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Contents of a Written Business Plan

A well-prepared, attractive written business plan is an essential document in the quest for either debt or equity financing, to provide a benchmark against which to compare actual company performance, and to refine strategies and develop ideas on how the business should be conducted. From a practical standpoint, a business plan serves as a road map for how you plan to grow the business and take it to the next level.

Although the written business plan of a start-up venture must be tailored to the particular business and industry, the essential items in a written business plan include the following:

Cover Page

The cover page should include the following:

A. Company Name
B. Logo
C. Contact Person
D. Address and Phone Number
E. Date and State of Incorporation
F. Confidentiality and Nondisclosure Statement

Table of Contents and Table of Appendices

The table of contents and table of appendices should refer the reader to the sections and subsections of the business plan.

Executive Summary

The executive summary is the first part of the business plan to be read by potential lenders and investors. In the case of a poorly written executive summary, the executive summary is often the only part of the business plan that gets read. Accordingly, you should take the time necessary to prepare a dynamic executive summary that describes the business, identifies the stage of the company and its strategic direction, describes the company's market and marketing plan, briefly discusses the background of management, and states the company's revenue and profit expectations. Remember, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Body of a Business Plan

The body of the business plan should include detailed discussions of the following subjects:

I. Background and Purpose

A. History - a brief overview of the history of the company
B. Current Status of Company
C. The Product or Service Concept
D. Business Objectives

II. Market Analysis

A. Overall Industry or Market
B. Specific Market Segment
C. Competition
D. Sales Forecasts

III. Product or Service Development

A. Research and Development
B. Production Requirements and Process
C. Proprietary Features and Protections Thereof
D. Quality Assurance Measures
E. Contingency Plans

IV. Marketing

A. Survey Results
B. Marketing Strategy
C. Contingency Plans

V. Financial Data

A. Current Financial Position
B. Accounts Payable
C. Accounts Receivable
D. Cost Control Measures
E. Break-Even Analysis
F. Financial Ratios
G. Financial Projections

VI. Organization Structure and Management

A. Key Personnel -- describe the qualifications and responsibilities of management. The quality of management is often the key factor in obtaining debt or equity funding.
B. Other Personnel
C. Directors and Advisors
D. Professional Advisors.
E. Key Future Personnel
F. Forecasted Labor Force

VII. Ownership

A. Business Structure
B. Current Capitalization
C. Forecasted Capitalization -- how much money will be sought, the form of the proposed investment, how the funds will be used, and the percentage of ownership to be provided in exchange for the investment
D. Exit Strategy -- how and when investors will be able to get their money out of the business
E. Royalty or Licensing Arrangements

VIII. Risk Factors

Describe the key risks facing the company, including risks presented by:

A. Cost Overruns
B. Failure to Meet Production Deadlines
C. Problems with Labor, Suppliers, or Distributors
D. Sales Projections not Met
E. Unforeseen Industry Trends
F. Competition
G. Unforeseen Economic, Social, or Political Developments
H. Technological Developments
I. Inadequate Capital
J. Business Cycles
K. Other Risks

IX. Conclusion

A. Summary
B. Timetable for Funding and Future Developments


A Photograph of Product or Service
B. Sales and Profitability Objectives
C. Market Surveys
D. Production Flowchart
E. Marketing Materials
F. Advertisements
G. Press Releases
H. Historical Financial Statements
I. Table of Current Profit and Loss Statement
J. Projected Profit and Loss Statement
K. Cashflow Projections
L. Balance Sheet
M. Projected Balance Sheet
N. Asset Acquisition Schedule
O. Break-Even Statement
P. Key Contracts

Questions About Your Startup? An Attorney Can Help

While you're planning for the future of your new small business, you may also want to consider hiring an attorney. Not only will you encounter complex legal issues from time to time, but an attorney also can review your business plan, proactively help you comply with various laws and regulations, and help you avoid legal issues before they arise. Find a small business attorney near you to learn more.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified business attorney to help you navigate the process of starting a business.

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