Architects create blueprints. Doctors follow treatment plans. Coaches develop playbooks. Everything flows more smoothly when a plan is in place. This is especially true for entrepreneurs trying to start, run, or grow their business.
A solid business plan will help you and your employees stay on track and motivated by creating a strategy for today and a vision for the future. In addition, a good plan is essential if you want to attract investors and obtain financing that will help you realize this vision.
Now that you know why this type of plan is so important, it’s time to learn how to build a winning business plan, step by step.
This is the first part of the business plan that potential investors will review, but that doesn’t mean it should be the first you write. In fact, many business owners prefer to save this text for last because it pulls out the main information from all the other sections and acts as a summary of what their audience is about to read.
An executive summary is usually one to two pages long and should include:
- Mission statement
- Problem that the company solves
- A brief overview of the products and/or services
- Target audience
- Ownership structure
- High level finance
- Future plans
Although the executive summary is only part of a complete business plan, don’t be surprised if it’s the only part that prospects read – at the beginning anyway. That’s why it’s so important to grab their attention and make them want more. If readers are intrigued by the executive summary, they can continue reading, request more detailed information, or even schedule a presentation.
2. Description of the company
Think of this second section as the who, what, when, where and why of your business. Here you should include details such as:
- Company Name
- Owners names
- work address
- Number of employees
- Property type
- Description of goods and services
- Company history
- The company’s strengths (and even its weaknesses with a plan to overcome them)
- Brief overview of products and/or services
Be sure to talk about why you started your business in the first place. Don’t think of it as just filling out a form, but imagine what you would say if someone asked you about your business. Show the same enthusiasm and passion in your writing as you would in person. It will also excite the reader.
3. Market analysis
Understanding your own business is very important, but sometimes that’s not enough. For your business to claim your position in the market, you also need to have a solid understanding of your industry, your competitors, and your target audience. This section delves into all of these things. The best market analysis sections include detailed data from research to back up each claim. If you can show how your business addresses an unmet need or demand in the market in a way that other businesses don’t, it will go a long way with partners and investors.
4. Products or services
No one knows your products or services better than you. This is the section where you can brag about it in depth. Clearly describe your products or services, including their:
- Assess — What problem do your products or services solve for your customers? What makes them different?
- price point — Detail the cost of your product or service and what customers get out of it (size, quantity, quality) as well as how the price compares to your competitors
- Distribution — Talk about how your customers get your products or services once they buy them. At the store? Same day delivery? By email? Virtually?
5. Commercial and marketing strategy
The best products and services in the world mean nothing if no one knows about them. That’s why it’s essential for the success of your business and your business plan to have a marketing strategy that describes how you plan to market your products and services. A good marketing strategy takes into account the four Ps of marketing:
- Product — Clearly indicate how your product meets a market need. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can borrow information from the product section.
- Price — The price of your product or service depends on many factors, including customer demand, supply chain availability, and competitor prices. In addition to detailing the prices of your products or services, provide information on how you arrived at those prices and any wholesale or bundled discounts or seasonal prices.
- Promotion — How will you publicize your products or services? Traditional advertising? Social campaigns? In-store promotions? In this section, talk about your marketing budget and how and where you are going to spend it.
- Square — Where is the product manufactured, stored and shipped from? How does it get from point A to point B? How long does it take to move between these points?
In addition to a marketing strategy, you’ll want to include your sales strategy in this section. This piece is not only an important element for your business plan, but will also serve as a model for the future of your sales staff.
6. Organizational and management structure
So far, we’ve talked about the high-level structure of your business. Now is the time to dive into day-to-day operations. This section should include:
- Type of business structure — Is your business an LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation?
- Breakdown of ownership — If other people own a share of your business, provide a list of those people and their percentage ownership. If yours is a minority or woman-owned business, you can also include that here.
- Leadership — List the members of your management team or anyone in a management or decision-making position. It’s also a good idea to include biographies of individual team members.
7. Financial analysis
Whether you are looking for investors or financing, it is important to include an analysis of your current finances (profits and losses) as well as future projections. If your business is new and you don’t have a financial history, be honest and clear about your projections. One way to do this is to research comparable businesses in your area. Here are some things to include:
- Income statement — Provide a summary of your income, costs and expenses
- Balance sheet — View your assets, liabilities and equity
- Cash Flow — Display of inputs and outputs
- Sales and Revenue Projections — Include projects up to five years old
Bring it all together
Writing a solid business plan can take time and careful thought. This business plan checklist is meant as a guide to help you make sure you have all the sections you need. If you have questions about your finances or just want to pitch someone ideas, contact a Chase investment banker.
For Informational/Educational Purposes Only: The opinions expressed in this article may differ from those of other employees and departments of JPMorgan Chase & Co. The opinions and strategies described may not be appropriate for everyone and may are not intended to be specific advice/recommendations for any individual. . The information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but JPMorgan Chase & Co. or its affiliates and/or subsidiaries do not warrant its completeness or accuracy. You should carefully consider your needs and goals before making any decisions and consult with the appropriate professional(s). Prospects and past performance are not indicative of future results.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA Member FDIC. ©2022 JPMorgan Chase & Co.