A business plan is vital not just for starting up your business or for applying for loans but also to give you a clearer view of your business' current situation, the improvements that you could introduce in the system, and the general direction of where you are headed as a corporation. There is no specific layout required. The rule of thumb in creating one is to put more detail and weight into the business aspect that you most want to focus on, or which best fulfills your purposes. There are, however, key aspects that most business plans contain - here's how to get started:
- Executive Summary. This is typically the last to be written. The executive summary briefly summarizes the key points of the business plan. It must be succinct, concise and readable. Again, assess your main purpose for creating the business plan, and to give you a better idea which business aspects you need to put emphasis on.
- Background Information. This will include a brief company description (your history, mission statement, target costumers, etc) and a description of the products and services that you offer. Note that if you were making an internal business plan, you wouldn't have to include company information. Choose the information that you will need to include, though it's always good to highlight customer benefits and your company's overall cost effectiveness.
- Operations Plan. This, along with the financial plan, may form the bulk of your business plan. Be sure to include in this part details such as system of operations (for example, if you manufacture goods then what the process entails), an information and communications plan (how you disseminate information internally and externally), strategies and implementation, management systems, and a brief introduction of the management team and their key responsibilities. Remember to emphasize positive points that demonstrate your company's productivity and effectiveness, and if there is any room for improvement, use this business plan as an opportunity to outline development plans that respond to these areas accordingly.
- Financial Plan. Include in this part such details as your balance sheets, cash flows, current financing plans, funding plan, break even analysis, and financial forecasts. You may include a three-year summary or a year-end analysis. If your company is only months old, you can illustrate it on a per month basis, being sure to chart the financial progress.
- Supporting Documents. This would include all the legal documents, licenses and permits that your business requires, along with the resumes of all the principals. Include other documents that you believe to be relevant. If you're a franchisee, for example, attach copies of your franchise papers.
Though as mentioned there is no required business plan layout, it's a good idea to view samples from those within the same industry to give you an idea how to best formulate your own. Search the net for these, along with some business plan templates that could help you get started. Good luck!