Get Your Copy of “The Business Plan Checklist”
The first step to writing a better business plan is to download the free business plan checklist from our Media Gallery.
This is a free to download Microsoft Excel checklist, containing a two page outline of content recommended to incorporate into a business plan. The file is not locked and can be edited to either delete or add content to the checklist.
How to Use the Checklist
A business plan is invaluable to obtain financing from investors or for a business loan; however, it is useless if the correct information is not used. A business plan has generally nine different sections. Each section is used to explain different departments, facilities, functions, goals, operations, strategies, target market and several other aspects of the company required by investors and lenders to determine if they will finance or invest in your company.
In the free business plan checklist from the Media Gallery, each section is listed and outlined in brief detail. Below we’ll take a deeper look at the purpose of each section and the important information each section should contain.
The Executive Summary of a business plan is basically the introduction to all the information which will be covered in more detail throughout the business plan with overviews of each section; including the items placed in the Appendix section. This section should grab the readers attention, which will require interesting facts about the business idea requiring funding and competencies over competitors, which will make the company and their product and/or service line desirable in the consumer market. Be sure to incorporate a brief, but clear explanation of the overall goal of the business plan; for example, to get more funds for a specific project or to obtain finances to begin a new business.
Although there are many pieces of information in this first section, it is a general rule to keep the Executive Summary to one page. Keeping this first section of the business plan short and sweet will provide the investor with enough information for the investor to get introduced to the concept and goal of the business plan; while allowing them to quickly move into more detailed information.
The Market Analysis section should begin by introducing the overall market the company’s product and/or service line fits in, which should include the overall market worth, competitors holding significant market share, and competitors with very similar products. The market analysis should then turn to looking at the company and target market the company is interested in along with numbers and statistics to support the decision for targeting the specific market of consumers.
Calculating business forecasts to explain how the company will gain market share and increase its customer database overtime can help give investors a view of how the company is expected to perform based on the information provided in this section. Finally, the section should conclude with the risks and trends commonly experienced in the market due to seasonality, purchasing habits, or other predictable events encountered in the market.
For more information on the on the remaining sections and other tips to successfully use a business plan to obtain finances, please continue reading on Page 2.
In order to complete the Company Description section, which is part of the business plan checklist, a company should explain every aspect of the nature and operations of the business. In order to get financing, it is important to state the core competencies the company has in the market.
A core competency is any aspect of business in which the company outperforms the same, or a similar, aspect of any other competing company. The core competencies of every company will be different in any industry; however, some examples of business core competencies include manufacturing the lowest cost products, providing the most durable product, providing employees with the best sales incentive compensation plan, or providing the best product warranty.
Next, state the strengths, or competencies, of the company; which are aspects of business a company performs well, however, other competitors may perform the same aspects of business better or worse than the company. Finally, weaknesses of the company must be stated, even if they do not affect the overall performance of the company.
Weaknesses of a company include items like a non-desirable location, a large amount of competitors in the same area, and even the lack of skilled trade to employ at the business.
Once these are listed, explain of how the company satisfies, or plans to satisfy, the needs of its customers. Conclude this section by connecting the company’s target market, explained in the Market Analysis section into the final sentences of how the customers' needs are or will be met.
Management and Organization
After explaining the company, it’s now time to begin working through the company to explain all the small details to an investor, starting with the management and organization of the company.
First, present the organizational structure of the company to the investors. For more information on the organization structure of a company, please read the article Creating an Organizational Structure. Then, include the profiles and responsibilities of the owners, executives and managers of the company. Finish up this section by explaining the company’s board of directors.
Marketing & Sales Management
Begin this section by reviewing the target market of the company and work in how the company will begin marketing toward this specific target market; thus, presenting a market penetration strategy. Then, explain the company’s growth strategy by explaining future marketing projects and future forecasts of the company; especially a sales forecast. For more information on creating a sales forecast, check out the article Complete Working Example of a Sales Forecast for 3 Forecasting Methods.
It is then important to include detail on how the company distributes products or services and handles customer service. Finally, the human resource aspects of the company must be explained, including sales incentive compensation plans offered to sales employees, what the calculated future sales forecasts are, and which markets do they use to sell their products; such as selling products in retail stores, selling through websites on the Internet or outsourcing this responsibility to marketing and sales agencies.
Service and/or Product Line
The next section is a description of the specific service and/or product the company offers. This should be a detailed description with a product life cycle outlook of how long the market penetration, market growth, and overall market for the service and/or product will last. The company’s research and development to create this service and/or product should be included into this section, as well as any copyrights, patents or trademarks obtained by the company.
To learn about the two most important sections of the business plan checklist, please continue reading on Page 3.
This section is the most important part of the entire business plan and is also included on the business plan checklist; it is the reason why you just wrote several hundred or thousand words explaining your business.
Begin by stating the short-term funding requirements, which can also be seen as the initial funding required. Then, state the company’s future funding requirements. Finally, specifically explain how all the money from both the short-term and future funding will be used.
Provide detailed information on the return on investment each month and the pay-back period, which is the length of time the money will be in use by the company before the company repays the investor or lender. Finish up by incorporating any other piece of information regarding the funding request the company would like to mention or explain.
The final section, Finances, refers to the primary data collected by the company regarding their finances. This section includes past sales reports, future sales forecasts, finances received in the past, company credit records and any other piece of financial information to show the strength of the company. Obviously, if the company is a new small business, it will not have most of these records; however, there are some pieces of financial information every company can incorporate.
Initial investments by owners and/or employees, the company’s current net worth, a list of the company’s current assets and, although this may hurt the chances for some companies to receive funding; any current liabilities to other lenders are all great pieces of information to present to the investors right away, as they will research the company. If an investor finds the company failed to mention a large debt or bad historical credit, they will most likely immediately decline the request.
Customizing the Business Plan Checklist
Keep in mind that not all information in the business plan checklist is required for every business. This document should be used as a general guideline to write a business plan. The general format can be altered or modified to fit any business idea.
Also, keep the business plan clear and straight forward to convince investors or lenders to offer the company funding to start up or maintain a business. Always use factual information which can be enforced with reports or other documentation.
_U.S. Small Business Administration. Essentials of a Good Business Plan. - https://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business/writing-business-plan/essential-elements-good-busines_
- Pixomar - https://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Finance_g198-Jackpot_p28351.html
- Author - Christopher Kochan
- Smokedsalmon - https://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Money_g61-Dollar_Coins_p33791.html
This post is part of the series: Entrepreneurship: Starting a New Business
The articles featured in this series will go through many aspects of becoming a new entrepreneur and the process of starting a new small business. Also, get access to free working examples and template downloads!