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Writing a Business Plan

section 5 2 the business plan answers

While it may be tempting to put off, creating a business plan is an essential part of starting your own business. Plans and proposals should be put in a clear format making it easy for potential investors to understand. Because every company has a different goal and product or service to offer, there are business plan templates readily available to help you get on the right track. Many of these templates can be adapted for any company. In general, a business plan writing guide will recommend that the following sections be incorporated into your plan.

Executive Summary

The executive summary is the first section that business plans open with, but is often the last section to actually be written as it’s the most difficult to write. The executive summary is a summary of the overall plan that highlights the key points and gives the reader an idea of what lies ahead in the document. It should include areas such as the business opportunity, target market, marketing and sales strategy, competition, the summary of the financial plan, staff members and a summary of how the plan will be implemented. This section needs to be extremely clear, concise and engaging as you don’t want the reader to push your hard work aside.

Company Description

The company description follows the executive summary and should cover all the details about the company itself. For example, if you are writing a business plan for an internet café, you would want to include the name of the company, where the café would be located, who the main team members involved are and why, how large the company is, who the target market for the internet cafe is, what type of business structure the café is, such as LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, what the internet café business mission and vision statements are, and what the business’s short-term objectives are.

Services and Products

This is the exciting part of the plan where you get to explain what new and improved services or products you are offering. On top of describing the product or service itself, include in the plan what is currently in the market in this area, what problems there are in this area and how your product is the solution. For example, in a business plan for a food truck, perhaps there are numerous other food trucks in the area, but they are all fast –food style and unhealthy so, you want to introduce fast food that serves only organic and fresh ingredients every day. This is where you can also list your price points and future products or services you anticipate.

Market Analysis

The market analysis section will take time to write and research as a lot of effort and research need to go into it. Here is where you have the opportunity to describe what trends are showing up, what the growth rate in this sector looks like, what the current size of this industry is and who your target audience is. A cleaning business plan, for example, may include how this sector has been growing by 10% every year due to an increase in large businesses being built in the city.

Organization and Management

Marketing and sales are the part of the business plan where you explain how you will attract and retain clients. How are you reaching your target customers and what incentives do you offer that will keep them coming back? For a dry cleaner business plan, perhaps if they refer customers, they will get 10% off their next visit. In addition, you may want to explain what needs to be done in order for the business to be profitable. This is a great way of showing that you are conscious about what clear steps need to be taken to make a business successful.

Financial Projections & Appendix

The financial business plan section can be a tricky one to write as it is based on projections. Usually what is included is the short-term projection, which is a year broken down by month and should include start-up permits, equipment, and licenses that are required. This is followed by a three-year projection broken down by year and many often write a five-year projection, but this does not need to be included in the business plan.

The appendix is the last section and contains all the supporting documents and/or required material. This often includes resumes of those involved in the company, letters of reference, product pictures and credit histories. Keep in mind that your business plan is always in development and should be adjusted regularly as your business grows and changes.


section 5 2 the business plan answers

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Write each production function given below in terms of output per person y ≡ Y / L y \equiv Y / L y ≡ Y / L and capital per person k ≡ K / L k \equiv K / L k ≡ K / L . Show what these "per person" versions look like in a graph with k k k on the horizontal axis and y y y on the vertical axis. (Assume A ˉ \bar{A} A ˉ is some fixed positive number.) (a) Y = K 1 / 3 L 2 / 3 Y=K^{1 / 3} L^{2 / 3} Y = K 1/3 L 2/3 and Y = K 3 / 4 L 1 / 4 Y=K^{3 / 4} L^{1 / 4} Y = K 3/4 L 1/4 (on the same graph) (b) Y = K Y=K Y = K (c) Y = K + A ˉ L Y=K+\bar{A} L Y = K + A ˉ L (d) Y = K − A ˉ L Y=K-\bar{A} L Y = K − A ˉ L

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Oxmoor Corporation prepared the following adjusted trial balance.

Oxmoor   Corporation Adjusted   Trial   Balance December   31,   2019 \begin{array}{c} \textbf{Oxmoor Corporation}\\ \textbf{Adjusted Trial Balance}\\ \textbf{December 31, 2019} \end{array} Oxmoor Corporation Adjusted Trial Balance December 31, 2019 ​

Account Debit Credit Cash $       13 , 300 Accounts Receivable 6 , 700 Prepaid Rent 54 , 000 Inventory 481 , 400 Long-Term Investment 110 , 900 Equipment 88 , 000 Accumulated Depreciation 23 , 700 Accounts Payable 111 , 700 Interest Payable 4 , 400 Note Payable (short-term) 50 , 000 Bonds Payable 180 , 000 Common Stock 300 , 000 Retained Earnings, 1/1/2019 45 , 635 Dividends 50 , 000 Sales Revenue 583 , 900 Cost of Goods Sold 277 , 000 Wages Expense 98 , 250 Rent Expense 50 , 000 Depreciation Expense 29 , 000 Interest Expense 2 , 700 Income Taxes Expense          38 , 085 ‾                      ‾ Totals $ 1 , 299 , 335 ‾ ‾ $ 1 , 299 , 335 ‾ ‾ \begin{array}{lrr} \textbf{Account}&\textbf{Debit}&\textbf{Credit}\\\hline \text{Cash}&\$~~~~~13,300\\ \text{Accounts Receivable}&6,700\\ \text{Prepaid Rent}&54,000\\ \text{Inventory}&481,400\\ \text{Long-Term Investment}&110,900\\ \text{Equipment}&88,000\\ \text{Accumulated Depreciation}&&23,700\\ \text{Accounts Payable}&&111,700\\ \text{Interest Payable}&&4,400\\ \text{Note Payable (short-term)}&&50,000\\ \text{Bonds Payable}&&180,000\\ \text{Common Stock}&&300,000\\ \text{Retained Earnings, 1/1/2019}&&45,635\\ \text{Dividends}&50,000\\ \text{Sales Revenue}&&583,900\\ \text{Cost of Goods Sold}&277,000\\ \text{Wages Expense}&98,250\\ \text{Rent Expense}&50,000\\ \text{Depreciation Expense}&29,000\\ \text{Interest Expense}&2,700\\ \text{Income Taxes Expense}&\underline{~~~~~~~~38,085}&\underline{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}\\ \text{Totals}&\underline{\underline{\$1,299,335}}&\underline{\underline{\$1,299,335}} \end{array} Account Cash Accounts Receivable Prepaid Rent Inventory Long-Term Investment Equipment Accumulated Depreciation Accounts Payable Interest Payable Note Payable (short-term) Bonds Payable Common Stock Retained Earnings, 1/1/2019 Dividends Sales Revenue Cost of Goods Sold Wages Expense Rent Expense Depreciation Expense Interest Expense Income Taxes Expense Totals ​ Debit $           13 , 300 6 , 700 54 , 000 481 , 400 110 , 900 88 , 000 50 , 000 277 , 000 98 , 250 50 , 000 29 , 000 2 , 700                 38 , 085 ​ $1 , 299 , 335 ​ ​ ​ Credit 23 , 700 111 , 700 4 , 400 50 , 000 180 , 000 300 , 000 45 , 635 583 , 900                                         ​ $1 , 299 , 335 ​ ​ ​ ​

Prepare a classified balance sheet for Oxmoor at December 31, 2019.

