Drafting Your Plan
1. Create an executive summary that outlines your business.
The first page of your business plan is a brief summary of the entire plan. Use this summary to really sell your business, especially if you’re looking for investors or bank loans.
- Even though the executive summary is the first part of your plan, you’ll typically want to write it last. It’s far easier to summarize your business plan once you’ve got the full draft in front of you.
- Include an executive summary even if you’re starting a small business and don’t plan on seeking any outside funding for it. Writing it helps you think constructively about your business and where you’d like to see it go.
2. Provide details about the background and current status of your business.
This is the part of your business plan where you tell the story of your business. If you have a compelling story about how you came up with the idea to start your business, or if there’s something particularly interesting about the people involved, you might include that information here.
- For example, if you started making hair barrettes for your daughter and her friends and want to start selling them on the internet, you might tell the story of how all the girls in your daughter’s school wanted the barrettes.
- Include the nuts and bolts of your business as well, such as how you’re organized (if you’ve incorporated or formed an LLC, for example) and where you’re located.
- You might think location isn’t important for an internet business, but it impacts the types of funding available for your business as well as the regulations that govern you and the taxes you’ll have to pay.
3. Describe the products or services you plan to offer.
Use plain language to explain what products or services your internet business will offer to the public. Avoid technical or industry jargon as much as you can and define anything you can’t avoid. Include basic information about the market you’re entering and who your primary competitors will be.
- For small shops with homemade items, look at similar shops on the internet and think about how your products are different from theirs (besides the fact that you made them).
- In business lingo, this is the section where you identify the problem your target customers have and how your products or services solve that problem. If others are offering similar solutions, describe how yours is better or different.
- If you’re researching ways to improve your products or services, provide details about that work and how much money it will cost. For example, if you’re making hair barrettes, you might be looking into waterproof materials or elastic that doesn’t pull hair.
4. Discuss how you plan to market your products or services.
Your readers know what you have to offer—now, tell them how you plan to sell those products or services to the people who need them. Describe your target customer and explain how you plan to reach them and convince them to buy from you.
- Your target customers are the people you think are going to buy your products or services—they might not necessarily be the people who ultimately use them. For example, if you’re selling handmade hair barrettes for little girls, your target customers would likely be their parents, not the little girls themselves.
- For example, if you’re planning on buying targeted advertising on social media, you might include examples of the ads you’re going to run and the types of people who will see those ads.
5. Explain the day-to-day operations of your business.
In this section, you’ll discuss how various tasks will be processed and who will complete them. If you have specific requirements for the location of your business, you’ll cover those here.
- If you’re running your business out of your home, you might not need any additional requirements for your location. At the same time, if your business expands, you might want to move it out of your home, so take that into consideration.
- Include information about any shipping or delivery services you plan to use and the costs for those services.
- Provide information about deadlines and how you’ll get your products or services to your customers in a timely fashion. For example, in a crafts-based business, you might outline how long it takes you to complete a custom order.
6. Outline your management structure.
Give a little background for each of the people who will be in charge of your business, including yourself. Highlight the particular expertise that each member of your management team brings to the table. If you’re starting your business on your own, simply describe your own background and skills.
- As long as you’re not seeking any outside funding from banks or investors, you don’t have to worry too much about having any particular business management experience. Just keep in mind that if you want to scale up at some point, you might want to work with a professional, such as an accountant.
- If you’re planning to hire employees or management staff, set parameters for when new people will be added—perhaps when you reach a certain sales volume. Briefly describe your minimum requirements for new people in terms of their skills and qualifications.