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A business plan is a crucial tool for any business, regardless of its size. For a small business, having a business plan is particularly important for several reasons:

  • Guidance and direction: A business plan helps the small business owner clarify the purpose and direction of the company. It outlines the goals and objectives, providing a road map for where the business is headed.
  • Understanding the business environment: A business plan helps small business owners understand their target market, industry trends, and competition.
  • Financial planning: A business plan requires entrepreneurs to think about their financial needs, projections, and potential risks. It helps in budgeting, resource allocation, and financial management.
  • Attracting funding: If your small business needs external funding, a well-prepared business plan is essential. It demonstrates to potential investors that your business is viable, has a clear strategy, and is worth their investment.
  • Operational road map: A business plan outlines the day-to-day operations of your small business. It helps in organizing tasks, setting priorities, and establishing a timeline for achieving milestones.
  • Risk management: Small businesses are inherently exposed to risks. A business plan forces you to identify potential risks and develop strategies to mitigate them.
  • Communication: A business plan serves as an internal and external communication tool. It helps articulate the business concept, strategy, and objectives to employees, partners, and other stakeholders.
  • Measuring success: A business plan sets benchmarks and key performance indicators that allow you to measure the success of your small business over time.

Think of your business plan as a framework to guide you through the stages of beginning and operating your business. It shows people that you’re prepared with a plan for the future. And that’s important for everyone—from potential investors to employees to partners.

How to Write a Business Plan

Whether you have a business idea or are already delivering products or services, the business planning process is necessary for all small businesses. If you’re not sure how to write a business plan for your Oregon startup, we outline a general structure for a solid business plan below.

Keep in mind that there’s no one right way or wrong way to write a business plan. The most important thing is to craft a business plan outline custom to your own business that can provide a road map for where you’re going and how to get there.

Here are some sections typically found in a business plan that you might consider including in your own.

Executive Summary

An executive summary is a 30,000-foot view of the company that summarizes the content of the rest of the business plan. Don’t skip this section—the executive summary is usually the first section that potential investors, lenders, or partners will read. 

Think of it as the CliffsNotes version of your business plan. But despite being a brief overview, it should effectively and engagingly convey the essence of your business. Here’s what typically goes into the executive summary:

  • Your small business name, location, and founding date
  • A company description and mission statement
  • Basic info about your leadership team and employees, as well as the business’s owners
  • A description of the market the company serves
  • An outline of the company’s goals and objectives, or the problem your company aims to solve
  • An overview of services or products
  • A market and competitive analysis articulating what sets you apart from competitors
  • A marketing and sales strategy
  • An outline of your operations plan
  • A projection of the company’s potential growth, and financial projections
  • Any plans related to asking for financing or pitching the company to investors
  • If you are seeking investment or partnership, a call to action specifying what you would like those interested parties to do

Company Organization

In this section, start by stating your name, location, and founding date.

Then describe your type of business structure. Are you a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation, or a limited liability company? Mention your registered agent here as well, if you have one.

Next, create an organizational structure chart. This document explains who holds each position in the company, including your management team. You can also include resumes or key stats for each member of your team. This information could be helpful if you are presenting the business plan to a possible investor.

It’s also helpful to include a breakdown of what each team member does and their responsibilities within your company. This can be a basic job description.

Overview of Company and Objectives

This is a critical section that talks about the problem your company solves. This section of the business plan should answer questions about your target audience and how your business can meet the needs of today’s customers. Some possible topics here:

  • Company background: Explain how and when the small business was founded and the inspiration behind it.
  • Mission statement: Share the purpose of your business and its core values. The mission statement serves as a guiding principle for all actions and decisions.
  • Values and culture: Describe your core values and culture. This can include the principles that guide your decision-making, work ethic, and overall atmosphere.
  • Business concept: Explain the products or services you offer, the problems you solve for customers, and what makes your offerings unique.
  • Industry and market overview: Provide a brief overview of the industry in which your small business operates. Highlight key trends, opportunities, and challenges. Discuss your target market and how your business fits into the broader landscape.
  • Objectives and goals: Outline your business objectives and goals. These could include revenue targets, market share growth, and product/service expansion.
  • SWOT analysis: Conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) to assess the internal and external factors influencing your business.
  • Milestones achieved: Highlight any significant milestones your business has achieved so far. This could include product launches, partnerships, awards, or any other notable accomplishments. This is the place to boast about your strengths and what makes your company a valuable addition to the business landscape.
  • Plans and growth strategies: Provide an overview of your future plans and growth strategies. This can include expansion into new markets, introduction of new products or services, or other initiatives aimed at achieving your business objectives.