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1.5: Chapter 5 – Business Planning

Business planning is an important precursor to action in new ventures. By helping firm founders to make decisions, to balance resource supply and demand, and to turn abstract goals into concrete operational steps, business planning reduces the likelihood of venture disbanding and accelerates product development and venture organizing activity. – Delmar and Shane (2003, p. 1165)

We always plan too much and always think too little. We resent a call to thinking and hate unfamiliar argument that does not tally with what we already believe or would like to believe. – Joseph Schumpeter

Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window. – Peter Drucker

Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter you will be able to

This chapter describes the purposes of business planning, the general concepts related to business planning, and guidelines and a format for a comprehensive business plan.

Business Planning Purposes

Business plans are developed for both internal and external purposes. Internally, entrepreneurs develop business plans to help put the pieces of their business together. The most common external purpose for a business plan is to raise capital.

Internal Purposes

External Purposes

The business plan is often the main method of describing a company to external audiences such as potential sources for financing and key personnel being recruited. It should assist outside parties to understand the current status of the company, its opportunities, and its needs for resources such as capital and personnel. It also provides the most complete source of information for valuation of the business.

Business Planning Principles

Business plan communication principles.

As Hindle and Mainprize (2006) note, business plan writers must strive to communicate their expectations about the nature of an uncertain future. However, the liabilities of newness make communicating the expected future of new ventures difficult (more so than for existing businesses). They outline five communications principles:

Business Plan Credibility Principles

Business plan writers must strive to project credibility (Hindle & Mainprize, 2006), so t here must be a match between what the entrepreneurship team (resource seekers) needs and what the investors (resource providers) expect based on their criteria. A take it or leave it approach (i.e. financial forecasts set in concrete) by the entrepreneurship team has a high likelihood of failure in terms of securing resources. Hindle and Mainprize (2006) outline five principles to help entrepreneurs project credibility:

General Business Plan Guidelines

Many businesses must have a business plan to achieve their goals. The following are some basic guidelines for business plan development.

Developing a High Power Business Plan

The business plan development process described next has been extensively tested with entrepreneurship students and has proven to provide the guidance entrepreneurs need to develop a business plan appropriate for their needs; a high power business plan .

The Stages of Development

There are six stages involved with developing a high power business plan . These stages can be compared to a process for hosting a dinner for a few friends. A host hoping to make a good impression with their anticipated guests might analyze the situation at multiple levels to collect data on new alternatives for healthy ingredients, what ingredients have the best prices and are most readily available at certain times of year, the new trends in party appetizers, what food allergies the expected guests might have, possible party themes to consider, and so on. This analysis is the Essential Initial Research stage.

In the Business Model stage, the host might construct a menu of items to include with the meal along with a list of decorations to order, music to play, and costume themes to suggest to the guests. The mix of these kinds of elements chosen by the host will play a role in the success of the party.

The Initial Business Plan Draft stage is where the host rolls up his or her sleeves and begins to assemble make some of the food items, put up some of the decorations, send invitations, and generally get everything started for the party.

During this stage, the host will begin to realize that some plans are not feasible and that changes are needed. The required changes might be substantial, like the need to postpone the entire party and ultimately start over in a few months, or less drastic, like the need to change the menu when an invited guest indicates that they can’t eat food containing gluten. These changes are incorporated into the plan to make it realistic and feasible in the Making the Business Plan Realistic stage.

Making A Plan to Appeal to Stakeholders stage involves further changes to the party plan to make it more appealing to both the invited guests and to make it a fun experience for the host. For example, the host might learn that some of the single guests would like to bring dates and others might need to be able to bring their children to be able to attend. The host might be able to accommodate those desires or needs in ways that will also make the party more fun for them—maybe by accepting some guests’ offers to bring food or games, or maybe even hiring a babysitter to entertain and look after the children.

The final stage— Finishing the Business Plan— involves the host putting all of the final touches in place for the party in preparation for the arrival of the guests.


Figure 5 – Business Plan Development Process (Illustration by Lee A. Swanson)

Essential Initial Research

A business plan writer should analyze the environment in which they anticipate operating at each of the s ocietal , i ndustry , m arket , and f irm levels of analysis (see pages 51–60). This stage of planning, the e ssential initial research , is a necessary first step to better understand the trends that will affect their business and the decisions they must make to lay the groundwork for, and to improve their potential for success.

In some cases, much of the e ssential initial research should be included in the developing business plan as its own separate section to help build the case for readers that there is a market need for the business being considered and that it stands a good chance of being successful.

In other cases, a business plan will be stronger when the components of the e ssential initial research are distributed throughout the business plan as a way to provide support for the plans and strategies outlined in the business plan. For example, the industry or market part of the e ssential initial research might outline the pricing strategies used by identified competitors and might be best placed in the pricing strategy part of the business plan to support the decision made to employ a particular pricing strategy.

Business Model

Inherent in any business plan is a description of the business model chosen by the entrepreneur as the one that they feel will best ensure success. Based upon their essential initial research of the setting in which they anticipate starting their business (their analysis from stage one) an entrepreneur should determine how each element of their business model—including their revenue streams, cost structure, customer segments, value propositions, key activities, key partners, and so on—might fit together to improve the potential success of their business venture (see Chapter 4 – Business Models).

For some types of ventures, at this stage an entrepreneur might launch a lean start-up (see page 68) and grow their business by continually pivoting, or constantly adjusting their business model in response to the real-time signals they get from the markets’ reactions to their business operations. In many cases, however, an entrepreneur will require a business plan. In those cases, their initial business model will provide the basis for that plan.

Of course, throughout this and all of the rounds in this process, the entrepreneur should seek to continually gather information and adjust the plans in response to the new knowledge they gather. As shown in Figure 8 by its enclosure in the progressive research box, the business plan developer might need conduct further research before finishing the business model and moving on to the initial business plan draft.

