Business Plan Background

Jane and John had a good idea, a good sense of their market, and a good location. They were great salespeople, and yet they were not making a profit. The reason was that they did not plan their business all the way through. When you are serious about your business or when a lot of money of your own or someone elses is at stake, creating a business plan is perhaps the most critical activity you can undertake. The plan is important, but what is even more important is the understanding you get from the planning process. The following pages will help you understand the thinking behind business plans and how to make and present your own.

A business plan is a document designed to detail the major characteristics of a firmits product or service, its industry, its market, its manner of operating (produc¬tion, marketing, management), and its financial outcomes with an emphasis on the firms present and future.

There are two circumstances under which creating a business plan is absolutely nec¬essary. One is when outsiders expect it. This is called external legitimacy. Creating a business plan is the acknowledged best way to build external legitimacy for your firm. When you are seeking outside supportwhether financial or expertyou do a busi¬ness plan to signal your professionalism and how serious you are about the business. Investors, whether they are venture capitalists, informal investors (called angels), bankers, or your two great aunts, are going to expect to see a business plan before considering investing in your business. In addition, many small business consultants and government agencies want to see your business plan in order to understand your operations, goals, and level of understanding. If you are pursuing a partnership or joint venture with a larger firm, people there will expect to see a business plan before they even consider partnering. In these situations, a plan is the only way you are going to get the attention of outsiders. The kinds of benefits these different groups look for in a plan are given in Table l.

The other circumstance under which a business plan is needed is for internal understanding. This is when you want to get all the aspects of the business clear in your mind and the minds of others in the business, such as your partners or your key employees. When you want everyone to understand the business in the same way, a business plan can make a tremendous difference.

For example, a restaurant has long had an extensive business plan. It talks about the history and vision of the restaurant and includes a detailed operational plan covering everything from table layouts to techniques for minimizing waste. For new hires, the plan offers insight and specific information on the way of doing things at this restaurant. Business plans can also be used as a way of establishing a baseline against which a firm can measure its performance.

Is a business plan absolutely essential? If you are seeking a banker, investor, or partner, yes. Generally if you need outside support to get a business going, those you are seeking support from will want to see a business plan-and you will want to make sure the plan addresses their concerns.

Also, if you are trying to start or run your business in a professional or ambitious way, a business plan is vitally important. It is true that some of the most famous entrepreneurial firmsApple, Microsoft, Dell, Holiday Innsstarted without business plans.

On the other hand, there are a lot more famous firms that started from the business plan-Amazon, eBay, Mrs. Fields, Red Hat, Xerox, and Federal Express to name a few.3 When Inc. magazine polled 500 owners of high-performing small businesses, 54 percent had a plan and 41 percent did not.4 Typically, the higher ¬performing firms in any industry (measured in profits) tend to be those who engage in planning.5
It is important to know that research suggests that firms without a business plan are more likely to close down than firms with plans.6 While having a business plan does not guarantee higher profits/ it is essential to qualify to be considered by business professionals for investments, loans, or credit lines. For example, Apple and Microsoft drafted business plans when they wanted to go for venture capital funds.8
These days, more start-up businesses are doing business plans than in the past, which increases the importance of your doing one to stay competitive and look as legitimate as the other competing start-ups.9 In your head or on paper, sooner or later most busi¬nesses need to do a plan.

The Business Plan Story: Starting Small and Building Up
Business plans are a type of story. In a business plan, you tell the reader about a future place-your business. Every business plan is a bit like fiction. The best fictional stories are based on what exists now, as a good business plan should be. The business plan tells a story that starts in the here and now and builds believably toward a better future.
Good storytellers know that you make the story fit the audience’s time. Sometimes you have only a moment to get the story of your business across; sometimes you have hours. Entrepreneurs need to have a variety of versions of their businesss story available.

Entrepreneurs may need to create a range of presentations to have a variety of versions of their business’s story available. They should have a range of presentations when planning to go into business. When you have only a moment to talk, your vision statement or a tagline youve developed is the way to go. When you have more time to talk about your business, longer and longer presentations are possible. These range from the 2-sentence concept all the way to the 40-page business plan. The five types of business planning presentations are (1) vision statements, (2) mission statements, (3) elevator pitches, (4) executive summaries, and (5) business plans.

The Vision Statement

Vision Statement
A firms vision statement is perhaps its most important single idea. The vision statement is a very simple 5-10 word sentence or tag line that expresses the fundamental idea or goal of the firm. A vision statement is supposed to be inspiring, overarching, and long term. When Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft as teenagers, their vision was a computer on every desk running Microsoft software. At the time, personal computers were being constructed by hobbyists and even lacked keyboards! So you can easily see how visionary their vision statement was.
Taglines or slogans are a good way to present vision statements, because a good tagline is brief and memorable. The tagline can also serve as the companys vision statement. Some examples of good taglines encompassing the firms vision statement are:

• Kelliher/Samets/Volk Advertising (Burlington, Vermont): Creating wow ideas for clients who want to soar.
• Book Passage (Corte Madera, California): The Bay Areas Liveliest Bookstore.
• Cooks Cake Decorating & Candy Supplies (West Allis, Wisconsin): No one should ever go without a decorated birthday cake.
• Crum Electric Supply (Casper, Wyoming): Plug into Quality-People, Products, Service.
• Progressive Insulation & Windows (Chatsworth, California): Total Living Comfort.