Overview of Products or Services

This section should provide a comprehensive understanding of what your company offers, why it’s valuable, and how it positions itself in the market. It serves as a foundation for the marketing and sales strategies outlined in later sections of the business plan. Here are some potential topics:

  • Product or service description: Provide detailed descriptions of each product or service. Explain their features, functionalities, and any unique characteristics that differentiate them from competitors.
  • Benefits to customers: Clearly outline the benefits that customers will gain from using your products or services. This could include cost savings, increased efficiency, improved quality, or any other value propositions.
  • Target market: Identify and describe your target market for each product or service. Specify the demographics, psychographics, and any other relevant characteristics of your ideal customers.
  • Market need: Explain the market need or problem that your products or services address. Articulate why there is demand for what you are offering.
  • Industry trends: Discuss any relevant trends in the industry that affect your products or services. This could include technological advancements, changes in consumer behavior, or emerging market demands.
  • Research and development (R&D): Discuss any ongoing or future plans for research and development. This could include product enhancements, new features, or innovations in the pipeline.
  • Pricing strategy: Explain how you determine the prices for your products or services and how they compare to competitors in the market.
  • Distribution channels: Describe the channels through which your products or services are distributed. This could include direct sales, online platforms, partnerships, or other distribution methods.
  • Future developments or expansions: Briefly mention any planned developments, expansions, or additions to your product or service offerings.
  • Intellectual property: List any trademarks, patents, or copyrights the company owns.

Market Analysis

Here’s where you let all your market research shine to show that you understand what businesses similar to yours are doing. Here are some things to include in this section:

  • Industry overview: Provide a detailed overview of the industry in which your business operates. Include information on the size of the industry, its growth trends, and key factors driving its development.
  • Market trends: Identify and discuss current and emerging trends in the market. This could include technological advancements, changes in consumer behavior, regulatory shifts, or any other factors that may impact the industry.
  • Competitive analysis: What are your competitors’ strengths, and why do their businesses work? Evaluate what you are doing better and what your business is bringing to the market that doesn’t already exist.
  • Target market analysis: Summarize your market demographics and talk about how those demographics fit into what your business sells. Ideally, you’re focusing on segments that can support the growth of your business. It’s much easier to serve a market you can define than to have only a vague idea of who your market is.
  • Customer needs and preferences: Analyze the needs, preferences, and buying behavior of your target customers. Understand what motivates them to make purchasing decisions and how your products or services fulfill their needs.
  • Market trajectory: What is the trajectory of your target market—is it growing, stable, or in decline? Quantify your market with as many details as you can. 
  • Barriers to entry: Discuss the barriers that new entrants may face when trying to enter the market. This could include high startup costs, regulatory hurdles, or established brand loyalty among customers.
  • Regulatory environment: Discuss any regulatory factors that may affect your business operations. This could include industry-specific regulations, licensing requirements, or compliance standards.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

Your business’s marketing strategy will evolve to fit the needs of your business and your offerings as you grow and as marketing trends change, but it’s good to have a starting point. This section should discuss how you’ll attract potential customers, retain them, and upsell them through your marketing plan.

Here are some important talking points when discussing a marketing and sales strategy:

  • What’s your budget for marketing?
  • What platforms and channels will you use to market?
  • Define an advertising plan.
  • How will you measure return on investment (ROI)?
  • Will you need to employ people to promote your products? How will you form these partnerships?

Logistics and Operations

Provide an overview of the workflows you need to run your business smoothly. Cover all the components you think you need for your planned business operations (or document them, if you’re already in operation). This section should include the following:

  • Facilities: List your brick-and-mortar locations, online retail space, and any other work locations.
  • Suppliers: For products you produce yourself, where do you get the materials you need for production?
  • Production: Describe when, where, how, and by whom your products are produced. Explain whether you have the resources needed to handle an influx in production.
  • Equipment: List the equipment you need to run your business, and what equipment you may need to purchase in the near future.
  • Inventory: Describe your inventory management system.
  • Shipping: Describe your fulfillment process for shipping products to customers.

This section of your business plan shows that you have a solid understanding of your supply chain and a plan in the event of any spikes in business or sudden growth.

Financial Projections

Financial planning never ends when you’re operating a business, and this is an important part of your business plan. Here’s where you talk about the projected financial success of your business.

If you’re already up and running, include financial statements like your income, cash flow, and balance sheet. You may also want to include any relevant information about capital expenditures.

If you’re just getting started and don’t have historical information, you may want to get more specific with your projections. You could project quarterly or even monthly information for your first year in business.

A Final Note on Your Business Plan

Although a business plan is an important tool for building a successful small business, it isn’t meant to be perfect or permanent. A business plan is designed to be a working document that you review and adjust regularly. Without this baseline, it will be much more difficult to have a historical reference for making decisions and to adjust your plan.

A business plan shows you where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, and that’s key to building a successful business and obtaining funding—if that’s what the future holds for your business. Lenders and investors typically want to see a detailed and current business plan along with the financials of your business as a prerequisite for acquiring capital.

The Oregon SBDC has 20 Centers across the state with advisers to help you in every area of your business. From startup to launch, scaling to succession planning, we’re here to help. If you have any questions about how to write a business plan for your Oregon small business, get in touch with your local SBDC by clicking here.

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