raw materials and other inputs of the production process, and so on.

It includes market condition, market strategy, and future market prospect. The pricing, promotion, distribution, product forecasts, and controls should be evaluated carefully for the business plan.

This section includes forms of the ownership, identification of partners or major shareholders, the authority of the managers, management-team background, and the duties and responsibilities of members of the organization.

It is very important for any business plan to assess all the possible risks that may affect the enterprise, prior to starting the business. Assessment of risk must include evaluation of the weaknesses of the enterprise, latest technologies, and contingency plans.

This section shows financial viability of the business plan, in which the entrepreneur must prepare forecasted income statement, cash flow estimates, forecasted balance sheet, break-even analysis, and sources and usages of funds. This section will be scrutinized to determine the profitability and sustainability of the enterprise by the investors, such as the bankers or venture capitalists.

It contains all the backup materials such as legal documents, market research data, lease contracts, and price forecasts from suppliers.

These are the general contents of a business plan that are suggested by the experts, but these contents may vary from business to business. A good business plan should be comprehensive enough to provide a complete picture and understanding of the venture regarding its present status and future growth potential to the prospective investors and other interest groups.

Business Plan Types

Traditional business plans come in many types. They include strategic plans, expansion plans, investment plans, growth plans, operational plans, internal plans, annual plans, feasibility plans, product plans, and many more.

The various types of business plans will always matche the specific business situation. For instance, it is not necessary to add all the background information that is known already, while preparing a plan to use internally and not circulating it to financial institutions or investors. Investors always look for information on the description of the management team, while bankers always look for financial background or history of the company.

The various types of business plans are due to the specific case differences:

Start-up plan is the most standard plan that explains the steps for a developing new business. Start-up plans often include standard topics such as the organization, product or service offering, market place, business forecasts, strategy, management team, implementation milestones, and financial analysis. Sales forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statements, balance sheet, and probably a few other tables are included in the financial analysis.

First year monthly projections are shown in the start-up plan, which usually begins with an abstract and ends with appendix.

Click on the following link to learn more about how we approach startup investing .

Business plans that are not usually intended for external investors, financial institutions, or any other third parties are called Internal plans. A detailed description of the organization or the management team may not be included in it. Detailed financial projections like budgets and forecasts may or may not get included in Internal plans. Instead of presenting the whole business plan in the form of paragraph text, Internal plans display the main points in the form of bullet points in slides.

Operations plan can be referred to as Internal plan, which is also known as an annual plan. More detailed information on specific dates, implementation milestones, deadlines, and teams and managers responsibilities are given in Operations plan.

Strategic planning usually does not focus on specific responsibilities and detailed dates, rather it focuses on setting high priorities and high-level options and is also referred to as an internal plan. Unlike most other internal plans, it includes data in the form of bullet points in slides. Organization or management team descriptions are not included in it. Also, some of the financial information is not explained in detail and left while preparing strategic plans.

Some business plans focuses on specific areas of the business or a subcategory of the business, and these plans are referred to as a growth plan or an expansion plan or a new product plan. Depending on whether these business plans are linked to new investments or loan applications, they could be classified as internal plans or not. For instance, like a start-up plan developed for investors, an expansion plan that requires new investment would also have detailed description of the company and its management teams background data. These details will also be required for loan applications. But, these descriptions are skipped in an internal business plan, which is used to design the steps for growth or expansion that is funded internally within the organisation. Although, detailed financial projections might not be given, forecast of the sales as well as the expenses for the new business venture is at least included in more detail.

A very simple start-up plan is the feasibility plan, which include an abstract, mission statement, market analysis, keys to long-term success, and initial cost analysis, pricing, and projected expenses. Feasibility plans helps to analyze whether it is good to continue with a plan or not, to find if the business plan is worth continuing.

Writing a business plan is a highly collaborative affair between the entrepreneur(s) and the business plan writer. The more complex the plan is, the more both the entrepreneur(s) and the business plan writer will need to communicate and collaborate in order to produce a professional, marketable business plan. The business plans we write fall into six general categories. We will discuss each in detail below.

These are business plans for new companies that are 1) trying to raise startup capital to launch the business and 2) the business will serve a clearly defined target market with a service or product that already exists. These business plans are usually the least complex to write because the business models

The hourly fee for work over the project’s estimated number of hours is $20 per hour.

Type 1 and Type 2 business plans are written in five distinct units. Each unit reflects a progressive step in putting the business plan together. Before we can begin writing each unit, we must receive feedback to specific questions that we will send you concerning the topics covered in each specific unit.  After we complete each of the first four units, we will send you a draft of that unit in a Microsoft Word document. You will then have the opportunity to review unit draft and critique or clarify it.

We will make any necessary changes needed for each unit draft. The fifth and final unit will be integrating the information in each of the previous four units into a final, complete business plan. You will then have the opportunity to review and critique that completed business plan draft. We will then correct any and all discrepancies in that final complete draft.

The entire business planning process of writing a Type 1 or Type 2 business plan depends upon our general workload and the speed with which you respond to our requests for information about your business. We estimate that either a Type 1 or Type 2 business plan will take generally 10 to 15 work days to complete (two to three weeks).

These are business plans for existing companies that are 1) trying to raise capital for a new business project or idea and 2) the business project is serving a clearly defined market with a service or product that already exists.

Type 3 and Type 4 business plans are written in six distinct units. Each unit reflects a progressive step in putting the business plan together. Before we can begin writing each unit, we must receive feedback to specific questions that we will send you concerning the topics covered in each specific unit.  After we complete each of the first five units, we will send you a draft of that unit in a Microsoft Word document. You will then have the opportunity to review the draft of each unit and critique or clarify it. We will change or modify any discrepancies you have with the drafts of each unit. The final unit will be integrating the information in each of the five units into a final, complete business plan. You will then have the opportunity to review and critique that completed business plan draft. We will then correct any and all discrepancies in that final complete draft.

The entire process of writing a Type 3 or Type 4 business plan depends upon our general workload and the speed with which you respond to our requests for information about your business. We estimate that either a Type 3 or Type 4 business plan will take generally 15 to 20 work days to complete (three to four weeks).

These are business plans for classic startup companies that are trying to create new products or services to serve new or reimagined markets. These companies are usually looking to raise equity capital from angel investors and venture capital firms. These business plans are far more difficult to write because their business models are largely unproven.

Type 5 business plans are written in five distinct units. Each unit reflects a progressive step in putting the business plan together. Before we can begin writing each unit, we must receive feedback to specific questions that we will send you concerning the topics covered in each specific unit.  After we complete each of the first four units, we will send you a draft of that unit in a Microsoft Word document. You will then have the opportunity to review unit draft and critique or clarify it. We will make any necessary changes needed for each unit draft. The fifth and final unit will be integrating the information in each of the previous four units into a final, complete business plan. You will then have the opportunity to review and critique that completed business plan draft. We will then correct any and all discrepancies in that final complete draft.

The entire process of writing a Type 5 business plan depends upon our general workload and the speed with which you respond to our requests for information about your business. Also, the novelty and newness of the industry you are entering and the market you will be serving are real wild card variables in terms of how much time the business plan will take to complete. We estimate that a Type 5 business plan will take generally 25 to 40 work days to complete (five to eight weeks).

These are business plans for existing companies that are attempting to create new products or services to serve new or reimagined markets. The markets these companies are trying to serve with their new products and services are either undefined or completely new. Usually these companies are seeking financing to raise equity capital (because these business projects are usually risky), but sometimes raising debt capital may be an options for them. These business plans are as difficult to write as Type 5 plans.

Type 6 business plans are written in six distinct units. Each unit reflects a progressive step in putting the business plan together. Before we can begin writing each unit, we must receive feedback to specific questions that we will send you concerning the topics covered in each specific unit.  After we complete each of the first five units, we will send you a draft of that unit in a Microsoft Word document. You will then have the opportunity to review the draft of each unit and critique or clarify it. We will change or modify any discrepancies you have with the drafts of each unit. The final unit will be integrating the information in each of the five units into a final, complete business plan. You will then have the opportunity to review and critique that completed business plan draft. We will then correct any and all discrepancies in that final complete draft.

The entire process of writing a Type 6 business plan depends upon our general workload and the speed with which you respond to our requests for information about your business. Also, the novelty and newness of the industry you are entering and the target market you will be serving are real wild card variables (in terms of how much time the business plan will take to complete). We estimate that a Type 6 business plan will take generally 25 to 40 work days to complete (five to eight weeks).

Running a Business Is Tough, Especially Without a Business Plan

If you are running a business, it’s very important to have a business plan made up and it’s just as important to stick to your business plan once you create it. When you have a business plan you are setting objectives for yourself and you are establishing the priorities you have for your business. It also makes it much easier to reach the goals that you set for yourself as well which is always crucial in a business.

Think of your business plan as a map for your business, without this map you and the way you run your business are traveling blindly which is very dangerous. You want to have a clear idea of where your business is headed and where you want it to go and a business plan outlines what will steer you in the right direction.

Looking for a Loan?

If you are looking to get a loan for your business, you’re going to need a definite business plan. Most banks won’t even consider giving you a loan until they see a business plan. If you don’t have a business plan they’ll think of you as a risk since you don’t truly know where you want your business to go. When you present your business plan to a bank to get the loan you desire be sure that you go over what your business is all about and why you started it. You will also want to list for them what you see in the future of your business as well.

Looking for a Business Investment?

Having a business plan doesn’t mean that you will surely get the investment you desire but not having a business plan will surely mean you will not get the investment you desire. Investors need to know what exactly they are investing in and they will look to your business plan to understand what the idea of the business is, your businesses track records, the technology behind your business and of course yourself. You will absolutely not get a business investment without having a business plan because the investors won’t have anything to help them understand what your business is all about.

Have Business Partners?

A business plan is what defines your agreements that you have made with your business partners which means you’ll have a lot of issues if you don’t have a business plan if you are in this business with more than just yourself. A business plan is the only way to keep everything between you and your partners fair and it ensures that everyone knows what the ground rules are for the business and where each and every one of you stand.

Communicating with a Management Team Won’t Work Without a Business Plan

How can you and your management team effectively run your business without being able to see where you all want it to go? The answer is, you can’t. You can’t steer your business down the right path if nobody knows exactly where it should be going and your management team will feel the exact same way. There will be a lot of different problems that will come up during the day-to-day work and it will be very challenging for you to face them and communicate all of these problems when you or your management team don’t truly know where the problem falls under in the business plan.

Do you need a business valuation?

Whether you need to place a value on your business to sell it or for taxes, a business plan is an essential part in this. It’s always important to know what your business is worth even if you don’t plan on selling it at all, you may need to know what it’s worth when it comes to planning an estate or an unexpected divorce could come up. You always should know what your business is worth an a business plan will help you understand that and keep track of it.

When it comes to developing a business plan, many people believe that it’s too difficult or it’s just too time consuming to do but what those people don’t realize is that putting together a business plan will save you in many ways and you it will help your business in more ways than you can imagine.

Developing a business plan is not that much of a challenge and it will very valuable to you in the future. Nobody should ever try to do something big without planning it first and this includes running a business. You have all these business plans in your head so just lay those plan out on paper so you have tangible evidence of your business and what you want to do with it.

A business plan a very crucial part in creating and owning a business so take the time and effort in creating one and you will benefit from it much more than you think and you’re business will run much more smoothly.

A business plan’s executive summary section provides a round-up of the main points of your business plan. Although the summary will appear at the top of the final printed piece, the majority of business plan developers do not write the executive summary until the last moment. The summary forms the gateway to the remainder of the plan. If you do not write a business plan executive summary it well, your target audience will not read beyond the executive summary.

What should be included in an executive summary?

When a regular business plan is being written, the following should usually be incorporated into the opening paragraph of the executive summary:

• The name of the business • The location of the business • The service or product being offered • The aim of the plan

A further paragraph should underline significant points, for example projected profits and sales, profitability, unit sales, and keys to success. Give the details you need everyone to notice. This is also a sensible point at which to include a highlights chart, a bar chart depicting gross margin, profits before taxes and interest, and sales for the three years to come. These numbers must be explained and cited in the text.

Different summaries are required for different plans

Internal plans, for example annual or strategic plans, or operations plans, do not need such formal executive summaries. With such a plan, make its purpose obvious, and be certain that all the highlights are mentioned, but other details – such as the description of your service or product, and location – may not need to be repeated.

Be concise with your summary

If investment is what you are seeking, mention this in your executive summary, specifying the amount of investment required and the level of equity ownership that will be provided in return. It is also a good idea to include some highlights regarding your competitive advantage and your management team.

