The following sections should be in every business plan:
1. Executive Summary: This should be no more than two pages, compel the reader to read on, and be written last of all once all other sections are complete.
2. Company Background and Legal Entity: How and why the company came into existence, what products and /or services it offers, any track record of performance and its legal status.
3. The Market: This should include current statistics and trends on the market being addressed. It should also include an analysis of the customers in the market space - who they are, how and what they buy. It should culminate in the market opportunity facing the company.
4. Company Product and/or Services: What are you proposing to bring to the market to meet the market opportunity?
5. Competitive Analysis: This should include an analysis of your direct and indirect competition and culminate in how your offer differentiates from that of your competitors in such a way that will gain you competitive advantage.
6. Sales & Marketing Plan: This identifies your target audience and details how you are going to reach it as well as giving a summary of your sales forecast.
7. Operations: This section shows how your business is going to deliver your product or service operationally - who does what and how.
8. Management Team: This is a key section that needs to show that you have the experience and skill-sets within your management team to deliver your proposition to the market.
9. Financial Plan: This is a summary of your financial projections, cash-flow highlights, breakeven, and investor proposition.
10. Appendices: This should include all the detail that you need to support your plan but would make the body of the plan too long if it were included. This will likely include detailed financial statements, management resumes, legal documents, letters of interest etc.
You should also remember that completeness and coherence are important. It won't matter how well written an investment plan if you have omitted to include how an investor will get a return (yes - it happens!) or your marketing plan doesn't address current trends in the market.
Finally, remember to emphasise the three critical elements - Market Need, Product to meet that need, and a Management Team able to deliver the plan.
The Business Plan Team
The Business Plan Team specialises in helping entrepreneurs, start-ups and growing businesses translate their vision into a coherent and executable business plan that can help secure funding and guide internal management. It provides a range of services from early feasibility studies through professional business plan development, to introductions to sources of funding. It is based in just outside Oxford, UK.