Business Plan Outline FAQ

Successful small business owners know that a business plan is a critical tool. A business plan is a written document that outlines a number of details about your business strategy and planning. It can be used to secure external funding (such as a bank loan) or to monitor progress on an ongoing basis. A business plan needn't be complicated, but should contain a number of essential sections. Learn more with the following business plan outline.

Executive summary

A business plan will often be read by individuals who want a basic overview of your business strategy and ideas. Even if the rest of the document is very detailed, the executive summary may be the only section that a financier will want to look at. Your executive summary should include the main highlights from the rest of the document and should comprise no more than two pages. It should be engaging but is not meant to contain hype or sales-language. The reader should understand what your business is about from reading the executive summary.

The business, products and services

This section helps you clearly articulate what your business does and sets out the vision for where you want to go. An overview of the business should describe the sector in which it operates, the type of business, a brief history, the legal structure and a vision for the future. Describe your products and or services, how they differ from others and why customers would want to use your business. Detail how you intend to develop these services and what the unique selling points are for your business.

Marketing strategy

For your customers to learn more about your products and services, you need a marketing strategy. In this section, you must describe your market and target customers. Identify your major competitors, along with an idea of the market share each one holds. Anticipate any future changes and how your business may be able to adapt. Describe how you plan to position your product in the market, how your pricing strategy works and how you will reach out to your customers. Ensure that you demonstrate how products or services will be sold. This is critical to your financial performance.

Operational overview

Your business plan should identify your management team and any other personnel that you employ. It's important to explain the skills and experience that these people bring to your business, and don't forget to consider your experience in this description. An overview of your operations is important too. This section describes your premises (where appropriate) and any other facilities that you use or own, as well as your information systems and IT. Explain any dependencies you have (an Internet connection for an online store, for example).

Financial forecasts

The financial section should translate all the previous information into a cost or income. Your profit will comprise a variety of costs, offset against the income that you are able to generate. You may want to ask for help or advice from your accountant or an experienced financial manager to help construct this in the right way. Alternatively, there are a variety of different business plan templates online that could help you.

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