The Mission Statement

Mission Statement
The mission statement is closely related to the firms vision statement. The mission statement takes the vision statements description of the firms goal and adds the competitive advantage information developed as part of the firms strategy. For example, the Excalibur Seasoning Company says its mission is to provide you, as a customer, with the highest quality products and service available in the seasoning industry.” Typically a mission statement talks in terms of what will make a difference for the customer or the industry. It rarely discusses profits, but it often mentions the entry wedge that follows from the firms strategy. A few more examples of mission statements from small firms are:
• (Fort Lauderdale, Florida): The mission of is to become one of the best online resources for young mothers and repeat parents.
• Bob Victors (Topeka, Kansas): Our GOAL is to serve YOU, the custom picture framing and professional portrait photography industries, with molding manu¬factured from carefully selected American solid hardwood.
• D.A. Kadan Co., Inc. (Waxhaw, North Carolina): Our mission is to maintain a high standard of excellence in developing genuine, far reaching, and mutually beneficial relationships with physicians. We achieve this through the delivery of a wide range of quality medical equipment at reasonable prices.
• Fantastic Gift Baskets (Raleigh, North Carolina): The family at Fantastic Gift Baskets puts the same care and love into designing our gourmet gift baskets as you would if you had the time!18
Mission statements can get long. Since they are usually oriented toward those inside the firm or to formal investors, mission statements tend to cover everything that is truly important. This might include the major competitive advantages of the firm, its position in the industry, and its attitudes toward customers, competitors, and the environment.

The Elevator Pitch

The Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is an action-oriented description of your business that is somewhat longer than a vision statement or tagline. It is designed to open the door to a more a in-depth dialogue. Even when it doesnt lead to any specific business, this information about your business should be memorable enough so that the listener can tell others about your business. The idea of the elevator pitch is that you are alone with a prospective customer or investor for the length of an elevator ride, say, around 30 sec¬onds.19 That comes out to 100 words or less. This description is used in one-on-one business settings and when someone asks for more detail after hearing your concept. In a time when politicians develop sound bites and a good phrase can make a prod¬uct (Altoids, for example, are curiously strong), having a high-quality concept or elevator pitch for your business is more important than ever.

CellTunes: You hear it, you got it! Ever wanted to buy a tune you heard on the radio but missed the name? Well, CellTunes is the instant gratifica¬tion music ordering service. CellTunes lets you buy the songs you hear on your favorite FM radio, AM radio, or Internet radio station with a single cell phone call. CellTunes tracks the songs playing on your favorite stations and can download the song to you or to your account at services like iTunes or PressPlay. CellTunes is demonstrating its technology and seeking seed investors. CellTunes makes song ordering faster and easier than ever before-you hear it, you got it!

The above elevator pitch leads with the hook-the frustration people have felt at not being able to recall a song or find it to buy. It follows up with the purpose of the service-helping people obtain the song. Because this pitch is for a new type of service, it gives the listener more details about how it works than may otherwise appear in an elevator pitch. For a familiar type of business, you might talk instead about what makes your firm unique or superior to the competition. The pitch ends with where the business is now-seeking money from seed investors. This is about 100 words and would take about a minute to say. Note that a lot of it sounds like a sales pitch, and that is intentional. Listeners might be customers or investors, but either way, the goal is to sell them on the idea and their need for it.

Once your elevator pitch is written, you need to become conversationally perfect in your delivery. You want to be able to give the pitch or concept dozens, even hundreds, of times. Yet it is important that the pitch does not sound memorized. It needs to sound like regular conversation, preferably a conversation whose topic excites you. To achieve this, you must master the material, and then keep working on it so that it becomes a natural part of what you say to others. Have family and friends listen to it. Consider using a video camera to see how natural you seem when making the pitch. Remember, the elevator pitch is often the first real insight people have about your business, so it is essential to have a pitch that flows and sells for you.

The Executive Summary

Executive Summary
An executive summary is the key component of the written business plan because it
is the one element that nearly everyone will read first when they receive a plan. An executive summary gives a one- to two-page (250-500 word) overview of the business, its business model, market, expectations, and immediate goals. Typi¬cally, executive summaries start out written, and they remain the most popular item to send people who ask about your business. They comprise the core of a business plan presentation and form the basis for additional discussion when someone asks for more detail. Executive summaries are written in a formal style, suitable for investors, lawyers, and bankers to read. They give much more detail about the business than the
vision or mission statements or elevator pitch. Executive summaries are usually organized in a series of short paragraphs (three or four sentences), each with a particular
topic. These topics are:
• Product: Describes the product or service and how it is used.
• Market: Describes the size and characteristics of the customer group and how it will buy the product or service (e.g., in person, online, catalog).
• Competitive advantages: Explains what makes the product or service unique, often in terms of an entry wedge.
• Management: Describes the entrepreneur and start-up team in terms of expertise and track record.
• Business: Describes the current stage of the business and when major milestones of starting, sales, or profitability will be met .
• Finances: Describes the deal being offered investors and the schedule for payouts.
The order for the topics in an executive summary is not fixed, although most expe¬rienced readers will be looking for the same items-markets, advantages, and management. The summary is probably the single most important written part of the business plan for two reasons. First, it is the single most widely distributed written description of the business. Second, all readers of a business plan typically start with the executive summary of the plan, and then go on to the section of the plan where they can best apply their expertise. For example, accountants typically go to the financial projections after theyve read the executive summary.
It also is typical to include the key numbers for the business, such as industry size, customer base, number of employees, or projected sales. However it is important to make sure that the numbers can be supported by a trustworthy source. Examples of such sources include the government, industry associations, and major commercial sources such as Dun & Bradstreet, the Risk Management Association, and so on. The sources may be included in the executive summary or made available to readers in footnotes.

The Classic Business Plan

Classic Business Plan
The business plan remains the standard for describing the business in detail. The busi¬ness plan takes all the elements and includes them in a complete description of the major elements of the business. The nine parts of the full business plan are detailed below. The full (or classic) business plan contains a maximum of 25 single-spaced pages of text and 15 pages of financials and appendixes. Plans for any business whose product or service is new, even revolu¬tionary, or in which the entrepreneur is new to the industry, are the ones that really need these 25 pages. However, most small businesses are more imitative than innovative. When you are going into an imitative business, your business plan can be shortened considerably. Where the type of busi¬ness is well established, such as a dry cleaner or word processing service, the market is well defined and well known, and the entrepreneur comes to the business with expe¬rience in the industry, the amount of necessary description drops dramatically. In such cases, these simple business plans may require only 10 pages of text. Even so, the financial section remains its usual length, although the appendixes may be sparse.