If it is a loan that you are looking for, say so in the executive summary, specifying the sum required. Do not include details of the loan.

What is the right length for an executive summary? There are differing views from experts about the ideal length of an executive summary. Some recommend taking only one or two pages, while others suggest a more in-depth approach, with the summary lasting for anything up to ten pages and including sufficient information to be used instead of the full plan. Although it was once common to write business plans of 50 or more pages, today’s lenders and investors expect a more focused, concise plan.

A single page is the perfect length for an executive summary. Keep everything brief, emphasizing the major aspects of your plan. You are not trying to explain every last detail, simply piquing your readers’ interest about the rest of the plan and encouraging them to read further.

Be careful not to confuse a summary memo with an executive summary. The executive summary is the opening section of a business plan, while a summary memo is a distinct publication, usually running to no more than five or ten pages; this is intended as a substitute for the full plan for the benefit of those who are not yet in a position to read the full plan.

In general, a financial plan is a set of steps or goals put together for the business which is intended to help attain and accomplish a final financial goal. It shows the future and current financial state of a business by using known variables to forecast future cash flows, asset values and withdrawal plans. The plan shows financial viability of the business plan, in which the entrepreneur must prepare forecasted income statement, cash flow estimates, forecasted balance sheet, break-even analysis, and sources and usages of funds.

Why is a financial plan important? Investors and bankers must have an incentive to invest in your business. Profitability gives them an incentive to invest.  If your plan is weak and unorganized it will portray your business as unsustainable. Investors and banks will see you only as a risk and be unlikely to give the kind of capital needed for your business. For this reason you need to create a solid financial plan which will convince investors that your business is worth investing in.

Here at InvestmentBank.com we will design for you a financial plan intended to demonstrate to the bank and your investors that your business is sustainable and profitable.  We cannot guarantee you the investments you are hoping for, but we can guarantee that if you don’t have a plan, you will also not receive your hopeful investments. Let us guide you in the planning process.

One core component of market analysis is market forecasting and proforma financial statement drafting. The future trends, characteristics, and numbers in your target market are projected in market analysis. In a standard analysis process, the projected number of potential customers is divided into segments.

Generally, market size is not the only factor that is determined, but the market value is also very important. For instance, small business customers spend around 4 times as much as the home office customer, even though they are 2.5 times smaller than their high-end home segment in terms of customer size. So, in terms of dollar value, the small business market is often considered very important.

Market value is calculated through simple mathematics. The number of potential customers in the market is multiplied by the average purchase per customer. Market value is calculated by taking the average number of customers in each segment over a period of time and then multiplied that figure by the average purchase per customer. In market analysis table, the other items are only subjective qualities that help with marketing. These points are allotted to people who are assigned in preparing marketing information.

Reality Checks Reality checks are always important for market forecast. Finding a way to check reality, while performing a forecast is essential. If you are able to estimate your total market value, then you would relate that figure to the estimate sales of all their competitors to check if the 2 figures relate to each other. The import and export value and production values are checked in an international market to find whether the annual shipments estimates appear to be somewhere in the same range as the estimated figures. To check your results with the forecast, you might also check for some given years with the vendors, who sold products to this market. Macroeconomic data can also be overlooked to confirm the size of this market compared to other markets with same characteristics.

Target Focus Review

Market analysis should help in the development of strategic market focus, which means selecting the key target markets. This is considered the critical foundation of strategy. We speak on this as market positioning and segmentation.

Company will not try to address the needs of all market segments under normal circumstances. While selecting target market segments, understand the inherent market differences, competitive advantage, keys to success, and strengths and weaknesses (SWOT analysis) of your organization. Everyone wants to focus on the best market segment, but the market segment with the maximum growth or the largest market segments, might not be necessarily the best one to address. The best market segment to address would be the one that matches your own company profile.

It is not a good idea to use page count as a gauge to determine the length of a business plan. A business plan with 20 pages of text alone can be considered to be longer than a 35-page plan which is well laid out with bullet points, helpful images of products or locations and charts that highlight vital projections.

In fact, a plan should be measured by its readability as well as the summary provided. If the business plan is prepared keeping these aspects in mind, the reader will be able to get an overall idea in about 15 minutes by quickly browsing through the key points.

Illustrations, headings, format and white space contribute to improving the appeal of the business plan. The summary section is a very important aspect of any business plan. The salient points of the business plan must be clearly visible to the reader as it is done in a presentation.

It is unfortunate that many people still tend to measure the worth of a business plan by the number of pages in it. In this connection, some of the key aspects to be kept in mind are as follows:

  • Practical business plans prepared for internal use only can have five to ten pages
  • Business plans of large companies may have hundreds of pages

A standard expansion or start-up plan prepared for presentation to outsiders can have 20 to 40 pages. However, it should be easy to read with text well spaced and have bullet point formatting, illustrations in the form of business charts and financial tables in the condensed form. The details of financial aspects can be organized in appendices.

However, the  length of the business plan  is decided by its nature and the purpose for which it is prepared. Some of the questions that can be considered when drafting out a business plan in order to decide on its length are:

  • Should descriptions about the company as well as the management team be included as outsiders are likely to read the business plan?
  • Should a standalone executive summary be provided for the business plan?Is there a need to incorporate plans, blueprints, drawings and detailed research?Is it an investment proposal?
  • Should it be worded in such a way as to clear legal scrutiny?

The form of the business plan is actually decided by the requirement for which it is to be prepared.

Often, venture contests specify a limit of 30 pages or 40 pages at times, but rarely 50 pages, including the appendices that contain detailed financial statements, for a business plan. Some contestants make very bad options because of page restrictions and cram the content using thick texts and bold typefaces, making it worse and not better.

Most often,  good plans have as many as 30 to 40 pages . The plans have 20 to 30 pages of text, excluding graphics to illustrate locations, menus, designs, etc. and appendices consisting of team leaders’ resumes, monthly financial projections, etc. Some pages may have to be included for standard financials. This calls for tables for sales, income and cash flow statement, balance sheet and personnel on a monthly basis. In the body of the plan, annual numbers may also have to be included.

It is not prudent to reduce the length of the plan by cutting down on helpful graphics. Readability is more important than the length. Making use of business charts to illustrate numbers makes it easier to understand. Make use of drawings and photographs to depict locations, sample menus and products. It is important to use as much illustration as possible. Finally, extra graphics such as clip art that are not relevant to the matter at hand may better be avoided.

Business Plan Market Forecast

Proper market forecasting helps provide budgetary allocation for coming market trends, innovative shifts and internal financial allocation. It is a key component of proforma financial statements and  professional market research . Intelligent estimates are best backed by quality, time-intensive research. That’s where we come in. Rather than producing a business plan based on educated guesswork, we use a litany of some of the industry’s best market research tools available to some of the most prestigious universities. Many a business plan software tools can also aid in your research work. Typically business plan software also includes industry-specific templates, which can help with how you approach your niche or even the broader market.

Today’s technology provides access to large data-sets for current and past information. Obtaining the data is not difficult. We help to analyze, interpret and make qualitative assumptions about future trends. By using both qualitative and quantitative approaches we work to derive parallel data forecasts for future trends within your business, your industry and the market as a whole. The future may be uncertain, but with the help of expert modeling, it can be simplified, understood and, in some cases, accurately predicted.

Many business planners lack the luxury of funding a previously-published market forecast from which to glean relevant data. In many cases, free published forecasts can help to paint a meaningful picture. However, when professional forecasts are not forthcoming on market size, supply/demand metrics and potential company penetration, it is usually left up to thoughtful opinion and expert “reverse engineering” to determine any meaningful dribble from the data.

Without free forecasts, a business owners may feel forced to purchase expensive data sets, market research reports and published articles to determine helpful data about the potential of a business idea. Where we can, we utilize past relationships and access to thousands of reports through expensive subscriptions to find the data-set that best fits your business goals for the plan you may be crafting.

Apart from the more obvious sources like the Internet, library references and popular publications, we provide access to industry-specific reports and paid-for research studies not accessible to would-be entrepreneurs. We fully recognize that data forecasting is part art and part science, but we prefer to adhere to more quantitative methods so as to make your business plan as convincing and relevant as possible for its particular audience.

Extrapolation of past data with large populations and data-sets helps to provide reliable predictions about future trends and outcomes. Understanding past growth, market saturation and the competing forces that can impact a company’s success in market entrance are absolutely vital components of the marketing portion of your business plan.  Past data is never a fail safe, but it can act as a healthy gauge of future trends in a marketplace.

When no relevant data on current conditions within your market can be found, we work with the available numbers to create plausible models that form convincing arguments for your particular plan goals.

Perhaps the greatest downfall of many potentially-successful business plans is the disconnect between gathered data, assumptions, external and internal market forces and projections. Without a common sense litmus test, many plans fail to deliver relevant metrics to help make business funding possible. Performing common sense tests often requires qualitative work outside the realms of the given data. Making phone calls to Chambers of Commerce, trade organizations and market reporting agencies to obtain a wider base and deeper foundation of information is extremely helpful when crafting assumptions.

Making wild guesses about targets, markets and industries without thoughtful research can be detrimental to fulfilling the goals of your particular business plan. BusinessPlanning.org helps to remove the guesswork and provide your business with relevant data from which to tell a compelling story.

Correctly identifying the structure and competitive dynamics of the industry you are proposing to enter will create a good general point of reference for judging whether you should enter it or not. If the general industry profile does not appear attractive to you, and you are planning to offer value propositions that have close industry substitutes, then this may be an important signal that your proposed venture may need to be reconsidered. But if the industry profile looks attractive, then this could be a sign that you are on to something.

A fantastic tool to analyze an industry that serves a Defined Existing Market is Porter’s Five Forces Model. Michael Porter is a professor at Harvard Business School and published this strategy model in his seminal work,  Competitive Strategy . Porter’s model is powerful. It demonstrates how an industry’s attractiveness to either its current competitors or a new entrant is an amalgam of disparate, and sometimes contradictory, factors.

To help determine if your business idea will be worth the investment of time, money and energy, you will conduct two sequential analyses using the Five Forces Model. The first Five Forces analysis will be of the overall industry that you are contemplating to enter. The second Five Forces analysis will be of the particular market segment(s) you would be choosing to serve with your Value Proposition(s).

The figure below illustrates how Porter’s model works by focusing on the five forces that shape competition within an industry: 1) the risk of entry by potential competitors, 2) the intensity of the rivalry among established companies within an industry, 3) the bargaining power of suppliers, 4) the bargaining power of buyers, and 5) the similarity of substitutes to an industry’s value propositions.[1]

The main point of Porter’s Five Forces Model is as follows. The stronger that one of the five competitive forces becomes, the greater the overall competitive rivalry becomes within the industry. The more intense the competitive rivalry becomes, the harder it is for ventures within the industry to raise prices or maintain high prices to reap greater profits. The less in average profits that a firm in the industry is able to earn, the more intense the rivalry for customer demand is among the industry’s rival competitors.

The opposite is true also. The weaker that one of the five competitive forces becomes, the less intense the overall competitive rivalry among the industry’s firms is. If rivalry amongst the industry’s firms decreases, the easier it becomes for the industry’s competitors to raise either raise prices or reduce their cost structure (by lowering their value propositions’ quality) and ultimately earn higher profits. The higher the average level of industry profits, the less intense the rivalry for customer demand will be among the industry’s rival competitors.

The importance of each of the five forces is situationally dependent upon the unique facts and circumstances of each industry. For example, the overall threat of new market entrants might be insignificant in determining whether an entrepreneur wants to enter an industry in its growth phase, but it may be a paramount factor in a mature industry.

I developed another diagram (below) to show how the five forces within Porter’s model interact with each other. As you can see, four of the forces (risk of entry by potential competitors, bargaining power of suppliers, bargaining power of buyers, and threat of new entrants) each act upon the fifth force – the intensity of rivalry among the industry’s competitors. This means that if the bargaining power an industry’s buyers increases, the intensity of rivalry among industry competitors will increase. This causal relationship works in only one direction – a change in any of the forces ultimately either increases or decreases the intensity of rivalry among the industry’s competitors. Therefore a change in the intensity of rivalry will not cause change in one of the other four forces.

[1] Charles W. L. Hill and Gareth R. Jones,  Strategic Management Theory , Eighth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, pg. 45, 2008.

