In surveying many successful business plans, you will find that no one format fits them all. Depending upon the nature of the business, certain topics take precedence over others. Often the owners write their business plans, since they know the most about their business operation and management and they have learned what elements to include to make the best impression.
A complete business plan for a startup company is best organized according to the logical development of the business and is comprised of at least 12 basic components.
1. Executive Summary: By definition, to summarize the elements of your business
2. Company Description: For identification, to introduce your readers to your company and your business concept
3. Industry analysis: To provide a picture of your industry and of the position of your business within the larger framework
4. Market and Competition: To evaluate what you are getting into. While some business plan proponents separate market and competition, it takes an examination of both, together, to come to one very important final conclusion: your market share. Consequently, it is best to examine and present them together.
5. Strategies and Goals: To analyze the market and your competition in order to determine how and where your company or products or services fit and to maximize your position with your target market
6. Products or Services: To describe your products or services and how they match your findings of your strategies and goals
7. Marketing and Sales: To market your products or services with the best positioning and to forecast your sales based on the findings of categories four, five, and six, in that order
8. Management and Organization: To present the management and personnel who will run the show. This section can be separated into two sections for more complex companies.
9. Operations: To explain how the business is run
10. Financial Pro Formas: To forecast successful financial performance for all activities
11. Financial Requirement: To present the type and amount of financing needed, based on the previous sections, to accomplish the whole plan
12. Exhibits: By definition, to close the plan and separate any supporting materials that would otherwise interrupt the flow of the story
A professionally written startup business plan has all 12 of these basic sections presented in the order of the outline. Most of the segments listed will also be reflected in the same order of presentation, although there may be slight variances depending on your type of business. When your business plan is written to obtain financing, the financial requirement section may be tailored either as a loan request or as an investment offering proposal, and then titled accordingly.