Cover Letter
When you send a business plan to someone, it is a good business practice to include a cover letter. A cover letter is a one-page document on business stationery (also called letterhead) that introduces the business plan and owner and indicates why the recip¬ient is being asked to read the plan. It is typically the first written material someone sees about your business, so it needs to look and sound just right.

Title Page
The title page typically contains the following information:
• Company name (usually in large type, with a logo if you have one).
• Contact information (owner names, company address, telephone and fax numbers, e-mail and Web site addresses).
• Date this version of the plan was completed.
• Proprietary statement to protect your ideas: For example, This document contains confidential and proprietary information belonging exclusively to [your companys name goes here]. Do not copy, fax, reproduce, or distribute without permission. Often on the line following this statement is a copy number unique to each copy of the plan.

This helps you keep tabs on individual copies.

There are three other possible items to include on the title page. One might be a securities disclaimer. If you are using a business plan to seek individual investors, it is important to state the following on the title page: This is a business plan. It does not imply an offering of securities. Typically this comes after or as part of the pro¬prietary statement. The disclaimer is needed to comply with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rulings. Another item to include is the name of the person who prepared the business plan, if it is someone other than the owner. The third possible item for inclusion is a notice of copyright for the plan or trademark for your brand name or logo, if you choose to pursue those forms of intellectual property protection.

Table of Contents
The table of contents typically puts the major section headings (e.g., executive sum¬mary, company, market, etc.) in boldface type and the sections underneath each in reg¬ular type. Page numbers are given for every component, including financial statements and appendixes. Remember to put page numbers on every page of the business plan, even the financials.

Executive Summary
Many entrepreneurs write the one- to two-page executive summary first, using it as a guide, and then write the rest of the plan.

The Company
The first section of a business plan tells the story of your company. Ideally it should sell the reader on the company and the ideas and people behind it. It usually consists of two subsectionsone that provides an overall description of the business and another focusing on its product or service.
Company Description (1-2 pages)

Typically the first two subsections are the vision statement and mission statement of the business, which were discussed earlier. If you have specific goals or objectives for your business (e.g., Third year sales of $50,000, or Picked-up by a major national chain by year 2), they go in a subsection after the mission statement.

The next subsection is typically labeled Company Background, or you can use the name of the business (PROmote Advertising, for example). This section gives a brief description of the business-its age and location, as well as the markets it serves or plans to serve. The firms current status (start-up, seed stage, ongoing, expansion, and so on) is covered, and the most recent milestone achieved is often mentioned (received initial investments, finalized product design, tested a prototype, completed market testing, made first sales, and so on). For an existing business, the history of the business is briefly covered here.

The last part of the company background describes the businesss competitive advantage and the way that it goes about making its profits and achieving its mission ¬its business model. This is where the plan gets a chance to sell the key ideas about the firms approach to business. The language should be upbeat and positive, and where there are numbers that support the operation of the business model, such as a 25 percent profit margin, 98 percent customer satisfaction, or double-digit growth, those should be included.

Product/Service and Industry
The goal of this section is to describe your firms product or service in order to help the reader understand what you are selling and how it could help your target cus¬tomers. The best descriptions entice the reader to want to buy the product or service or get involved in the company that sells it. These descriptions often include pictures or graphics that help readers visualize the product or service. It is also common to explain how the customer uses the product or service or how it fulfills some need or desire or solves a problem for the customer. Often the descriptions explain how the firm is able to deliver value benefits to the customer (quality, style, delivery, service, technology, ease, personalization, assurance, place, credit, brand/reputation, belonging, and altruism). If the product or service has protection through a proprietary technology or from patent, trademark, or copyright, you men¬tion it here.

Every product or service is part of an industry, and here is where you talk about it. Industry descriptions typically include the key information identified in the indus¬try analysis. This includes the industrys SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) and NAICS codes, the size of the industry (in number of firms and sales), and some indication of the historical trend of growth, stability, or decline (how much it is growing, how long it has remained stable, or by how much sales overall is it declining over time). Indus¬try profit margins are an important part of this section, as is how profits are typically made. Then you point up what your firms projected or achieved profit margins are, I and how Y0nI business model helps make this possible.

The Market
The market section talks about your customerswho they are and what they are like, who else is pursuing them, and how you plan to get or keep your customers. The market section builds on material you may have developed in the feasibility analysis, the industry analysis, and the marketing plan.
Market and Target Customer.

The market refers to the total population of people or firms to whom you plan to sell. Markets are usually described in terms of their size (both in numbers of customers and size of sales) and scope (local, regional, national, international, global). The major ways the market is organized are also covered. Professional, trade, or industry associ¬ations, special-interest clubs, major national gatherings, and media dedicated to the market (e.g., Restaurant Business magazine for restaurant owners, or Simple Scrap¬books magazine for people who are into scrapbooks) are all relevant.

The target customer section focuses attention on the individual who would buy your product or service. Target customers are described in terms of demographics (such as age, gender, education, income, experience), their relation to the product or service (will they use it themselves, gift it, resell it, etc.), how often they buy (once a day, once a week, twice a month, every three years, once in a lifetime, etc.), their past expe¬rience with your kind of product or service (new user, prior user of competitors prod¬uct, prior user of your product), and what they are looking for when buying your product or service. What they are looking for should be based on discussions with potential customers, and it hopefully matches closely with the value benefits your prod¬uct offers. Providing a comparison of the two is often a good idea.

It is very common to have multiple target audiences. When this is the case, you should provide a separate description of each one. It often helps to give each target group a specific name when you refer to them in the rest of the business plan. Your marketing plan can differ dramat¬ically among the different groups.

