18/04/2024

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10 Game-Changing Tips for Crafting an Unbeatable Business Plan

10 Game-Changing Tips for Crafting an Unbeatable Business Plan

10 Game-Changing Tips for Crafting an Unbeatable Business Plan

Whether you’re starting your first business or a seasoned entrepreneur, a solid business plan is the foundation for success. It can help you anticipate important issues and challenges before you start your business.

Studies show that entrepreneurs who take the time to write a business plan are 2.5 times more likely to follow through and get their business off the ground.

With over two decades of experience as an entrepreneur, I’ve crafted or assisted in developing business plans for countless startups and small businesses. From traditional 100-page plans to concise one-page strategies, my business plans have secured millions of dollars from investors. As a mentor, I’ve guided thousands of entrepreneurs in the U.S. and across the globe, helping them establish, manage, and expand their businesses.

Over the past three decades, I’ve tackled countless challenges in building successful businesses. In this guide, I share my experience, insights, and best practices for crafting traditional and one-page business plans.

Here are ten proven tips to help you write a great business plan:

Tip 1: Keep it simple and focused

People are busy. Few read 50-page business plans. Even fewer read 100-page business plans. Most will read only the high-level executive summary and flip through other sections of your business plan.

A business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple, clear, and focused on your goals. Use readable fonts and a clean layout.

Your plan is a roadmap to guide your business, so make sure it’s easy to understand and follow.

Remember, you’re not reinventing the wheel here. For example, you can get a free business plan template for a traditional business plan and a one-page business plan.

And remember that there’s no universal business plan format. Use examples to compare what you like and don’t like, look at each plan’s business and revenue models, and build a business plan following the best practices you find in the example plans you read.

Pay special attention to executive summaries.

The executive summary of a business plan is designed to capture the reader’s attention and briefly explain your business, the problem you are solving, the target market, and key financial projections. You can also include a brief mission statement in the summary.

If the executive summary lacks specific information or does not capture the reader’s attention, the rest of the plan might not be read.

If your executive summary is strong, you increase the prospects of having a further conversation with a potential investor or partner to make your pitch in person. So,

  • Write the executive summary after you have written the rest of the business plan. This will allow you to summarize the larger details easily.
  • Keep it short. Include the essential steps with as little extra language as possible. Your goal is to excite the reader to read all the specific details in your business plan.
  • Organize the executive summary based on the strongest points.
  • Don’t talk about your management team’s passion for hard work. These qualities are the minimum shared by all entrepreneurs.
  • Don’t say you will be the next Facebook, Uber, or Amazon. Amateurs make this comparison to try and show how valuable their company could be. Instead, in your mission statement and business plan copy, focus on providing the actual facts that you believe prove you have a strong company. It’s better if the investor gives you this accolade because they see the opportunity.

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Here are five examples of how to keep focus and clarity when writing your business plan:

Example 1: Retail Clothing Store. A retail clothing store’s business plan should focus on its target market, the types of products it will offer, and its strategies for attracting customers. The plan should outline store location, pricing strategy, and merchandising techniques. Additionally, it should address seasonality and inventory management to ensure a balanced product offering throughout the year.

Example 2: E-commerce Business Selling Handmade Crafts. An e-commerce business selling handmade crafts should outline its product offerings, target audience, and marketing strategies for driving online traffic and sales. The plan must address shipping and fulfillment logistics, customer service policies, and strategies for dealing with returns and exchanges. Also, it should cover how the company will scale production to meet increased demand.

Example 3: Mobile App Development Company. A mobile app development company’s business plan should focus on the types of apps it specializes in, its target clientele, and its approach to app development and project management. The plan should outline the company’s pricing model, strategies for attracting clients, and methods for staying up-to-date with industry trends and technological advancements.

Example 4: Event Planning Agency. An event planning agency should focus its business plan on the types of events it specializes in (e.g., weddings, corporate events, nonprofit events), its target market, and its approach to event management. The plan should outline the agency’s marketing and networking strategies, as well as its vendor relationships and strategies for managing event logistics, budgets, and client expectations.

