Writing a business plan is an important first step to getting your business up and running. An effective business plan will serve as a roadmap for your business and the decisions you make along the way, and help you to obtain financing, build relationships, attract good employees, and boost your confidence as a business owner.
The structure of a business plan may vary depending on your business and needs, but it often incorporates the sections below:
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides a Business Plan Tool, which provides a step-by-step process to update the status of your business plan. Small Business Development Centers in New Jersey also provide personalized expert counseling.
- Executive Summary
- The executive summary is the first (and sometimes only) part of your business plan that people will read. The executive summary should provide information about your business and incorporate the highlights of the below sections. Ultimately, you want to leave the readers with a strong understanding of what your business is and why it will be successful.
- Provide a high level overview of your business, how it will be structured and what your goals are for your business.
- Business Description
- Describe your business, the specific product or service that you will offer and the features that make it special or different from your competitors.
- Market Analysis
- Demonstrate why your business model is relevant and timely. This section should ideally include information about industry trends, your target customers and their demographics, and your competitors in the region. This information will not only be essential to help you think about how to differentiate your product, but also where and who to market to, and different locations where your business might be most successful.
- Organization & Management
- Focus on the ownership, legal structure and human resources side of your business. Use this area to introduce your team and the skills and expertise that they bring to the table. It can be helpful to provide an organizational chart to show the roles and responsibilities of you and your team, and a plan on when and how to hire additional staff if needed.
- Marketing & Sales
- Provide a plan of action to market and sell your product or service to the target customers that you identified in the Market Analysis. Identify the different strategies that you can use to build and grow your business over time.
- Show your current and projected financial status, including balance sheets, a cash flow statement, and revenue projections. In simple terms: how much do you need to earn each month in order to cover wages, rent, loans, equipment and other expenses?
- Appendix or Supporting Documents
- Include additional documents that support your plan.