Competition and Competitive Advantage (1-2 pp.)
Consider doing this section with one page of text and a one-page table. The table identifies the major competitors for your market by name and location. Other columns mention the competing product or service, its market share, price, competitive strength, and competitive weakness. The accompanying page of text talks about your firms competitive advantagewhat makes your product or service or firm uniqueand how your competitive advantage gives you an opportunity to win sales from these firms. Often this information is based on material gathered from the industry analysis.

Marketing Strategy

A good marketing strategy section focuses on three ideas: (1) The overall strategy your firm pursues in the market, (2) the sales plan that shows the specific ways you apply strategy to secure sales from your customers, and (3) the longer-term competitive plan that shows how you protect your firm from efforts of the competition to unseat you. Much of the specifics are built from the ideas you develop in the marketing plan.

The overall strategy subsection discusses your generic strategy (differentiation, cost, focus) as well as any supra-strategies (craftsmanship, customization, etc.) or frag¬mented industry strategies (no-frills, formula facilities, etc.) you pursue. Explain here how each is used in your firm and in your sales efforts.

The sales plan addresses the day-to-day specifics of how sales are achieved. It builds on the value benefits being sought by your customers and shows how these are turned into promotional efforts, pricing and incentive programs, distribution techniques, and location. Most of all, it emphasizes the way you or your employees go about selling. Examples of advertising materials, displays, coupons, or the like are useful and typi¬cally mentioned here, but details are put in an appendix. The proof that your approach is working comes from sales made using these approaches, so the strongest sales plans talk positively about the results of pilot tests, preselling efforts, or conventional sales already made. Being able to name customers (especially repeat customers) really builds up this section.

Over the longer term, even with a clear competitive advantage, a sound strategy, and a good sales plan, your competitors are not likely to give up the market. They will fight back. When they do that, trying to match your sales plan features or com¬petitive advantage, what are you keeping in reserve to help you fight back? Here is where you want to have several additional strategies that play against weaknesses in the competition, or further improve your product or service. These can include pro¬tections through patents and intellectual property protection or relationships with powerful partners. You may have contracts that tie customers to you long term, but most often advantages come from bringing out improved versions of your product or service before the competition introduces its own improved product or service.

Having these improvements ready requires some preparation on your part. In a business, this is often called research and development (R&D) or the growth plan. Most business plans add a section on R&D or growth here to explain how they are working to maintain an in-depth competitive advantage, with one or more additional generations of products or services ready to be used, or quickly brought to market, in order to keep the competition one generation behind your firm in meeting customer needs. Growth plans often talk about longer-term partnerships to be sought, new markets to be pursued, or ways to leverage the firms assets, for example through licensing or franchising.

The Organization
In this section you layout the components and supports for the firm itself. So far you have covered the product and the customer. The goal for this section is to convince the reader that the business will be successful because it has access to high-quality people both within the firm and within the larger business community, and the organization itself is structured to make the best use of those people.
Legal and Organization Structures (1/2-1 p.)

This subsection describes the legal form of the business (LLC, LLP, sole proprietor¬ship, etc.) and where it is formally registered. It also describes the organizational structure of the firm. Often for big businesses these are drawn using organizational charts. For small businesses with an owner-manager and an employee or two, it is easier to just give the description in words. The typical format for this is to start from the top, with the highest-level manager, giving his or her title and major duties. Successive sentences describe the positions and duties of workers at each level below. This section should make clear how many employees there are and whether they are full time or part time, permanent or seasonal, family or nonfamily. If you have schedules for seasonal hiring and if you have standards for hiring, they get mentioned in this section.

Key Personnel

By now you have sold people on your vision, mission, product, service, competitive advantage, and even your sales approach. It is now time to sell the most important single element in the business planyou! In any business and any business plan, everything hinges on the quality of the entrepreneur behind it. If we do not have con¬fidence in the entrepreneur, there is no way to have confidence in the other parts of the plan. The goal for the key personnel subsection is to inspire that confidence in your reader.

Who are your key personnel? Any owners or senior managers count, as do people who will be handling key aspects of the business. For example, a salesperson with an extensive customer base would be a key employee, as would an employee who is locally famous for a skill the business will use. Often businesses have a circle of out¬siders involved. This might include a local media personality who will be promoting your business, or the inventor or holder of a patent or trademark you are using, or the owner of a key outside venture partner.

While you might put in the resumes of one or two key people if you have the space, typically the key personnel are described in a half- to one-page description. Simply put, the goal is to impress the reader. What is impressive? Accomplishments, and the closer these are to the business, the better. Having been successful in the business in this industry in another firm or in your own firm (if this plan is for an existing business rather than a start-up) is the best proof. Having been successful in another line of business is a good second choice. Having experience in sales is always useful, as is experience managing projects or people.

Whenever possible talk about accomplishments rather than just experience. Achiev¬ing some mark of distinction, such as being a stores top salesperson, is best, followed by years of experience in some aspect of business, followed by education. Sometimes giving the specifics of the accomplishment does the job, even if no award was given. For example, being able to say, In my five years at Hobbyco, my sales increased an average of 50 percent a year shows your sales abilities are improving, which is good.

When looking for accomplishments, do not limit yourself to business. Particularly for students and stay-at-home spouses, there are often organizational accomplishments that are relevant. Activities undertaken or managed for schools, churches, social organ¬izations, civic organizations, or community groups are often important indicators of expertise. For example, managing a team during a fund-raising event may help prove your skills in people management and making quick decisions.

Related Service Providers
These days, small businesses are rarely alone, and the quality of the professionals surrounding you tells people a lot about how good you might be. Taking a paragraph or two to identify your bank and banker, your attorney and legal firm, accountant or bookkeeper, and other consultants can help show that you have high-quality supports. If you have major relationships established with well-known suppliers or customers, list these here also. If you have a board of directors, members can be mentioned here or under key personnel. If you have a board of advisers made up of people who are not owners, they would be listed here.

The other major organizational asset of a business is its location. This is given here, along with a description of the facility that focuses on how it meets the strategic and sales goals of the business. Also mention whether you own, lease, or rent the property. If you have investments in the property, either in terms of ownership or improvements made to it, mention those too. If there are plans to expand the facilities, mention them.