Example 5: Boutique Fitness Studio. A boutique fitness studio’s business plan should focus on its fitness niche (e.g., yoga, pilates), target market, and strategies for attracting and retaining clients. The plan should outline the studio’s class offerings, membership options, and pricing strategy. Additionally, it should address instructor recruitment and training, facility management, and strategies for maintaining a positive and engaging studio atmosphere.

Tip 2: Conduct thorough market research

Market research is vital for understanding your industry, target audience, and competition. Gather market size, trends, and consumer preferences data for business decisions.

Don’t mess around – research everything thoroughly.

If you are launching a new business and expect to be the market leader in 2 years, you must demonstrate why this is possible and how you’ll meet this goal.

If you say your product will be viral, you must support this statement with facts.

If you say your management team is experienced and qualified to help the business succeed, you have to support that claim with resumes that demonstrate the experience of your team members.

It’s easy to lose credibility – and investors – if you’re making claims you can’t fully support.

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Need specific insights on how to write a great business plan?

Read this definitive guide on how to write a business plan. You’ll learn about each business plan section, from the executive summary to the appendix. You can download free business plan templates for a simple one-page business plan and a traditional plan, and other important templates, including a SWOT analysis template, sales forecast template, profit and loss template, cash flow template, and a balance sheet template.

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Here are five examples of the type of research businesses in different industries must do when writing a business plan:

Example 1: New Restaurant. To identify market gaps and opportunities, a new restaurant should research the local food scene, competitors, and customer preferences. The plan should include an analysis of the area’s demographics, popular cuisine types, and existing restaurants’ strengths and weaknesses. This research will inform menu development, pricing strategy, and overall restaurant concept.

Example 2: Online Tutoring Service. An online tutoring service should analyze the market for similar services, the demand for tutors in various subjects, and the target demographic’s preferences for online learning. The plan should address strategies for attracting tutors, developing a user-friendly platform, and marketing to students and parents. Additionally, it should consider differentiating itself from competitors by offering specialized subject matter expertise or personalized learning plans.

Example 3: Green Cleaning Service. A green cleaning service should research the demand for eco-friendly options, local competitors, and potential customers’ preferences and concerns. The plan should outline the company’s environmental policies, its selection of non-toxic cleaning products, and strategies for marketing its eco-friendly services. Additionally, it should consider potential partnerships with environmentally conscious organizations or businesses.

Example 4: Coworking Space. A coworking space should research the demand for shared office spaces in its target area, the existing supply, and potential customer’s preferences and needs. The plan should address the coworking space’s design, amenities, membership plans, and pricing strategy. It should also outline strategies for attracting and retaining members and potential partnerships with local businesses or networking events to foster a sense of community.

Example 5: Subscription Box Service. A subscription box service should research the market for similar offerings, target customer preferences, and trends in the subscription box industry. The plan should outline the service’s product curation process, packaging design, pricing strategy, and shipping logistics. It should also address marketing strategies to attract and retain subscribers and potential partnerships with influencers or niche communities to grow its customer base.

Tip 3: Set realistic financial projections

Accurate financial projections are crucial for securing funding and managing your business’s growth. Be realistic about your revenue, expenses, and growth potential, and be prepared to adjust your projections as your business evolves.

Here are five examples of the types of financial projections businesses in different industries must make in their business plan:

Example 1: Food Truck Business. A food truck business should create financial projections that account for the initial investment in the truck, equipment, and inventory. The plan should also factor in ongoing expenses such as fuel, permits, insurance, and staffing. Revenue projections should consider the truck’s daily sales, seasonality, and potential catering opportunities.

Example 2: Digital Marketing Agency. A digital marketing agency should create financial projections considering client acquisition costs, retainer fees, and potential project-based revenue. The plan should factor overhead costs such as office space, equipment, and staffing. Projections should also account for the time needed to establish a client base and the potential for fluctuating income based on client retention and project completion.

Example 3: Independent Bookstore. An independent bookstore should create financial projections considering the initial investment in inventory, store fixtures, and leasehold improvements. The plan should also consider ongoing expenses such as rent, utilities, and staffing. Revenue projections should consider the store’s sales, the potential for hosting events, and additional income streams like in-store cafes or merchandise sales.

