Do I Really Need a Business Plan?
If you are starting a business, a business plan can help you get financing from lenders and investors. It's a tool for understanding how all aspects of your business are put together. Even if you have an existing business, a business plan helps you compare planned and actual performance and allows you to communicate your vision for the business to your employees. To take your business to another level, a business plan can make it easier for you to raise capital to expand your business and create a strategy for managing growth.
Even though business plans vary in length, most include the following common elements:
- Executive summary – provides an overview of key points in your business plan. It is the first section potential investors or lenders will read and should include highlights from each of the other sections.
- Business strategy – briefly describes what your business is all about. Include a short history and purpose of your business. Give a description of your products and services.
- Marketing strategy – how do you promote and sell your product or service? Also include information about your marketing budget. Back up your statements with facts.
- Operational plan – include your current operational requirements as well as those for the next three to five years.
- Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis (SWOT) – all businesses encounter difficulties at some point so you must prepare for these problems. Point out how you will deal with these four elements.
- Human resources plan – discuss plans for employee recruitment, training and retention.
- Social responsibility strategy – discuss how your business will honour ethical values, respect people, the community and the environment.
- E-business strategy – discuss how you sell your product or service online. Also include information on website development and hardware and software requirements.
- Financial forecasts and other information – provide financial projections for the next three to five years by including cash flow statements, profit and loss forecast, and sales forecast.
- Business exit strategy – this section addresses how and when you will exit your business.
The Canada Business Network has step-by-step instructions on how to write a business plan and also provides sample business plans and templates to get you started. Take a look at the library's books and ebooks, as well as business e-videos on Kanopy to help you with your business plan.