Initial Business Plan Draft

The Business Plan Draft stage involves taking the knowledge and ideas developed during the first two stages and organizing them into a business plan format. An approach preferred by many is to create a full draft of the business plan with all of the sections, including the front part with the business description, vision, mission, values, value proposition statement, preliminary set of goals, and possibly even a table of contents and lists of tables and figures all set up using the software features enabling their automatic generation. Writing all of the operations, human resources, marketing, and financial plans as part of the first draft ensures that all of these parts can be appropriately and necessarily integrated. The business plan will tell the story of a planned business startup in two ways by using primarily words along with some charts and graphs in the operations, human resources, and marketing plans and in a second way through the financial plan. Both ways must tell the same story.

The feedback loop shown in Figure 8 demonstrates that the business developer may need to review the business model. Additionally, as shown by its enclosure in the progressive research box, the business plan developer might need conduct further research before finishing the Initial Business Plan Draft stage and moving on to the Making Business Plan Realisticstage.

Making Business Plan Realistic

The first draft of a business plan will almost never be realistic. As the entrepreneur writes the plan, it will necessarily change as new information is gathered. Another factor that usually renders the first draft unrealistic is the difficulty in making certain that the written part—in the front part of the plan along with the operations, human resources, and marketing plans—tells the exact same story as the financial part does. This stage of work involves making the necessary adjustments to the plan to make it as realistic as possible.

The Making Business Plan Realistic stage has two possible feedback loops. The first goes back to the Initial Business Plan Draft stage in case the initial business plan needs to be significantly changed before it is possible to adjust it so that it is realistic. The second feedback loop circles back to the Business Model stage if the business developer need to rethink the business model. As shown in Figure 8 by its enclosure in the progressive research box, the business plan developer might need conduct further research before finishing the Making Business Plan Realistic stage and moving on to the Making Plan Appeal to Stakeholders stage.

Making Plan Appeal to Stakeholders and Desirable to the Entrepreneur

A business plan can be realistic without appealing to potential investors and other external stakeholders, like employees, suppliers, and needed business partners. It might also be realistic (and possibly appealing to stakeholders) without being desirable to the entrepreneur. During this stage the entrepreneur will keep the business plan realistic as they adjust plans to appeal to potential investors and to themselves.

If, for example, investors will be required to finance the business start, some adjustments might need to be relatively extensive to appeal to potential investors’ needs for an exit strategy from the business, to accommodate the rate of return they expect from their investments, and to convince them that the entrepreneur can accomplish all that is promised in the plan. In this case, and in others, the entrepreneur will also need to get what they want out of the business to make it worthwhile for them to start and run it. So, this stage of adjustments to the developing business plan might be fairly extensive, and they must be informed by a superior knowledge of what targeted investors need from a business proposal before they will invest. They also need to be informed by a clear set of goals that will make the venture worthwhile for the entrepreneur to pursue.

The caution with this stage is to balance the need to make realistic plans with the desire to meet the entrepreneur’s goals while avoiding becoming discouraged enough to drop the idea of pursuing the business idea. If an entrepreneur is convinced that the proposed venture will satisfy a valid market need, there is often a way to assemble the financing required to start and operate the business while also meeting the entrepreneur’s most important goals. To do so, however, might require significant changes to the business model.

One of the feedback loops shown in Figure 8 indicates that the business plan writer might need to adjust the draft business plan while ensuring that it is still realistic before it can be made appealing to the targeted stakeholders and desirable to the entrepreneur. The second feedback loop indicates that it might be necessary to go all the way back to the Business Model stage to re-establish the framework and plans needed to develop a realistic, appealing, and desirable business plan. Additionally, this stage’s enclosure in the progressive research box suggests that the business plan developer might need conduct further research.

Finishing the Business Plan

The final stage involves putting all of the important finishing touches on the business plan so that it will present well to potential investors and others. This involves making sure that the math and links between the written and financial parts are accurate. It also involves ensuring that all the needed corrections are made to the spelling, grammar, and formatting. The final set of goals should be written to appeal to the target readers and to reflect what the business plan says. An executive summary should be written and included as a final step.

General Business Plan Format

Include nice, catchy, professional, appropriate graphics to make it appealing for targeted readers

Executive summary

Table of Con t ents

List of tables.

Each table, figure, and appendix included in the plan must be referenced within the text of the plan so the relevance of each of these elements is clear.

List of Figures


Business Idea

Major Goals

Operating Environment

Trend analysis.

Industry Analysis

Operations Plan

Operations Timeline

Business Structure and other Set-up Elements

Somewhere in your business plan you must indicate what legal structure your venture will take. Your financial statements, risk management strategy, and other elements of your plan are affected by the type of legal structure you choose for your business:

As part of your business set-up, you need to determine what kinds of control systems you should have in place, establish necessary relationships with suppliers and prior to your start-up, and generally deal with a list of issues like the following. Many of your decisions related to the following should be described somewhere in your business plan:

Fixed Capital Requirements

Working Capital Requirements

Risk Management Strategies

Operating Processes

Organizational Structure

Human Resources Plan

Recruitment and Retention Strategies

Leadership and Management Strategies

Performance Appraisals

Health and Safety


Key Personnel

Marketing Plan

Market Analysis



Figure 6 – Competitor Positioning Map (Illustration by Lee A. Swanson)

Marketing Strategy

Organizational Analysis

Product Strategy

Pricing Strategy

Distribution Strategy

Promotions Strategy

Financial Plan

Pro forma Cash Flow Statements

Pro forma income statements, pro forma balance sheets, investment analysis, projected financial ratios and industry standard ratios, critical success factors (sensitivity analysis).

An official website of the United States Government

Credits & Deductions

Forms & Instructions

Coronavirus-related relief for retirement plans and IRAs questions and answers

More in news.

Section 2202 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), enacted on March 27, 2020, provides for special distribution options and rollover rules for retirement plans and IRAs and expands permissible loans from certain retirement plans.

Rehires Following Bona Fide Retirement; In-Service Distributions

General information, partial termination of a qualified retirement plan under section 209 of the taxpayer certainty and disaster tax relief act of 2020, q1. a qualified pension plan that does not provide for in-service distributions commences benefit distributions to an individual who applies for retirement benefits and experiences a bona fide retirement. if the plan sponsor rehires the individual due to unforeseen hiring needs related to the covid-19 pandemic, will the rehire cause that individual's prior retirement to no longer be considered a bona fide retirement (added 10/22/2021).