Macroenvironmental forces are changes in the broader economic, political/legal, social, technological, demographic, and global forces beyond the industry being examined. Any one of these six forces can change or effect any one of an industry’s five internal competitive forces. In conducting an industry’s initial Five Forces analysis – which is a snapshot measurement of an industry’s present competitive environment – these macroenvironmental forces are automatically accounted for. They are already included because an industry’s competitive environment is an aggregate of these turbulent and often conflicting forces. But entrepreneurs and business owners must also make educated guesses about how macroenvironmental trends and forces will shape the industry’s attractiveness into the future, both in the short run and in the long run.

Below is a diagram that visually represents how each of these seven forces can affect an industry’s Five Forces as the future unfolds.

porters forces business planning

The Six Macroenvironmental Forces

The following is a detailed analysis of the seven macroenvironmental forces touched upon above.

Macroeconomic forces affect the general economic well-being of the nation or the region in which an industry operates. [1]  The following are the major macroeconomic forces that can affect an industry’s ability to deliver an adequate economic return.

  • The rate of growth for the economy.  Economic expansions cause a general rise in aggregate consumer demand while recessions cause a general drop in aggregate consumer demand. Because aggregate demand for goods and services rises during economic expansions, an industry’s intensity of competitive rivalry, broadly speaking, will usually decline. The reason is that generally the market demand for an industry’s value propositions will cause an expansion in the industry’s revenue. Therefore its possible for the industry’s firms to generate revenue growth without fighting their competitive rivals for market share. Conversely, a decline in economic growth or a recession causes general aggregate demand to contract. This generally shrinks the amount of revenue an industry can earn and may cause price wars, consolidations and bankruptcies.
  • Interest rates. Interest rates affect the cost of borrowing for consumers, thus affecting aggregate demand. Higher interest rates generally makes the cost of borrowing more expensive and can dampen demand for real estate and purchases of major assets (cars, durable goods). Ultimately, higher interest rates can lead to higher industry rivalry if the industry is directly or tangentially affected by borrowing costs. Higher interest rates also affect business’ cost of capital. High interest rates may restrict a business’s ability to invest in new equipment or facilities. On the other hand, low cost of capital makes it substantially easier for established businesses to borrow and invest into expanding their operations.
  • Exchange rates.  Exchange rates either make imports more or less expensive for domestic consumers and exports more or less expensive for foreign consumers of domestically produced value propositions. A weak dollar makes imported value propositions more expensive and domestically produced value propositions comparatively less expensive. A strong dollar makes foreign value propositions less expensive and domestic value propositions comparatively more expensive.
  • Inflation/Deflation.  Inflation is the decrease in the purchasing power of a nation’s currency over time. Inflation can destabilize an economy, slow economic growth, higher interest rates and increased currency volatility. [2]  Increasing inflation makes business planning very difficult because the future becomes less predictable. Uncertainty makes companies unwilling to invest in growing their operations. On other side of the coin is deflation. Deflation is even more potentially damaging than inflation is. If the purchasing power of currency is increasing over time, firms and consumers will hoard their cash. This will causes a self-reinforcing cycle of low or negative economic growth. Usually the best inflation formula for stable economic growth is a low, steady inflation rate.
  • Wage Levels.  The price of labor from industry to industry can have a significant impacts on an industry’s costs of production. High or increasing industry labor costs can make substitute value propositions more attractive for the industry’s customers. Low or decreasing industry labor costs can make substitute value propositions less attractive for the industry’s customers.
  • Level of Employment:  High unemployment levels give firms greater leverage over their employees in keeping wage increases down or in actually decreasing labor costs to the firms in an industry. This can reduce the industry’s cost structure and thus raise the industry’s average profitability.

Legal and political forces are the results of changes in laws and regulations within the country your business operates in. [3]  Political and legal developments can be both opportunities and threats. The following are the major legal and political changes that can impact the fortunes of industries.

  • Current and Expected Levels of Taxation.  High tax rates can affect the decisions of entrepreneurs to engage in business activities or reduce the ability of companies to reinvest profits in expansion. But often the most important effect of taxes are not the levels of taxation, but the different effective tax rates for different activities. For example, the oil and gas industry, ecommerce businesses and the video game industry get significant tax breaks that reduces their effective tax rate. This can raise or lower the attractiveness of getting into certain industries.
  • Import/Export Quotas and Tariffs.  Tariffs and import/export quotas affect the costs of value propositions imported into a country and those exported to other countries. Raising or lowering tariffs or trade quotas can cause demand for the value propositions of the industries affected to increase or decrease. An example of a broad change in trade quotas and tariffs was the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  • Government Grants.  Government grants are programs that can provide nascent industries with seed capital and resources. Governments (state, local and national) often provide businesses with financial support if the business pursues profit opportunities that align with a government’s policy goals. An example of a significant government grant program is the U.S. government’s Small Business Innovation Research grant (SBIR).
  • War/Terrorism.  War and terrorism can increase regulations and transaction costs associated with global travel or insurance. Wars can also saddle nations with large medical costs to society. Wars and anti-terrorism efforts can also increase military related contracting opportunities.
  • Quid Pro Quo.  Many industries try (and often succeed) in influencing politicians to enact laws that are favorable to their bottom line and create barriers of entry against potential competitors. A recent example of this was the influence the health care and pharmaceutical industries exerted upon the U.S. Congress during the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009.
  • The Regulatory State.  In the U.S., most of the regulations that affect business and the general public are promulgated through various government agencies. Often, small changes in regulations can lead to desired or unintended consequences for a number of industries. Here is a small sample of legal and regulatory issues that are managed by various state and federal agencies: environmental protection, corporate governance, intellectual property rights, employment law, criminal law, tort law, food & drug regulation, public health… In the United States (and most other industrialized countries), virtually every area of commerce is affected by government regulations and laws. For any given industry, changes in these regulations and laws can be either threats or opportunities.

Social forces are changes in the social mores and values of a society and how they affect any particular industry. Social changes can create both opportunities and threats for any industry.

  • Social and cultural forces specifically refer to changes in the tastes, habits and cultural norms within a significant segment of a country’s population. One example of a social trend is the growth of the organic and local food movements in the U.S. over the last thirty years. The local and organic food movements have created an opportunity for some small farmers near large population centers, but this movement has also created a potential threat to large mono-agriculture farms.
  • Cultural attitudes can shift drastically over time, rendering once commonplace habits and activities to no longer be widely accepted or tolerated. An example is the decline of smoking in the U.S. Smoking used to be tolerated in most indoor spaces forty years ago. Now it is either banned or highly frowned upon and the public has become very aware of the health risks smoking causes. This has led to a significant decline in the percentage of adults in the U.S. who smoke. Conversely, marijuana use, which was highly frowned upon by the majority of U.S. society over forty years ago, has become more widely accepted among the public. As a result, many state laws are changing to reflect this increased tolerance of marijuana use.
  • Changes in what society considers fashionable are in a constant state of flux. Various fads and crazes rise and fall, sparking opportunities and threats for the industries that capitalize on these trends. Examples of changes in fashion, fads or crazes are: rock n roll in the 1960s, disco music in the 1970s, the Pet Rock, the Hula Hoop, Cabbage Patch Dolls…

Technological change is a primary driver of Schumpeter’s “perennial gale of creative destruction” among business ventures. Technological forces can render established, profitable value propositions obsolete virtually overnight and usher into existence exiting new business ventures. Because of the dual role technological change (both creative and destructive) plays in our society, it can be both an opportunity and a threat.

  • Technological forces can cause industries to move through their life cycles more quickly. They can also disrupt an industry in the beginning or middle of its life cycle, rendering it obsolete or changing it so radically that most of the industry’s competitors cannot keep up. Essentially, technological change makes the life cycles of industries more volatile and unpredictable.
  • Technological change can lower the barriers of entry for many industries. An example is the internet made it much easier for a potential retailer to sell products to its customers through a virtual storefront versus acquiring, stocking and running a brick and mortar facility. The lowering of barriers of entry tends to increase an industry’s intensity of rivalry, leading to both lower prices and industry profits.
  • Technological forces can also reduce transaction costs. Reducing transaction costs is often destructive to the industries that thrive on them (auction houses being replaced by eBay or newspaper classifieds being replaced by Craigslist). Within an industry, a reduction in transaction costs driven by technological change usually leads to an increase in the industry’s intensity of competitive rivalry.
  • Technological change can either reduce or increase customer switching costs. An example of how technological forces can reduce customer switching costs are instant price comparison applications on mobile devices. These give the consumers the ability to identify which retailers offer the same value propositions at the lowest prices. Technological forces can also increase customer switching costs. An example is Facebook or eBay. Both of these websites lock in users due to their network effects – alternative market choices do not present as much value because they are not as big.
  • Technological forces can unleash changes in industries far removed from the industry in which the technology originated. An example of this is the Internet. The Internet has caused massive sea changes in industries only tangentially related to it such as retail, the news industry, book publishing, and matchmaking services (online dating).

Demographic forces are changes in the characteristics of a population of people. These characteristics can be sex, age, education, race, national origin, social class… Changes in demographics can present businesses with both opportunities and threats.

  • Changes in a population’s age distribution can present both opportunities and threats. For example, in the U.S., the population of elderly people is growing more rapidly than the population as a whole. This presents an opportunity for industries who provide long term assisted living, the financial industry (reverse mortgages and retirement planning), and both the health and pharmaceutical industries. It also presents a threat to certain industries like funeral and burial providers (if the general population is living longer, it means people are dying at a slower rate).
  • The rapid increase of the Hispanic population in the U.S. has led to an increase in Spanish speaking music, television and news in the U.S. This represents a growing opportunity for food and media companies that market to Latinos.

Global forces are changes that occur within and beyond the borders of the country a business is operating within and affect how a company can operate on the international stage. Global forces can present both opportunities and threats to an industry.

  • The economic growth rates of other countries can play important roles in determining the demand for imports and exports. As barriers to trade fall, national economies become more subject to the winds of international commerce and capital flows. This international liberalization of trading agreements can allow domestic firms greater access to foreign markets. An example of the liberalization of international trade is the outsourcing trend over the last two decades from industrial economies in the west to developing economies in Asia.
  • Climate change is another example of a global force. The long term changes to the world’s climate will profoundly shape countless industries in the decades to come. Climate change can offer both opportunities and threats to different industries. For example, the wine industry in France may have to experiment with new varietals due to changes in temperature and rainfall expected by scientists in the coming decades. Climate change also presents some industries with opportunities. One example is the shipping industry. The rapidly dwindling polar ice cap in the Arctic Ocean presents the possibility that new, more efficient shipping routes might become available.

[1] Charles W. L. Hill and Gareth R. Jones,  Strategic Management Theory , Eighth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, pg. 66, 2008.

[2] Charles W. L. Hill and Gareth R. Jones,  Strategic Management Theory , Eighth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, pg. 68, 2008.

[3] Charles W. L. Hill and Gareth R. Jones,  Strategic Management Theory , Eighth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, pg. 70, 2008.

A good Five Forces analysis will cause you to sift through a lot of data, much of it conflicting and confusing. Below is a series of scorecards that try to condense the most important points from your Five Forces analysis and present them to you in an easily understandable format.

The scorecards rate the attractiveness of an industry’s five forces  from the perspective of a new venture attempting to enter the industry . Each force gets its own scorecard. Each scorecard has the main factors that help determine the strength the force exerts upon the industry. A factor’s attractiveness is rated on a five category scale that ranges from Highly Unattractive, Mildly Unattractive, Neutral, Mildly Attractive, to Highly Attractive. For each factors’ rating, the top line (yellow) indicates the level of the factor’s level of attractiveness at present. The bottom line (green) is the entrepreneur’s rating of what he or she thinks each factors’ level of attractiveness will be in the future. The level of future attractiveness for a factor is determined by analyzing how macroenvironmental forces will affect the industry in the future.

Directly below is a hypothetical example scorecard of an industry’s intensity of rivalry:

Remember, none of this is exact science. There is no mathematical formula that determines whether you should enter an industry or not. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that you, the entrepreneur, have thoroughly thought about the nature and future of the competitive environment you are proposing to jump into.

Force One: Intensity of Rivalry among Industry Competitors

Force Two: Risk of Entry by Potential Competitors

Force Three: The Bargaining Power of Buyers

Force Four: The Bargaining Power of Suppliers

Force Five: The Availability and Similarity of Substitutes to an Industry’s Value Propositions

And finally, the table below is a final snapshot evaluation of the industry’s attractiveness. To fill out this table, you should look at your ratings in the tables above as guidelines. The importance of the forces, and the factors that comprise them, will change from industry to industry. It will ultimately depend upon the unique facts and circumstances of each industry being evaluated. Therefore you will have to use your best judgment.

