A clear, well-written business plan can have many positive benefits. However, many entrepreneurs with new businesses (or not-so-new ventures) do not have one. 

A business plan can provide goals and guidelines to meet and aspire to. It can help you make decisions as you grow. Your business plan can educate others about your business as well as help you qualify for recognition or honours in your industry (i.e. grants or awards)

Now that you understand how a business plan can help you, put on a pot of coffee or tea, and spend some time gathering the information you need to create one. 

What do I need to include in my business plan? 

You will need to know the essentials of a business plan to guide you – what to include, what you do not need to include, how much information to include and places you can go for help. Remember who your audience is, and what your purpose is. Have people that you trust who do and do not know much about your business review the document, and use their feedback to improve it. 

Here are the sections to include in your business plan:

Executive summary – open this section with a one-sentence overview that sums up what you do. For example, here is Uber’s; Uber – The Smartest Way to Get Around. It describes what they do, and articulates what makes them unique (also known as their value proposition)

Follow this statement with the problem your business solves in the market, describe your product or service and identify your ideal client. 

Business description – a short overview of your industry that touches on the present outlook as well as future possibilities. You also need to provide information about sub-markets within the industry (i.e. new products or developments that may affect your business)

Market strategies – this section will require collaboration, so it may take longer to write. Stay focused on completing it by reaching out to other entrepreneurs and trusted advisors. Get their help to define your target market and state how you plan to succeed in this industry. 

Competitive analysis – you will write about your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in your market. Include the tactics that you will use to elevate your business and how you plan to grow your business. 

Design plan – this section provides investors with a description of how you design your product(s) or service(s), chart its development, marketing approach and a development budget to propel your business to reach your goals.  

Operations and management plan – this is how your business functions. It will focus on logistics, team members (if applicable) and expenses related to operating the business. 

Financial factors – include a spreadsheet that shows your planned sales, expenses and profits. If you need to provide more details about how your business makes money, add it here. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. If you want someone to invest, this section needs to prove why it is a safe, worthwhile investment. 

Appendix – use this final section for product images or additional information relevant to your business here.   

Finding Your Inspiration 

We have discussed what needs to go into a business plan. However, if you feel like you need more guidance before you get started, I highly recommend reading The One Page Business Plan for the Creative Entrepreneur by James Horan. I like this book because the tips can be adapted to many industries. 

If you have not written a business plan before (or you haven’t updated your plan recently), a new year is a wonderful reason to create or review your plan with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of commitment. Your business is well worth the time and effort you will invest into this task!