A1. Generally, no. Treasury regulations generally require a qualified pension plan to be maintained primarily to provide systematically for the payment of definitely determinable benefits over a period of years, usually for life, after retirement or attainment of normal retirement age. See Treas. Reg. § 1.401(a)-1(b)(1)(i). Accordingly, a plan that does not permit in-service distributions may commence benefit distributions to an individual only when the individual has a bona fide retirement. Although the determination of whether an individual's retirement under a plan is bona fide is based on a facts and circumstances analysis (in the absence of plan terms specifying the conditions under which a retirement will be considered bona fide), a rehire due to unforeseen circumstances that do not reflect any prearrangement to rehire the individual will not cause the individual's prior retirement to no longer be considered a bona fide retirement under the plan. For example, if a public school district sponsoring a qualified pension plan experiences a critical labor shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic that was unforeseen at the time of an individual's prior bona fide retirement, the public school district rehires the individual to help ease the labor shortage, and the plan terms do not define a bona fide retirement in a way that prevents the rehire, the individual's reemployment would not cause the prior retirement to fail to be a bona fide retirement. Consequently, if plan terms permit, benefit distributions could continue after the rehire.

In addition, if the sponsor of a qualified pension plan wishes to rehire a retired employee to fill an unforeseen hiring need related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sponsor should analyze the impact of the rehire under the plan by taking into account any plan terms, including any need for plan amendments, relating to rehires. For example, plan sponsors should review any plan terms requiring that an individual who retires and commences benefit distributions not be rehired within a specified period, any plan terms relating to the suspension of distributions upon rehire, and any other plan terms that may have an impact on the pension benefit of a rehire.

Q2: May a qualified pension plan permit individuals who are working to commence in-service distributions? (added 10/22/2021)

A2: Yes. A qualified pension plan generally may allow individuals to commence in-service distributions if the individuals have attained either age 59½ or the plan's normal retirement age. See Internal Revenue Code section 401(a)(36) (in-service distributions generally permitted at age 59½); final regulations on distributions from a pension plan upon attainment of normal retirement age (Treas. Reg. § 1.401(a)-1(b), TD 9325, 72 FR 28604); proposed regulations on the applicability of the normal retirement age regulations to governmental pension plans (Prop. Treas. Reg. § 1.401(a)-1(b)(2)(v), 81 FR 4599); and Section F of Notice 2020-68, 2020-38 IRB 567 (regarding recent changes to in-service distribution rules under § 401(a)(36). However, distributions commencing to an individual before age 59½ may be subject to a 10% additional tax under Internal Revenue Code section 72(t), unless the distributions fit within an exception to that tax (for a description of the exceptions to the 10% additional tax under section 72(t), see Retirement Topics - Exceptions to Tax on Early Distributions ).

Q1. What are the special rules for retirement plans and IRAs in section 2202 of the CARES Act?

A1. In general, section 2202 of the CARES Act provides for expanded distribution options and favorable tax treatment for up to $100,000 of coronavirus-related distributions from eligible retirement plans (certain employer retirement plans, such as section 401(k) and 403(b) plans, and IRAs) to qualified individuals, as well as special rollover rules with respect to such distributions. It also increases the limit on the amount a qualified individual may borrow from an eligible retirement plan (not including an IRA) and permits a plan sponsor to provide qualified individuals up to an additional year to repay their plan loans. See the FAQs below for more details.

Q2. Does the IRS intend to issue guidance on section 2202 of the CARES Act?

A2. The Treasury Department and the IRS are formulating guidance on section 2202 of the CARES Act and anticipate releasing that guidance in the near future. IRS Notice 2005-92 PDF , issued on November 30, 2005, provided guidance on the tax-favored treatment of distributions and plan loans under sections 101 and 103 of the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 (KETRA) as those provisions applied to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Treasury Department and the IRS anticipate that the guidance on the CARES Act will apply the principles of Notice 2005-92 to the extent the provisions of section 2202 of the CARES Act are substantially similar to the provisions of KETRA that are addressed in that notice.

Q3. Am I a qualified individual for purposes of section 2202 of the CARES Act?

A3. You are a qualified individual if –

Under section 2202 of the CARES Act, the Treasury Department and the IRS may issue guidance that expands the list of factors taken into account to determine whether an individual is a qualified individual as a result of experiencing adverse financial consequences. The Treasury Department and the IRS have received and are reviewing comments from the public requesting that the list of factors be expanded.

Q4. What is a coronavirus-related distribution? 

A4. A coronavirus-related distribution is a distribution that is made from an eligible retirement plan to a qualified individual from January 1, 2020, to December 30, 2020, up to an aggregate limit of $100,000 from all plans and IRAs.

Q5. Do I have to pay the 10% additional tax on a coronavirus-related distribution from my retirement plan or IRA?

A5. No, the 10% additional tax on early distributions does not apply to any coronavirus-related distribution.

Q6. When do I have to pay taxes on coronavirus-related distributions?

A6. The distributions generally are included in income ratably over a three-year period, starting with the year in which you receive your distribution. For example, if you receive a $9,000 coronavirus-related distribution in 2020, you would report $3,000 in income on your federal income tax return for each of 2020, 2021, and 2022. However, you have the option of including the entire distribution in your income for the year of the distribution.

Q7. May I repay a coronavirus-related distribution?

A7. In general, yes, you may repay all or part of the amount of a coronavirus-related distribution to an eligible retirement plan, provided that you complete the repayment within three years after the date that the distribution was received. If you repay a coronavirus-related distribution, the distribution will be treated as though it were repaid in a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer so that you do not owe federal income tax on the distribution.

If, for example, you receive a coronavirus-related distribution in 2020, you choose to include the distribution amount in income over a 3-year period (2020, 2021, and 2022), and you choose to repay the full amount to an eligible retirement plan in 2022, you may file amended federal income tax returns for 2020 and 2021 to claim a refund of the tax attributable to the amount of the distribution that you included in income for those years, and you will not be required to include any amount in income in 2022. See sections 4.D, 4.E, and 4.F of Notice 2005-92 for additional examples.

Q8. What plan loan relief is provided under section 2202 of the CARES Act?

A8. Section 2202 of the CARES Act permits an additional year for repayment of loans from eligible retirement plans (not including IRAs) and relaxes limits on loans.

Q9. Is it optional for employers to adopt the distribution and loan rules of section 2202 of the CARES Act?

A9. It is optional for employers to adopt the distribution and loan rules of section 2202 of the CARES Act. An employer is permitted to choose whether, and to what extent, to amend its plan to provide for coronavirus-related distributions and/or loans that satisfy the provisions of section 2202 of the CARES Act. Thus, for example, an employer may choose to provide for coronavirus-related distributions but choose not to change its plan loan provisions or loan repayment schedules. Even if an employer does not treat a distribution as coronavirus-related, a qualified individual may treat a distribution that meets the requirements to be a coronavirus-related distribution as coronavirus-related on the individual's federal income tax return. See section 4.A of Notice 2005-92.