Example 4: Home-Based Catering Business. A home-based catering business should create financial projections considering the initial kitchen equipment and inventory investment. The plan should also factor in ongoing expenses such as food costs, permits, insurance, and marketing. Revenue projections should consider the number and size of catering events, potential corporate clients, and seasonal demand.

Example 5: Mobile App Startup. A mobile app startup should create financial projections for the initial investment in app development, marketing, and user acquisition. The plan should also factor in ongoing expenses such as app maintenance, updates, and staffing. Revenue projections should consider potential income streams like in-app purchases, advertising, and subscription fees.

Tip 4: Define your operational processes

Clearly outline your business’s operational processes to ensure efficiency and consistency.

Detail how you will manage production, inventory, staffing, and distribution to provide a seamless experience to customers.

Here are five examples of the operational processes businesses in different industries must define in their business plan:

Example 1: Bakery. A bakery should detail its production schedule, inventory management, staff roles, and distribution channels to ensure consistent product availability and quality. The plan should also address strategies for managing seasonal demand, such as offering holiday-themed products or adjusting staffing levels.

Example 2: Software Development Company. A software development company must define its project management processes, team structure, and communication channels to keep projects on track and meet client expectations. The plan should also address strategies for acquiring new clients, such as networking events, online marketing, and strategic partnerships.

Example 3: Real Estate Agency. A real estate agency should outline its processes for listing properties, managing client relationships, and closing transactions. The plan should also address strategies for attracting new clients, such as hosting open houses, utilizing digital marketing, and participating in local community events.

Example 4: Pet Grooming Business. A pet grooming business should detail its grooming process, appointment scheduling, and inventory management to ensure a smooth and efficient customer experience. The plan should also address strategies for attracting new clients, such as offering loyalty programs, partnering with local pet stores or veterinarians, and utilizing social media marketing.

Example 5: Online Coaching Business. An online coaching business should outline its processes for onboarding new clients, delivering coaching sessions, and tracking clients’ progress. The plan should also address strategies for attracting new clients, such as offering free discovery calls, leveraging social media marketing, and creating valuable content like blog posts or webinars.

Tip 5: Create a strong marketing plan

A well-defined marketing plan is crucial for attracting and retaining customers.

Develop a plan that outlines your target audience, competitors, marketing channels, and strategies for promoting your products or services.

Some business owners avoid talking about potential competitors.

This is a mistake.

Unless you’re creating a new industry, you will have competitors. And you’ll need to figure out how to beat or compete with them.

You must do market research to understand your competitors and the industry. A good business plan that carefully lays out this information in a detailed target market analysis appears more credible and will better prepare you for success with your new business.

And potential investors and banks tend to trust business owners more when they see a detailed target market analysis in a business plan and a strategy for finding potential customers. They are more comfortable seeing this level of detail because they will see that the business owner is better prepared to launch their business and make money over the long term.

There are multiple methods for conveying this data, referred to as TAM, SAM, and SOM.

TAM is the Total Addressable Market. This shows investors the yearly revenue opportunity or units sold for your product or service if you achieved 100% of the available market. It’s a quick way to address the potential size of your operating space.

SAM is the Serviceable Addressable Market. You intend to serve this subset of TAM (Total Addressable Market) with your service or product.

SOM is the Serviceable Obtainable Market. This is the subset of SAM (Serviceable Addressable Market) that is realistic to achieve. If you can get your business to meet this goal, you will have succeeded.

Invest some time and effort and do it correctly. A business can’t succeed if the owners don’t understand their industry, target customers, or the competition.

Here are five examples of the ways to focus the marketing plan of your business plan:

Example 1: Specialty Coffee Shop. A specialty coffee shop should develop a marketing plan that targets coffee enthusiasts, local professionals, and students. The plan should leverage social media, local print media, and in-store promotions to showcase its unique offerings, such as artisanal coffee, specialty drinks, and a cozy atmosphere.

Example 2: Graphic Design Studio. A graphic design studio should create a marketing plan that targets local businesses, entrepreneurs, and organizations. The plan should utilize online marketing (e.g., social media, email marketing), networking events, and local partnerships to showcase the studio’s design expertise in creating unique company logos and website design, and attracting new clients.

