Business plans are usually written by executives who want others to invest in their companies, but they can be an effective tool for helping new businesses to plan for their futures. The plans are a kind of snapshot of where the organization is at present, and where it hopes to be, typically in three years.
Value-based business plans emphasize what they will give to the customer or the investor, rather than what they will get in return as a result. This is opposite of the way many such plans are written.
Business plans consist of seven sections: Executive Summary, Products and/or Services, Operations, People, Marketing, and Appendices.
The Executive Summary is similar to the overture in an opera. It ties together all of the main themes that will be presented in the document, and enables those who read it to get an overall understanding of what is to follow. Although it appears first, it’s written last.
Products and/or Services
This section explains in some detail the what of the organization. What is the company selling? Does it sell physical products or services? The answer you give will dictate how the rest of the plan is written.
This part of the plan explains the how. How will the organization deliver the products and/or services it described in the previous section?
This section lists the primary players, and briefly summarizes the contribution they will make. Why does the success of the business depend on this person or team of people.
This section describes how the organization will make itself known to potential customers. Topics include target market and the expected return-on-investment. Sometimes letters-of-intent and existing contracts are placed here.
In even the most complex business plans, this section often can be kept to one page. It summarizes the expected income, expenses, and profit-before-tax for each of the years covered by the plan.
This section is usually the longest part of the plan and can include copies of patents, descriptions of research and development projects, or a more detailed description of complex processes.
It may also forecasts on the quantity of units that it will produce, or the number of customers it expects to serve over the term of the plan. The resumes of the personnel described earlier in the plan will be here, and detailed financial projections for the period.
There is no prescribed limit on the length of business plans, but without the appendices 30-50 pages is the norm.
While the plan may be for internal use only, this is not the place to skimp on the detail. The more that readers can understand about what you do, the more likely they will be able to help you achieve your goals.