Overall Evaluation of Industry’s Attractiveness

Porter’s Five Forces – Risk of Entry

Profitable industries are like chum in the water for new competitors. The smell of money to be made will attract potential competitors to circle an industry, try to enter it and look for an easy meal. The only thing stopping a myriad of potential competitors from entering an industry are  barriers to entry  – a business version of a steel shark cage.

Profitable industries attract new market entrants – potential competitors. Potential competitors are companies that are not currently competing in an industry, but possess the ability to do so if they choose. Theoretically, if it cost nothing to form a company and enter an industry serving a profitable market, new firms would flood into that industry until the industry’s average profit margin shrank to zero. But we don’t live in a frictionless, theoretical world and different industries have wildly different levels of profitability. Barriers of entry are what discourages new companies from entering a profitable market and making a killing.

Barriers of entry benefit established companies within an industry by protecting them from new competition and preserving their profit margins. Low barriers of entry leave an industry wide open to new market entrants. The results to an industry with low barriers of entry are lower profits for the companies within that industry will inevitably result.

Therefore, established firms within an industry have great incentive to erect barriers of entry to keep the number of potential rivals to a minimum. Some barriers of entry are passive and a natural result of the industry’s operations. An example of this is economies of scale. But companies often take active steps to discourage new companies from entering their industries. Examples of this are when companies create brand loyalty or try to purposely raise their customers’ switching costs. The reason is simple – the more companies that enter the industry, the more difficult it is for established companies to maintain their market share and protect their profits.

The risk of entry by potential competitors is a function of the industry’s profitability and the height of its barriers to entry. The higher an industry’s average profit margin, the more enticing it is for new competitors to jump into the fray and wrestle market share from the incumbent companies. High barriers to entry can deter potential competitors from trying to enter an industry and serve its market segments. The higher the cost of entry into an industry, the weaker the competitive force (the risk of entry by potential competitors) is and generally translates into higher average industry profits. Important barriers to entry include the following:

Capital Requirements  – If it takes a great amount of money or assets to enter the industry, this can be a significant barrier of entry for firms who wish to enter it. Usually industries with high fixed costs have high capital requirements (i.e. factories, warehouses, computing assets…).

Economies of Scale  – Economies of scale is where the companies in an industry enjoy diminishing per unit costs for their value propositions as the volume produced increases.

Brand Loyalty  – Consumers often have preferences for the value propositions offered by established companies due to familiarity and reputation.

Absolute Cost Advantages  – Other entrants cannot hope to match the established firms within the industry’s cost structure. Absolute cost advantages arise from three sources: 1) possessing unique and critical resources (patents, trade secrets, or accumulated experience), 2) control of particular inputs of production (i.e. fertile farm land, a prime piece of commercial real estate…), 3) access to cheaper funds because existing companies represent lower risks than new entrants.

Customer Switching Costs –  High customer switching costs occur when customers resist spending the time, money and energy to switch from the current supplier of a value proposition to one offered by a different company, even though that alternative value proposition may be of greater value.

Government Regulation –  Government regulations, and the lack of them, can be a significant barrier of entry for potential new entrants into an industry. An example of this would be environmental regulations placed on coal mining companies and their operations.

We will now dig deeper into how to identify and analyze these potential barriers of entry, and ultimately understand how they affect the competitive rivalry within an industry.

Capital costs mean the startup costs of your business idea that must be incurred before you can commence operations. Basically, this is the total amount of money you need to spend (on equipment, employees, facilities, legal, accounting….) before you can hang your “Were Open!” sign in your shop window. For some asset intensive businesses, such as a full service health club or a golf course, initial capital costs can be extensive. For other businesses that use relatively few assets, such as an internet marketing business or a hotdog stand, initial capital costs can be relatively small.

For many aspiring entrepreneurs without a lot of financial resources, capital costs can be the most daunting barrier of entry of all. Many industries are able to maintain decent profit margins simply because the capital costs required to enter the industry are significant and insurmountable for many. Also, your time can be thought of as a capital asset too. Your investment of time in pursuing a business endeavor represents an opportunity cost on your part – you are giving up time that you could be working for someone else (and the income that entails) in exchange for pursuing your entrepreneurial ambitions. For example, it may take $100,000 and one year of full time work to create and open a business. If you had to give up a $50,000 per year job in order to pursue the endeavor, the real capital cost for you to start your business would be $150,000, not $100,000.

Another example of this would be opening a law practice. Legal services, in the United States, is a fragmented industry that has an average industry profit of 19.5%. This is a very attractive profit margin. Furthermore, the capital cost required to start a legal practice – purely from creating the actual legal services business – is relatively small. A lawyer needs a laptop, access to research materials, a place to meet clients, and some office equipment. This may cost as little as $10,000 in initial startup capital. But this does not represent the actual capital cost to start a law firm. To actually open a law firm and practice law, a lawyer would have needed to: 1) obtain a law degree (lets estimate $120,000), not work for three years while going to law school (lets estimate $150,000 for three cumulative years), get a state bar card ($3,500 for the test and the study course), and not work for three months while studying for the bar (lets estimate $12,500). Then, an only then, a lawyer could spend $10,000 on opening a legal practice. The real cost of this venture, both in absolute capital costs and opportunity costs, would be $296,000.

So the real capital cost of opening a law firm and practicing law (and being in an industry with an attractive 19.5% profit margin) may be at least nearly $300,000. This capital cost represents a serious barrier of entry to many people who would want to enter this industry, but balk at the $300,000 price tag that it requires.

Key Questions:

  • What are the average total capital costs for entering the industry you proposing to enter?
  • Is the average profit margin for the industry you are proposing to enter enough to service the capital costs required from a typical new market entrant?

Economies of scale arise when unit costs fall as a firm expands its output. In other words, the more of a value proposition a company produces, the less per unit the company pays to produce those value propositions. Sources of scale economies include 1) cost reductions gained by efficiently creating a massed produced output, 2) discounts on bulk purchases of raw materials, and 3) cost benefits gained from spreading production costs and marketing and advertising over a large production volume. Some industries benefit greatly from economies of scale (i.e. the beer industry, the auto industry…). Other industries do not enjoy economies of scale much at all (i.e. nail salons, massage therapy, dry cleaners…).

The following are examples of economies of scale: 1) when the creator of a product gets bulk discounts on the purchases of raw materials for their products, 2) spreading fixed production costs over a large production volume, 3) cost reductions through mass-producing a standardized output, 4) cost savings associated with spreading marketing and advertising costs over a large volume of output. Most manufacturing industries, such as pulp and paper products or textiles, are examples of industries with economies of scale. If economies of scale are a factor in an industry, then many small producers are at a disadvantage because their per-unit costs will be higher than that of their larger competitors.

An industry whose rivals have significant economies of scale creates powerful barriers to entry for an aspiring new entrant to overcome. First, the established firms will have a substantial cost advantage over a new rival. Second, because high economies of scale imply high fixed costs (equipment, facilities), it is critical that these companies protect their market share at all costs. If their sales volumes decrease, this can render them incapable of sustaining their high fixed costs.

Companies, who try to match the existing industry competitors’ economies of scale, must enter the industry as a large producer to overcome this problem. But to do so, it must raise enough capital (to purchase the necessary assets and facilities) to match its competitors’ economies of scale. This becomes another barrier of entry in itself. Furthermore, if a new company enters an industry with a large capital investment (to match current industry competitors’ economies of scale), the increased supply of products the new company brings to the market risks depressing prices and may trigger a price war with established industry competitors.

  • Does the industry you propose to enter have significant economies of scale (where the per-unit costs for producing a good or service decrease significantly as the volume of production increases)?
  • Does the industry you propose to enter have high fixed costs (equipment, facilities, or significant R&D requirements)?
  • Do the suppliers of the industry you propose to enter give significant volume discounts and payment terms to large-volume buyers?
  • Within the industry you are proposing to enter, do its company’s marketing and sales budgets increase, on a per unit basis, proportionally to sales of its value propositions, or do the costs of its company’s sales and marketing budgets decrease, on a per unit basis, with an increase in the sales volume of its value propositions?

Brand loyalty is when consumers develop and hold a preference for a particular company’s brand of value propositions. Significant brand loyalty makes it difficult for new market entrants to wrestle market share away from established industry brands. Examples of value propositions with strong brand loyalty are mass consumer products such as beer (Budweiser, Coors and Miller), soft drinks (Coca Cola and Pepsi), or tobacco products (Marlborough and Winston-Salem’s).

A company can also cultivate brand loyalty by developing innovative value propositions. Probably the most successful major company over the last decade that has leveraged innovative value propositions into brand loyalty has been Apple.

A venture may be able to sidestep an industry’s brand loyalty barriers of entry by entering the premium category of product markets. An example would be Dry Soda or small craft micro-brewers.

Significant brand loyalty makes it difficult for new entrants to take market share away from established industry brands. A company faces the daunting task of not only convincing consumers to buy its value propositions, but also to choose not to buy value propositions they already like and feel comfortable with.

  • Are the value propositions in the industry you propose to enter highly branded?
  • How strong is the brand loyalty in the industry you are proposing to enter?

Absolute Cost Advantages are when an established venture has an insurmountable cost advantage, meaning that new entrants cannot possibly hope to match the incumbent companies’ lower cost structure. Absolute cost advantages can arise from: 1) superior production operations and processes due to access to unique assets (i.e. patents, copyrights, or fertile farmland), 2) accumulated skill and expertise, 3) exclusive or relatively favorable control of their value propositions’ inputs (labor, materials, equipment, or management skill), and 4) access to cheaper capital due to their lower business risk when compared to a new market entrant. Also, access to superior distribution channels could be considered an absolute cost advantage. If established companies have absolute cost advantages, then the threat of entry as a competitive force will be weaker.

A new market entrant must be especially careful in attempting to directly compete with entrenched industry competitors that have absolute cost advantages. If a new entrant enters an industry where there are established competitors who have lower cost structures, the established firms can lower the price of their value propositions to eliminate the new entrant. This could erase any ability for the new market entrant to ever earn a profit. If this threat is credible, it can be a barrier of entry for new market entrants.

  • Do the major competitors in the industry you are proposing to enter possess absolute cost advantages? If so, will you be able to acquire these absolute cost advantages before you begin directly competing with them?
  • If the major competitors within the industry you are proposing to enter possess absolute cost advantages over your business idea, are there any steps or actions you can take to mitigate those absolute cost advantages?

Customer switching costs are the time, energy, and money necessary for them to switch from the value propositions offered by an established company to those of a new market entrant. If switching costs are high, customers will be unlikely to change even if the new product is superior to other market substitutes and alternatives. An example would be the switching costs associated with leaving the Microsoft Windows operating system or the QWERTY keyboard. Other value propositions in the market may be better/faster, but consumers often find themselves resistant to change because the time or hassle of switching to a better product or service proves prohibitive.

 K ey Questions:

  • In the industry you are proposing to enter, do the value propositions the industry produces have high switching costs? If they do, can you think of a way your business idea can mitigate this obstacle?
  • If the industry you are proposing to enter doesn’t typically have high switching costs, can you think of a way for your business to raise the switching costs for your proposed value propositions?

Government regulations create politically and legally defined barriers of entry for many industries. Government regulations can increase barriers of entry for market entrants and potentially reduce competition. An example would be food safety regulations or anti-pollution laws. Also, in industries where economies of scale are a powerful force, the absence of regulations can lead to an intense concentration of market share in the hands of a few firms. This can create barriers of entry that are extremely difficult for a new market entrant to overcome. To sum up, high regulation within an industry usually leads to higher barriers of entry, but not always.

  • Does the industry you propose to enter require government licenses or strict adherence to statutory codes (construction, health care, lending money, real estate rental, restaurant & food preparation…)?
  • To what degree are the industry’s regulations beneficial to the incumbent industry competitors?

Below is a chart that summarizes how the six types of barriers of entry affects industry attractiveness from both the perspective of a new market entrant and an industry incumbent.

Estimating Market Size

Estimating the size of the market you want to enter is the first critical step in testing the feasibility of your business idea. This is a lot like cliff diving. If you are going to jump off a cliff into a pool of water far below, it’s a really good idea to know beforehand just how deep the water is. If you jump without finding out (or at least making an educated guess based on objective facts), you run the very real risk of getting hurt. Bad.

The first order of business in determining the sizes of the various market types for your business idea’s value proposition(s) is to correctly define the parameters of the market types you are trying to measure.  This may sound rather simple, but it is honestly the hardest and most frustrating part of this process. Estimating a market size is the epitome of the phrase “garbage in – garbage out.” If you incorrectly define the boundaries of the type of market you are trying to size up, your entire estimate (and the basis for all of your future financial projections) won’t really be worth the paper it is printed on.