Q10. Does section 2202 of the CARES Act provide additional distribution rights to participants or otherwise change the rules applicable to plan distributions? 

A10. Under section 2202 of the CARES Act, a coronavirus-related distribution is treated as meeting the distribution restrictions for a section 401(k) plan, section 403(b) plan, or governmental section 457(b) plan. For example, under section 2202 of the CARES Act, a section 401(k) plan may permit a coronavirus-related distribution, even if it would occur before an otherwise permitted distributable event (such as severance from employment, disability, or attainment of age 59½). However, the CARES Act does not otherwise change the limits on when plan distributions are permitted to be made from employer-sponsored retirement plans. For example, a pension plan (such as a money purchase pension plan) is not permitted to make a distribution before an otherwise permitted distributable event merely because the distribution, if made, would qualify as a coronavirus-related distribution. Further, a pension plan is not permitted to make a distribution under a distribution form that is not a qualified joint and survivor annuity without spousal consent merely because the distribution, if made, could be treated as a coronavirus-related distribution. See section 2.A of Notice 2005-92.

Q11. May an administrator rely on an individual's certification that the individual is eligible to receive a coronavirus-related distribution? 

A11. The administrator of an eligible retirement plan may rely on an individual's certification that the individual satisfies the conditions to be a qualified individual in determining whether a distribution is a coronavirus-related distribution, unless the administrator has actual knowledge to the contrary. Although an administrator may rely on an individual's certification in making and reporting a distribution, the individual is entitled to treat the distribution as a coronavirus-related distribution for purposes of the individual's federal income tax return only if the individual actually meets the eligibility requirements.

Q12. Is an eligible retirement plan required to accept repayment of a participant's coronavirus-related distribution?

A12. In general, it is anticipated that eligible retirement plans will accept repayments of coronavirus-related distributions, which are to be treated as rollover contributions. However, eligible retirement plans generally are not required to accept rollover contributions. For example, if a plan does not accept any rollover contributions, the plan is not required to change its terms or procedures to accept repayments.

Q13. How do qualified individuals report coronavirus-related distributions?

A13. If you are a qualified individual, you may designate any eligible distribution as a coronavirus-related distribution as long as the total amount that you designate as coronavirus-related distributions is not more than $100,000. As noted earlier, a qualified individual may treat a distribution that meets the requirements to be a coronavirus-related distribution as such a distribution, regardless of whether the eligible retirement plan treats the distribution as a coronavirus-related distribution. A coronavirus-related distribution should be reported on your individual federal income tax return for 2020. You must include the taxable portion of the distribution in income ratably over the 3-year period – 2020, 2021, and 2022 – unless you elect to include the entire amount in income in 2020. Whether or not you are required to file a federal income tax return, you would use Form 8915-E (which is expected to be available before the end of 2020) to report any repayment of a coronavirus-related distribution and to determine the amount of any coronavirus-related distribution includible in income for a year. See generally section 4 of Notice 2005-92.

Q14. How do plans and IRAs report coronavirus-related distributions?

A14. The payment of a coronavirus-related distribution to a qualified individual must be reported by the eligible retirement plan on Form 1099-R, Distributions from Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc. This reporting is required even if the qualified individual repays the coronavirus-related distribution in the same year. The IRS expects to provide more information on how to report these distributions later this year. See generally section 3 of Notice 2005-92.

Q15. Are employees who participated in a business's qualified retirement plan, then laid off because of COVID-19 and rehired by the end of 2020, treated as having an employer-initiated severance from employment for purposes of determining whether a partial termination of the plan occurred? (added July 30, 2020)

A15. Generally, no. Subject to the facts and circumstances of each case, participating employees generally are not treated as having an employer-initiated severance from employment for purposes of calculating the turnover rate used to help determine whether a partial termination has occurred during an applicable period, if they're rehired by the end of that period. That means participating employees terminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rehired by the end of 2020 generally would not be treated as having an employer-initiated severance from employment for purposes of determining whether a partial termination of the retirement plan occurred during the 2020 plan year.

See Revenue Ruling 2007-43 for more information on partial terminations, including vesting rules, how to calculate the turnover rate for employer-initiated severances, the presumption that a turnover rate of at least 20 percent during an applicable period results in a partial termination, and how to determine the applicable period.

Q1. What does Section 209 of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 (Relief Act), Division EE of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, provide regarding partial termination of a qualified retirement plan? (added April 27, 2021)

A1. Section 209 of the Relief Act provides that a plan is not treated as having a partial termination (within the meaning of Internal Revenue Code Section 411(d)(3)) during any plan year which includes the period beginning on March 13, 2020, and ending on March 31, 2021, if the number of active participants covered by the plan on March 31, 2021, is at least 80% of the number of active participants covered by the plan on March 13, 2020.

Q2. Who is an "active participant covered by the plan"? (added April 27, 2021)

A2. For purposes of Section 209 of the Relief Act, a reasonable, good-faith interpretation of the term "active participant covered by the plan," applied in a consistent manner, should be used when determining the number of active participants covered by a plan on March 13, 2020, and March 31, 2021.

Q3. How does Section 209 of the Relief Act apply to a plan year if only part of the plan year falls within the period beginning on March 13, 2020, and ending on March 31, 2021? (added April 27, 2021)

A3. If any part of the plan year falls within the period beginning on March 13, 2020, and ending on March 31, 2021, then Section 209 of the Relief Act applies to any partial termination determination for that entire plan year.

For example, if a plan has a calendar year plan year, the 80% partial termination test in Section 209 of the Relief Act applies to both the January 1 to December 31, 2020, plan year and the January 1 to December 31, 2021, plan year, because both plan years include a part of the statutory determination period of March 13, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

Q4. Is the 80% test applied by identifying the pool of active participants covered by a plan on March 31, 2021, and determining whether at least 80% of those same individuals were active participants covered by the plan on March 13, 2020? (added April 27, 2021)

A4. No. Section 209 of the Relief Act is applied by counting the number of active participants covered by a plan on each of those two dates. The number of active participants covered by a plan who are counted on March 31, 2021, includes all individuals who are active participants covered by the plan on that date, regardless of whether those same individuals were active participants covered by the plan on March 13, 2020.

Q5. Does Section 209 of the Relief Act apply solely to reductions in the number of active participants covered by a plan that are related to the COVID-19 national emergency? (added April 27, 2021)

A5. No. Although the first day of the statutory determination period - March 13, 2020 - is the date the COVID-19 national emergency was declared, the provision's terms are not limited to reductions related to the COVID-19 national emergency.

