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09/18/2012

10 Tips for Writing Successful Business Plans

Having an effective business plan is critical to securing financing. The following tips will help you create a successful business plan.

1. Develop an Outline

Business plans vary in length and format, but all should include the following sections:
• Executive Summary
• Company Description
• Product or Service Description
• Market Analysis
• Marketing and Sales Strategy
• Operational Plan
• Management Team
• Financial Analysis

Some plans subdivide certain topics. For example, many business plans have separate headings for Marketing Strategy and Sales Strategy or use Industry Analysis, Target Market, and Competitive Analysis rather than just Market Analysis.

2. Write a Good Executive Summary

The Executive Summary provides an opportunity to capture the reader’s interest, so it is important to do a good job with this section. Include a concise description of your company and its mission, vision, competitive advantages, and achievements, as well as information about your product or service and why people will want to buy it. Ideally, this section should be about 1-2 pages in length and focused on the elements of your business most likely to intrigue and impress your audience.

3. Go Beyond Simple Product, Service, and Company Descriptions

When describing your company, be sure to emphasize its competitive advantages, the types of customers it will serve, and what differentiates it from competing businesses. When describing your products or services, provide information about how they will be produced and delivered and why consumers will want to buy them. What makes your product or service unique? How does it meet an unfilled need in the marketplace?

4. Research the Market

Having a good market analysis is critical to the effectiveness of your business plan. This section should include:

• Information on consumer segments as well as market demand, trends, and growth
• An industry analysis that includes general participants, growth rate, intensity of competition, and other relevant factors
• Information about your company’s primary competitors, including their strengths and weaknesses
• A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of your proposed business.

Use good sources for your research, cite them properly, and don’t overestimate your own strengths and opportunities and underestimate those of your competitors – this will make you appear less credible to potential investors.

5. Provide a Detailed Strategy and Operational Plan

What is your value proposition? What gives your company a competitive edge? How will you promote your product or service? How will you continue to attract customers? What sales channels will you use? How will you get your products or services to your customers? What is your pricing strategy? Have you formed any strategic alliances? How will you operate on a day-to-day basis (hours of operation, suppliers, facility and technology requirements, information systems). How will you grow your business over time? You should answer all of these questions in this section. Include short-term goals as well as a five-year plan for growth that lists anticipated achievement milestones.

6. Include Information About Your E-Business Approach

Information technology is critical to the success of modern businesses. Your e-business strategy can be included in the Marketing and Sales Strategy section or described in a separate section of your business plan. It should cover the use of Internet-based platforms for marketing, management, cost reduction, and other aspects of your business, as well as how you will develop your website and support online sales.

7. Incorporate a Comprehensive Overview of Staffing and Management

Provide biographies of your management team, including the skills and experience they bring to your company, as well as general staffing information. This section should describe how you will recruit, train, and retain the workers you need. Include job descriptions and essential skills, and provide an organizational chart of staffing positions. Business consultants, advisors, or mentors can also be included in this section.

8. Provide a Detailed Financial Analysis

The Financial Analysis section typically includes a number of components, such as Important Assumptions, Key Financial Indicators, Break-Even Analysis, Projected Profit and Loss, Projected Cash Flow, Projected Balance Sheet, and Business Ratios. It should, at the very least, include Cash Flow Statements, a Profit and Loss Forecast, and a Sales Forecast.

9. Emphasize Environmental Friendliness and/or Social Responsibility

Sustainability and giving back to local communities have become vital to the success of modern companies. Throughout the plan, be sure to incorporate references to the ways in which your product, service, or company benefits the local community or the environment.

10. Hire a Professional Editor

Business plans with spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors and inconsistent formatting give the impression that you are unprofessional and careless. It is also important to use short, clear sentences and avoid buzzwords. Even those who have a talent for writing and editing tend to lack objectivity when looking at their own work. A professionally edited business plan is far more impressive to potential investors.

Posted by: ADMIN

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