So, creating a quality market size estimate that’s based upon good, logical assumptions, is the first step in determining if your business idea can support a potentially successful business model. To make a quality market size estimate, you should roughly measure the size of each relevant market type for your business idea’s value propositions. By understanding the rough size of each of these market types, you can roughly gauge how much revenue (based upon your market share assumptions) your business idea could generate in the present and going forward into the future. Determining which market types to estimate the size of depends upon the type of market your business idea is attempting to serve. These general market types are Defined Exiting Markets, Cloned Markets, Re-segmented Markets, or a New Markets.

A market is a group of customers that have the willingness to buy a particular type of value proposition. When determining the size of the markets for your proposed business idea’s value proposition(s), you may use all or some combination of the following market type definitions.

total addressable market

  • Examples: the car market (supplied by the car industry), the personal computer market (supplied by the personal computer industry), and the athletic shoe market (supplied by the athletic shoe industry).
  • Examples: the total market for electric cars, the total market for tablet computers, the total market for running shoes.
  • Examples: the market for electric cars in the United States sold through dealerships, the market for android compatible tablet computers sold through big box stores, the market for athletic shoes sold through e-commerce websites .
  • The TM is comprised of one or more customer segments , each of which are offered a unique value proposition by your proposed business idea. For a comprehensive explanation of what comprises a customer segment, please refer to the following section.
  • The TM is a measurement dependent upon the definition and size of the SAM (because it is a portion of the SAM), but independent of the SOM. Both the TM and the SOM are portions of the SAM that measure different things.
  • Examples: Upper-middle class, educated, ecologically conscious automobile customers, early adopter electronics consumers who use their personal computers and laptops mostly for entertainment and not work, high school and college athletes who buy high performance running shoes to gain an edge on their competition.
  • Like the TM, the SOM is dependent upon the definition and size of the SAM, but is independent of the TM. Both the TM and the SOM are portions of the SAM that measure different things.
  • Examples: the portion of the market for electric cars sold in the United States through dealerships that your business idea can realistically capture, the portion of the android compatible tablet computer market in the United States sold though big box stores that your business idea can realistically capture, the portion of the market for high performance running shoes for athletes in the United States that are sold through ecommerce websites that your business idea can realistically capture.

For practical purposes, you can think of both the SOM and TM as a portions of the SAM, the SAM as a portion of the TAM, and the TAM as a portion of the TID. Both the SOM and TM are separate business concepts that measure different things. The SOM estimates your proposed value proposition’s penetration of the SAM. The TM estimates the size of the group of people for whom your proposed value proposition is specifically designed for.

I know, it’s a lot of acronyms to keep straight. But estimating the sizes of the TIM, TAM, SAM, TM and SOM are important for determining if the market size for your business idea’s value proposition(s) can support your entrepreneurial ambitions and business goals. The following are three generalizations – rule-of-thumb explanations – of what market sizes are necessary to support a particular business type, development path and outcome.

This type of company is usually entering a cloned, re-segmented, blue ocean or new market, or a defined existing market with a new product. They usually seek traditional angel investor and venture capital funding. Rapid scalability an achieving high market share is the key to this type of company. Often the founders of scalable, high growth companies have either an Initial Public Offering (IPO) or the sale of the company to a Fortune 500 corporation as their exit strategy .

These companies require a SAM large enough to support potential company EBITDA (after the company has successfully scaled its operations) of at least somewhere between $10 million to $20 million per year. Publically traded companies, on average, often trade for 10x their annual EBITDA or greater. This, depending upon the company’s industry and whether or not its founders and investors want it to have an IPO, would probably put the company’s valuation at greater than $100 million. A $100 million valuation is a safe rough estimate for whether a company will be able to both afford to go public and financially benefit from an IPO.

So, armed with these rough guidelines, to create a scalable, high growth company that proposes to enter an industry with a 10 percent average EBITDA and capture 10 percent of that industry’s market share, would need to at least generate $100 million per year in revenue ($10 million per year in EBITDA divided by the industry EBITDA average of 10 percent). To achieve this annual EBITDA target and a 10 percent SAM penetration, the overall SAM size would need to be $1 billion ($100 million per year in revenue divided by a 10 percent penetration of the market by the company).

This type of company can be entering a Defined Existing Market, Cloned Market, Re-segmented Market, or Blue Ocean Market. They do not enter New Markets with New Products due to the incredible amount of time, business risk and resources that would be required. These businesses usually seek capital from the founders, founders’ friends and family, non-bank lenders, bank and institutional lenders, and some angel investors. Rapid scalability is usually not a primary goal for these business ventures. They often prioritize strong, stable profits and cash flow for their owners above all else. Exit strategies for these companies’ founders include selling the company to a third party such as another privately held business or private equity group, passing on the business to heirs, or simply holding on to the business. These types of businesses often make excellent cash cows.

Successful, mid-sized privately held businesses are usually valued between $5 million and $50 million. These businesses, as a rough rule of thumb and depending upon the industry, are usually valued at 3x to 5x their average yearly EBITDA. So, a $30 million dollar privately held business would need an average yearly EBITDA of between $6 and $10 million per year ($6 million per year if the business valuation ratio would be 5x; $10 million if the business valuation ratio would be 3x).

Lifestyle businesses are undertaken by entrepreneurs who want to create their own jobs and/or to support the conscious lifestyle choices of the entrepreneur (hobbies, schedules, living location…). This type of company usually solely enters Defined Existing Markets. Many, if not most, of the entrepreneurs who start lifestyle businesses do not begin their business ventures with any particular exit strategy in mind. Instead, the primary financial goal of these entrepreneurs is usually to generate enough cash flow to support their lifestyle needs. These businesses usually seek capital from the founders, bootstrap financing, and the founders’ friends and family. Rapid scalability is usually not a primary goal for these business ventures.

The market size necessary to support a lifestyle business really depends upon the needs and wants of each individual entrepreneur. The variables used to determine a rough estimate of the minimum market size needed to support a lifestyle business are: 1) the entrepreneurs’ desired minimum yearly EBITDA (include the entrepreneurs’ salaries in with EBITDA), 2) the average EBITDA ratio for a firm competing within the industry you are proposing to enter, and 3) the entrepreneurs’ assumption of how much of their proposed business idea’s SAM they will be able to capture.

For example, if an entrepreneur’s goal is to earn at least $120,000 (in EBITDA and salary) from the lifestyle business per year, the average EBITDA ratio for the proposed business idea’s industry is 15 percent of annual revenue, and the entrepreneur assumes she can capture 10 percent of the SAM she proposes to enter, then the minimum necessary SAM size needed to support the business venture would be $8 million ($120,000 divided by a 15 percent EBITDA ratio divided by a 10 percent SAM penetration equals $8,000,000).

The following chart summarizes the rule-of-thumb market size needs of the business types analyzed above:

identify and discuss the reasons for drawing up a business plan

Targeting a specific audience is most effective strategy when creating a marketing campaign. The more specific of a customer base a campaign can reach, the more dollars per potential customer a campaign will make. This is why companies will allocate a large amount of resources in order to find the audience that they are looking for. By doing this, you can create a marketing budget as effectively as possible and maximize your results. Knowing or choosing exactly who you are getting your message to has proven to be the most effective method of forming a marketing campaign. Once you have identified your target audience, the hard part is figuring out how to reach it. Below, we will discuss ways to do so.

The goal of any marketing campaign is to give the most amount of information about a product or service to the prospective customer possible. The more the customer knows, the more likely they are to take action. The more that is known about that customer, the more likely it is that you can communicate that information effectively. Using information about your customer base will help you make connections that they can relate to and in turn, they will be more likely to respond to your campaigns call to action.

There are four main ways that are commonly used in identifying targeted markets.

Geographic:  This includes the location, the geographical size and makeup of the area and other environmental factors such as climate.

Demographics:  This includes age, gender, income, average family size, average education, and the types of jobs that are in the geographic area.

Psychographics:  This involves factors such as the personality that you area tends to take on, what and how people behave that live in that area and also factors that will affect the way your potential customers will use your product or service. Will they use it often not so often? Is it a necessity or luxury?

Behaviors:  This has more to do with how your potential customers will react to things such as price changes and price points, how they will react based on what information is given to them, and what types of marketing campaigns they are most likely to respond favorably to. All of these factors can be used to help determine how a population will respond to a specific marketing campaign. Likewise, you can a marketing campaign that will increase conversions based on the information gathered above.

One of the fundamentals of marketing focuses on the benefits to cost trade-off. Understanding how customers will weigh the potential benefits of a product or service versus the costs to obtain that product or service is critical when designing a marketing campaign. Ask yourself, how will your customer gain monetarily or in other ways from purchasing your product or service? Though it is not always achievable, satisfying this is the most effective ways to create sales.

To better understand how they will you this trade-off, ask yourself the following questions.

  • How much will it save them? Is this a product that can potentially pay for itself?
  • Are there any intangible benefits to this particular product or service that a customer may ignore or find appealing?
  • Will this product or service save the customer money, time, effort, or resources?
  • Will it increase the customer’s income, investments, future, or personal relationship will it reduce a customer’s expenses, taxes, liabilities, or work?
  • Will it improve that customer’s abilities, productivity, appearance, confidence or peace of mind?

Understanding the effect that your product or service will have on the customer will serve as an invaluable tool when designing an effective marketing campaign.

As mentioned in the beginning, understanding, identifying and reaching a target audience is the most effective way creating a marketing campaign that will give you the best results possible relative to the budget and time you are allotted. Ignoring these factors can costs you money and can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful marketing campaign.

It’s important to define the nature of your involvement, in both depth and scope, in the business you are founding.  An entrepreneur’s involvement in his own business can range from being a full-time manager/employee (active ownership) to that of a hands-off investor (passive ownership).

An active owner materially participates in the day-to-day activities of the business. Most business owners and entrepreneurs actively participate in their businesses in some way, shape or form. Many work full-time in their businesses as employee/managers, drawing both a paycheck and profits (if there are any).

The definition of a passive owner is a little trickier to nail down. A passive business owner does not participate in the day-to-day activities of the business he or she owns. The IRS states that passive income can only come from two possible sources: rental activities or “ trade or business activities in which you do not materially participate .” Within the context of entrepreneurial endeavors some examples of passive income are:

  • Earnings from a business from which you, an owner, are not required to be directly involved with (neither labor nor day-to-day management)
  • Rent from either tangible personal property or real estate
  • Royalties from intellectual property (patent, copyright, trademark…)

Receiving passive income is delightful. The hard part is usually accumulating enough assets in the first place to begin receiving passive income from them (rents or passive business activities). Examples, where an entrepreneur can derive passive income from her investments, are:

  • A landlord rents an apartment building to tenants and uses a real estate management company to collect rents and make repairs.
  • A passive investor invests capital into a partnership where others manage the business, and in return for his contribution of capital, the passive investor receives a portion of the business’s profits.
  • An entrepreneur builds a successful business from scratch. She then hires a manager to manage the day-to-day affairs of the business. She then receives the profits from her business even though she is no longer actively involved in it.

Most entrepreneurs who start businesses have one of two basic plans for their involvement in their enterprises.

1. The entrepreneur(s) plan to be heavily involved in the lean startup plan and operations over a period of a couple of years. Then, at some undetermined point in the future, they plan to hire a manager and then run the company as a passive investment.

2. The entrepreneur(s) are essentially creating a job for themselves. They plan on working in the enterprise as an open-ended, long-term committment.

Starting and/or running a business is a complex and daunting task. Identifying both potential roadblocks and opportunities well in advance is essential for businesses of any size to outmaneuver the competition and gain a foothold as a dominant market leader. But over one-half of all new businesses will fail within five years of their founding. The vast majority of all new businesses never achieve the financial success originally envisioned by the founders. These new businesses and start-ups begin with energetic enthusiasm, but unfortunately, many business plans fall short due to various reasons: lack of capital, a flawed business strategy, unrealistic expectations, or they lack the people with the required skills and expertise to succeed.

Business plans may be required for any number of reasons. Here are a few of the most common business plan needs.

  • To Obtain Debt Financing . A company may be required by a bank or other financial institution to provide a detailed, professional business plan in order to secure debt financing. Examples would be bank business loans or a line of credit.
  • To Obtain Equity Financing . Start-ups and other new businesses often must sell equity (stock or membership units) to investors to raise capital for new business ventures. Investors can range from friends and family to angel investors to venture capital firms.
  • For Internal Company Planning . Companies often need business plans to compare the relative viability between competing potential business projects. This can give those companies a clearer perspective on where to invest limited resources within the organization.
  • Joint Ventures and Partnerships . When entering a strategic JV or partnership with another firm, a business plan works to outline the objectives of the two firms working in tangent.
  • Mergers, Acquisitions and Corporate Divestiture . Detailed plans are needed when businesses change hands in order to help new owners see details in the industry and the enterprise itself. An expert plan can also serve as part of the marketing material to get the business sold.