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Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or just beginning to think about  starting a business , demands come at you fast. Amidst the rush of to-do lists and meetings, determining how to write a business plan—much less following a business plan template—often feels time-consuming and intimidating.

But nearly 70% of business owners who have been there and done that recommend writing a business plan before you start a business, according to  a recent QuickBooks survey . After all, when done right, business plans have enormous payoffs.

And yet, more than 10% of prospective business owners said they do not intend to write a business plan. Another 10% aren’t sure if they need a plan.

It’s more than the old cliche: A failure to plan is a plan to fail. In fact, a wealth of data now exists on the difference a written business plan makes, especially for small or growing companies.

Executive summary

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to write a successful business plan, step-by-step, and turn your idea into a reality. Even better, if you’re pressed for time, we’ve compiled the  10 steps and examples into a downloadable (PDF) template . The 10 steps to write a business plan are:

But, first things first.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a comprehensive road map for your small business’s growth and development. It communicates who you are, what you plan to do, and how you plan to do it. It also helps you attract talent and investors.

But remember that a  business idea  or  business concept  is not a plan.

3 Ws of a business plan: Who, what, and why

Investors want to know you have:

A templated business plan gives investors a blueprint of what to expect from your company and tells them about you as an entrepreneur.

Why do you need a business plan?

You need a business plan because the majority of venture capitalists (VCs) and all banking institutions will not invest in a startup or small business without a solid, written plan. Not only does a business plan help you focus on concrete objectives, but it gives outside parties reassurance that you’ve thought ahead.

In 2018, entrepreneurial resource center Bplans worked with the University of Oregon to compile and analyze research around the  benefits of business planning . Here’s what they found:

Perhaps the strongest evidence comes from the  Journal of Business Venturing’s  2010 meta-analysis of 46 separate studies on 11,046 organizations: Its findings confirm that “business planning increases the performance of both new and established small firms.”

When do you need a business plan?

Before you leave a nine-to-five income, your business plan can tell you if you’re ready. Over the long term, it’ll keep you focused on what needs to be accomplished.

It’s also smart to write a business plan when you’re:

section 5 2 the business plan answers

Feel confident from day one

You're never too small, and it's never too soon to know you're on track for success.

How to write a business plan in 10 steps

Start with a clear picture of the audience your plan will address. Is it a room full of angel investors? Your local bank’s venture funding department? Or is it you, your leaders, and your employees?

Internal business plan vs external business plan

Defining your audience helps you determine the language you’ll need to propose your ideas as well as the depth to which you need to go to help readers conduct due diligence.

Now, let’s dive into the 10 key elements of your business plan.

1. Create an executive summary

Even though it appears first in the plan, write your executive summary last so you can condense essential ideas from the other nine sections. For now, leave it as a placeholder.

What is an executive summary?

The executive summary lays out all the vital information about your business within a relatively short space.  An executive summary is typically one page or less.  It’s a high-level look at everything and summarizes the other sections of your plan. In short, it’s an overview of your business.

How do I write an executive summary?

Below, you’ll find an example from a fictional business, Laura’s Landscapers. (We’ll use that same company throughout this guide to make each step practical and easy to replicate.)

This executive summary focuses on what’s often called the value proposition or unique selling point: an extended motto aimed at customers, investors, and employees.

You can follow a straightforward “problem, solution” format, or a fill-in-the-blanks framework:

This framework isn’t meant to be rigid, but instead to serve as a jumping-off point.

Example of an executive summary

Market research indicates that an increasing number of wealthy consumers in Richmond are interested in landscape architecture based on sustainable design. However, high-end firms in the area are scarce. Currently, only two exist—neither of which focus on eco-friendly planning nor are certified by green organizations.

Laura’s Landscapers provides a premium, sustainable service for customers with disposable incomes, large yards, and a love of nature.

2. Compose your company description

Within a business plan, your company description contains three elements:

These elements give context to the bigger picture in your business plan, letting investors know the purpose behind your company so the goals make sense as well.

What is a mission statement?

A mission statement is your business’s reason for existing. It’s more than what you do or what you sell, it’s about why exactly you do what you do. Effective mission statements should be:

Throughout every part of your plan, less is more. Nowhere is that truer than your mission statement. Think about what motivates you, what causes and experiences led you to start the business, the problems you solve, the wider social issues you care about, and more.

Tip:  Review your mission statement often to make sure it matches your company’s purpose as it evolves. A statement that doesn’t fit your core values or what you actually do can undermine your marketing efforts and credibility.

How do you describe a company’s history?

Don’t worry about making your company history a dense narrative. Instead, write it like you would a profile:

Then, translate that list into a few short paragraphs (like the example below).

Why do business objectives matter?

Business objectives give you clear goals to focus on, like the North Star. These goals must be SMART, which stands for:

They must also be tied to key results. When your objectives aren’t clearly defined, it’s hard for employees and team members to work toward a common purpose. What’s worse, fuzzy goals won’t inspire confidence from investors, nor will they have a profitable impact on your business.

Example of a company description

Laura’s Landscapers’ mission is to change the face of our city through sustainable landscaping and help you create the outdoor living space of your dreams.

Founded in 2021 by sisters Laura and Raquel Smith, we have over 25 years of combined landscape architecture experience. Our four employees work in teams of two and have already completed 10 projects for some of Richmond’s most influential business and community leaders.

Our objectives over the next three years are to:

3. Summarize market research and potential

The next step is to outline your ideal potential customer as well as the actual and potential size of your market. Target markets—also known as personas—identify demographic information like:

By getting specific, you’ll illustrate expertise and generate confidence.  If your target market is too broad, it can be a red flag for investors.

The same is true with your market analysis when you estimate its size and monetary value. In addition to big numbers that encompass the total market, drill down into your business’s addressable market—meaning, local numbers or numbers that apply the grand total to your specific segments. You may even  map your customer’s journey  to get a better understanding of their wants and needs.

Example of market research and potential

Laura’s Landscapers’ ideal customer is a wealthy baby boomer, a member of Gen X, or a millennial between the ages of 35 and 65 with a high disposable income. He or she—though primarily, she—is a homeowner. They’re a working professional or have recently retired. In love with the outdoors, they want to enjoy the beauty and serenity of nature in their own backyard, but don’t have the time or skill to do it for themselves.

Market research shows the opportunity for Laura’s Landscapers has never been better:

In Richmond, leading indicators for interest in green, eco-friendly, and sustainable landscaping have all increased exponentially over the last five years:

4. Conduct competitive analysis

Competitive research begins with identifying other companies that currently sell in the market you’re looking to enter. The idea of carving out enough time to learn about every potential competitor you have may sound overwhelming, but it can be extremely useful.