The Financials
There are two parts to the financial section of a business plan. When you are using a plan to find investors, the financials section starts with two subsectionsone on critical risks and one on the deal being offered investors. For all types of business plans, a set of financial reports or projections is expected. For either approach, it always important to develop the financials in the most conservative way possible¬ never overstate your sales or profits, always explain the assumptions you are mak¬ing, and provide (or be ready to give) the source for every number you include. It is usually better to include fewer numbers, but ones you understand inside-out rather than having lots of numbers, but knowing only in a general way how you arrive at them.

Critical risks are discussed in more detail below. The deal subsection typically ¬talks about how much money is needed and how the funds will be used. This subsection goes on to address any prior or existing investments and the current own¬ership situation. Then it explains the equity being offered to investors, giving the price and the kinds of assurances offered (e.g., seats on the board of directors. buy/sell agreements, etc.). Here the plan details how investors will be able to sell or redeem their equity in order to harvest their investment and exit the business. The best plans explain how investors will be assured that management will be respon¬sive to investor concerns. Typically the critical risks and the deal will each take about one page each.

The financial statements expected include: (1) income statements (also called a P&L for profit and loss) and its assumptions, (2) cash flow and its assumptions, and (3 balance sheet and its assumptions. For start-up businesses, it is also common to include a listing of the expenses incurred in the start-up process.

For an existing business, the financials section reports the last two years of actual data, and then offers three-year projections for the income, cash flow, and balance sheet. For a start-up business, the tradition is to offer three years of data projections. If you will take three or more years to show a profit, it makes sense to give projec¬tions for five years. In either case, income and cash flow are given monthly for the first year, quarterly for the second year, and annually for the third and any later years.

Note that each of the financial statements also includes its assumptions. Included as endnotes, the assumptions are often considered to be the most important part of the financials. Assumptions explain how the computations are made, which items are included or excluded, and whether there are any special considerations underlying the particular numbers. For example, key assumptions include how sales are computed, which items are expensed versus depreciated, and how inventory and business valua¬tions are made.

A schedule of the major milestones or benchmarks the company plans to achieve is often included in the financials section, typically after the assumptions page. If sig¬nificant milestones or benchmarks have already been achieved, these can top off the schedule, so readers can see how the firm has progressed.

The Appendixes
With approximately nine pages used for financials, you have up to six pages left for appendixes. The most popular appendix is a one-page version of the owners resume. There are several other useful appendixes, listed below. The ones you select depend on what you are trying to highlight in your business plan. They can include:

• Product or service pictures or specifications (important when you stress features or style, or when your product or service is not familiar to readers).
• Copies of signed contracts, letters of intent or commitment, or contingency con¬tracts from customers or investors (useful to show acceptance).
• Results of marketing studies or pilot sales efforts (useful for showing market acceptance) .
• Industry reports (if there is significant information not included in the plan).
• Price lists for products or services.
• Floor plans of the location, if it is central to the business (e.g., a manufacturing facility or restaurant).
• Advertising copy, such ads, logos, catalog pages, brochures, sales letters, or press releases.
• Customer or spokesperson testimonials.
• Letters of opinion from intellectual property attorneys on prospects for patent or trademark protection or from manufacturers or consulting engineers about the viability of production processes for the product.

If readers want to know more about something that is not in the plan, they can ask you for the additional information. So do not worry too much about the many possible appendixes you cannot include. The goal of appendixes is to provide sup¬porting information that helps detail or support the key selling points of your plan.

At this point, the writing of the classic business plan is done, but there is still work to be done assembling it. Plans are typically delivered as an 8-1/2- by 11-inch docu¬ment, which has been carefully and repeatedly checked to eliminate spelling and gram¬mar mistakes. It has been checked to make sure all pages are included and cleanly printed. While your own copy of the plan might be kept in a loose-leaf binder to make insertions and deletions easy, the copies you give out should be spiral bound (so they stay flat when opened). Covers should be sturdy to protect the plan from the inevitable coffee stains. Cover letters are typically clipped to the cover, rather than included in the plan itself, so the reader opens the plan to see the title page.

Focusing Your Business Plan

Focusing Your Business Plan
To be successful in telling the firms story, a business plan needs to match the needs of the reader. Businesses face four situations in which reader needs are specific enough and distinct enough that it makes sense to write the plan with particular emphases in mind.
.Plans for a pioneering business: When your product or service is truly new to everyone, it is considered a pioneering business. With a pioneering business, your greatest problems are: (1) helping people understand how it works, (2) showing them how they would use it, (3) estimating how many people would want it, and (4) estimating how much they would be willing to pay for it. Anything you can do to help readers experience and understand the product or service helps demystify it. Plan on a detailed explanation of the product or service and how it works. Make sure you explain the benefits customers would receive, and talk about the customers personal experience in trying out, buying, and using the product. The value of preselling, pilot tests, or test marketing cannot be stressed enough. If 100 people tried the product and 10 bought it, you have a powerful proof of concept. Pioneering products also face a hurdle around manufacturing ¬can they be manufactured at a cost that leaves a chance for profit? Letters from manufacturers or consulting engineers confirming the viability and production costs of your product go a long way to alleviating fears in this area. Also, if your product is a minor variation on a product already made (for example, a consumer version of an existing industrial product), play this point up, since it means fewer problems are likely for your specific product.

• Plans for a new entrant business: When your product or service already exists but your firm is the first of its kind in your market, it is considered a new entrant business. As such it is always harder to prove that your product or service will work. Just imagine trying to explain the idea of a $5 cup of coffee to people who had never heard of Starbucks! In response, help make the product or serv¬ice seem more familiar by detailing how it is used by customers, and give more background on how the product or service has done in other markets, especially markets similar to yours. Also emphasize existing operations in your industry analysis. Seeing that it has worked elsewhere takes much of the mystery out of the question of whether it would work where you plan to market it.

