The Art of Writing a Business Plan

There are a gazillion resources online that discuss the subject of writing a business plan. Well, maybe not a gazillion. But there are certainly a lot. I have read enough of them to know there are a few core ingredients that must be included in every business plan. Here’s a rough, but typical outline:

I. Executive Summary

II. Business Analysis

III. Competitive Analysis

IV. Customer Analysis

V. Marketing Plan

VI. Operational Plan

VII. Management

VIII. Financial Plan

IX. Appendixes

The Executive Summary is always ordered first and the Financial Plan is always read first. That’s just the way it goes, especially when it’s read by stakeholders and potential investors.

The writing of a business plan isn’t exactly a science and not every one agrees on the process. Some consultants and online templates focus on the content or order of each topic. But not enough discuss how the tone or narrative  of business plans can and should be different depending on their purpose. For example, confidential business plans that are strictly used on an internal basis and that serve as a “handbooks” of operations are written completely different than business plans that are intended to be read by investors. Using a business plan to raise capital necessitates an optimistic (and realistic) WOW! factor be woven into the narrative. Investors need to read about the profitability of the industry and how the business will successfully capture it. They need to read about how there is a need for the product. And they need to be convinced that Management is qualified for and excited about the opportunity.

And that’s a real art!

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