Example 3: Organic Skin Care Brand. An organic skincare brand should develop a marketing plan that targets eco-conscious consumers and those interested in natural beauty products. The plan should leverage influencer marketing, content marketing, and online advertising to promote the brand’s unique selling points, such as sustainable packaging and ethically sourced ingredients.

Example 4: Fitness Center. A fitness center should create a marketing plan that targets local residents interested in improving their health and wellness. The plan should utilize traditional advertising (e.g., billboards and local radio ads) and digital marketing (e.g., social media and email campaigns) to promote its membership options, class offerings, and state-of-the-art facilities.

Example 5: Virtual Reality Arcade. A virtual reality arcade should develop a marketing plan that targets gamers, tech enthusiasts, and families looking for unique entertainment options. The plan should utilize online advertising, social media, and local partnerships to showcase the arcade’s cutting-edge technology and immersive gaming experiences.

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Tip 6: Address legal and regulatory considerations

Outline any legal and regulatory requirements relevant to your industry and how your business will meet these requirements.

Here are five examples of the legal and regulatory requirements businesses in different industries should address in a business plan:

Example 1: Food Truck Business. A food truck business must comply with local health department regulations, obtain necessary permits, and adhere to zoning requirements. The business plan should outline the steps required to obtain the necessary permits and the strategy for ensuring ongoing compliance with health and safety regulations.

Example 2: E-commerce Store. An e-commerce store must navigate various legal considerations, including privacy policies, data protection regulations, and sales tax collection. The business plan should outline how the store will comply with these requirements and any additional industry-specific regulations that may apply.

Example 3: Home Health Care Agency. A home health care agency must adhere to strict licensing and accreditation requirements and HIPAA regulations for protecting patient information. The business plan should detail the steps required to obtain proper licensing, maintain accreditation, and ensure ongoing compliance with healthcare regulations.

Example 4: Real Estate Agency. A real estate agency must comply with state licensing requirements, adhere to fair housing laws, and maintain proper records. The business plan should outline how the agency will obtain the necessary licenses, ensure compliance with fair housing laws, and establish record-keeping procedures.

Example 5: Craft Brewery. A craft brewery must navigate a complex landscape of federal, state, and local regulations related to alcohol production, distribution, and sales. The business plan should detail how the brewery will obtain the required permits, maintain compliance with alcohol regulations, and establish relationships with distributors and retailers.

Tip 7: Develop a financial plan

A comprehensive financial plan is essential for any business. Include a detailed financial forecast outlining your revenue projections, expenses, and cash flow analysis.

Here are five examples of what a financial plan for businesses in different industries should address in a business plan:

Example 1: Subscription Box Service. A subscription box service should include a financial plan detailing the costs of sourcing products, packaging, shipping, and marketing. The plan should also outline revenue projections based on the number of subscribers, average customer lifetime value, and potential upsell opportunities.

Example 2: Clothing Boutique. A clothing boutique should develop a financial plan for inventory costs, rent, utilities, marketing expenses, and employee wages. The plan should also include revenue projections based on foot traffic, average transaction value, and seasonal trends.

Example 3: Mobile App Development Company. A mobile app development company should create a financial plan that outlines the costs of software development, marketing, and ongoing maintenance. The plan should also include revenue projections based on app sales, in-app purchases, and potential partnerships or licensing deals.

Example 4: Coworking Space. A coworking space should develop a financial plan for lease costs, utilities, insurance, marketing expenses, and staff wages. The plan should also include revenue projections based on the number of members, membership pricing tiers, and ancillary services like event rentals or meeting room bookings.

Example 5: Catering Business. A catering business should create a financial plan outlining food, equipment, transportation, and marketing costs. The plan should also include revenue projections based on the number of events, average event size, and pricing structure.

Tip 8: Establish a marketing strategy

Develop a comprehensive marketing strategy outlining how to reach your target audience, build brand awareness, and drive sales.

Here are five examples of what should be included in the marketing strategy for businesses in different industries:

Example 1: Fitness Studio. A fitness studio should develop a marketing strategy that includes social media campaigns, influencer partnerships, and local community outreach. The plan should also outline promotional offers, such as introductory pricing or referral incentives, to attract new members and retain existing ones.