• Plans for an existing business: Occasionally, entrepreneurs start a business before they write a plan for it. When writing a plan for an existing business, you have the benefit of knowing the history, the existing market, and the financial track record of the firm. These form a foundation for the plan, so the projections about future markets, sales, and profits should clearly build on these historical facts. It can make sense to gather information on existing customers to help clearly define the market, and often suppliers and trade associations can provide more in-depth information on market shares and competitors. Existing firms have assets to pro¬tect, such as the customer list, the firms name, and any intellectual properties it has developed (e.g., a patented way of performing work, a trademark, a copy¬righted report, a recipe protected as a trade secret). Showing how you plan to pro¬tect and perhaps even make additional profits from your intellectual property (e.g., through licensing patents or trademarks) strengthens the plan, as does talking about new ideas for increasing sales, which typically appears in the research and devel¬opment section.

• Plans for a business with significant government involvement: Some businesses depend on government approvals to go forward. Examples include salvage yards, garbage dumps, companies using toxic chemicals, nursing homes, service stations, and even in many places, day care centers. When government gets involved in a major way, for example, having to approve the business license, zoning, or environmental impact, delays are inevitable. You need to build a plan that antic¬ipates delays and either works around the parts of the business requiring approvals or is able to go into a type of sleep mode, using as few resources as possible until approval arrives. Working around approvals usually hinges on sell¬ing services or products that are part of the business but do not require specific approval. For someone starting a service station, it may be possible to do minor car repairs such as oil changes, detailing, or tune-ups at the customers home or workplace. This helps spread word, build a customer base, improve skills, and keep cash flowing until approval for the service station comes.
Once you have written the complete business plan, you are positioned to create special-purpose versions of the plan to meet the needs of a wide variety of people important to your business. Usually these special-purpose plans use a subset of the total plan. In addition to the full business plan described above, there are five other special-purpose types of plan.

• If you intend to send your plan to professional funding sources such as private banks, investment clubs, or venture capital firms, it is common to send what is called a mini-plan or a screening plan. The idea is to give the basic overview of the firm and a detailed look at the financials. This is because funding sources typically start their decision process with clear ideas about the industry and the profit levels they want to pursue. Screening plans usually consist of the cover let¬ter, title page, executive summary, and financials sections of the business plan. The only time any appendixes would be included is when it is important to prove the viability of contracts, intellectual property protection, or the products ability to be manufactured. A screening plan can also be a useful way to get into the planning process. Michael McMyne won one of the Global Student Entre¬preneur Awards for his consulting business. When he started, all he used was his executive summary and the financials.

• You may find that the business plan has a lot of information you would like to share with potential customers or suppliers, but you do not want them to see your financials. One variant of the traditional business plan is called the informational plan. Informational plans typically consist of company and organization sections. The cover letter, title page, executive summary, and table of contents are typically revised to reflect the differences. Relevant appendixes might also be included, such as detailed product descriptions or price lists.

• A special form of informational plan posted on the Internet is the proof-of-¬concept Web site. This kind of site is designed to solicit information on customer interest. They are particularly useful for demonstrating a technology or service that is new or novel (see Small Business Insight: VividSky), or to reach a market that is very widely spread out, making conventional promotional techniques too expensive. The goal is to inform customers and partners about the firm and the product, so proof-of-concept Web sites consist of the vision and mission state¬ments, the product/service description, and often an animated or interactive demonstration of the product or service. Short biographies of the key personnel replace resumes, and the site may also have price or product lists or testimoni¬als. The site itself tracks information about the viewers. Visitors are asked for feedback on the concept and are offered the chance to be kept up to date as the product nears the market.

• In seeking a marketing or joint venture partner or a key employee, you need to provide more of an idea about your market and approach to it. In the early stages of finding a partner, however, it is usually too soon to share your detailed finan¬cial information. As a result, a key employee/partner plan (also called a sum¬mary plan, concept plan, or idea plan) can be drawn up to include all the mate¬rials of an informational plan, plus the market section and critical risks subsection of the regular business plan.

• An invention plan focuses on the market and operationalization of a new invention. Inventions are typically licensed to others, so the organization section simply describes the inventor and any business the inventor runs, to provide background. The product or service being invented is given a very detailed description, with diagrams or pictures to help the licensee understand it. While the plan helps to explain the market and competition to the prospective licensee, the marketing strategy is not typically included. Legal issues tend to focus on intellectual property protection (e.g., patents, trademarks, etc.) instead of on the legal form of organization, and the financials are limited to the prospective deal and risks, since the invention does not come with a firm that creates sales.

• There is only one type of plan that actually adds material to a full business plan.
Operational plans are designed to be used as working documents within a business. So in addition to all the material typically included in a full business plan, an operational plan includes detailed specifications of the major techniques, methods, recipes, formula, and sources used by the firm to do its work.

It is important to keep the specifics of your business and your readers in mind. If sections of the busi¬ness plan seem inappropriate for your type of business or for the specific readers who will see the plan, it makes sense to leave them out. The business plan is first and fore¬most a sales document, and tailoring the plans pitch to the specifics of your busi¬ness and the readership is always a smart move.

Addressing Critical Risks in a Plan

risk plan
Every business faces risks in the real world, so every business plan needs to spend some time addressing them. The exact issues raised by business experts, bankers, lawyers, and investors are often specific to your plan, but the themes they consider in assessing risks are actually quite common. Knowing these risk themes, you can go through your business plan, identify the risks, and determine how you want to handle them.

There are six risks that are common threats to businesses. These situations can cause investors, bankers, and other readers to evaluate a plan negatively? Each of the risks can be handled, but the best test is to have people in your target audiences give you feedback on your plan.

1. Overstated numbers: Key numbers in your business plan that seem too good to be true, or are just large to begin with, tend to get a lot of attention-most of it negative. Sales or profits that are too optimistic, salaries that are too high for a firm of its age, and profitability are the three most likely culprits. For salaries, it makes sense in start-up firms for owners to take out the minimum, with additional income derived from profits, if and when you get them. For sales and profits, always give the most likely number, not the most optimistic. Profits depend on your being able to meet sales projections and keep within your costs, so if either one is off, profits will be too. Sales depend on conversion rates (see below).

