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Written by
Katy Ratican
11 Aug 2021
5 minutes

How to write a small business plan

Everything you need to know about a business plan including a step-by-step guide and the best practices for writing one
How to write small business plan

A startup business plan is a navigational tool that helps startups know where they have to reach and the optimal way of doing so. Without a plan, it will take longer, more mistakes are likely to be made, resulting in greater cost and there’s no guarantee that you’ll reach your destination.

That’s the reason a credible small business plan template is what all successful startups have in common.

As a founder, before you start meeting investors, bankers, business partners, media or prospective team members, you should have a startup business plan in place. That’s the blueprint for your company’s growth and that’s what will persuade others to believe in your idea.

What is a business plan?

A startup business plan is a written document that defines your business, states its objectives and gives the timeframe in which it hopes to achieve those in the market it operates. It also includes the financial milestones the company plans to reach, the challenges it may face and the resources it needs.

A step-by-step guide to writing a business plan

One of the crucial steps in launching your startup is creating a business plan that will communicate the fundamentals of your business to both your employees and potential investors.

Step 1: What plan do you want?

The first thing you have to understand is that there are three types of business plans, depending upon the level of detail and the intended audience.

  • Mini startup business plan: A short version that’s usually fewer than ten pages. It explores the concept of the business, outlines it without getting into specifics and can be the foundation for a full business plan. This is for the founder and the starting team members.

  • Working business plan: This builds on the mini business plan to state the operational side of the business. As a founder, this is what you need to know about where to focus, and your short-term and long-term objectives.

  • Presentation business plan: This is created for external audiences and it’s what the founders present to outside investors. Whenever you find a business plan of a tech giant online, it’s their presentation business plan that you see.

Step 2: The elements of a startup business plan

Every small business plan template needs to have three distinguishable parts, whether it’s a mini, working or presentation plan. It should explain your business, outline the market it will operate in and have a breakdown of the finances. These three parts will be explained over seven sections.

Step 3: Section 1 - Company description

This is where you describe the company, the product or service and the market you cater to. This is a brief overview that shouldn’t run above 100 words.

For example, “MomTime is a productivity app from GoodVibe Technologies, Boston to help mothers schedule their activities. It helps mothers synchronise their schedules to the baby’s routines. It’s available for both iOS and Android, in free and paid versions. MomTime’s currently available in the US and European markets in six languages.”

Step 4: Section 2 - Market analysis

In this section, you identify your target market and show how well you know your intended users or customers. You should write about both the demographics (age, gender, location etc.) of your target audience along with the psychographics (their needs, attitudes etc.)

It should also contain the problems your target audience has and the current solutions available in the market. You should show a clear understanding of your competitors, their technologies, pricing, market share and their strengths and weaknesses.

In the traditional sense, that would be a SWOT analysis, where you explain your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Step 5: Structure of the company

Now it’s time to share the organisational structure of your company and introduce the key members and their responsibilities. You should also mention the expertise and experience of the founder, partners and team members.

To make them relatable to your audience, you should include their photographs.

Step 6: Description of the product or service

In the section introducing the company, you would’ve mentioned the product or service and what it delivers. Now you need to explain it in a more detailed manner.

  • What makes your product unique?

  • How is it different from the competitors or how is it creating a new territory?

  • How will customers find and use your product?

  • Have there been any problems so far?

  • Have you had to change anything from your initial assumptions?

  • What are the pricing levels?

  • How many versions of the product do you have?

Step 7: Sales and marketing strategy

How do you plan to take your product or service to the market? Do you have a sales funnel? Will you be using traditional advertising platforms like newspaper ads or television commercials? Or will you go digital or maybe use social media influencers?

This section should cover all of that.

Step 8: Request for funding

If it’s a presentation business plan to investors, this is where you state how much funding you need. Importantly, you should convey what you need the funds for.

You should also mention the operational expenses, how much you have spent up to now, current and expected revenue, expansion plans, all supported by financial statements and the necessary documentation.

In short

As a startup, you need a high-impact idea, passion, team members who complement each other and productivity tools and apps to optimise your resources. But for all that to work and take place within a given timeframe, you need to start with a small business plan.

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