All businesses experience change. These changes mean that small businesses need a structured plan to navigate their growth while staying on track to achieve long-term goals and objectives. This is where a small business plan comes in.
Creating a thorough business plan that outlines a small business can seem like daunting work. In reality, the job can be done using common project planning methods and tools.
What Is a Small Business Plan and What Does it Include?
A business plan for a small business is a living document that should be made up of seven sections, with the goal to outline different aspects of the small business within each section. This includes products or services, the market, finances and more.
Keep in mind that a small business plan should serve as a reference for stakeholders or anyone learning about the business for the first time. This can include employees, lenders, investors and partners.
The Seven Sections of a Small Business Plan
Creating a small business plan is much more manageable when it is broken down into separate sections, each with a different purpose. Together, they should convey the business’s goals and objectives and create an action plan for the future.
- Executive summary: An executive summary must clearly establish the purpose of the small business. It should also clearly explain why the small business plan was created and what it seeks to achieve.
- Description of the business: Here you’ll want to detail every aspect of the small business. This includes size, market, competition, competitive advantages and anything else that sets the small business apart from the pack.
- Description of the products or services: Much like a business model, this section should focus on showing why the small business is, and will continue to be, profitable. This includes the products and services it provides and will provide in the future.
- Market analysis: This section provides information on the market for the product or service offered, as well as potential customers. It is also an opportunity to discuss competitors and potential market challenges.
- Strategy and implementation: The strategy and implementation section addresses the challenges in the market analysis section and proposes a plan to overcome them. The goal here is to outline concrete strategies for pricing, distribution, marketing, etc.
- Organization and management team: This section shows exactly how the small 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.
- Financial plans and projections: This area demands specific information. Financial plans and projections should include income statements, cash flow statements and balance sheets. These documents establish the current state of the small business. From here, the creator of the business plan can make projections for the future and back them up with visuals.
Different Types of Business Plans for a Small Business
Just as there are different ways to plan a project, there are many types of small business plans, each with specific strengths. It’s important to understand the options before beginning the writing process. These are three popular business plans for small businesses:
The Lean Plan
A lean plan is just that—lean. This type of plan trims the fat by cutting lengthy section summaries. Instead, it focuses on specific goals, milestones and financial figures. A lean plan is especially useful during periods of rapid growth. A lean plan is not to be mistaken for a one-page business plan. This “highlight reel” of a business is more of a pitch than a business plan.
The Standard Business Plan
The primary goal of a standard business plan is to receive funding. Generally, these plans begin with an executive summary and go on to cover the seven sections outlined above. While these sections aren’t necessarily long, they should provide more detail than those in a lean plan.
The Start-up Business Plan
Like a standard business plan, a start-up business plan should include each of the core seven sections. But, more so than a standard business plan, each of these sections should be focused on future projections. This type of plan is about exciting investors and employees, as much as it is about creating a roadmap.
5 Best Practices for Writing a Small Business Plan
No matter which type of small business plan you’re writing, there are tips and tricks that will keep you on track to create a successful roadmap. Following these five best practices will help to ensure the information in your small 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 Small Business Plan Immediately
It’s a common mistake to wait until the last minute to write a small 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 small business begins and updated every step of the way.
2. Write for Your Audience
Before writing your small business plan, consider who will be reading it. The audience will determine which type of business plan you choose. It may also call for adjustments to tone and style. For example, if you’re writing a small business plan to inform employees, the tone might be more casual than it would be for potential investors.
3. Keep It Logical: Focus on the Facts, Not Emotions
No matter the audience, a small 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 small 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 small business plan, whether that be to inform stakeholders, obtain funding or anything else.
How to Begin Writing a Small Business Plan
When creating a project plan, filling out a project charter can provide an initial overview of what’s to come. Similarly, the best way to begin writing a small business plan is by writing the executive summary. Writing the executive summary first is like making a sketch of the rest of the plan. it can even inform the creator of the business plan of supporting documents and data the remaining sections will call for.
Think of this section as a preview of the entire business plan. It should include basic information about the company, its mission statement, as well as a short explanation of why the business is valuable and why it will succeed. In essence, why is this small business a good investment?
Benefits of Small Business Plan Template
If you need a jumpstart transitioning from the executive summary to the small business plan, a small business plan template is a great place to start. Using a small business plan template will ensure you include all of the necessary information and organize it in a way that makes the most sense.
Using a template can be especially advantageous when writing your first small business plan outline. Working from a template does not mean you’re stuck in a rigid mold: it is simply a great jumping-off point.
Once you’ve written a great executive summary and a detailed small business plan outline, the rest of the plan for your small business should fall into place. This small business plan truly will be a roadmap for you as much as it will for any audience, guiding you through the business’s growth and changes.
How to Use ProjectManager.com to Execute Your Small Business Plan
ProjectManager.com is an 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, 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 they will automatically populate the project timeline. With this powerful tool, you’ll be able to get a bird-eye view of your entire small business plan, laid out in chronological order.
Dashboards to Track
As you work your way to making your small 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 to 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.com has unlimited file storage, so you can collect all the important documents for your small business plan in a central hub.
ProjectManager.com is an award-winning, cloud-based project management software that offers small businesses all the tools they need to manage projects. Complete with Gantt charts, task lists, dashboards and more, ProjectManager.com gives teams the ability to plan, launch and report on projects from anywhere. This makes creating and collaborating on documents like a small business plan easier than ever before. Try ProjectManager.com for yourself with our free 30-day trial offer.