When you are starting a small business, a business plan is a vital part of the process. This plan will help you solidify your goals as well as provide proof of realistic long-term plans when you are ready to apply for a loan to fund your small business.
If you know you will be applying for a loan, you need to include specific information that shows your firm will be cash-flow positive and that you will be able to pay back the loan. If you don’t fill all the blanks in the business plan template, your loan request will likely be denied.
These are the key elements of the business plan template:
- Cover Page: The cover should clearly identify the packet as a business plan. Include your business name, contact information (including a physical address) and phone number. Also list a website, email address and any social media links.
- Executive Summary: This important part of the document summarizes the company’s operations, including goals and plans for the business to achieve profitability. You may want to write this section last, after you have completed your financial projections, market research and other aspects of the business plan template.
- Business Description: If you save the executive summary for last, you will really jump into the business plan with writing a business description. How did you start the company? Has it changed over time? Why does it exist? What are your future plans? These are all questions to address in your business description. You can include market research here or break that out into a separate section. Include competitive analysis and reference any legal issues that could affect your business. Explain why your business will be a success.
- Products and Services: This section should be easy. Describe what you are selling. Is it a product or a service? What makes it unique and needed in the marketplace? Describe your sales and marketing strategy. Make sure you include traditional as well as digital marketing plans.
- Business Goals: They should be specific and measurable within specific time periods. Financial goals should also be mentioned here.
- Financial Projections: This section is the most important for getting funding. It should include sales projections as well as expenses. It should show that your business has (or will soon have) positive cash flow and you can meet your financial obligations. It is recommend that you use conservative growth estimates over a three- to five-year time frame. Always make sure you are truthful in these projections.
- Management Structure. Finally, your business plan should describe the management team and organizational structure of your business. If you already have hired personnel, identify them by name and responsibility as well as provide a bio for each person. If you haven’t assembled your team yet, list the responsibilities and qualities of future personnel.
You can find additional business plan template information through the U.S. Small Business Administration and other websites for small-business owners. Remember, the time and effort you spend preparing your business plan will directly affect your success or failure — especially when it comes time to meet with a loan officer.
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