How to Write a Business Plan

 Like all entrepreneurs, you will need to do a great deal of research before opening your business. Writing a business plan, a document that clearly describes your vision of all the details of business operation, is recommended. The plan allows you to apply your research to your decision-making. Although a business plan is time consuming, it is important to business success. Completing the plan forces you to examine all decisions of management, marketing, personnel and finance in an objective and organized way. Another important benefit of the planning process is that you will project the amount of financing needed for start-up and the early stages of your business. The plan will, therefore, become a useful tool in securing capital before start-up. Then the plan becomes your owner’s manual guiding your daily operation and activities.  Among other things, the business plan describes the products and services you will sell, the customers to whom you will sell them, the production, management and marketing activities needed to produce your offerings, and the projected profit or loss that will result from your efforts. A complete outline of the content of the plan is supplied below. When you adequately cover all of the outline elements, your business plan will provide answers to these questions:  Who are you? A personal resume outlining the education and experience that will allow you to start and manage your business successfully.  What are you going to do? A description of your business concept, the products and services you will be providing, the market which you will serve, where you will be located, how much money you will invest and how much additional money you will need (if any).  Where are you going? The short- and long-term goals you have set for your business.  How are you going to get there? The strategies that will allow you to meet your financial responsibilities, compete with others in the marketplace, learn new management skills, communicate with your customers, etc.  Business planning is an ongoing activity. Existing businesses, as well as start-up firms, benefit from writing and updating their goals, plans and activities. Although plans differ in some content elements depending on whether the firm is a retail, manufacturing, distribution or service enterprise, the following outline should provide a solid framework for preparing your business plan.  Brief explanations are provided in each section, but if you have questions about the application of the outline to your particular business, contact the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or SCORE Chapter in your area. Refer to Section IV, Pennsylvania Resources Section for contact information.