Every company needs a plan to determine how it will operate and position itself in the market. This is known as a business plan, which is one of the most important business management documents.
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document that describes a business in detail. In a business plan, you’ll find the information you need to understand how a business works and how it plans to grow in the long term. Most business plans explain the business model, mission, vision, objectives, operational plan and financial plan of a company, among other important elements.
Creating a thorough business plan that outlines a business can seem like daunting work. In reality, the job can be done using common project planning methods and tools.
A business plan defines your business mission, vision and overall strategy, but that’s only the start. To turn those things into a successful business, you’ll need to assemble a team and start your business operations. ProjectManager has planning, scheduling and tracking tools that can help you track all your business processes and workflows. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.
When Should You Create a Business Plan?
You should always write a business plan before starting a business because it’ll help you set the stage for your strategic planning and operations management. In addition, writing a business plan helps you find any potential business planning issues, omissions or opportunities for improvement, so your business has a solid start.
Business plans are also very important for business funding. For example, if you’re just starting a business and need a business loan, you’ll need to write a detailed business plan for banks and investors, who will require you to include certain things on your business plan so they can better assess the feasibility of your business model.
What Does a Business Plan Include?
As a business owner or entrepreneur, you can decide on the level of detail for your business plan. However, in most cases, it’s advisable to include as many details as you can because your stakeholders will want to know as much as possible about your business.
Here’s a sample business plan with some of the most commonly used elements. You can customize it to fit your particular business planning needs.
Sample Business Plan Outline
While business plans might differ from one organization to another, there are key elements that should be included in all business plans.
The purpose of an executive summary is to compile the most important information about your business plan so that stakeholders can quickly get the idea without having to go over the whole document.
Also called a company overview, a business description simply defines what your business purpose is, as well as general information such as your company background and your mission and vision statements. This part can also include other basic details you might want to share about your business such as your company principles and core values.
This section provides information on the market for the product or service offered. A basic market analysis section should include three key elements: an industry analysis that addresses the sector at large, a competitor analysis that identifies direct and indirect competitors and a SWOT analysis that helps business managers understand the current competitive environment of a business.
Marketing & Sales Strategy
You should use the insights from your market analysis to create a marketing and sales strategy that helps you use your business strengths to position your brand in the market and establish your business as a leader in your industry. To create an effective marketing and sales strategy, you should consider these key elements.
- Business proposition: Your business proposition or value proposition explains how you differentiate yourself from your competitors by better addressing the needs of your target market.
- Target market: The market segment that includes your ideal customers. There are many qualitative and quantitative research techniques you can use to identify the ideal audience for your product or service.
- Products and services: Your business plan should explain your product or service portfolio. Include a general description, profit margins and any other relevant information such as substitute or complementary products in the market.
- Distribution channels: The distribution channels refer to the supply chain and logistics methods that your business uses to transport and distribute products or services to customers.
- Pricing: Pricing is a key element of your marketing and sales strategy. Make sure to understand your competitive landscape, as well as the socio-economic conditions of your market to choose a price that benefits both your customers and your business.
The operational plan describes how your business operates to achieve its long-term goals and objectives, highlighting key areas such as inventory control, supply chain, production planning, human resources and business process management.
This area demands specific information. Financial plans and projections should include income statements, cash flow statements and balance sheets. The purpose of this section is to establish both the current financial state of a business as well as its budget and projections about the future.
Organization and Management
This section shows exactly how the business is organized, from day-to-day operations to its leadership team. For example, you may include c-suite executives, managers and possibly even interns. It can also delve into the roles and responsibilities of different individuals.
Your business plan should specify the legal structure of your business. You can choose to establish a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company (LLC) and other structures, depending on the business owner and stakeholders’ preference.
Best Practices for Writing a Business Plan
No matter which type of business plan you’re writing, there are tips and tricks that’ll keep you on track to create a successful roadmap, such as using business templates. Following these five best practices helps ensure the information in your business plan is thorough, easy to understand and engaging to audiences. This way, you get your point across loud and clear, while keeping the audience interested.
1. Create a Business Plan Immediately
It’s a common mistake to wait until the last minute to write a business plan. However, if you have the information and are ready for presentation before operations even begin, you can rest reasonably assured that your business is prepared for anything. This “living document” should be written before the business begins and should be updated every step of the way.
2. Write for Your Audience
Before writing your business plan, consider who will be reading it. The audience determines which type of business plan you choose. It may also call for adjustments to tone and style. For example, if you’re writing a business plan to inform employees, the tone might be more casual than it would be for potential investors.
3. Keep It Logical: Focus on Facts, Not Emotions
No matter the audience, a business plan must be logical, not emotional. Passion is important, but the facts are key. For example, when writing financial projections, refer to hard numbers from past quarters about sales, expenses and profits—rather than just writing what you think the future will look like.
4. Remain Concise
Being concise is one of the most important rules of thumb when creating a project plan of any kind. A business plan aims to outline an entire operation, but it must convey the facts as simply as possible. Always keep in mind that this information will be presented to an audience, and it must capture and keep their attention.
5. Remember Your Goal
Avoid tangents and unnecessary information. Each section should tie into the main objective of the business plan, whether that be to inform stakeholders, obtain funding or anything else.
How to Use ProjectManager to Execute Your Business Plan
ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that helps create, execute and track your business plan to ensure that it results in success. With it, you can lay out the day-to-day operations of your business and invite members of your team to collaborate and manage your resources.
Gantt Charts to Plan
On our Gantt view, you can add tasks, their duration and their priority and this information automatically populates the project timeline. With this powerful tool, you’ll be able to get a bird’s-eye view of your entire business plan, laid out in chronological order.
Dashboards to Track
As you work your way to making your business plan a reality, you’ll need a tool to ensure that you’re on the right track. With our real-time dashboard, you can view updates on the status of your tasks. Our dashboard also automatically calculates costs and other important KPIs and displays them in scannable graphs and charts.
Plus, ProjectManager has unlimited file storage, so you can collect all the important documents for your business plan in a central hub.
ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that offers businesses the tools they need to manage projects. Complete with Gantt charts, task lists, dashboards and more, ProjectManager gives teams the ability to plan, launch and report on projects from anywhere. This makes creating and collaborating on documents like a business plan easier than ever before. Try ProjectManager for yourself with our free 30-day trial offer.