Whether you’re starting a new business or growing an existing one, a well-constructed business plan can help you define your products and services, determine your target market, scope out the competition and set you up for success. And, if you’re looking for financing, it’s usually essential—lenders will analyze your business plan to help determine if you’re a good credit risk.
What’s included in a business plan?
The format and size of each business plan is unique. But for general purposes, here’s a template you can follow:
- Executive summary: This usually appears at the beginning of your business plan and serves as a quick overview of it. You may find it easier to write the executive summary last.
- Mission and values statements: As part of your executive summary, include 1 or 2 sentences summarizing the “what,” “how” and “why” of your business. For example, Mayo Clinic Health System®’s mission is to “inspire hope, and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research.” This mission is rooted in Mayo Clinic’s belief that “the needs of the patient come first.” Now’s your chance to think about your business’s values.
- Business concept: This should be a description of your products and services, facilities (home or commercial office, factory, restaurant, retail shop, etc.) and day-to-day operations.
- Management team: Explain the roles and give brief biographies of you and anyone else involved in management of the business. Focus on the experience and expertise that will help move your business forward, especially if you’re looking for financing.
- Market analysis: Provide an overview of your business’s market. Who is your target market? How large is the market now, and what are the opportunities going forward? How will your business stand apart from the competition?
- Financial analysis: Provide an overview of your business’s financial status now and the outlook for the future. You’re expected to include 3 financial statements here: an income statement, cash flow statement and balance sheet. You should also include 3 to 5 years of financial projections for your business (income and expenses).
- Marketing and sales: Detail how you’ll position and market your business in order to bring in and keep customers. You can describe your use of traditional advertising (print, TV, radio, direct mail) and online marketing (website, social media, search engine optimization).
- Why you'll succeed: Give a positive—but realistic—assessment of why your venture will be successful. Include your passion for the business, the need you'll fill and the demographics of your target market.
- Appendix: Here, you can include any supporting information or graphics that help establish your plan’s credibility. Consider charts, graphs, spreadsheets and photographs of products. You may also include proof of patent applications and research and development.
It takes time to put this information together, but it can prove invaluable as you move forward with your business and pursue financing.
Get help with your business plan.
You don’t need to write your business plan alone. You can find help online at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and any of its offices throughout the country. In addition, SCORE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting small businesses, offers free advice and mentoring, along with initiatives specifically for military veterans.
Once your business is off the ground, you’ll need the support of an institution to handle banking, lines of credit and other financial resources. Navy Federal Credit Union’s business membership gives you access to a suite of tools that are vital for your business’s success.
- Begin gathering the information you’ll need to craft your business plan. Pull together financial data to create projections, design a marketing plan and start doing market research.
- Reach out to resources like the SBA or SCORE for help developing your business plan from scattered concepts into a cohesive, thorough document.
- Check out Navy Federal’s Business Solutions Education Center to find more tools, resources and insights on how to help your business succeed.
Mayo Clinic Health System is a registered trademark of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research non-profit corporation.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.