Everyone has prepared a business plan. Well, should that read, everyone should have prepared a business plan? My thinking is that these tend only to be prepared when they are needed, rather than as a useful business tool for all senior management. My top five ingredients are: 1. Understand what a business plan is; 2. Understand what you intend to use it for; 3. Identify and implement the critical steps to achieving a successful business plan; 4. Understand what needs to be included in the plan; 5. Be aware of gaps or weaknesses in your plan.
Executive Summary _ One to three pages that summarize all the information to follow; come back and write this last. Industry Analysis _ How does your product or service compare with what is currently on the market? What is the trend in the overall industry? What have been the total sales in this industry over the previous 3 to 5 years? What new products or technologies have had the biggest impact on this industry recently? What is the future outlook for these and what trends are emerging? Who are the competitors, where are they located, and how are they doing? What advantage do you offer over them? Who is buying this product or service now? Describe the typical customer for this product or service. Are there emerging markets or market segments? Where does this product or service currently perform best? Possible Data Sources: trade associations; trade journals; attorneys & accountants dealing with the industry; industry salespeople; state business websites; focus groups.