Creating a Successful Business Plan — The Contents
Last time, we talked about why it is so important to develop a business plan, and we also shared some tips for developing your plan. Click here to read Part One of this article. Today, we are diving much deeper, and looking individually at every element of your business plan and what it needs to contain.
A Good First Impression
The first impression of a business plan document will be how it’s bound, what the cover page looks like, and then, what information is contained within. The cover page of your business plan should include the following:
- Legal name of the company and logo (if you have one)
- Date prepared (Month/Year)
- Business address and phone number
- Contact’s name and email address
- Business’ web address
- Name(s) of preparer(s)
- Statement of confidentiality
If using a binder, consider selecting one with a clear-view cover, where you can insert a sheet of paper with your description of the contents — for example, your company logo and the words “Business Plan.” White binders seem to work best here, but you may also want to consider having the document professionally bound.
The Executive Summary
A summary of the entire plan, often referred to as the “Executive Summary,” is important and should consist of a two or three page clear and concise overview highlighting each main section of your complete business plan. This should include the Mission Statement, a description of the business and its objectives, financial requirements and security, management and staff, your marketing plan, etc. The summary has several purposes, but its primary one is to whet the reader’s appetite. It should tell — in a succinct manner — who you are, what you want to do, how much money you’ll need, and how much you expect to make.
Many investors or lenders won’t read your entire package. They’ll make a preliminary decision about getting financially involved in your business on the basis of their first impression of this summary. Therefore, it’s important to put all your strong points in the first few paragraphs. They’ll be expanded upon later in the plan.
- Mission Statement: This need not be more than a few paragraphs, and should convey your business philosophies, including commitments to your customers and staff.
- Statement of Purpose: Provides a brief explanation of why you’re requesting funding.
- Business Description: Briefly describe the current status of the company.
- Business Objectives: Outlines your sales objectives, staffing increases/changes, additional products and services, etc.
- Financial Requirements & Security: Briefly describes how much money you’ll need, the reasons for the funds, how they’ll be distributed, and the type(s) of security offered.
- Management & Staff: Here, set down the personnel hierarchy via an organizational chart. In addition, list all staff members and their credentials.
- Products & Services: In this area of the summary, provide a brief description of the products and services you sell, and to whom.
- Marketing Plan: Under this heading, briefly describe who your customers are, where they’re located, your competitive advantages, and the results of your advertising efforts.
Although the Executive Summary is the first major element in your business plan, it should be the last item you prepare. The next step in the process is to create tabbed sections to the binder, and elaborate on each area listed in the Executive Summary.
The Sections of the Business Plan
Let’s take a closer look at all of these sections individually, so you know what each one should contain.
Perhaps you’d want your shop to be known as the one that provides the best customer service in town. Or maybe you want potential customers to know that you use the highest quality parts and materials. Striving for excellence in the service and repair industry, and being committed to your customers are other possibilities for a broad Mission Statement.
Whatever your point of view, give careful consideration to your Mission Statement. Start with some key points, then review them with your employees before you flesh them out.
Statement of Purpose
If you’re requesting funds from a lender or investor, provide a detailed explanation of the purpose for the funding, the amount required, when and how long you’ll need the funds, how you’ll generate sufficient cash flow to repay, and what collateral or security will be offered.
This section of your business plan should include the complete name of your company; the date the business started or will start; the nature of your business, including its Standard Industry Classification (SIC) code; the type of business (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, etc.); and, if incorporated, the date of incorporation.
The description should also include a complete history of your business, listing by date any significant events such as staff additions, major equipment purchases, memberships, acquisitions of property, facility renovations, new services offered, computer system purchases and upgrades, important training accomplishments, business and staff certifications and/or awards, etc.
Indicate if it’s a new business, an expansion of an existing business, an acquisition, or a franchise. In addition, provide information on licenses or permits required or obtained; days and hours of operation; your shop’s main products and services; the reputation your shop has earned; how your customers benefit from your services; your shop’s community involvement; and any environmentally conscientious practices performed by your shop.
Don’t worry — there are many more sections to come. Please join us in our next post as we continue to explore the other sections in your business plan, and provide you with information on how to go about presenting your plan once it is complete.
In the meantime, have you considered adding Fleet services as a part of your business? If so, we highly recommend our upcoming Fleet Workshop, which begins December 2nd. Call 800-755-0988 or click here for more information or to enroll.