The most critical aspect of any business is its planning stage, and many quotes support this assertion. Amongst the commonest of the quotes is “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” credited to Benjamin Franklin.
The only perfect and naturally successful project is the one that has not developed from the ideation stage. The moment it takes on a tangible form, it enters an unending phase of warding off risks. This is why the most critical aspect of any business is its planning stage. It is also for this reason that representing your plans for your business in a document (called a business plan) is essential.
There is no one way to write a business plan, as the core content usually takes its form from the audience it primarily seeks to address. For instance, if yours is a new business seeking investors, you would need to pay significant attention to the financial section, detailing your short and long-term financial projection and the amount you will need to run the business successfully. On the other hand, business plans are addressed to potential business partners, and the board of directors may need to focus more on management structure and organizational hierarchies.
But however you choose to do it, there are a few ideas you should communicate in your document. The following paragraphs will mention and describe them in detail:
The executive summary serves as a teaser for the rest of the document. It gives an overview of every critical aspect of your business. For more effectiveness, it should highlight the ultimate “Why” that birthed the idea of your business (i.e., your mission statement), your product or service and its differentiating factors, market opportunities your product/service leverages, highlights of your achievements so far, as well as your dream for how big the business will grow. This information should be presented compellingly to get the audience interested in identifying with the business.
(A quick piece of advice: you should write this part only after you must have completed the rest of the document.)
Your company synopsis expounds on the details of your company. These details would include its value proposition, especially regarding your potential clients’ specific challenges and details of how it plans to solve the problem. The synopsis should also feature the business’ clients list and the professionals on the management team. What is the unique edge that your business has over its contemporaries? Here would be the best place to boast about that.
Aside from your executive summary, your synopsis is your chance to get your audience sold on your ideas enough to continue to the more technical aspects of the business plan, such as the financial projections.
This section shifts the focus from you to the rest of the market. This is because your company will not be operating in isolation. Your market overview must reflect a significant understanding of the market terrain. What is the current market size? What percentage of the market are you looking to satisfy? Who are your competitors, and what makes them successful? What aspects are they failing at, and how do you hope to outperform them in those aspects? These are questions that you should address in this section.
Here, you should describe your products or service offerings. The section should also explain the features of your products and the specific instructions for their use. It always helps to point out the characteristics that make your products/services unique from their competition. Make sure to highlight all the cool features that would make customers choose your product over others. Also, you should state any patents and trademarks the products hold.
Marketing & Sales
This section explains the steps you will take to get your finished product off your hands to those needing it. This means you will be discussing your marketing strategy. What is the demography you will target in promoting your product? How will you be pricing your product? What methods will you use in advertising? Traditional media or influencers?
This section should also reveal your sales strategy. What method have you found to be most effective for attracting sales? Online marketplace platforms? Physical retail stores? Etc.
This part is especially crucial if you are seeking investment. To a large extent, investors want to know that they are entrusting their resources to safe hands, to people who are experienced enough to make a success of the business idea. The bio of the management team can convince your audience in this regard. It should highlight their professional background and show how it can potentially fetch success for the company.
Your business plan is no place to practice modesty. It is important to communicate in clear terms all it will take to accomplish all that you have set out to do. Your business plan could be for seeking financial or material support to start up your business or project. In this case, you should spell out your financial goals and what part the recipient of your business plan can contribute towards that goal. As money follows value, it is also important to state what your investors will benefit from their contributions. You should also show accountability by presenting a breakdown of how the funds will be allocated to various critical aspects of the business.
Coming last in all business plans, this part contains the most figures in the entire document. Here, ideas are presented in graphs, charts, tables, and spreadsheets to show the projections of the business for the coming years. Although it is hard to tell categorically what the financial progression of the company will be (mainly because of external factors beyond the entrepreneur), conducting adequate research will help you make educated estimates that investors will find worthwhile. You can also make your projection using figures from current market competitors.
To conclude, beyond using a business plan to secure funding, partnerships or other benefits, it is also important for the business itself. It serves as a huge motivation for the entrepreneur to do thorough findings about all critical aspects of the business, which is integral to achieving business success. It also serves as a benchmark against which to measure the company’s progress.