The reasons for creating a business plan can be as varied as the businesses themselves. Each plan requires a unique approach to the industry you are in, the market you intend to serve, and your financial needs. That’s where we come in.

Creating a professional business plan can help mitigate these risks, raise capital from potential investors and put the company on the path to success. A good business plan helps to focus an entrepreneur’s mind on accomplishing the tasks necessary to make his or her business succeed. A business plan is not a static document. It is a logical series of informed assumptions that are relevant at the time the plan is written. As soon as market and industry conditions begin to change (which usually happens about five minutes after the plan is written), the plan begins becoming obsolete. For the entrepreneur, the value in the business plan isn’t necessarily the plan itself. Instead, its real value lies in the process – the research, thought and inquiry – in creating it.

We will work with you from start to finish to create a professional business plan that will help you accomplish your objectives. We will ask the necessary questions, help you find the answers, and organize your ideas into a coherent plan. From researching your market and industry to producing realistic, justifiable pro forma financial statements (cash flow, income statements & balance sheet), we will craft a document that can help you accomplish your business objectives.

So your business needs a plan. The question is, what kind of plan does it need? Please check out our business plan menu options and pricing here.

Business Plan Review & Evaluation

If you already have a business plan and would like to have it reviewed by a professional business plan consultant, then this is the right service for you. We will review and critique your business plan with an investor’s eye, scrutinizing it for financial errors, grammatical errors, and weak or unrealistic assumptions. We will also point out what you did right. Our business plan review service is an efficient and affordable way to ensure that your business plan is as good as it can be. Our business plan review services are provided at a substantial discount to our normal hourly rates. Depending on your needs and budget, we offer three levels of business plan review services:

– We will spend 2 and 1/2 hours reviewing your materials. We will then provide a written evaluation and critique your plan and financial model.

– We will spend 30 minutes consulting with you on the telephone, answering any questions you may have and offering additional guidance.

– Optional: if you have made any changes to your business plan, based upon the evaluations and critiques we made in our first examination of your materials, we can offer subsequent reviews of the improvements you have made to your plan. In these subsequent reviews, we will spend up to 2 hours examining your materials again.

–  Flat Rate Price:  $297 for first review; $147 for subsequent reviews

  • Once you place your order, we will provide instructions for sending us your business plan. Your plan must be sent to us in Microsoft Word format so we can use the Track Changes feature).
  • Your review will generally take place within 3-5 business days of you sending us your business plan.
  • When our review of your business plan is complete, we will send you the redlined/track changes version of your business plan with our critiques and suggestions.
  • After you receive your reviewed/critiqued version of your business plan, we will work with you to schedule a mutually convenient time for the telephone portion of the review service.
  • Optional Subsequent Reviews: After you make changes to the critiqued version of your business plan that we sent you, you may send us your new version for further critiques/comments. Please allow 3-5 business days to complete the evaluation.

– All information you provide will be treated confidentially.

– Fees are payable in advance and are non-refundable. If you decide you no longer want a business plan review after you have made payment, we will provide an equivalent amount of consulting firm services of your choosing (3 hours for the Standard Evaluation and Review).

– Once you submit your plan for review, please allow two business days to schedule an initial discussion so that we can understand your needs and tailor our review for your specific situation. This allows us to make sure you get the most out of this process.

– Depending on our existing workload, please allow up to 5 business days for us to complete the review following this initial discussion.

– All reviews are provided on a best efforts basis. You are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the information in your business plan (and related materials).

– You agree to defend, indemnify, and hold us harmless from and against all third party claims, losses, or damage which we incur and which arise from or are attributable to our role in this business plan review.

We believe that we have the most transparent and customer friendly pricing strategy on the market.

For someone writing their first business plan, even for simple small businesses, the process can take upwards of 100 hours of time. Often, it takes more than 200 hours . For complex business plans (business plans for unproven business models and undefined markets), the process can often take more than 400 hours. Because we have considerable experience and skill at writing plans, we estimate that, on average, that we can complete an average business plan (depending upon its type, audience and complexity) in the range of 30 to 120 hours.

The range between 30 and 120 hours depends upon three general factors that contribute to a business plan’s complexity. The first factor is whether the plan is for a new business or a business already in existence, The second factor is whether the business’s industry and market are well defined (for example: dry cleaners, dollar stores, organic vegetable farms, family restaurants…) or if the market or industry is new and untested. The third factor is who is the audience for the business plan: equity investors, debt lenders or the internal management of an existing business.

Note:  unless your business idea is exploiting a new market or market niche, or offering customers a product or service that is radically different from what is currently offered to the market, then only on rare occasions will your business plan require longer than 70 hours to complete.

From three factors above, we can generally estimate the average number of hours the plan will take to complete, and therefore we can charge a base flat fee for the project. We Our base flat fee rates are the product of our estimated number of hours times our business plan writing hourly rate. For our business plan writing, we charge $75 per hour.

The business plans we produce fall into the following six general categories:

But often, due to unseen factors (a change in the business plan format scope and direction), a plan may take longer than the anticipated range. Often project extensions occur when it becomes necessary to modify or change the focus of the business plan due to unforeseeable factors (i.e. new market research, assumptions are proven wrong, the founders choose to shift or expand the scope of the business…). So, if your business plan takes longer than the anticipated number of hours to produce, we will charge you at only $20 per hour beyond the original estimated time frame.

This ensures the following:

– By using our pricing formula (flat fee plus $20 per hour beyond the estimated project timeframe) versus using only a fixed billable hour rate, we mitigate any incentive to “run the meter” and unnecessarily inflate the price of your solid business plan. Our goal is to maximize our income per hour for each plan that we produce. Therefore, if we end up going beyond the project’s estimated timeframe, this means we will be working at a significant discount ($20 per hour after the end of the project’s initial timeframe estimate).

– We use our pricing formula also gives us some measure of protection against unforeseen changes to the project’s scope or direction. Creating a lean business plan is a dynamic process. Information discovered or uncovered during the plan writing process can change the focus, scope and goals of the project. Also, by charging a modest hourly rate beyond a predetermined period, helps to focus and frame exactly what you want in your business plan.

– Ultimately, our system encourages both you and us to remain disciplined, efficient and to maximize the value of each other’s time.

For example:  You task us with writing a Type 1 business plan. The project takes 50 hours to complete because the scope changed in the middle of the project. Under these circumstances, the final price for the project would be the Type 1 business plan flat fee ($2,250) plus $20 per hour for every hour spent on the project over 30 hours (20 hours x $20/hour = $400). Therefore, the final complete price for the project would be $2,650 ($2,250 + $400 = $2,650).

  • One half (50%) of the project’s flat fee price is required to be paid up front.
  • 30% of the project flat fee is due upon completion of the business plan’s Executive Summary (the last plan component to be completed).
  • Upon completion of the business plan’s final draft and its approval by the client, the remaining 20% of the project’s flat fee is due  plus  any extra hourly charges if the project goes beyond its initially estimated time.

Preparing an expert business plan can be extremely time-consuming. While the process of mastering and completing your plan may be helpful in understanding the business dynamics, corporate strategy and overall financial and marketing model, it can take you away from operational support that is vital for day-to-day operations. That is where our business planning services come into play. We help business owners in crafting expert MBA-level business plans for internal management buy-in as well as external business funding needs.

Companies often create business plans to obtain financing from venture capitalists, private equity groups and angel investors. Your particular plan will be dependent on the industry you play in, the financing you are seeking to obtain and your overall strategy for execution. Finding the key strengths, knowing potential flaws and being conversant with competitive forces in the industry are only a few of the necessary components of your completed plan. In other words, a full SWOT analysis may be necessary.

swot

Regardless of whether you write a business plan yourself or outsource it to one of the expert members of our qualified MBA team, it is helpful to have a second pair of eyes to edit and provide constructive feedback. You plan and pitch will help to make or break your financing efforts. Don’t skimp on quality. You need to show off your financial health.

Being conversant in finance is certainly not a requirement to operate or be successful in business. Having great financials, including thoughtful projected and proforma financial statements is a must for any entrepreneur seeking to secure funding or internal management buy-in. We help to craft properly-structured financial plans for your business using historical data and realistic assumptions.

Obtain financing for your business with an professionally crafted financial plan as part of your overall strategy.

Business plans are great, but execution is the name of the game. Without a proper marketing plan coupled with flawless execution, your business may eventually disappear.

We work directly with the entrepreneurs themselves to craft detailed, specific and attainable goals and strategies to take your product or service to market. For the seasoned entrepreneur, this may be “old hat,” but having an expert business plan consultant in your corner is helpful to the proper execution of your overall strategy. While there are many business plan software providers on the market, you will still need the human-touch element to really make business plan sing.

If you are seeking funding from any number of sources or simply need help crafting a plan to help you take your business to the next level, we can help. Contact us today to find out more.

Nate Nead

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12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)

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Starting and running a successful business requires proper planning and execution of effective business tactics and strategies .

You need to prepare many essential business documents when starting a business for maximum success; the business plan is one such document.

When creating a business, you want to achieve business objectives and financial goals like productivity, profitability, and business growth. You need an effective business plan to help you get to your desired business destination.

Even if you are already running a business, the proper understanding and review of the key elements of a business plan help you navigate potential crises and obstacles.

This article will teach you why the business document is at the core of any successful business and its key elements you can not avoid.

Let’s get started.

Why Are Business Plans Important?

Business plans are practical steps or guidelines that usually outline what companies need to do to reach their goals. They are essential documents for any business wanting to grow and thrive in a highly-competitive business environment .

1. Proves Your Business Viability

A business plan gives companies an idea of how viable they are and what actions they need to take to grow and reach their financial targets. With a well-written and clearly defined business plan, your business is better positioned to meet its goals.

2. Guides You Throughout the Business Cycle

A business plan is not just important at the start of a business. As a business owner, you must draw up a business plan to remain relevant throughout the business cycle .

During the starting phase of your business, a business plan helps bring your ideas into reality. A solid business plan can secure funding from lenders and investors.

After successfully setting up your business, the next phase is management. Your business plan still has a role to play in this phase, as it assists in communicating your business vision to employees and external partners.

Essentially, your business plan needs to be flexible enough to adapt to changes in the needs of your business.

3. Helps You Make Better Business Decisions

As a business owner, you are involved in an endless decision-making cycle. Your business plan helps you find answers to your most crucial business decisions.

A robust business plan helps you settle your major business components before you launch your product, such as your marketing and sales strategy and competitive advantage.

4. Eliminates Big Mistakes

Many small businesses fail within their first five years for several reasons: lack of financing, stiff competition, low market need, inadequate teams, and inefficient pricing strategy.

Creating an effective plan helps you eliminate these big mistakes that lead to businesses' decline. Every business plan element is crucial for helping you avoid potential mistakes before they happen.

5. Secures Financing and Attracts Top Talents

Having an effective plan increases your chances of securing business loans. One of the essential requirements many lenders ask for to grant your loan request is your business plan.

A business plan helps investors feel confident that your business can attract a significant return on investments ( ROI ).

You can attract and retain top-quality talents with a clear business plan. It inspires your employees and keeps them aligned to achieve your strategic business goals.

Key Elements of Business Plan

Starting and running a successful business requires well-laid actions and supporting documents that better position a company to achieve its business goals and maximize success.

A business plan is a written document with relevant information detailing business objectives and how it intends to achieve its goals.

With an effective business plan, investors, lenders, and potential partners understand your organizational structure and goals, usually around profitability, productivity, and growth.

Every successful business plan is made up of key components that help solidify the efficacy of the business plan in delivering on what it was created to do.

Here are some of the components of an effective business plan.

1. Executive Summary

One of the key elements of a business plan is the executive summary. Write the executive summary as part of the concluding topics in the business plan. Creating an executive summary with all the facts and information available is easier.

In the overall business plan document, the executive summary should be at the forefront of the business plan. It helps set the tone for readers on what to expect from the business plan.

A well-written executive summary includes all vital information about the organization's operations, making it easy for a reader to understand.

The key points that need to be acted upon are highlighted in the executive summary. They should be well spelled out to make decisions easy for the management team.

A good and compelling executive summary points out a company's mission statement and a brief description of its products and services.

