How to Write a Business Plan

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” is an adage often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Centuries later, its sentiment is just as applicable — a bit of forethought can mean the difference between success and failure. Think of writing a business plan as an important investment in your business, a valuable exercise in clarifying your vision and assessing its possibilities before you commit more time and money.

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How to Write a Business Plan

What do you include in a business plan? Using a business plan template is a simple way to get started — most major banks have online interactive tools to help you create one. But even without online tools, writing a business plan is simple when you split it into categories. Here are the parts you’ll want to include:

Executive Summary

The executive summary is a one- to two-page synopsis of all aspects of your business, from your target market and team structure to your product or service concept. Although this is the first part of the plan, it should be written last, once you’ve researched and thought through the rest of it.

Business Overview

Next comes a more detailed description of the objectives, history, vision and management structure of your business written as an overview for potential investors. It’s also a great exercise for the sake of your own clarity.

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Products and Services

Expand on your products and services, touching upon manufacturing and suppliers (if relevant), features, benefits and competitive analysis.

Industry Overview

Put your business in context with an analysis of the current market in your industry and details about key trends and emerging markets.

Marketing Strategy

Now is the time to talk about your unique selling proposition (USP) and how you compare to competitors. Discuss potential promotions and how you plan to appeal to your target markets. Mention anticipated costs associated with traditional advertising as well as social media marketing.

Operations Plan

Lay out a plan for the day-to-day operations of your business with information about human resourcing, business locations and production, if relevant.

Financial Plan

Dedicate most of your time to writing this section, as the number crunching is the most important part. You should include three years of projected finances such as income, expected monthly cash flow, revenue and expenses. Summarize each point in a cover page so it can also be read at a glance.

After you’ve learned how to write a business plan, you’re ready to go. Take a look at Small Business BC’s handy business plan checklist to make sure you have everything you need to get going. Good luck!