How to Write a Business Plan
It is likely that a student majoring in business will have to complete at least one business plan during the course of her degree. Many students will encounter a business plan for the first time in upper-level business classes, and despite the fact that they possess many of the skills needed to design such a plan, will be unsure of how to write a business plan. However, there are many existing models for how to write business plans that will help students successfully compose their own. These models vary depending on the business plan objective, so it is likely that a student's business professor will issue a particular model that he or she deems appropriate for the course.
A business plan is significantly different from other types of college writing. Some students who are unsure of how to write a business plan tend to approach the project in the same way as they would a research or report. This should be avoided. Business plans are detailed documents that present a strategic approach to a business operation. They are therefore not papers such as a student may be used to writing, but rather practical guides that outline the operation of a business and reveal the business plan writer's knowledge of a variety of business skills and applications.
One of the most important things to consider when learning how to write business plans is the purpose of such plans. Business plans are composed by business owners to assist in the development of their business and by prospective business owners to attract investors to fund a start-up business. Therefore, a student's business plan should direct the plan to its intended (though fictional) audience: business partners and/or possible investors. The business plan should aim to inform and persuade this imagined audience.
As mentioned, most students need not worry about the organizational aspect of how to write business plans, as it is likely that a student's instructor will recommend a particular model. This model will likely be some variation of the following structure: (1) an executive summary, (2) an overview of the company, (3) a description of the company's services and/or products, (4) a market analysis, (5) details of the management structure of the business, and (6) a description of the business' projected finances.
An executive summary is in essence an outline of the business plan written out in sentences rather than in outline structure. This should be the first page of the document, and serves the same purpose as an abstract—it gives the reader a complete overview of the contents of the plan. The details of the plan will be presented in the remainder of the text.
After the executive summary, the business plan will likely present a description of the company. This includes explaining what type of business the company is, where it is or will be located, where the business fits in among other similar businesses, and why the business plan writer believes it will be profitable.
The plan will then provide a detailed description of the company's services and/or products and why those services and products are marketable. This should not merely include the business plan writer's opinions, but should point to market research that indicates why the product or service will be successful. This section should also indicate the price and profit margin of the product or service.
The market analysis section of a business plan identifies who will buy the product or service and why they are likely to buy it. To do this effectively requires the business plan to point to case studies of similar businesses or business models. It may also require the inclusion of detailed information about the target consumers' purchasing habits and the business' competition.
Every business plan should include a description of how the business will operate. This should offer details of the management positions the company will have and the specific roles of each of those positions. The business plan should close by projecting the costs of implementing the plan and the profitability of the company once the plan has been implemented.
If students are not confident in how to write a business plan, they should read professional business plans in order to become familiar with the conventions of the form. It is likely that a business library will be able to provide these to interested pupils.
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