This business plan quickstart guide will highlight essential points of consideration in writing a business plan.
One cardinal consideration is the intended audience. Whether the intent is to impact external supporters of a company (e.g. shareholders, investors, customers, etc.) or to inspire those internal to the company (via measurable goals and decision making guidance), the eventual audience will determine how to write the business plan.
No two business plans will be the same. Content will flux in accordance with the goals that you have, and the audience you are trying to present them to. In fact, business owners often develop different forms of their business plan to maximize presentation effectiveness.
For example, an "elevator pitch" is used for very short presentations (about three minutes or less). This type of pitch would most likely be given to a potential customer or investor, such as a venture capitalist, whose interest needs to be kindled rapidly. Other presentation formats include written summaries (detailed reports to external investors), oral presentations of a written summary (key information presented in slide show format intended to increase interest in the written summary), and an internal operations plan (to inform employees of both the company's goals and plans/procedures to achieve those goals).
It is also important to note that business plans integrate information from various disciplines necessary in running the business ( e.g. finance, human resources, marketing, operations, etc.). According to the Harvard School Business School Press-Pocket Mentor "Creating a Business Plan," a typical start-up business plan should include:
- cover page and table of contents
- executive summary
- business description
- business environment analysis
- industry background
- competitor analysis
- market analysis
- marketing plan
- operations plan
- management summary
- financial plan
- attachments and milestone
The items in the list are like a body. Each aspect of the plan helps the body function properly. However, of all the parts, or limbs, the executive summary is the most important. It is the heart of any business plan.
An executive summary condenses the entire report to about a tenth of its total length. It can be read separately from the rest of the document, being an invaluable resource for key decision makers. Also, the strength of the executive summary often determines whether or not a reader decides to examine the whole report.
Wherever you are in the process of writing a business plan, it is critical to remember that the recipients of the plan will affect both what you report and how you report it.