2. Uncertain sales (especially conversion rates): The conversion rate is the percentage of people who buyout of the total population of people you approach. It is also called the hit rate. The best test of the conversion rate is through test marketing or preselling. Test marketing is selling your product or service in a limited area, for a limited time. Often in test marketing efforts, you give buyers incentives in return for information that helps you profile your actual target customer. Preselling involves introducing your product to potential customers and taking orders for later delivery. In either case, the key information is the number of customers approached and the percent who bought. Knowing the conversion rate, a reader then takes your projected market size, applies the conversion rate (probably something like 50-75 percent of the claimed rate just to play it safe), and then estimates what the total sales might be.

3. Overlooked competition: You are supposed to be the expert on your product or service and part of that involves knowing every competitor. For example, a stu¬dent was developing a wireless cell phone headset. At the time, the student claimed there were no competitors, but most people familiar with the industry knew there were several wireless headsets using the increasingly well-known Bluetooth wireless protocol. Switching protocols would be a matter of a few weeks for the existing manufacturers, so the competition facing the student was much greater than he thought, and the plan kept getting rejected. You need to know about your immediate competitors, as well as substitutes and potential competitors if you are going to prove your long-term vision for the company.

4. Experience deficits: A lot of the success in business comes from experience. In a business, one critical risk is not knowing as much as your competition does. Four types of experiencein the line of business, in the industry, in the locality, and in managingare the most important. Successful firms invariably possess (or develop) all four types. Some you should be able to supply. If there is any experience lacking, you need to get it yourself or hire it through partners, employees, or consultants working with you.

5. Inadequate cushion: According to the Dun & Bradstreet Failure Record, the single most common reason for business closure is a lack of financial resources. In short, the firm ran out of money. Customers who take too long to pay, unexpected expenses, accidents, and mistakes can be deadly to a firm if it does not have enough money saved for such rainy days. Having enough cash to survive three months goes a long way to avoiding this risk.

6. Inadequate payback: It is always important to think about what the reader of the plan is expecting. For bankers, it is the payback (note that this is NOT the payback criterion for investing) of the loan or line of credit, so cash flows and collateral issues are important. For investors, growth rates and profit margins are important because those determine their earnings. For key employees, knowing the firms operation and prospects helps them visualize their future in the firm. When the plan does not clearly specify the key paybacks to readers, it fails to sell them on the idea.
Ideally, you should have a circle of advisers who can review the plan and help iden¬tify the critical risks and your coverage of them. This circle might include successful entrepreneurs you know, lawyers, or accountants. Other good sources include the free consultants from the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), available via or your local Small Business Development Center ( There are even Web sites that make it possible for you to get a preliminary analysis of your plan. One of the most complete is Ibis Associates checklist at To get a quick check of your major financial measures, you can use the Kauffman Foundations Business EKG Web site ( The key is to get as much feedback as possible before sending it out in hopes of money, sales, or people.

Presenting Your Plan

Presenting Your Plan
When it works, a written business plan is the way to get on the schedule of someone who can provide the money, the expertise, or the markets you seek. In such cases, the written plan is followed by a chance for you to make a formal presentation of your plan and answer questions about it. The business plan presentation, like the plan itself, has a very clear tradition about how it is supposed to be done. Knowing this tradi¬tion can help you quickly learn what is expected when presenting a plan to others.
A business plan presentation usually lasts 10-15 minutes, followed by 15 or more minutes for questions. Usually the presentation provides an overview of key points of the business plana chance to sell your ideas and, most of all, a chance to sell yourself.

A major part of any business plan presentation is a chance for the listener to form an opinion about you as an entrepreneur. The key things an influential person looks for in you are: (1) your passion for the business, (2) your expertise about the busi¬ness and the plan, (3) how professional you are in your work, and (4) how easy it would be to work with you. How do you show these?

• Passion for the business: When presenting, do not read. Think of yourself as telling a storya fascinating storyabout your business. Help listeners understand why you are excited about the business, proud of it, and ready to stake your reputa¬tion and assets on it. Learn your presentation so well that it comes out as an often-repeated, beloved story, not as a prepared statement.

• Expertise about the business and the plan: Practice answering questions about the plan. Expect really tough questions. Assume people do not trust your assumptions when they first read them. Be ready to explain where you get your assumptions, your numbers, and your ideas. Be ready to mention sources. Be ready with com¬parisons to competitors and their offerings. Know how every number in the plan came about and what it means. For example, it is not uncommon for a banker to ask, In your cash flow statement for April in the first year, you say you will be spending $1,140 on sales promotion expenses. How did you get that number ¬and isnt it a bit high? It is better to have less material and know it backwards and forwards than to have material in the plan you do not totally understand.

• How professional you are in your work: Your plan should look professionally done. It should be neat and orderly, with perfect spelling and grammar. When you present it, you should be in business suit or dress, clean and pressed. Carry copies of your presentation slides to give the listeners. And have copies of your slides on acetates and on disk so that you can present no matter what technol¬ogy is available. Have business cards ready, and bring a couple extra copies of the plan in case someone unexpected comes to the presentation. Meet all those attending the presentation with a smile and a firm handshake. Give them your card and take theirs if they offer one in return. Make sure you know the names of all the people in the room, and their position, so if there is a part of the plan you think might be of interest to them, you can mention it.

• How easy it would be to work with you: Typically when you are presenting a business plan, you are doing it with the goal of establishing an ongoing relation¬ship with the listener.

