Business planning – Format


There are a wide variety of formats for a business plan. The particular format and amount of content included in a plan depends on the complexity of the organization, product or service and on the demands of those who will use the business plan to make a decision for example: an investor, funder, management, Board of Directors, etc.

Essentially, a business plan is a combination of a marketing plan, strategic plan, operational/management plan and a financial plan.

Business planning is often conducted when:

· Starting a new venture (organization, product or service)
· Expanding a current organization, product or service
· Buying a current organization, product or service
· Working to improve the management of a current organization, product or service

Overall, the contents of a business plan typically aim to:

· Describe the venture whether it is new or current organization, product or service, including its primary features, advantages and benefits

· What the organization wants to do with it buying it, expanding it, etc.

· Justification that the plans are credible based on the results of research that indicate the need for what the organization wants to do

· Marketing plans, including research results about how the venture will be marketed like who the customers will be, any specific groups or targets of customers, why they need the venture including benefits they seek from the venture, how they will use the venture, what they will be willing to pay, and how the venture will be advertised and promoted, etc.

· Staffing plans, including what expertise will be needed to build sometimes included in business plans and provide the venture on an ongoing basis

· Management plans, including how the expertise will be organized, coordinated and led

· Financial plans, including costs to build the venture (sometimes included in business plans), costs to operate the venture, expected revenue, budgets for each of the first several years into the future, when the venture might break-even (begin making more money overall than it has cost), etc.

In addition to the above items, a grant proposal might include itemization of any deficits when expected expenses exceed expected revenues, which indicates the need for funding from a particular investor to which the grant proposal is being submitted.

Quite often, an organization’s business planners already know much of what will go into a business plan including the one for strategic planning. However, development of the business plan greatly helps to clarify the organization’s plans and ensure that key leaders are all “on the same script”. Far more important than the plan document, is the planning process itself.

Business planning usually includes a thorough examination of the idea for a new product/service. if there’s really a market for it the business plan must consider the competitors, how the idea is uniquely positioned to be competitive and noticeable, how the idea will be produced to a product/service, cost of the product, sales promotion strategies, overall goals to be accomplished, management of development and ongoing operations, resources that are needed (including money).