Executive Summary of the Business Plan

An executive summary summarizes a business's expected value proposition to distinct customer segments. It highlights the other key elements to be discussed during the rest of the business plan.

Including your prior experiences as an entrepreneur is a good idea in drawing up an executive summary for your business. A brief but detailed explanation of why you decided to start the business in the first place is essential.

Adding your company's mission statement in your executive summary cannot be overemphasized. It creates a culture that defines how employees and all individuals associated with your company abide when carrying out its related processes and operations.

Your executive summary should be brief and detailed to catch readers' attention and encourage them to learn more about your company.

Components of an Executive Summary

Here are some of the information that makes up an executive summary:

  • The name and location of your company
  • Products and services offered by your company
  • Mission and vision statements
  • Success factors of your business plan

2. Business Description

Your business description needs to be exciting and captivating as it is the formal introduction a reader gets about your company.

What your company aims to provide, its products and services, goals and objectives, target audience , and potential customers it plans to serve need to be highlighted in your business description.

A company description helps point out notable qualities that make your company stand out from other businesses in the industry. It details its unique strengths and the competitive advantages that give it an edge to succeed over its direct and indirect competitors.

Spell out how your business aims to deliver on the particular needs and wants of identified customers in your company description, as well as the particular industry and target market of the particular focus of the company.

Include trends and significant competitors within your particular industry in your company description. Your business description should contain what sets your company apart from other businesses and provides it with the needed competitive advantage.

In essence, if there is any area in your business plan where you need to brag about your business, your company description provides that unique opportunity as readers look to get a high-level overview.

Components of a Business Description

Your business description needs to contain these categories of information.

  • Business location
  • The legal structure of your business
  • Summary of your business’s short and long-term goals

3. Market Analysis

The market analysis section should be solely based on analytical research as it details trends particular to the market you want to penetrate.

Graphs, spreadsheets, and histograms are handy data and statistical tools you need to utilize in your market analysis. They make it easy to understand the relationship between your current ideas and the future goals you have for the business.

All details about the target customers you plan to sell products or services should be in the market analysis section. It helps readers with a helpful overview of the market.

In your market analysis, you provide the needed data and statistics about industry and market share, the identified strengths in your company description, and compare them against other businesses in the same industry.

The market analysis section aims to define your target audience and estimate how your product or service would fare with these identified audiences.

Components of Market Analysis

Market analysis helps visualize a target market by researching and identifying the primary target audience of your company and detailing steps and plans based on your audience location.

Obtaining this information through market research is essential as it helps shape how your business achieves its short-term and long-term goals.

Market Analysis Factors

Here are some of the factors to be included in your market analysis.

  • The geographical location of your target market
  • Needs of your target market and how your products and services can meet those needs
  • Demographics of your target audience

Components of the Market Analysis Section

Here is some of the information to be included in your market analysis.

  • Industry description and statistics
  • Demographics and profile of target customers
  • Marketing data for your products and services
  • Detailed evaluation of your competitors

4. Marketing Plan

A marketing plan defines how your business aims to reach its target customers, generate sales leads, and, ultimately, make sales.

Promotion is at the center of any successful marketing plan. It is a series of steps to pitch a product or service to a larger audience to generate engagement. Note that the marketing strategy for a business should not be stagnant and must evolve depending on its outcome.

Include the budgetary requirement for successfully implementing your marketing plan in this section to make it easy for readers to measure your marketing plan's impact in terms of numbers.

The information to include in your marketing plan includes marketing and promotion strategies, pricing plans and strategies , and sales proposals. You need to include how you intend to get customers to return and make repeat purchases in your business plan.

Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Plan

5. Sales Strategy

Sales strategy defines how you intend to get your product or service to your target customers and works hand in hand with your business marketing strategy.

Your sales strategy approach should not be complex. Break it down into simple and understandable steps to promote your product or service to target customers.

Apart from the steps to promote your product or service, define the budget you need to implement your sales strategies and the number of sales reps needed to help the business assist in direct sales.

Your sales strategy should be specific on what you need and how you intend to deliver on your sales targets, where numbers are reflected to make it easier for readers to understand and relate better.

Sales Strategy

6. Competitive Analysis

Providing transparent and honest information, even with direct and indirect competitors, defines a good business plan. Provide the reader with a clear picture of your rank against major competitors.

Identifying your competitors' weaknesses and strengths is useful in drawing up a market analysis. It is one information investors look out for when assessing business plans.

Competitive Analysis Framework

The competitive analysis section clearly defines the notable differences between your company and your competitors as measured against their strengths and weaknesses.

This section should define the following:

  • Your competitors' identified advantages in the market
  • How do you plan to set up your company to challenge your competitors’ advantage and gain grounds from them?
  • The standout qualities that distinguish you from other companies
  • Potential bottlenecks you have identified that have plagued competitors in the same industry and how you intend to overcome these bottlenecks

In your business plan, you need to prove your industry knowledge to anyone who reads your business plan. The competitive analysis section is designed for that purpose.

7. Management and Organization

Management and organization are key components of a business plan. They define its structure and how it is positioned to run.

Whether you intend to run a sole proprietorship, general or limited partnership, or corporation, the legal structure of your business needs to be clearly defined in your business plan.

Use an organizational chart that illustrates the hierarchy of operations of your company and spells out separate departments and their roles and functions in this business plan section.

The management and organization section includes profiles of advisors, board of directors, and executive team members and their roles and responsibilities in guaranteeing the company's success.

Apparent factors that influence your company's corporate culture, such as human resources requirements and legal structure, should be well defined in the management and organization section.

Defining the business's chain of command if you are not a sole proprietor is necessary. It leaves room for little or no confusion about who is in charge or responsible during business operations.

This section provides relevant information on how the management team intends to help employees maximize their strengths and address their identified weaknesses to help all quarters improve for the business's success.

8. Products and Services

This business plan section describes what a company has to offer regarding products and services to the maximum benefit and satisfaction of its target market.

Boldly spell out pending patents or copyright products and intellectual property in this section alongside costs, expected sales revenue, research and development, and competitors' advantage as an overview.

At this stage of your business plan, the reader needs to know what your business plans to produce and sell and the benefits these products offer in meeting customers' needs.

The supply network of your business product, production costs, and how you intend to sell the products are crucial components of the products and services section.

Investors are always keen on this information to help them reach a balanced assessment of if investing in your business is risky or offer benefits to them.

You need to create a link in this section on how your products or services are designed to meet the market's needs and how you intend to keep those customers and carve out a market share for your company.

Repeat purchases are the backing that a successful business relies on and measure how much customers are into what your company is offering.

This section is more like an expansion of the executive summary section. You need to analyze each product or service under the business.

9. Operating Plan

An operations plan describes how you plan to carry out your business operations and processes.

The operating plan for your business should include:

  • Information about how your company plans to carry out its operations.
  • The base location from which your company intends to operate.
  • The number of employees to be utilized and other information about your company's operations.
  • Key business processes.

This section should highlight how your organization is set up to run. You can also introduce your company's management team in this section, alongside their skills, roles, and responsibilities in the company.

The best way to introduce the company team is by drawing up an organizational chart that effectively maps out an organization's rank and chain of command.

What should be spelled out to readers when they come across this business plan section is how the business plans to operate day-in and day-out successfully.

10. Financial Projections and Assumptions

Bringing your great business ideas into reality is why business plans are important. They help create a sustainable and viable business.

The financial section of your business plan offers significant value. A business uses a financial plan to solve all its financial concerns, which usually involves startup costs, labor expenses, financial projections, and funding and investor pitches.

All key assumptions about the business finances need to be listed alongside the business financial projection, and changes to be made on the assumptions side until it balances with the projection for the business.

The financial plan should also include how the business plans to generate income and the capital expenditure budgets that tend to eat into the budget to arrive at an accurate cash flow projection for the business.

Base your financial goals and expectations on extensive market research backed with relevant financial statements for the relevant period.

Examples of financial statements you can include in the financial projections and assumptions section of your business plan include:

  • Projected income statements
  • Cash flow statements
  • Balance sheets
  • Income statements

Revealing the financial goals and potentials of the business is what the financial projection and assumption section of your business plan is all about. It needs to be purely based on facts that can be measurable and attainable.

11. Request For Funding

The request for funding section focuses on the amount of money needed to set up your business and underlying plans for raising the money required. This section includes plans for utilizing the funds for your business's operational and manufacturing processes.

When seeking funding, a reasonable timeline is required alongside it. If the need arises for additional funding to complete other business-related projects, you are not left scampering and desperate for funds.

If you do not have the funds to start up your business, then you should devote a whole section of your business plan to explaining the amount of money you need and how you plan to utilize every penny of the funds. You need to explain it in detail for a future funding request.

When an investor picks up your business plan to analyze it, with all your plans for the funds well spelled out, they are motivated to invest as they have gotten a backing guarantee from your funding request section.

Include timelines and plans for how you intend to repay the loans received in your funding request section. This addition keeps investors assured that they could recoup their investment in the business.

12. Exhibits and Appendices

Exhibits and appendices comprise the final section of your business plan and contain all supporting documents for other sections of the business plan.

Some of the documents that comprise the exhibits and appendices section includes:

  • Legal documents
  • Licenses and permits
  • Credit histories
  • Customer lists

The choice of what additional document to include in your business plan to support your statements depends mainly on the intended audience of your business plan. Hence, it is better to play it safe and not leave anything out when drawing up the appendix and exhibit section.

Supporting documentation is particularly helpful when you need funding or support for your business. This section provides investors with a clearer understanding of the research that backs the claims made in your business plan.

There are key points to include in the appendix and exhibits section of your business plan.

  • The management team and other stakeholders resume
  • Marketing research
  • Permits and relevant legal documents
  • Financial documents

Was This Article Helpful?

Martin luenendonk.

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Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.

6 reasons why you need a business plan before starting a business

Table of Contents

1) Know the market

2) plan your growth, 3) minimise risk, 4) help guide future decisions, 5) improve as you learn more, 6) secure financing, making informed business decisions.

Sometimes success comes with luck. Otherwise, it comes with hard work and planning. If you’d like to maximise your success as you launch a business, this article is for you. 

Learn six reasons you need a business plan before starting a business in this article by Countingup. If you’re new to business, a typical business plan includes research on market trends, competition analyses, customer profiles, marketing goals, logistics and operations plans, cash flow information, and an overall strategy on how they will grow.

Find out how a plan helps your business to:

  • Know the market
  • Plan your growth
  • Minimise risk
  • Help guide future decisions
  • Improve as you learn more
  • Secure financing

This article will cover why you should plan and how you can use these elements to build your business more effectively. If you’re ready to write a business plan instead, check out our dedicated article How to write a business plan . There we cover what sort of information is expected and useful in business plans and how to research them.

At Countingup, we want to empower new entrepreneurs to take on new challenges and be financially independent. Read on to find out more.

If you’re to be successful in business, you need to know your market and the value customers are seeking within it. However, this can potentially be a lot of information to gather and manage. Therefore, you need a business plan to centralise and summarise all the important reasons why your business is valuable.  

To do this, you need to consider two main perspectives: what your customers want and what your competitors are already offering. This second question is essential as it will allow you to identify how you can be different.  If you already have something of a business idea or would like to turn a side-hustle into a full-time job, you should do research to understand if your idea will be a viable business and how. This market research in your business plan should look something like the following:

From your research, you can build a detailed picture of where your business should be positioned as you launch from the market gaps you’ve identified. 

As you anticipate what your business might look like in five years, you may have some ideas for milestones to hit. For example: first customer, thousandth customer, break-even financially, first £1,000 in profit, and so on. However, do you know how you’re going to reach each of them? 

From the market research you’ve just completed, your business plan allows you to take various steps to use this information. Therefore, you need a business plan to maximise your growth and create specific objectives and strategies to meet this growth. 

For example, if you run a craft beer business, you might aim to sell 1,000 units within your first year. Your sales objective could be achieved with a strategy to ‘Attend trade fairs and beer festivals to meet potential retailers and interested customers’. Depending on the direction you choose in providing to retailers or selling directly to customers, you can reach this objective (first 1,000 units) in very different ways.

In contrast, if you run a consultancy business in financial services or marketing, you could aim to grow your client base to 12 full-time contracts across the year. Therefore, you might plan to ‘Use social media and industry contacts to advertise to clients’ or ‘Develop your service to retain clients for longer periods and larger projects’. These goals’ methods are critically different from one another – therefore strategies for your goals will need to be relevant and focused.