All relationships carry an element of liking. It is easier to see yourself establishing a relationship with someone you like than with someone you do not like. Part of the goal in the presentation is to get the listeners to like you. How? The techniques are simpleuse eye contact, use peoples names, remember what they might be interested in or in what they have shown an interest before, smile, and above all, be honest. When they ask tough questions, try not to get nervous, upset, angry, or defensive. If you do not have the answer, tell them so honestly, make a note about their question and name, and tell the person you will get back to him or her with the answer. Recognize that tough questions are the listeners way of making sure theyand youare protected from risks.

Typically the presentation follows the content of the business plan. For different audiences, for example, potential partners or customers, you delete slidesjust as you delete sections in the business plans for partnering or customer information plans.

Business, and the understanding of business you get from business plan writing, changes. Sometimes it changes quickly as you achieve new things or learn new things (including errors that crept into the plan you just finished). This means that parts of your plan may change from week to week. You handle this by creating handouts with the new information. These can be mailed to people reading your plan, or handed to them at the presentation.

Both approaches are common. If there are detailed parts of your plan that you have been left out, such as a market survey or a detailed cost breakdown, it makes a lot of sense to make copies to use as handouts during a presenta¬tion or question-and-answer period.

Dwight Eisenhower was not only the 34th u.s. President, but he was the general who planned the most daring effort in all of World War II, the D-Day landing. A master planner, Eisenhower said, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is dispensable. The best way to think about the business plan is as a way to get yourself to think through your entire business. Some parts will be so easy that you can instantly know how everything works. Things in the business you imitate from others are classic examples. For other aspects of the business, planning may become the way you get a handle on the complexities and risks you face. Some results of the planning process you will write down. Other parts will be kept in your head, ready to be used or amended as circumstances require. Many of the parts of the plan will quickly become outdated or need to be changed or adapted as the business is in operation. In fact, the Eisenhower quote makes sense in another way toobusiness planning is a process you continue throughout your firms life. Plans, once done, get revisited. Sometimes this is done formally, but more often you informally compare reality with the plan .

Business Plan Table of Contents


Description of the Business Concept and the Business Opportunity and Strategy.
Target Market and Proiections.
Competitive Advantages.
The Team.
The Offering.


The Industry.
The Company and the Concept. The Product(s) or Service(s). Entry and Growth Strategy.


Market Size and Trends. Competition and Competitive Edges. Estimated Market Share and Sales. Ongoing Market Evaluation.

IV. THE ECONOMICS OF THE BUSINESS Gross and Operating Margins.

Profit Potential and Durability.
Fixed, Variable, and Semivariable Costs. Months to Breakeven.
Months to Reach Positive Cash Flow.


Overall Marketing Strategy. Pricing.
Sales Tactics.
Service and Warranty Policies. Advertising and Promotion. Distribution.

VI. DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT PLANS Development Status and Tasks. Difficulties and Risks.
Product Improvement and New Products. Costs.
Proprietary Issues.


Geographical Location.
Facilities and Improvements.
Strategy and Plans.
Regulatory and Legal Issues.


Key Management Personnel.
Management Compensation and Ownership. Other Investors.
Employment and Other Agreements and Stock Option and Bonus Plans.
Board of Directors.
Other Shareholders, Rights, and Restrictions. Supporting Professional Advisors and Services.




Actual Income Statements and Balance Sheets. Pro Forma Income Statements.
Pro Forma Balance Sheets.
Pro Forma Cash Flow Analysis. Breakeven Chart and Calculation. Cost Control.


Use of Funds.
Investors Retu rn.


The 7 Slides of Classic Business Plan Presentations

While 15 minutes sounds like a lot of time to talk, when summarizing a 40-page business plan, the time can go very quickly. From watching winning presentations in business plan competitions and in the real world, it is clear that a superior business plan presentation is usually built around seven slides.

1. Introductory slide: Has your firms name and the names of the owners and presenters. While show¬ing this slide, you thank your listeners for the opportunity to present and explain the purpose of the business plan (e.g., financial, partnering). Introduce your firm by name, as well as yourself and any other people from your firm that you have brought with you. (1 minute)

2. Product/service slide: This slide demonstrates the product or service in terms of the benefit it pro¬vides customers or the problem it solves. Often a picture is included. Your talk describes the product or service in detail. The slide also gives the size of the target or overall market. Although you mention this, spend more time showing how the market has already accepted your product/service or ones like it. (3-4 minutes)

3. People slide: Investors invest in people as much as in ideas. This slide presents the key people with the one or two skills they have that are most persuasive in proving their expertise or their contribu¬tions to the business. If you have partnerships or alliances with names the listeners would know and respect, these can be included (often as corporate logos) and briefly mentioned. (1 minute)

4. Strategy slide: This focuses on a one or two line explanation of your strategy as it relates to your making profits (your overall strategy). The slide also has one or two lines explaining how you plan to make the majority of your sales (your sales strategy). For both, think about specifics rather than gen¬eral jargon. Saying, We will get business because we offer faster service than anyone else, for your strategy sounds more persuasive than, We leverage time-sensitivity in a manner superior to our competitors. (2-3 minutes)

5. Risk slide: Admit to the two or three greatest risks or challenges facing your firm, and for each, explain how you are preventing, insuring, repairing, or monitoring the situations. Your goal here is to head off the most threatening questions by showing you are working on the problems. (1-2 minutes)

6. Financial slide: Here you give the sales, breakeven, and profit projections for the firm for the period covered in the plan. Mention the worst-case scenario projections, but explain why you think the num¬bers on the screen are the most likely ones. (1-2 minutes)

7. Summary slide: This gives a one-to-two line summary of the firm in a positive, upbeat manner (PROmote Advertisings quality service and large potential market will lead to excellent sales and profits). Give this line in your most confident and sales-oriented manner and mention that you believe you have shown this in todays presentation. Include a line on the slide with the request from the listener (Loan of $25,000, Line of Credit of $100,000, Investment of $50,000). In covering this, explain briefly what the moneys use will be. There is also a line on the slide for what is offered in return (savings moved to a bank, pledged securities, stock in the firm for investors). You conclude with a repeat of thanks, and then ask for questions. (2 minutes)

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