A business plan is a multi-purpose document. It will:
A business plan outlines your business and should include:
Your business plan should be read and reviewed frequently so that you can update it as conditions in your business, industry, and/or economy change.
The website Bplans  has many sample business plans, and the database Lynda.com  (accessible remotely with a Kansas City Public Library card) offers brief instructional videos on business plan writing. Ask one of the librarians in the Block Center for assistance in using these resources.
There are also many sources in the library that can assist you in the writing of your plan. You can read actual successful business plans in the Business Plans Handbook . The Business Plans Handbook is now available online via the database Gale Virtual Reference Library. Access Gale Virtual Reference Library from our database  page.
Most business plans include six to eight key sections:
Let's look briefly at each of these sections.
The executive summary is a brief (2-3 pages) overview of your company. It should contain:
The business / company description section is where you describe the structure of your business. Include:
The products and/or services section is where you explain what your company will do.
Outline who your customers are, where they are located, the current and projected state of the industry and your competitors. Describe how you plan to market, promote, and encourage growth in the demand for your product. Think of this section as the place to justify the need for your product and to explain why your company will be successful.
Describe in detail who your customer is:
Identify how large this population is and where it is located by using A to Z , American FactFinder , USA Counties , MO Census Data Center , Mid-America Regional Council's Metro Dataline , and books such as CEDDS: The Complete Economic and Demographic Data Source .
Your business plan needs to include information on your competition: highlighting specifics on your major competitors, including their size, pricing, advertising methods, and quality of goods.
Create a SWOT analysis of the industry that you are operating in. A SWOT analysis looks at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to the industry . Identify the maturity of the industry, the growth potential, the underserved population, your niche, changes in the industry that will provide opportunities and/or threats, and consumer trends. Reveal what might impact the industry for good or bad, be it the economic climate, growth in competitors (domestic and international), change in governmental regulations , advances in technology, and lifestyle changes.
Now that you have outlined your customer base, your competition and the industry arena, explain the strategy for marketing your product or service.
This is where you describe the details of the daily operation of your business.
A key source to use when evaluating your financial statements is Annual Statement Studies . This source gives the ratios that are average in your industry and is used by bankers when evaluating loan prospects. A similar source is Dun & Bradstreet's Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios .
The following books will give you additional information about business plans:
For additional information, contact an H&R Block Business & Career Center librarian by phone, 816.701.3717, or by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org .