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Planning Without Action Is a Waste of Time

Find out what components make up a successful business plan and then create one as a blueprint for your business success.

The Business Planning Format?

By: Dr. William R. Osgood

The information and ideas collected during a business planning process take a particular form when organized into a formal business plan. The material should be organized in a rational order so that it leads the reader from point to point and then to a logical conclusion. The sequence is important because each idea and each section builds on the one before. The planning outline suggested below is the result of reviewing and evaluating thousands of plans. Consequently, this format is designed to satisfy the requirements of most lenders, especially commercial bankers and the U.S. Small Business Administration. More complex ventures, particularly those seeking venture capital and other more specialized forms of financing, will require more highly detailed plans.

Certain material in the business plan is designed to set the stage. This material, often called the front matter, includes the cover sheet, the statement of purpose, and the table of contents. The statement of purpose is especially important as an introduction to the plan because it informs the reader what to expect. Following the front matter, the plan is divided into two major sections; the description of the business and the financial data. These sections are followed by appropriate supporting documents. The description of the business is the written explanation of what the business is, how it works, and why it will succeed. The financial data is the quantification of the written portion. It is the numerical display of the nature and effect of the assumptions made in the first section and the demonstration of viability for the overall operational strategy.

The planning process, no matter how carefully followed, does not guarantee your way to success, but it will substantially reduce your chances of failure. Though this planning effort may be hard work, the dividends will far outweigh the costs.

Business Plan Format

COVER SHEET - Name of business, names of principals, address and phone number of business.

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. THE BUSINESS
    1. Description of the Business
    2. Market
    3. Competition
    4. Operations
    5. Location(s)
    6. Management
    7. Personnel
    8. Application & Expected Effect of Loan/Investment
    9. Development Schedule
    10. Summary

  2. FINANCIAL DATA
    1. Sources and Applications of Funding
    2. Capital Equipment List
    3. Balance Sheet
    4. Break-even Analysis
    5. Income Projections (Profit and Loss Statements)
      1. Three-year Summary
      2. Detail by Month (First Year)
      3. Detail by Quarter (Second and Third Years)
      4. Notes of Explanation
    6. Pro-Forma Cash Flow
      1. Three-year Summary
      2. Detail by Month (First Year)v
      3. Detail by Quarter (Second and Third Years)
      4. Notes of Explanation
    7. Historical Financial Reports for Existing Business
      1. Balance Sheets for Past Three Years
      2. Income Statements for Past Three Years
      3. Tax Returns

  3. SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS
    Personal resumes, job descriptions, personal financial statements, credit reports, letters of reference, letters of intent, copies of leases, contracts, legal documents, and anything else relevant to the plan.

William R. Osgood

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