Monday, December 13, 2010

What to include in a business plan

Although every business plan is different as the purpose and the audience for whom it is written for governs the structure and wording within the business plan, most business plans will still consists of three main sections.

  1. The Executive Summary
  2. The Main plot
  3. The Financials and Finance
Arguably, is the most important part of the plan, the Executive Summary normally consists out of one or two pages providing the reader with a synopsis of what is to come. This section can really be seen as a bite-size version of the plan. The reason why it is so important is that, as with most first impressions, the reader will quickly decide if this is something that is of interest or. If yes, the rest of the business plan will be read, if not, well, your plans is probably destined for the waste paper basket and you will have to continue your search for an sympathetic eye. Think of your executive summary as a longish elevator pitch.

The Main Plot provides the reader with a more detailed account of the important areas of your business. This is the ideal place for you to ensure and that you have thought through the functional areas of your business such as strategy, the products and services, the people, the competition the market, and most importantly your sales & marketing plan. Of course you are not only writing the business plan for yourself and this section will also be targeted at the chosen audience who you want to impress. Remember that most of the business plan can be used as a selling document as you are off course intending on getting a second party to take action. Whether the action is to provide you with finance or simply to impress a future business partner or grant provider. Get your fax correct and don’t oversell, as this can be highly off-putting.

The financials will consist of your Profit & Loss, Balance Sheet and Cash-flow forecasts with full assumptions. This section can often develop a life of its own, especially where you re trying to justify a certain amount of funding needed for the business. You must resist the temptation to sound to optimistic as lenders will quickly recognise when your forecasts are unrealistic. Make sure you consider the realities of delivering your products or services and the possibilities of obtaining new business. 

One of my favourite quotes comes from John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, "Deal with the world the way it is, not the way you wish it was." Another possible pot hole here is to not under estimate the amount of finance that your business needs. Its common for first time owners to over estimate their income for the first year and hence under forecast the amount of business finance needed. This often results in a red faced entrepreneur having to go back to bank or VC asking for an additional round of funding. Be realistic. Your business does not have to be cash machine to get start-up capital, it simply has to be viable while entering a market with potential.

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