1. Gathering Information for Your Business Plan
2. What Should Be Included in a Business Plan?

Business plan information must always tell an interesting story. This is because the purpose of a business plan is to secure financing for a new company. The audience consists of potential investors that must be convinced to invest in your business. The goal of a business plan is to show that your company has the potential to make a lot of money. A well-written business plan relays information in numerous ways and can be comprised of a variety of different orders. However, it must convey a clear understanding of the proposed market opportunity, explain your individual business model, and describe how money can be made from investing in your company.

Gathering Information for Your Business Plan

When writing a business plan, it is important to gather data to try to accurately project employee costs, business needs, and company sales. Understanding how to research and compile all the necessary information will assist you in this task. Although the internet has made gathering information much easier, most of the data you will encounter will relate to competitors within your business industry. Some of the most beneficial information needed to develop a successful business plan will be found close to home, with business owners in your community who have a comparable business model.

There are several steps to take when gathering information from competitors for a business plan:

  1. Examine similar, existing businesses to gain insight of current operations. Take note of business activities by assessing such things as:
    • The number of patrons that go inside the business.
    • The number of purchases that were made.
    • Store prices.
    • How long each customer stays inside the business.
  2. Look for a similar company in another location. Find a similar store in a destination outside your community. Contact the owner, truthfully explain your intentions, and ask thoughtful questions about their business.
  3. Research if a similar business is for sale in your community. Contact a broker and ask for as much information as possible. This may provide you with insider financial information that could benefit you when writing your business plan. For example, if you're considering opening a sporting goods store and you discover one is for sale, purchasing an established store may be a good opportunity.
    • Even if you do not want to purchase this particular store, the information you may gain could be very valuable.
    • Ask questions to gain insightful knowledge, such as:
      • Why is the owner selling the company?
      • Are there currently any problems within the company?
  4. Shop at your competitors' stores. If you are considering starting a pizzeria, visit any potential competitors to assess how their business is running.

What Should Be Included in a Business Plan?

It helps to know the basic components of a business plan. It may include the following items:

  • Cover page and a table of contents: It helps to organize your business plan with a proper table of contents and page numbering. Also include the business name, associated logo, and the owner's contact information.
  • Executive summary: Provide a brief description of your business in order to get people interested. It is often recommended to wait to write this portion of the business plan after the other sections are completed.
  • Market analysis: In this section you should include any competitors, target market, and describe your industry.
  • Management and organization structure: Information regarding the appointed board of directors, employee job descriptions, past work experience, management profiles, and documenting the owner of the company should be clearly stated in this portion of the business plan.
  • Sales and marketing plans: Describe how you will market the business and how you plan to generate sales.
  • Service or product descriptions: Thoroughly describe your products or services and note any trademarks, patents, or copyrights that you have acquired.
  • Funding requests: Supply a budget that specifies how you intend to use invested capital and note your long-term financial strategies. This is where you will also outline your expectations of any funding needs required now and over the next five years.
  • Financial projections: Any relevant financial information should be included, including cash flow statements, balance sheets, past income statements, and projected income.
  • Appendix: In this section, any supplementary documentation should be provided such as tax returns, letters of recommendation, your resume, completed research, and any contracts or pertinent lease information.

Remember that preparing a business plan can be a difficult process, but the end result will be very worthwhile.

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