Example 2: Organic Grocery Store. An organic grocery store should create a marketing strategy that emphasizes the store’s commitment to sustainability, local sourcing, and high-quality products. The plan should include strategies for reaching eco-conscious consumers, such as targeted social media ads, partnerships with local farmers, and participation in community events.

Example 3: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Company. A SaaS company should develop a marketing strategy focusing on content marketing, SEO, and targeted advertising to reach potential customers. The plan should also include strategies for customer retention, such as email marketing campaigns and personalized onboarding experiences.

Example 4: Restaurant. A restaurant should create a marketing strategy that includes a mix of online and offline tactics, such as social media promotions, local print advertising, and hosting special events. The plan should also outline strategies for generating positive reviews and word-of-mouth referrals.

Example 5: Digital Marketing Agency. A digital marketing agency should develop a marketing strategy that showcases its expertise and success stories through case studies, blog posts, and webinars. The plan should include targeted advertising campaigns and networking events to attract new clients and build industry relationships.

Tip 9: Plan for scalability and growth

Consider how your business can scale and grow over time, and outline strategies for managing this growth in your business plan.

Here are five examples of how businesses in different industries should address scalability and growth in their business plan:

Example 1: Online Tutoring Platform. An online tutoring platform should outline plans to expand its tutor network, improve its technology, and enter new markets. The plan should also consider potential partnerships with schools or educational institutions to drive growth.

Example 2: Bakery. A bakery should include plans for scaling its operations, such as opening additional locations, expanding its product line, or offering catering services. The plan should also outline strategies for managing increased production and staffing needs as the business grows.

Example 3: Graphic Design Agency. A graphic design agency should outline plans for scaling its services, such as hiring additional designers, expanding into new service areas, or partnering with complementary businesses. The plan should also include strategies for managing increased project volume and maintaining quality standards.

Example 4: Solar Panel Installation Company. A solar panel installation company should plan for growth by outlining strategies for entering new markets, expanding its service offerings, or forming partnerships with complementary businesses. The plan should also consider the potential impact of regulatory changes or technological advancements on the industry.

Example 5: Event Planning Company. An event planning company should outline growth plans, such as expanding its service offerings, targeting new market segments, or forming partnerships with complementary businesses. The plan should also include strategies for managing increased demand and maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction.

Tip 10: Include an exit strategy

Outline potential exit strategies for your business, such as a merger, acquisition, or initial public offering (IPO). This will help you plan for the future and demonstrate to investors that you have a long-term vision for your business.

Here are five examples of how businesses in different industries can summarize their exit strategy in a business plan:

Example 1: Mobile Game Development Studio. A mobile game development studio might plan for an exit strategy that includes being acquired by a larger gaming company, merging with another studio, or pursuing an IPO if the company achieves significant success.

Example 2: Healthtech Startup. A health tech startup could consider exit strategies such as being acquired by a larger healthcare or technology company, merging with a complementary business, or pursuing an IPO if the company experiences rapid growth and widespread adoption of its products or services.

Example 3: E-commerce Platform. An e-commerce platform might plan for exit strategies such as being acquired by a larger retailer, merging with a complementary business, or pursuing an IPO if the platform achieves significant market share and revenue growth.

Example 4: Boutique Marketing Agency. A boutique marketing agency could consider exit strategies like being acquired by a larger agency, merging with a complementary business to expand its service offerings, or pursuing a management buyout if the founders wish to retire or move on to other ventures.

Example 5: Green Energy Company. A green energy company might plan for exit strategies such as being acquired by a larger energy company, merging with a complementary business in the renewable energy space, or pursuing an IPO if the company achieves significant market share and technological advancements.

When crafting a comprehensive business plan, remember to focus on your target audience, clearly define your business model, conduct thorough market research, establish a strong organizational structure, create realistic financial projections, set strategic goals, develop a marketing strategy, plan for scalability and growth, and include an exit strategy.

But remember that most people don’t invest in a business plan.

Most people invest in a person.

You.

This article was originally published in July 2020 and was last updated on May 3, 2023, with new examples and insights.