Once you’ve taken steps to meet these objectives, you can use your business plan to track your progress and identify where you still need to develop your business. With these formalised goals and methods, you can grow your business faster than entrepreneurs who don’t plan. 

Another direction in which to focus market research within your business plan is towards identifying vulnerabilities. Each business has fragile areas where they are threatened. Therefore, you need a business plan to protect weak points and avoid excessive risk sources.

From the SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) included in your business plan, you can highlight areas that may need more proactive management and back-up plans in case something goes wrong. For example, this can be recognising whether your business idea is patentable, if external factors are driving up costs for consumers or if customer interest is a fading trend. Each of these threats and weaknesses presents vastly different problems to your business. Therefore, each will also need suitable methods to address them.

As you’re looking to start, having this awareness can mean you can anticipate problems ahead of time. Depending on the severity of these issues, you can take steps to cushion any damage or preserve your profits entirely. Without this insight, you leave yourself open to threats you were able to anticipate and mitigate but didn’t manage to – a critical oversight for any business owner.

On balance, having this awareness of weaknesses and threats can be more important than your opportunities, as you’ll be aware of steps to avoid and what to look out for. Therefore, outline threats to your business’ future to protect it.

Unfortunately, even the best plans have blindspots and circumstances where they’re of limited use. Therefore, you need a business plan to navigate uncertain futures.

Your market research is a snapshot of the market at one point in time. Therefore, the information, objectives and strategies you create are only useful for a certain period after this. If something changes in the market or some element of your business no longer works, you can still fall back on other parts of your business plan without having to start from scratch. 

For example, as you build your business, you can revisit future objectives and decide whether your currently available options can still meet them. If they do, and you’re able to stay on target for your goals, you can grow your business in the direction you initially planned. However, where your plan hasn’t worked out, you’ll need to decide to the best of your ability.

Navigating these future scenarios with updated information is especially important as you balance the short and long-term priorities of growing your business. For example, do you want to take more money to compensate yourself or reinvest a higher proportion of your profits in the hopes of growth later on?

Even if you’ve planned to reinvest every penny for the first 5 years, maybe something in your personal life has meant you need to support yourself.

Some critical information to look out for as your business plan evolves includes: 

  • Demand lower than predicted
  • Cash flow issues due to poor forecasting
  • Not enough differentiation from competitors
  • Prices too high or too low for the industry to be sustainable

As the months and years pass by while you trade and grow your business, you can update your plan with more insight. Therefore, you need a business plan to improve your business.

As an example, in some instances, a manufacturing process is harder than anticipated or a planned funding source isn’t available. Here, you can adapt your growth strategies based on this new information and update your plan to be more pragmatic and accurate. Similarly, if you find that certain marketing strategies don’t work, you can rule out certain business strategies in the future to expand your business with more confidence.

There would be little point in planning a course of action for your business, facing difficulties and then not updating your plan with a new direction. This would risk your business being disorganised and ineffective in its growth.

Even if your initial plans and growth strategies go the way you planned, at a certain point, your plan will expire anyway. This is because you can only plan so much on a single market snapshot. Therefore, you can use the experience you gain with time from growing your business to fine-tune your plans. This will make sure your business is always performing at its best within an evolving marketplace.

Finally, investors and lenders want to see entrepreneurs with a good understanding of what they offer to customers and a clear vision of how to grow their business. Therefore, you need a business plan to help convince other people that your business has value and potential.

When seeking funding, having a business plan to share with potential investors and lenders is sometimes a requirement as they’ll want to evaluate your claims more critically. While they may not be familiar with every business plan they come across, they may know more about typical business growth patterns and will be able to spot poor research or naive expectations. 

Therefore, having a detailed and realistic business outline can help your plan withstand their criticism and robustly show your growth potential. Similarly, if you’re considering an exit strategy to sell your business in the future, a business plan may be needed to secure a higher valuation. 

If you’d like to know more about communicating your business’s value and plan to secure funding, read our dedicated article How to present a business plan to potential investors . 

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Businessing Magazine

Small Business Advice Book

Strategizing     Logan    March 5, 2019     6 min read

10 Important Aspects of a Successful Business Plan

10 Important Aspects of a Successful Business Plan

Every business needs to have a business plan, no matter the size. The main reason so many startups don’t survive past the first five years is because they didn’t set a strong business plan. You may have a great business idea, but then after setting out a plan and crunching the numbers, you find out it’s not such a great idea.

Your business plan is the roadmap for your business; it’ll contain future milestones, your budget and finances, marketing and sales strategy, and will help you overcome future obstacles. Whether your business plan is for bankers, venture capitalists, or just your employees, there are main elements set by the Small Business Administration ( www.sba.gov ) that should be included in every business plan.

What Are the Elements of a Business Plan?

  • The Executive Summary This is the first section of the business plan. It can be from 1 to 5 pages. It serves as the table of content for your plan.
  • Company Profile In this section, you explain what your business is, what your goals are, your vision, and mission, why you’re special and unique. Some companies mention the management and team members with short descriptions.
  • Market Analysis Before starting a business, you need to learn about the market. Study your competitors. Find out their profit range, what they’re known for, and what technologies are used in the industry. Every detail matters and can give you an advantage in your business.
  • Product/ Service Explain your products, different types or packages, your selling points, and answer all the questions a customer/ investor may have. Whoever reads your business plan should fully understand what you’re offering.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy The best product in the world wouldn’t sell if it has a poor marketing plan. Get into detail with how you’ll advertise your product. Detail your target audience, prices, and any promotional discounts.
  • Funding This is the most important section in your plan because it states your initial budget, the funds you’ll need for the next five years, what you plan on doing with the funds, the creditors’ or investors’ return, and all business expenses such as salaries and equipment.
  • Financial Forecast If you’re using your business plan for a loan or funds, you need to have the documents to back up your claim. You need to include all your financial statements and balance sheets, and any sources of income from the past few years.
  • Business Overview Give a general overview of your business with info like the legal structure, operations plan, business address , whether it’s an online or physical business, number of employees, specific roles, etc.

What Are the Aspects of a Successful Business Plan?

Now that we’ve stated the main elements that should be included in a business plan, let’s get to the points you should focus on to create a successful business plan and not just a boring, lengthy one.

Use a Template or Hire Someone with Experience

You can write your business plan yourself, but with all the elements that need to be added, it can get complicated. If your business plan is short, then you might not need a template. If your plan is lengthy, you can find templates with a prepared structure online. In order to have a professional, well-written business plan, you can look into hiring someone with experience to get the job done. They would be able to better structure your plan and add charts and graphs when needed.

Do Your Research

Before jumping into writing your business plan, you need to ensure you’ve done an efficient amount of research. It’s your responsibility to have the answers to the questions that creditors or investors would ask. Whether it’s researching the market, competitors, or the industry, you need to know every small detail that can be an advantage or disadvantage to your business.

Define the Purpose of Your Business Plan

Your business plan will be your guide throughout the years, working as your roadmap, but you need to define why you’re creating it from the start. For example, are you making a plan for personal needs, as a guide for your employees, or are you planning on using it for investors and funding? If for funding, you’ll need to be very precise and clear with your targets and overall writing.

A Modified Business Plan

Your business plan is going to be read by various types of people from bankers, investors, and venture capitalists, to employees and yourself. Each audience type has certain points they’re looking for in your plan and you need to address those points accordingly. Make sure your plan can easily be modified according to your target audience. For example, banks would focus on balance sheets and statements while your employees will be focused on business goals or market research. You need to be able to make small alterations to serve different purposes.

Don’t Make It Too Long

The truth is no one is actually going to read your whole business plan. An executive summary is important so readers can easily find the sections they need. A typical business plan usually ranges from 20 to 50 pages. For example, venture capitalists are usually time restricted, so they’d want to find things like the financial forecast and investors’ return quickly. Knowing this, you should place this information in the beginning.

Regularly Update Your Business Plan

Your business plan needs to be updated as your business evolves and grows. Not all the sections will need updating, but the objectives set at the start of your business will change and your financial records will need to be up-to-date, especially if you’re still looking for funding. As mentioned before, your business plan is your roadmap, so don’t neglect it down the line.

Stand Out, but Don’t Overdo It

Your business plan is mostly stating the facts about your business but you need to capture the reader’s attention, mention why you’re different from your competitors, what makes you better. But sometimes businesses tend to oversell themselves, explain your passion, how much you care for your business, and the problems you want to solve but without unnecessary exaggeration.

Don’t Undersell Your Competitors

Every business has competitors and you need to clearly acknowledge these competitors in your business plan. Some startups think that not mentioning their competitors or underselling them helps their case, when in fact, it does the complete opposite.

You need to highlight what your competitors are good at, and state how you can do better. This will give you an edge with investors. Never talk bad about competitors or imply they’re not worthy of mentioning, this will lessen your credibility and make you look unprofessional.

Set Long-term and Short-term Goals

Every business plan should include five-year goals, but most importantly, it should include short-term goals such as annual and quarterly goals. It’s great to know where you want your business to be in the future, but investors need to know you have a clear plan to get there.

Back Up Your Plan with Documents, Charts, or Graphs

A business plan shouldn’t just be blocks of text; you need to make your plan appealing by adding images, charts, or graphs whenever possible. It won’t only improve your overall design; it can simplify and explain complicated sections. In order to strengthen your plan, you need to add supporting documents like articles about your business, financial statements, or contracts.

These were 10 important aspects that will help you create a successful and polished business plan. A great business plan from the start can change the trajectory of your whole business so giving it the right amount of work, focus, and dedication is vital for your business.

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Logan is a passionate content creator, specializing in the business solutions sector. He loves to share his experience about technology, startups, entrepreneurs, and business-related updates.

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How Should I Draw Up a Business Plan?

By Ryan Himmel • Mar 8, 2013

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I've never written a business plan before. I know there are some resources online, but I'm hoping you could tell me what are the necessary sections of a good business plan, what problems may be encountered in the writing of each one and how to solve them.

Ah, the infamous business plan. Naturally, every new business needs to follow a specific [plan] so that management can set goals and measure performance over time. Yet new entrepreneurs too often fall into the trap of just getting the business started and worrying about everything else later on. Big mistake.

Before I get into the details of a business plan, the first and most important step is to identify who will be the audience reading the plan and what exactly is its purpose. Business plans can take many shapes and sizes. Depending on the audience, a complete 20-plus-page business plan may be unnecessary. For instance, I know there are some investors who will throw a lengthy business plan right out the window. So if you're trying to raise capital, it can be helpful to know that some prefer a slide-deck tailored and formatted to what they're looking for in a company. Let me repeat: Before putting the time into a business plan, know the audience who will be using it. If it is just company management, then that's okay too. Just know who it is.

Executive summary Most business plans begin with an executive summary that follows a specific format. This part of the plan summarizes your company's mission, the market opportunity, value proposition and plans to grow in the future. I've seen summaries with more detail, but this is generally the nuts and bolts of what should be articulated in this part of the plan. Each section thereafter should flow nicely into a story and build up to an ending that recaps the the key points from the executive summary. It should also be written in such a way that the reader can easily follow along without asking questions. In addition, each section should articulate independent thoughts and not bleed into other sections. For instance, if you're discussing market opportunity in one section, don't overlap with related thoughts in the company risk section.

Company overview Once you've developed your executive summary, you should then lead into a company overview, dealing exactly what the company does, its management team and other key information. Next, you'll want to define the market opportunity. Here you'll need to go into detail explaining how the different segments of the market add up to a total available market opportunity. Statistics and industry research will be critical in this section.

Product or service After defining the market, you should describe the product or service you will develop to target that market. The product description should be written in such a way that the business model becomes perfectly clear to the reader. They will want to understand how you plan to make money. This will lead into the financial model highlighting growth and expense projections. Many entrepreneurs don't spend enough time identifying how they will effectively use their cash to grow their company. This is why you must have a clear strategy in going to market.

Distribution The distribution section should include details on how you plan to acquire customers. Is it through partnerships, online/offline marketing, search engine optimization, direct email, public relations or something else?

Analysis of competitors Up to this point, we've focused mainly on the company. However, every business plan needs to include an analysis of the competition. Unless you're creating a new market, most of the time you'll have competition in your space and usually it comes from a large, established company. This section should highlight how your company will gain share and how your product and model can be defended.

Risk assessment Lastly, you need to define the company risks. Every company, even Google has risks. You need to understand what they are and have a plan in place to mitigate those risks.

Head of Financial Partnerships, Xero Americas

Ryan Himmel is a CPA and financial technology executive who has dedicated over a decade of his work toward providing solutions to help accountants and small-business owners better run their firms. Himmel currently leads financial partnerships in the Americas for Xero.

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