Answer these additional questions after you’ve identified your most significant competitors:

Spend some time thinking about what sets you apart. If your idea is truly novel, be prepared to explain the customer pain points you see your business solving. If your business doesn’t have any direct competition, research other companies that provide a similar product or service.

How to distinguish your business plan from competitors

Next, create a table or spreadsheet listing your competitors to include in your plan, often referred to as a competitor analysis table.

Example of competitive analysis

Within Richmond’s residential landscaping market, there are only two high-end architectural competitors: (1) Yukie’s Yards and (2) Dante’s Landscape Design. All other businesses focus solely on either industrial projects or residential maintenance.

Yukie’s Yards

Dante’s Landscape Design

5. Describe your product or service

This section describes the benefits, production process, and life cycle of your products or services, and how what your business offers is better than your competitors.

When describing benefits, focus on:

For the production process, answer how you:

Within the product life cycle portion, map elements like:

Example of product or service description

Laura’s Landscapers’ service—our competitive advantage—is differentiated by three core features.

First, throughout their careers, Laura and Raquel Smith have worked at and with Richmond’s three leading industrial landscaping firms. This gives us unique access to the residents who are most likely to use our service.

Second, we’re the only firm certified green by the Richmond Homeowners Association, the National Preservation Society, and Business Leaders for Greener Richmond.

Third, of our 10 completed projects, seven have rated us a 5 out of 5 on Google My Business and our price points for those projects place us in a healthy middle ground between our two other competitors.

6. Develop a marketing and sales strategy

Your marketing strategy or marketing plan can be the difference between selling so much that growth explodes or getting no business at all. Growth strategies are a critical part of your business plan.

You should briefly reiterate topics such as your:

Then, add your:

You can also use this section of your business plan to reinforce your strengths and what differentiates you from the competition. Be sure to show what you’ve already done, what you plan to do given your existing resources, and what results you expect from your efforts.

Example of marketing and sales strategy

Laura’s Landscapers’ marketing and sales strategy will leverage, in order of importance:

Reputation is the number one purchase influencer in high-end landscape design. As such, channels 1-4 will continue to be our top priority.

Our social media strategy will involve YouTube videos of the design process as well as multiple Instagram accounts and Pinterest boards showcasing professional photography. Lastly, our direct mail campaigns will send carbon-neutral, glossy brochures to houses in wealthy neighborhoods.

7. Compile your business financials

If you’re just starting out, your business may not yet have  financial data , financial statements, or comprehensive reporting. However, you’ll still need to prepare a budget and a financial plan.

If your company has been around for a while and you’re seeking investors, be sure to include:

Other figures that can be included are:

Ideally, you should  provide at least three years’ worth of reporting.  Make sure your figures are accurate and don’t provide any profit or loss projections before carefully going over your past statements for justification.

Avoid underestimating business costs

Costs, profit margins, and sale prices are closely linked, and many business owners set sale prices without accounting for all costs. New business owners are particularly at risk for this mistake.  The cost of your product or service must include all of your costs, including overhead.  If it doesn’t, you can’t determine a sale price to generate the profit level you desire.

Underestimating costs can catch you off guard and eat away at your business over time.

Example of business financials

Given the high degree of specificity required to accurately represent your business’s financials, rather than create a fictional line item example for Laura’s Landscapers, we suggest using one of our free Excel templates and entering your own data:

Once you’ve completed either one, then create a big picture representation to include here as well as in your objectives in step two.

In the case of Laura’s Landscapers, this big picture would involve steadily increasing the number of annual projects and cost per project to offset lower margins:

Current revenue for FY2022:  $200,000

FY2022 projections:  $360,000

FY2023 projections:  $552,000

FY2024 projections:  $972,000

8. Describe your organization and management

Your business is only as good as the team that runs it. Identify your team members and explain why they can either turn your business idea into a reality or continue to grow it.  Highlight expertise and qualifications throughout —this section of your business plan should show off your management team superstars.

You should also note:

To make informed business decisions, you may need to budget for a  bookkeeper , a CPA, and an attorney. CPAs can help you review your monthly  accounting  transactions and prepare your annual tax return. An attorney can help with client agreements, investor contracts (like shareholder agreements), and with any legal disputes that may arise.

Ask your business contacts for referrals (and their fees), and be sure to  include those costs in your business plan.

Example of organization and management

Laura Smith, Co-founder and CEO

Raquel Smith, Co-founder and Chief Design Officer

Laura’s Landscapers’ creative crews

9. Explain your funding request

When outlining how much money your small business needs, try to be as realistic as possible. You can provide a range of numbers if you don’t want to pinpoint an exact number. However,  include a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario.

Since a new business doesn’t have a track record of generating profits, it’s likely that you’ll sell equity to raise capital in the early years of operation. Equity means ownership—when you sell equity to raise capital, you are selling a portion of your company.

Most small business equity sales are private transactions. The investor may also expect to be paid a dividend, which is a share of company profits, and they’ll want to know how they can sell their ownership interest. Additionally, you can raise capital by borrowing money, but you’ll have to repay creditors both the principal amount borrowed and the interest on the debt.

If you look at the capital structure of any large company, you’ll see that most firms issue both equity and debt. When drafting your business plan, decide if you’re willing to accept the trade-off of giving up total control and profits before you sell equity in your business.

The founder can access cash by contributing their own money into the business by securing a line of credit (LOC) at a bank or applying for  QuickBooks Capital . If you raise cash through a LOC or some other type of loan, it needs to be paid off ASAP to reduce the interest cost on debt.

Example of a funding request

Laura’s Landscapers has already purchased all necessary permits, software, and equipment to serve our existing customers. Once scaled to $972,000 in annual revenue—over the next three years and at a 10% profit margin—our primary ongoing annual expenses (not including taxes) will total $874,800.

While already profitable, we are requesting $100,000 in the form of either a business loan or in exchange for equity to purchase equipment necessary to outfit two additional creative crews.

10. Compile an appendix for official documents

Finally, assemble a well-organized appendix for anything and everything readers will need to supplement the information in your plan. Consider any info that:

Useful details to cover in an appendix include:

Your appendix should be a living section of the business plan, whether the plan is a document for internal reference only or an external call for investors.

How to make a business plan that stands out

Investors have little patience for poorly written documents. You want your business plan to be as attractive and readable as possible.

3 tips to update your business plan

It’s a good idea to periodically revisit your business plan, especially if you are looking to expand. Conducting new research and updating your plan could also provide answers when you hit difficult questions.

Mid-year is a good time to refocus and revise your original plans because it gives you the opportunity to refocus any goals for the second half of the year. Below are three ways to update your plan.

