A Sample Business Plan Outline To Think Through Your Business

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The value of this Business Plan process is the thinking that it forces you to do about your business, your products and services, your goals and the actions you’ll take to achieve your goals. Even if no one but you ever sees the plan, you will have given purposeful and logical thought to the purpose and direction of your business. This process helps ensure that the many activities you squeeze into your limited hours are time well spent – focused on moving your business forward in an aggressive yet realistic way.

Part 1: Analysis

Core Services

  • List the core services (or products) you offer
  • Be as specific as possible, but put similar items in a group (e.g., “Editorial Services” includes writing, editing, etc.)

Target Markets

  • List the market segments you serve
  • Be realistic; if you realistically cannot serve large corporations, for example, then don’t include them
  • Be as specific as possible, but put similar items in a group unless there is a compelling reason to list them separately (e.g., “School Groups” could include secondary schools and colleges, but these segments might have different needs)

Competition Analysis

  • List your competitors and a brief description of them
  • Unless a specific competitor presents unique challenges to your business, it is OK to list them in groups (e.g., “Independent Practitioners” or “Small Agencies”)
  • The purpose is to provide yourself a picture of what your business is up against as you market your core service

Vision and Mission Statements

  • It is useful to have Vision and Mission statements that keep you focused on what is important to you
  • Vision Statement should describe the “ideal state” of your business; it should be achievable, but also something to strive for
  • Mission Statement succinctly states what your business is about, its purpose, the role it plays in the market

Part 2: Assumptions

Business Principles

  • It is useful to develop a set of Business Principles that guide how you will conduct your business
  • These principles have a direct bearing on your relationships with customers and clients
  • The reason to include it under “Assumptions” is because your Business Principles are conditions under which your business operates; as you will see further in this section, you will list other conditions under which your business operates as well

Economic Assumptions

  • List things you know about the economy (local, state, regional, national, international – whatever you believe affects your business)
  • Include relevant historical facts (e.g., “the U.S. economy fell into recession in 2001”) and how they affect your ability to do business
  • Note the impact of past, current, or anticipated economic conditions on your business and the products/services you provide

Financial Assumptions

  • List things you know about your personal and/or business financial situation that affect your ability to do business and to grow your business
  • Include things like cash flow issues, savings programs, the financial picture as a result of actions or conditions (a recession, recent investments, loan approvals, etc.)
  • Reflect financial “realities” about your business (e.g., the need to control expenses, taxes owed, upcoming capital expenditures, expanding payroll, etc.)

Technological Assumptions

  • Since so many businesses – large and small – depend on technology (web, e-mail, phone, etc.) today, it is useful to think about how these issues affect your business’s ability to succeed
  • Think about upgrades of hardware and software, the impact of growth and expansion on your technological needs, training that will be necessary, etc.

Part 3: Strategic Summary

SWOT Analysis

  • List all the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats about your business
  • Be honest with yourself; don’t hold anything back or ignore realities

Key Success Factors

  • Out of your SWOT Analysis, what are the key factors that will affect the ability of your business to succeed?
  • Examples: strong reputation, broad client base, repeat business, unique provider, etc.

Competitive Advantages / Disadvantages

  • Create lists of your competitive advantages and disadvantages based on your analysis of everything else up to this point
  • What unique advantages does your business have in the marketplace?
  • What distinct disadvantages does your business have?
  • Be honest and don’t hold back because you will develop strategies based largely on this informatio

Strategic Goals

  • Develop two or three broad Strategic Goals for your business in the next year or the next 3-5 years, depending on the scope of your plan
  • Strategic Goals should be “big picture” goals, but they should also be specific enough that you can measure them
  • Under each goal, list one to three specific, measurable components
  • Example of a Strategic Goal: “Grow Client Base”
  • Example of specific, measurable component: “Add at least X new clients by X date”
  • Make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-driven

Tactical Actions

  • Out of your Strategic Goals, list specific actions you will take that will help you achieve them
  • Examples: Meet with two new prospective clients per month; Join a professional association to expand my network
  • Create a calendar that plots when each tactical activity will occur so you don’t forget to do them

Robert Holland

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