A business plan outline is the second most important starting point once you've pre-determined your audience. The business plan outline should be prepared before the actual research and writing of the business plan. Once your outline has been set; organize your research files around the layout of your plan.
Every business plan follows a generic outline but not every business plan is the same. Business plan outlines differ on 2 factors:
1. Type of Business: Details of critical success factors for businesses in your industry must be included in the plan. Technology companies will discuss R & D, intellectual property, and time to market. A retailer will feature pricing methods, inventory control, merchandising and location. Ensure that your plan is complete by addressing factors important to your industry.
2. Type of Audience: A banker business plan will be different from an investor plan. Bankers like to see risk assessment and planning, loan amounts, repayment terms and collateral. Investors want a return on investment, an exit strategy, and planned growth with the funds.
Business Plan Outline General
Executive Summary: overview of most important points of business plan and selling your business.
Company Description: mission statement, company overview, industry briefing, corporate history, legal structure.
Products & Services: description, R & D, pricing, delivery, production.
Marketing & Sales: market definition, customer profile, competitive & SWOT analysis, strategy, sales & promotion.
Operations: Legal & government issues, staffing, suppliers, alliances, policies, risk assessment, facilities, location, insurance, milestones.
Management: key job descriptions, responsibilities, management team, organizational chart, advisors.
Financials: Profit & loss, cash flow, balance sheet, financing, debt schedule, use of funds and assumptions, break-even analysis.
Business Plan Outline Extras
The extras are what takes a plan from 10 pages to 20 pages. More in-depth and detailed for higher levels of funding and a greater complexity of investors. No real need for extras if your plan does not require it. Here's a brief description of some of the extras that can be added to your business plan outline:
- SWOT Analysis: As part of your competitor profile, adding a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis can show your investors you understand the competitive landscape and your business can operate within that environment.
- Porter's Five Forces: Michael Porter's 5 forces framework is a standard business tool used by companies to evaluate an industry's key forces. This is an important extra to add to your business plan outline especially if you are a start-up or an existing business entering a new market.
- Glossary: If your business plan audience is not well-versed in your industry jargon, a glossary adds value to your overall plan. If you are writing a biotech business plan on gene therapy agents, determine the level of knowledge your target audience has on the subject.
- Publishing Value-Adds: These are simply publication elements to improve the readability and presentation of your plan. This can include: a cover page with logos, graphics, charts, and table of contents.
What goes into your business plan appendix for a complete outline?