Keywords: business plan, startup, Investor, business plan elements
It is no doubt that the world’s greatest innovations, the most profitable enterprises, and the most successful businesses since the beginning of time have germinated from an idea. However, it is imperative to note that most of these businesses thrived because proper plans were made.
For any startup, it is important to have a business plan that highlights the activities, objectives, goals, and how such goals would be achieved.
‘He who fails to plan is planning to fail- Winston Churchill’
Why Do You Need a Business Plan?
There is a very high possibility that if you are reading this, you already have an idea that could turn a startup into a million-dollar empire. Congratulations, you are one step up on the ladder to having a successful business. To accelerate your steps on this ladder, you’ll need a business plan. To accelerate even faster, you’ll be needing not just any business plan but an investor-ready business plan.
In other words, you’ll need a business plan to:-
- Attract investors or partners that can provide funding that you’ll need for your business.
- Check the feasibility and viability of your business venture.
- Set attainable goals for the future.
- Ascertain the risks and benefits of your business venture.
- Understand the market, its potentials, and how it can be exploited.
- Get approval of loans and grants easily.
- Set milestones to check success levels in the future.
Elements of a Good Business Plan
A convincing business plan must contain most or all these elements listed below;
Table of Contents
Surprisingly, most people do not consider this part of a business plan document as important. This is the part that highlights the other parts of the document. It provides a clear picture of what to expect in the business plan.
Truthfully, most people would not read a 4000plus document word for word, especially not a business plan that can be regarded as boring. A table of content makes the document easier to navigate. It also makes the plan look very professional.
Although tables of contents are usually found on the first pages (preliminary pages) of a document, they are usually completed after one is done with the whole document.
Table of content can be created easily by using the functions of a Microsoft Word document. By making use of the headings under the ‘Styles Ribbon”, one can insert a table of content automatically under the Reference Section.
This part is arguably the most important part of a business plan. An investor or a potential funder can get convinced or otherwise just from this section. It gives a summary of the whole document.
The executive summary introduces the company, it summarizes the problem and the solution. Furthermore, it summarizes the market analysis, Operational plan, marketing and sales strategies, management of the organization, and the financial projections.
It can contain as many paragraphs as required. Each paragraph is subject to different parts of the business plan. It is the technical part of the document that is written lastly.
This is the part where you write about the company in detail. It can start with a quick company summary describing its activities and a quick profile of the owner. The problem and solution would also be expressed in detail in this part.
Furthermore, the mission and vision statements are clearly stated in this part. The location, website, email address, and phone number can also be provided in the company’s description.
Market Research Analysis
This is the data-driven part of a business plan. It provides data that back up one’s business idea. Through in-depth research or surveys conducted primarily by the business owner.
It also contains charts, graphs, tables, and other forms of data analysis. Investors are usually very interested in this section because it is that part where “science says your idea has potentials and that there is a market for it to prosper”.
The target market, competition, scope of the market, and its direction and themes would also be presented analytically in this section.
Products or Services
Here is where the products or services offered or that will be offered by the company will be presented. Further details such as the pricing, mode of sale (freemium, direct sales, or subscription), benefits, and the special technologies that surround the production of such products or services will be discussed in detail.
Strategy and Implementation Plan
Just as the name implies, the strategy and Implementation plan expiate the competitive strategies and marketing strategies. The plans on how to excel are judiciously highlighted here.
Different marketing campaigns and how each marketing dollar is to be spent on advertising would be analyzed.
Organization and Management
How will the company be structured? Is there an executive or advisory board? What is the legal status of the company? What is the hierarchy in this organization?
All these questions will be answered prudently in this segment. Details can also be presented graphically using organograms. The experience, academic qualifications, and achievements of each team member are boldly written in this section.
This portion is very pertinent. It is summed up in dollars, numbers, percentages, and logical assumptions.
Since it is filled up with charts and tables derived from complex calculations, it is advisable to prepare this part in an excel sheet before copying it to the Word document.
In this segment, the Profit and Loss, customer acquisition cost, balance sheet, and cash flow are analyzed. The analysis is usually done in the projection of 3-5years.
Funds can also be requested in the section. If funds are requested, the analysis of how the funds will be used should be done in a separate table.
Types of Business Plans
Over time, there have been different variations of business plans such as StartUp Plan, Expansion Plan, Operational Plans, Growth Business Plans, Feasibility Plans, etc.
All these variations can be categorized into two (2) major categories.
- Traditional business plan
- Lean business plan
Difference between The Traditional and The Lean Business Plan
The major differences between the traditional and the lean business plan include;
- The traditional plan contains almost all the essential elements of a business plan as discussed above thus, a traditional business plan is more detailed. A lean plan on the other hand is a very short but highly-focused business plan.
- While the traditional business plan contains elements such as the table of contents, executive summary, market analysis, products or services, Organization and management, Marketing and Sales, and financials in full detail; the Lean plan usually highlights just the identity of the company, problem, solutions, target market, competitions, revenue and milestones in short sentences.
- Traditional business plans are usually 15-20pages long while the Lean business plan is usually one page.
It is very pertinent to note that a business plan must contain the key elements. Also, it must be convincing to the business owner at first before it is pitched to any potential funder.
Also, it should be updated from time to time to accommodate the changes in the behavior of the consumers, goals of the company, revenue, and the flexibility of such an organization.
Having understood the key elements of a business plan, one can conclude that it can be a very demanding document to put together.
However, with proper research and the right amount of energy, and investor-ready business plan can be written without having to hire any professional.