Key Sections of a Small Business Plan

Part of the Small Business Kit For Dummies Cheat Sheet

If you want investors for your small business, you need to write a business plan so that you have something to present to bankers and potential investors. The format of every good business plan, although not set in stone, tends to run along the same basic lines — it shouldn’t have anything that surprises investors.

The business plan format is fairly standardized, typically containing the following key sections:

  • Cover page: Contains contact information and a statement that the plan is deemed confidential

  • Table of contents: Enables your readers to quickly find the exact information they’re looking for

  • Executive summary: Explains, briefly, your business’s prospects, needs, and situation

  • Company description: Contains a historical account of the company, as well as its future prospects

  • The product or service: Explains what is unique about the products or services that your business plans to deliver

  • The market: Creates a picture of the market in which your business competes

  • Marketing: Informs your reader of how you plan to capture your business’s potential market (packaging, distribution, advertising, Web marketing, and so on)

  • Management/ownership: Introduces the people holding leadership positions in the business, their relevant experience and credentials

  • Competition: Focuses on your competitors' strengths and weaknesses

  • Financial statements and projections: Includes a lot of numbers (hopefully black), like your balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and financial forecasts

  • Appendices: Contains résumés of key personnel, an organizational chart with positions and responsibilities, extended market information, and other data to back up the claims in your business plan

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