Create a Startup Business Plan in Easy Steps

How to Create a business plan
How to Create a Business Plan in 10 Steps. Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

Are you starting a business? Even if you don't need financing, it's a great idea to create a business plan. Here are the sections you will need for your business plan, and the order in which you should create them. 

Begin with a General Description of Your Business

Write a general description of your business, which includes:

  • Type of Business
    Describe what type of business this is (retail, manufacturing) and what the business produces or sells.
     
  • Legal Organization
    Discuss how the business will be organized (corporation, LLC, sole proprietorship, for example) and the process you will use to set up this organization form.
     
  • Business Location
    Describe the facility you will use for your business, including an address and information about the area. Include the square footage and a layout of the business, if this is available. If your business is in your home, describe the space you will use. Discuss whether this location will be purchased or rented and the terms for purchase or rental.
     
  • Licenses and Permits
    Include information on local ordinances which pertain to your business, as well as licenses and permits you have obtained or need to obtain.
     
  • Management and Employees
    Describe the owners and management of the business, along with the expected number and types of employees who will be working in the business. This will be a very brief description; you'll be doing a more detailed management plan in a later section. 

    Create a Specific Plan for the Products or Services You Will be Selling

     Include: 

    • A general description of each product
    • Pricing structure of this product and whether you will have different prices for various markets.
    • Whether you will produce this product or purchase from a wholesaler to resell to your customers.

      If you are providing services, describe these services in detail, including:

      • A general description of each type of service and how it will be performed.
      • Pricing for the various services you will be providing.

       

      Next, create your business marketing plan. 

      Describe the Target Market for Your Business 

      Create a description of your Target Market. This description should include:

      • A description of your "ideal" customer in terms of this person or company's characteristics, attitudes, and buying behaviors. This description should be as complete as possible.
      • A discussion of the information about the "population" to whom you will be selling, in terms of numbers and demographics (characteristics), like age, sex, education level, income level, and other important information.
      • A description of the buying behaviors of your Target Market.

      Describe the Competition for Your Products or Services

      Create a description of the competition for your products or services within your Target Market,including:

      • Numbers of competitors
      • Characteristics of your top 3 competitors
      • Unique points of difference between you and your competitors
      • The ways in which you will emphasize the difference between your products/services and those of your competitors, in terms of delivery, customer service, product differentiation, or other characteristics.

      Create Your Business Marketing Plan

      next step is creating a strategy for marketing and promoting your company's products and/or services to this market. Here are some items this Marketing and Promotion Plan should include:

      • The top 3 ways in which you will initially inform your Target Market about the existence of your products/services.
      • The types of paid advertising you will use to promote your products/services.
      • The ways in which you will use publicity to promote your products/services.
      • The personal selling methods you will use to promote your products/services.
      • The types of materials (brochures, flyers, web site)you will use to promote your new products/services.

      Along with your marketing and promotion strategies, you will need to create a budget for all of these activities, for the first three years of your business.

      Next, create the financial statements for your business plan.

      The most important step in the process of creating your business plan is the creation of your financial documents. This section will also take the most time and effort. Here is the information you need to include in your financial plan:

      • Startup Costs Worksheet
        This financial statement should include all of the equipment, supplies, and other items you will need to purchase for startup, as well as fees and licenses, deposits, initial expenditures for advisers, and costs for creating your business structure.
         
      • Beginning Balance Sheet
        You will need to prepare a startup balance sheet, showing assets, liabilities, and owner's equity as of the date of startup.
         
      • Month-by-Month Budget for 1st Year
        Include a detailed statement (sometimes called a "cash flow statement")showing month-by-month sales and collections, along with all monthly business expenses.
         
      • Pro Forma Income Projections
        You will need to prepare a pro forma (projected) income statement (P&L) for the first three years of operations, showing income and expenses, along with pre-tax income, tax liability, and after-tax income for each of these years.
         
      • Break-Even Analysis 
        If you are selling products, you should create a break-even analysis, showing the point at which you expect to break even on product sales.
         
      • Sources and Uses of Funds
        Many lenders request that you include this statement, itemizing all of your financial needs for the business, along with your personal investment in the business, and the financing expected from your lender or investor.

        Include Personal Financial Information in Your Business Plan

        If you take your business plan to a lender or investor, you will also be asked to provide personal financial information. Preparing this information for inclusion in your business plan will help you gain the trust of these individuals. Here is what you should bring with you for all owners for the last three years.

        • Tax returns for the past three years.
        • A recent credit report, showing credit score.
        • A personal financial statement. You can use the SBA personal financial statement (PDF) as a guide.
        • A resume or curriculum vitae.

        Finally,complete your business planby creating management and operating plans and an executive summary. 

        Finally, you will need to create a management plan (who's running this company), an operating plan (how is it being run), and an executive summary.

        Create a Management Plan

        Create a description of the management of your business, including:

        • Owners/Directors
          Describe the backgrounds and qualifications of the individuals who will own the company and make the top-level decisions. This may include your Board of Directors, if you are incorporating.
           
        • Managers and Employees
          Describe the key management positions you will require; if you have any of these key positions filled, discuss the qualifications of the people who will fill them. Include an organization chart, showing the top positions and the types of employees who will be working in your organization.
           
        • Business Advisors
          Include information about the key advisers for your business, including consultants, your CPA or financial advisor, attorney, insurance agent, and banker. If you have not selected some of these individuals, discuss the qualifications you will be looking for to fill these positions.

        Create an Operating Plan

         Create a plan for operations for your business, including:

        • Day-to-day Operations
          Describe how your business will operate on a daily basis. What production process will be used? What will you do to market and sell products and services? What hours will you be open?
           
        • Accounting and Financial Operations
          Describe how your accounting, billing and collections, and other financial operations will be conducted.
           
        • Computer and Technology
          Include a discussion of the computer and technological systems in your business. Will you operate a web site? If so, who will maintain it? What computer hardware and software will be used? What will your phone system look like? What office equipment will be utilized?

          Create an Executive Summary 

          The last step in preparing your business plan is to create an Executive Summary. This document summarizes the business plan information and is placed at the beginning of the document. The Executive Summary should be interesting to your reader and provide the basic information about the business. In particular, the Executive Summary is intended to summarize your financial needs for startup or purchase. Here are the points you should emphasize in your Executive Summary:

          • Company information, including the company name, when it was founded or purchased, when it will open for business, the location and legal form of organization.
          • A one sentence description of the products/services of the business.
          • Several sentences which discuss the purpose of the business, its mission/vision, and other information to interest your reader in the business.
          • A general description of your target market, your competitive position, and your unique differences from your competition.
          • A discussion of your specific financing needs, including your own investment in the business, startup/purchase funding, and needs for operating capital during startup.
          • A discussion of your own investment in the business and your expectations of when the business will break even or make a profit.

            Now that you have completed writing your startup business plan, one more important task is ahead. 

            Read, review, and revise. Make sure your business plan is 100% perfect.