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The Structure of Your Business Plan
Your business plan is important for establishing the structure of your business, its goals and objectives, strategies, products and workforce. It is used to plan and manage your business, apply for funding or pitch it to potential investors. It has ten main parts and they are:
1. Cover and Index
Sounds a bit silly, but a great cover for your business plan will show the professionalism and care that went into its production. This is an ideal place to include your company logo and contact details. If appropriate, include photos of your products.
Essentially you should also include your company name and number as well as your contact details such as address, website, social media accounts and the email and phone number of your respective director. You’d be surprised at the number of people who forget this feature.
To help potential investors navigate around, the index should include all points of the business plan with relevant page numbers. Make it as complete as possible so that the reader has a clear idea of what the document covers.
However, creating an index gives you, the writer, a great planning tool to make sure you’ve covered all the points and information you need to include.
2. An executive summary with your business needs and goals
In the first part of the document you should create a descriptive summary of the idea covering the following points:
• Market opportunities
• Product or service and its benefits
• Management team
• Financial summary of financing needs and expected profitability
By writing an executive summary first, you jot down all the information you have in your head. You can always come back to it at the end of the main body wiring.
Remember, you need to capture the investor’s attention in approximately two pages where you summarize the most important points in the text. You should also consider several things:
• You must clearly define the need or problem your business is trying to solve.
• You need to define the basic objectives of the company.
• You need to tell the investor what stage your company is at right now. Whether you are in pre-production, starting to expand or in profit for example.
3. Plan your business
This is the point where you get your scrap paper out.
• You should describe your business mission – what you hope to achieve. Then you need to list the actions your company needs to take to get to this point.
• Next you need to work out how you will solve the business problems you have identified.
• Now describe what your product or service is, what customers will gain from their purchase, and what their weaknesses or disadvantages are.
• Find out what price point your potential customers are comfortable with.
• Finally you need to figure out how you can find these customers.
Often all this can be defined through the use of a business model canvas and this is the subject of another article of mine. You can buy a consultant to build this model.
Usually there are companies that are working towards similar goals. Identify them and ask yourself: How am I going to differentiate myself from my competitors?
4. Explain your business structure
Creating a business plan involves examining your competition’s strengths and weaknesses, once identified you can justify why your business is unique. You must differentiate yourself from the crowd to maximize investment opportunities. That is, refer to the following information:
• Describe what you will sell to whom and at what price.
• Introduce your branding concepts – for example are you going to be a luxury company, or are you going to make it a high-end company and sell a low-end brand?
• Describe how you will fulfill the order – in other words, the entire process from purchasing the products yourself to actually delivering them to your customer and offering the service afterwards.
• Explain how you will cover the key areas of production, sales, marketing, finance and administration.
• Include management, sales, stock control and quality control accounts.
• Define how you will sell your products and, if necessary, analyze the location of the company and the advantages and disadvantages of this situation.
Make sure you address the following investor questions: What are your competition’s products and how do they make them?
5. List the characteristics of the market in which you will develop your business
You have to analyze the market situation: how big is it, how fast is it growing and what is its profit potential. Explain how you will research your audience and what tools you will use.
Know the target market in which the business will be developed and direct marketing strategies towards that target. If you don’t have a working marketing strategy, you will be wasting time, effort and money.
Answer the following question: Where are you going to find your customers?
6. Create promotional strategies
Your business marketing plan should be included here. This is probably one of the most relevant steps when creating a business plan. Advertising and marketing strategies can determine the success or failure of your company. Try to answer several questions:
• How will you position your product or service? Here you need the 4 Ps of Marketing: Price, Product, Promotion and Place.
• Compare features such as price, quality and customer service with your competitors.
• How will you sell to your customers? Phone, web page, face to face, agent?
• How do you identify potential customers?
• How will you advertise your business? Advertising, public relations, email marketing, content strategy, social media, etc.?
• How will each area of your business benefit?
• Why would someone abandon your current competitors to buy into your business?
• How are you going to attract them to your company and its products?
• What is a fair estimate of how many customers you will acquire each year for the first three years?
What would you estimate the cost of acquiring each new customer?
• What is the estimated cost of retaining each customer?
7. Define your source of income
This is where you enter all the information about what your company will sell and where the source of income will come from.
• The products and services you will provide.
• Any advertising fees, commissions, membership fees, etc. received by you.
The analysis should include: price structure, costs, margins and expenses.
Include details of your expected cash flow over the first three years. Cash flow is a major consideration. In web based companies this is referred to as burn rate.
8. Your team
You talk about the strength of your directors and large staff. Include their experience and what they can do for your new company in the same post. Include a basic resume for each of them and state their responsibilities. If you have a particularly famous supporter, mentor or director you should mention it.
9. Your finances
When you get to this point in creating your business plan, you should start translating everything you said into numbers. That is, analyze the financial projections of your business. Also include your financial strategy – how you will manage your cash flow, important for any new company. Without a plan, a business can suddenly sink or fail. On the other hand, if you find unexpected success, your goals may suddenly change and you may need a new business plan. So, you should assess the risks in your business, identify the areas where something could go wrong and explain what you will do about it. You should also include any other investments you have or will receive. Details of your share allocation, particularly large percentages, should be included.
9. What are you going to do with the investment?
Most importantly, include what you are seeking financing for and how and when you intend to spend the investment. It is imperative for a potential investor to see that the investment will significantly improve the company.
Tell potential investors how quickly and how often they will receive a return on their investment. Include the shares offered as well as their potential involvement in the company after they invest.
It is imperative to offer them an exit strategy so that they can get a good return on their investment and then move on to the next new company.
It is possible that after creating a business plan you need to provide additional information to supplement it. For example:
• Market research data you use.
• Resumes of the team that built your company. This is very important if you are looking for a higher level of financing.
• Technical specifications of the product or service (you can include photographs).
• Names of some potential customers.
Creating a business plan involves writing several pages with compelling, dynamic and accurate content that captures the attention of highly sought-after audiences. It should grab the attention of investors, who, despite reading hundreds, should find something different about your business plan.
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