There are no set guidelines for writing a business plan, but there are numerous key areas that need to be addressed. Not only will your investor want to see your projected financials, but you’ll want to research feasibility for your own financial satisfaction. There are software packages available that prompt the user with questions to fill-in the blank on a business plan template. However, it’s important to thoroughly think through your business, and write up your plans.

First of all, always write in the 3rd person. Never use “I” or “we”. Construct your plan as if you are a consultant that is developing a project for a client. Use terms such as “the organization”, “the firm”, “the principals”, etc. Be sure to be honest and conservative, while showing the benefits of your business to the reader. Make sure the overall appearance of your plan is professional. Have it spiral bound with cover stock on the front and back. The cover should include the phrase “To be submitted to…” to personalize your plan. And finally, keep your plan concise. More is not necessarily better. Most plans don’t exceed 45 pages, including supporting documents. Remove excess words and repetition.

Following is a recommended outline for a business plan:

  1. Cover Sheet: Including name of business, owner’s address, phone number, and whom it is being submitted to
  2. Statement of Purpose
  3. Table of Contents
  4. SectionOne: The Business
    1. Description of Business
    2. Product/Service
    3. Marketing
      1. Target Market
      2. Place
      3. Price
      4. Promotion
      5. Other Attractive Market Opportunities
    4. Location
    5. Competition
    6. Management
    7. Personnel
    8. Application and Expected Effect of Loan or Investment
  5. Section Two: Financials
    1. Sources and Application of Funds
    2. Capital Equipment List
    3. Balance Sheet, End of Year 1
    4. Breakeven Analysis
    5. Pro-Forma Income Statements
      1. By Month Year One
      2. By Quarter Year Two
      3. By Quarter Year Three
      4. Three Year Summary
      5. Notes of Explanation
    6. Pro-Forma Cash Flow Statements
      1. By Month Year One
      2. By Quarter Year Two
      3. By Quarter Year Three
      4. Notes of Explanation
  6. Section Three: Supporting Documents (i.e. personal balance sheet, letters of intent, lease agreements, resumes of principals, floor plan, industry data, credit reports, personal budget, letters of reference, job descriptions, location data, contracts, legal documents, inventory list, promotion collateral)

It’s important to use your plan. Make it a working document, not something you stick in a drawer or file cabinet. The information in your business plan will be most of what your lender/investor needs to grant you your funds. It will also keep you from entering into a business venture that is doomed to fail. The cost of business failure is steep.

You can obtain assistance in writing your business plan from a local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) counselor, local college or university, books, Service Corp of Retired Executive (SCORE), or the Small Business Administration at

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