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Creating a Successful Startup Business Plan

Creating a Successful Startup Business Plan

By: Catherine Conlan

Do you dream of starting your own business? To make that dream a reality, you’ll need to put together a business plan for your startup. 

Here’s why — a startup business plan is a road map for entrepreneurs. A good plan will keep you focused on important goals and help keep you on message as you talk with potential investors, business partners, employees and customers. 

Here’s a startup business plan example.

Determine Your Plan’s Audience
The best way to determine the length and format of your business plan is to think about your target audience.

“Business plan styles range from informal, back-of-the-envelope sketches to two-page, near-term road maps to 30-page plans with illustrations and exhibits,” says business plan expert Hal Shelton

You may find that a simple one-page document makes more sense, especially if you’re not looking for outside funding or partners.The Small Business Administration offers examples of startup business plans to research.

While most startup business plans generally follow the same format, keep your audience in mind. For example, if your plan is seeking a loan from a bank or the SBA, it may be different than one written for an angel investor, says entrepreneur consultant Karen Southall Watts

Ask your target audience (banker, investor, teacher, potential partner) if they have a startup business plan example or format you can use. If so, be sure to follow it carefully, Watts says.

Do Your Research
Market research should be part of your startup business plan. Talk to potential customers to understand your niche in the marketplace, recommends Silvia Mah, founder of Hera Labs, an accelerator for female business owners. 

“Knowing your competition is incredibly important to your business plan as it allows you to address details of product development, future milestones, holes in the market and it gives you an idea of your business's growth potential.”

Define your customer as clearly as possible, Watts says. Social media is a great way to examine potential customers and competitors and get a handle on the market as a whole, she says. 

“Your plan must convey an understanding of who your ideal customer is and how you intend to make money. Without these elements the plan is incomplete,” Watts says.

Cover the Basics
In terms of format, “business plans start with an executive summary and end with the financial statements,” Shelton says. In between, the document should address your plans and expectations for marketing and sales, operations, staffing and so on.

Other important topics to include are:

  • Goals for sales, market share, revenue, profit and so on, and why they’re attainable.
  • A plan for reaching those goals and data to back up your plan.
  • Supporting information about the organization and your team. This may include board members and advisors, potential or actual employees, etc.
  • Finally, include your exit strategy, Mah says. Including this in your business planning process helps you forecast your funding needs and provides clarity as you identify strategic partners and targeted exit companies, she says.

Expect to Revise Regularly
While a “final” version of your plan may go to your loan officer, keep in mind that a business plan for startups is a living document. 

“Tweaking and pivoting a business idea is a continual and iterative process,” Mah says. Talk with customers about their interactions with your business and its products or services.

Watts recommends revisiting the plan at least once every six months or more often if your business hinges on new or changing technology. 

Mah recommends going back to “examine your executive summary and ask if it still defines what you're doing, how you're doing it and for whom. If not, dig deeper. Revise and regroup and move forward with the next phase of your business.” 

All the best with your new business venture!