The key parts of a business plan are:
Text - the details about your business; this will be the bulk of your final document
Evidence - to support any claims you make in your plan.
Financial information - projections and budgets to show that you afford to get where you want your business to go. This will usually include a projected profit & loss account, balance sheet and cash flow statement
Do not underestimate the need for in depth planning - the old phrase "fail to plan, plan to fail" sounds horribly trite but it's very true. Be very truthful about your business, be clear about what you want to do, where you want to go and how you're going to get there. A good business plan will help you in the planning process because to provides a structure for you to investigate each aspect of the business. It will help you:
- To focus your mind and thoughts on the business and provide a structure to include all the information that you might miss out
- To help clarify your thinking - writing out your plan will help you clearly define what it is you really want
- To help you put foward any answers to any arguements that might be questioned by the bank or other funders - it will assist you in anticapting queries and answering them before they've even been asked
How to Structure your Plan:
2 The Staff - for small businesses, this could amount to one person only but do detail your experience and skills
3 Your Products & Services - what they are and how they are unique from your competitors
4 Your Competitors - who are they and how they could affect your business
5 Your Marketing Strategy - how will you let prospective customers know about your product(s)/services?
6 Your Research & Development Strategy - for the development of new products/services
7 Your Operations Process - purchasing, manufacturing, distribution, customer service, infrastruture
8 Your Financial Details - requirements, project profit & loss information, balance sheet, projected cash flow statements
9 Appendices - any documents or other details that may be of required as evidence of any claims made in your document
Remember that your business plan isn't a static document - as we've seen in the last few years, economies change and businesses, in order to be flexible and stay in business, must be able to move with the changes. Therefore, your business plan must a live document - as your business changes, so must your plan in order to remain current and up-to-date. Growth is a live process, your business plan must be also.