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Do You Have Business Plan Writer’s Block? Start Here
A business plan might be one of the most important documents you’ll write as an entrepreneur.
Yet it’s a task that’s often put off (or never completed) because it’s not easy to do.
A business plan is a critical element of your business’s foundation. Think of your business idea as a destination. Your business plan is the map that helps you get there (ideally without too many detours or unexpected stops).
We’ll help get you started by outlining some of the key sections and information you should include in your business plan, regardless of your industry. And if you need additional help, we’ll share some resources that will guide you from start to finish.
Why You Need a Business Plan (Even If You’re Not Seeking Financing)
There’s a common misconception that you only need a business plan if
you’re seeking funding to launch your business, whether from a bank, an
investor or another source.
If you need an investment to start your business, you’ll need a
strong, concise, polished business plan to help potential investors
understand what you’re doing and why your business is a viable
On the other hand, if you’re among the 81 percent of entrepreneurs
who don’t pursue a bank loan or venture capital to start your business,
it’s still a good idea to not only write a business plan, but also
revisit it on an annual basis to see how your business (particularly
your operations and finances) are evolving and ensure you’re on the
right track toward achieving your long-term goals.
Even if you’re the only person who sees your business plan, it will
help you gather your thoughts, figure out how you’ll meet your goals and
document that critical information. There’s something official about a
business plan that helps validate your idea and approach.
Remember, too, that a business plan is also a living, evolving
document. It will likely change as your business grows, which is why we
recommend revisiting your business plan each year to monitor how the
plan — and your business itself — is progressing.
Seven Sections to Include in Your Business Plan
Business plans typically include seven sections:
Executive summary — This is where you summarize your
business plan and also lay out what you need to launch your business,
i.e. funding. Executive summaries are notoriously tricky because they
need to be short (usually no more than one page in length) but also
compelling. We recommend writing the rest of your business plan first
and saving the executive summary for last.
Business description and organization — Detail your business, including its industry, operations, your chosen business structure
and the products and/or services you’ll offer. Opt to include
information about your company’s executive team here (if you have one)
or you can add it to the “Business Operations and Management” section.
Consider also including information about the factors that will help
make your business profitable.
Market strategy — This is where you delve into your target market,
including its makeup and how your business fits into the landscape. Use
this section to also take a closer look at your customers: who and
where are they? Why will they support your business? Introduce your
differentiators and what will help you stand out from the competition.
Consider also including information on projected market share and
product pricing and distribution.
Competitive analysis — You might find some slight
overlap between this and the previous section, but a competitive
analysis is a more detailed look at your competition, including their
strengths and weaknesses. Highlight any advantages or differentiators
your business has over the competition that will not only help you grow
your customer base, but also limit disruption to your business from
existing or new competitors.
Product design and development — What are the
details of your product’s design and how it will be developed and
produced? Consider including helpful visuals that will help readers of
your business plan better understand the product. Then, detail
development of the product itself, as well as how the product’s
marketing strategy and the business itself will develop over time. The
staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc., authors of Start Your Own Business,
recommend including “a schedule that shows how the product, marketing
strategies and organization will develop over time. The schedule should
be tied to a development budget so expenses can be tracked throughout
the design and development process.”
Lastly, a quick bit of good news. If your business offers a service
instead of a product, you’ll only need to focus on the development part
of this section.
Business operations and management — Share how your
business will run from day to day. If you haven’t yet introduced your
management team, do so here and share information about their
qualifications and responsibilities. Will you have employees or a
support staff to help run the business? What additional capital and
expense requirements need to be met to keep your business running?
Financial outlook — Put down the Magic 8 ball and
grab your calculator — it’s time to crunch some numbers. This is where
you demonstrate your business’s profitability, both in the short- and
long-term. You’ll want to include income statements (monthly for the
first year, quarterly for the second and annual for the following
years), a cash-flow statement and a balance sheet. Choose how far into
the future you want to project your company’s finances, but it’s a good
idea to outline at least three years’ worth of financial information,
especially if you’re seeking start-up capital.
Two Common Places You’ll Get Stuck (And How to Move Forward)
Writing a business plan is hard. And it’s likely that, at some
point, you’ll get stuck. We’ve identified the two most common sources of
business plan writer’s block and how you can keep moving forward.
Getting started — If you find yourself hesitant to
get started when facing a daunting project, you’re not alone. There’s an
assumption that entrepreneurs are fearless and can easily tackle any
challenge that comes their way. The reality, however, is that
entrepreneurs fight anxiety and fear like everyone else.
Writing a business plan can seem like climbing a mountain. And as a
result, many entrepreneurs completely avoid the task because they’re
overwhelmed. If you find yourself struggling to start your business
plan, it’s important to first recognize that you’re not alone.
Then, take a step back and examine ways you can make the task ahead a
little easier. What about breaking the business plan up into the
sections mentioned earlier and focusing on one at a time? By dividing a
large project into smaller, more manageable pieces, you might find it
easier to pick a place and dive in.
Maybe you feel like you have too many thoughts and details running
through your brain and it’s tough to get everything down on paper. If
you haven’t already, try a brain dump. Make notes or an outline to help
you approach your business plan from a more organized mindset. You might
also spot gaps in your information that you can fill before or as you
One last tip? Approach your business plan like a writer does a first
draft. Your business plan isn’t going to be perfectly polished out of
the gate. Instead, the bigger goal is to simply get everything
documented and in a readable format. Then, consider giving your plan to a
couple of trusted friends or colleagues so they can help you edit
before you distribute your plan on a more widespread basis.
Financial projections — As you try to project
revenue, expenses and losses, you might find yourself wishing for a
fortune-teller. After all, how can you predict earnings and costs for
the next three months, let alone three years, especially if you haven’t
yet launched your business?
First, understand that much of the information in this section will be a guess, albeit an educated one. There’s no way you can know exact numbers, especially years ahead. What you’re instead trying to show is that your business will eventually be profitable, and, based on what you said earlier in your plan about your market and business operations, here’s how.
As you work on your financial projections, be realistic. If you’re seeking start-up funding, you don’t want to mislead prospective investors with wildly optimistic conjectures about their ROI. Instead, stick to the information you know to make your best (modest) financial guess.
If you get stuck here, try reaching out to your accountant. They might be able to help take the data you’ve compiled so far to organize it into the elements you’ll need to complete this section.