Show me a startup without a business plan and I will declare it a “rudderless” ship. For without a business plan to guide you, a business will just float along chasing one opportunity after the next, while ending up nowhere special.

Business plans are not hard to write, but they do challenge you to think things out ahead of time, while asking you to address the hard questions about who you are and what you really want to do.

The basic elements include:

The Title Page- This includes all the basics such name of the business, logo, your contact info (such as your address, phone, and website), and the date that the plan was prepared. Be sure not to clutter this page up with too many details.

The Executive Summary- This is the single most important part of the plan; virtually all readers (who actually read the plan) read this section. I recommend writing this section at the very end. Wordsmith it to death since it is your principle sales document.

Outline or Table of contents- You know what to do here.

The Marketing Plan- If you piqued the reader’s interest with the executive summary, then this section is typically the next section that he or she will read. If it says one thing, it needs to tell a story about your strategic competitive advantage. This is a statement about how your business does things differently or how it does different things. If you can’t position your business as unique, you might as well break camp and head home. Show’s over.

People and Organization- This section says who you are and why you are qualified. It also reveals who is needed to get the job done. It should say who is on board today and give a vision of what the organization might look like in the future.

Financial- This section is boring and nobody reads it. Wrong. Except the fellow that will write the check. Often this is the weakest section in most plans. This is caused by creating the numbers using a “tops-down” methodology. A much better practice is to start at the bottom with your product, create a time line for product development and launch, figure how many people are needed to manage and sell the products, and then create your forecast. This approach creates a more realistic plan which will be believed by your banker or investors.

Everything Else- All the other stuff goes in the appendix and is used only when it is needed and should be bound separately. Present this second volume only when asked.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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