What information needs to be in your business plan? What is the order of information that will make the most sense to lenders and investors? You can answer these questions with the business plan outlines provided below.
What are the standard elements of a business plan? If you do need a standard business plan to seek funding — as opposed to a plan-as-you-go approach for running your business, which I describe below — there are predictable contents of a standard business plan outline.
For example, a business plan normally starts with an Executive Summary, which should be concise and interesting. People almost always expect to see sections covering the Company, the Market, the Product, the Management Team, Strategy, Implementation, and Financial Analysis. The precise business plan format can vary.
Is the order important? If you have the main components, the order doesn’t matter that much, but here’s the sequence I suggest for a business plan. I have provided two outlines, one simple and the other more detailed.
Simple business plan outline
- Executive Summary: Write this last. It’s just a page or two of highlights.
- Company Description: Legal establishment, history, start-up plans, etc.
- Product or Service: Describe what you’re selling. Focus on customer benefits.
- Market Analysis: You need to know your market, customer needs, where they are, how to reach them, etc.
- Strategy and Implementation: Be specific. Include management responsibilities with dates and budgets. Make sure you can track results.
- Web Plan Summary: For e-commerce, include discussion of website, development costs, operations, sales and marketing strategies.
- Management Team: Describe the organization and the key management team members.
- Financial Analysis: Make sure to include at the very least your projected Profit and Loss and Cash Flow tables.
Build your plan, then organize it. I don’t recommend developing the plan in the same order you present it as a finished document. For example, although the Executive Summary obviously comes as the first section of a business plan, I recommend writing it after everything else is done. It will appear first, but you write it last.