Business plan format is the way you present a written document that contains details on the type of business you will establish, your marketing and sales strategy, and your business's financial position, including an estimate of profits and losses. You should focus on making your plan clear and concise in order to attract investors.

Executive Summary

Your executive summary should introduce your business to the reader. To write the perfect executive summary, aim to restrict it to one to two pages of text. Your summary should include:

  • The issue your business aims to deal with
  • The product or service that will overcome the problem
  • Your target market
  • Why this is the right moment to start your company
  • An overview of your financial forecast
  • An introduction to the business team

To reach investors, businesses often send out their executive summary and supply the rest of the business plan if more information is required. Your executive summary should, therefore, be understandable without reading the rest of your plan.

Whomever you're sending your executive summary to, you need to show that you care about your business. You can do this by mentioning your values, explaining what makes you unique as a company, and identifying any mistakes you've made and how you've learned from them.

Industry Analysis

You need to include research on your market, industry, and competitors in the next section. It's critical that you are aware of the kinds of customers your business aims to reach and how the market is changing.

To show that there is space for your business in the market, identify who your main competitors are and detail how you compare to them.

Key things you should mention in this section of your plan are:

  • Your customers' needs
  • Where you can find customers
  • How you'll engage with them
  • How you'll offer your product or service to them

Management and Business Structure

Here, you want to point to the structure of your business and mention the most important members of your management team, as well as basic details such as:

  • When your business was founded
  • Who the owners are
  • Where your organization is registered
  • Whether your business is incorporated

When talking about your leading managers, include a brief summary of their experience and attach their full resumes as an appendix.

What Your Business Offers

This section should contain details on the product or service you are selling and how it will improve your customers' lives. Instead of concentrating on how much you will sell your product for, think about the needs of your customers and the benefits they will gain from your product.

You should follow this up with an outline of your marketing and sales strategy. Your marketing plan could contain points such as when you'll introduce new products, how you intend to gain market share, or how you intend to expand your operations into a new area. Your marketing plan also needs to include a budget for each activity you want to carry out.

Finances

At a minimum, you should insert loss and profit projections, details of the assumptions your estimates are based on, and cash flow tables into your financial section.

You can also include a funding request in the financial section of the business plan with details on how much money you'll need over the next three to five years.

Formatting the Plan

There's no need for you to spend lots of time making your plan look good. A poorly formatted business plan containing a great proposal will usually do better than a perfectly designed business plan with inadequate financial projections or no marketing plan.

Try to keep your formatting simple by:

  • Using single spacing with an extra space between paragraphs
  • Choosing a font size between 10 and 12 point
  • Selecting a serif font such as Baskerville if you're printing your plan
  • Going for a sans serif font like Verdana if you're circulating your plan electronically
  • Including a cover page to show off your logo and tagline
  • Trimming unnecessary content so your ideas come across clearly

Finally, you should ask someone else or hire a copy editing professional to proofread your plan for mistakes. If you're the only one who works on the plan, it's easy to overlook errors.

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