Most people wouldn’t embark on a long, complex journey without some planning. This goes for entrepreneurs, too.

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The adventure of starting something new and owning your own business can be long and complex, but a good business plan will help convey your idea and the work you have put into it, as well as serve as a guide to reference and update for internal use.

Building a relationship with your trusted advisors early is equally important. Don’t get hung up on shiny three-ring binders before talking with your local banker, CPA, attorney, etc. Those relationships are key and will help you formulate some components of your plan, which should include:

  • Cover Sheet. Displays your firm’s name, address and telephone number, along with contact information for owners and executives. Other information includes the plan’s date and preparer’s name.
  • Table of Contents.
  • Executive Summary. Addresses and summarizes your plan’s key points. These include a company overview (e.g., location, products and “unique” characteristics), market opportunity, financial projections, leadership, competitors and your firm’s market edge. Your company’s mission statement goes into the executive summary, too.
  • Company Description. Explains the nature of your company; specifies consumers and organizations you will serve; and details the needs of your targeted demographic and how you will fulfill those needs.
  • Product/Service Description. Illustrates benefits unique to your product or service, competitive advantage and current/future development status. This section also addresses intellectual property issues, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, and confidentiality and nondisclosure/non-compete agreements.
  • Market Analysis. Addresses market characteristics in a wide range of areas, including your industry’s history, trends and consumers; definition and characteristics of your target market; gross market targets and pricing; and regulatory affairs.
  • Organization and Management Team. Describes your firm’s organizational structure, including administrative roles and responsibilities; education, professional background and achievements of company ownership; management team profiles; and board of director members’ bios. List your firm’s legal structure here, along with information on owner shares and forms of ownership, such as partnerships.
  • Operations. Details day-to-day functions of your company, as well as responsible personnel and process management systems. In this section, include current production/service goals and projections, quality control measures, supplier information, zoning requirements and risk management measures.
  • Financial Analysis. Covers financial history, as well as the status and future of the company. Make sure to provide a sales forecast, expenses budget, cash flow statement, profit and loss statements, income projections and a break-even analysis. Also address company assets and liabilities here.
  • Implementation Plan. Provides a timeline and methodology for completion of all tasks listed in the business plan. Components can include objectives, actions, target dates and progress records.

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