1. Refocus your productivity

When you wrote your original business plan, you likely identified your specific business and personal goals. Take some time now to assess if you’ve hit your targets.

If you only want to work a set number of hours per week, you must identify the products and services that deliver the returns you need to make that a reality. Doing so helps you refocus your productivity on the most lucrative profit streams.

Also, use what you’ve achieved and the hard lessons you’ve learned to help you re-evaluate what is and isn’t working.

2. Realign with your goals

Do a gut check to determine whether all of your hard work is still aligned with your original goals and your mission statement. Ask yourself these questions:

These questions may be tough to answer at first glance, but they reveal your ties to your goals and what most likely needs to change to achieve new wins.

3. Repurpose your offerings

If your time has become more focused on small projects rather than tangible growth and building a valuable client list, consider packaging your existing products or services differently. Can you bundle a few things together?

You must deliberately manage your revenue streams, and that might require shuffling things around a little to focus on what is working for you.

Business plan template

Even if you don’t plan on seeking investments early on, there are other important reasons to use a business plan template to write a great business plan:

Download the following template to build your business plan from the ground up, considering all the important questions that will help your investors and employees.

Business plan template download

The old cliche is still true today: A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Your business plan is crucial to the growth of your business, from giving direction, motivation, and context to employees, to providing thoughtful reassurance and risk mitigation to financers. Before you get your small business up and running , put down a plan that instills confidence and sets you up for success.

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section 5 2 the business plan answers

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section 5 2 the business plan answers

Chapter 42 Sections

What's the connection between business and community development?

What's a business plan, why should you make a business plan, when should you make a business plan, how do you make a business plan.

Although your primary goal is improving the community rather than making a profit, "business" can still be important to your work. Even non-profit organizations need resources to sustain their work, and business operations can be a good way to acquire those necessary resources.

Your business operations usually involve things you sell. Those "things" can be products - actual goods - or they can be services. Below are some examples of each.

But is it ethical for us to sell products and services?

Yes, if it is done honestly, openly, and fairly. What is sold should be of high quality and good value,fairly advertised and delivered as stated.

And selling products and services can be more than ethically permissible . It can be the ethically responsible thing to do if you are selling something that people need, and that will actually help them.

And is it legal ?

Yes, in a great number of cases. Here's a key fact:

A nonprofit group can make a profit. Of course, the selling of products and services must comply with local laws and regulations. It's up to you to know what those laws and regulations are where you live.

Does this mean all nonprofit groups should go into business?

No, not necessarily. There are other ways to pay expenses and to ensure your financial sustainability. Among them are grants , fund-raisers , membership dues , and in-kind support . Your decision about going into business should depend upon what funding you need, what you have on hand, what funding options are available to you, and what your prospects for success are in each case.

To plan for your overall financial sustainability requires an overall financial plan, and if business operations are part of what sustains you, then you will also need a business plan.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a written document that describes in detail what kind of business you intend to operate, how you intend to operate it, and why you believe it will succeed. It is backed with logical, factual and financial documentation.

Why should you have a business plan?

How should I make a business plan?

We'll cover three main elements:

How should the plan be written?

How should the plan be packaged, what should the plan contain.

Successful business plans vary in format, but all contain some basic components. Don't hesitate to adapt them to your own situation, but try to stay fairly close to the mark.

This should include a title, your organization name, and accessible contact information (phone/fax/e-mail). The title should reflect the nature of your plan, and it should be phrased for maximum appeal to your intended audience. You want to capture audience attention and interest right from the beginning.

Table of contents

List each section of your plan, with appropriate page numbers.Tabs attached to the first page of each section can make it easier for the reader to find a specific section. This table should be a maximum of one page.

Executive summary

This summary is usually the most important section of your plan. It should not be more than two pages long, and normally should be written last. Your executive summary will be a condensed version of your entire business plan. A reader of the executive summary should be able to understand what your business purpose is, what your plan contains, what your organization wants, and why it wants it.

If your executive summary is effectively written, it will:

Description of your organization Or, in other words, "Who are you?" This should include:

Description of your management

If you are looking for outside support, this will be a vital element of your plan, because potential supporters will be investing in your organization's management and its ability to perform. Briefly describe your key officers and staff, including their qualifications relevant to this plan. If you have a board of directors, advisory board, or other professional or technical advisors, they can be listed here too.

This section of your plan, together with the previous one describing your organization, is the equivalent of your organizational resume. It should convince potential supporters that the current leadership can carry out the plan.

Description of your product or service

Here's where you describe the product or service you want to sell. What exactly is it? What are the "product specifications?" Give the details, but don't overload the reader with technical jargon.

Try to present some clear examples. If it's a physical product, try to include photographs, drawings, or brochures. If there are any special permits or licenses that you need, or regulations you must comply with, cite these too.

Point out any particular beneficial features your product might have. And if you can document previous customer support, provide endorsements, or cite experts who recommend its use, such testimonials should certainly be included.

Information about your market

Your reader will want to know what your market is, what research you have done to determine that market, and how you plan to reach that market.

This will frequently be your most detailed section, because it spells out precisely how you intend to carry out your business plan. So let's take the above points in order:

Information about your competition

It's rare that a totally new product or service comes onto the scene; often, your product or service has been sold before, and there may even be others nearby who are selling it now.

Your plan should profile these competitors, briefly describing what they provide. Then, if you can, you should give reasons why your product or service is superior to your competition's. If you can't justifiably claim superiority, then at minimum you should document that there is enough customer demand for a new competitor on the scene - that is, you.

Details of your operating plan

Somewhere along the line, your product will have to be manufactured or acquired; if it's a service, someone will need to provide it. Your operating plan describes just how this will be done.

An operating plan should answer the following questions:

If you can't answer all of these questions right away, it will stimulate you to think about the questions, and come up with your best responses.

Financial information

This is where you present the actual financial information to show how you will make a profit selling your product or service.

The specifics here include:

If you are seeking a loan, this last item of course requires special attention. You need to demonstrate precisely what the loaned funds will be used for, justify your ability to repay them, and suggest and how and when they will be repaid.

There are two common forms used in presenting financial information, which respond to the points above. These are a Balance Sheet and an Income Forecast, and blank samples of each are provided under Tools.

You should have a timeline or chart that specifies each action step in your plan and when it will be completed.Creating a timeline is an excellent planning discipline and can be persuasive to potential supporters.

Lastly, you may have other supporting information to present which strengthens your business plan, but which does not fit easily into the main text. Such information can be placed in an appendix to your plan. Examples here could include more specifics of management qualifications, letters of endorsement, or details of your market research. What other information might apply to your own situation?

These are your basic business plan ingredients. Now let's move on to how the plan should be written, and then presented.

Your plan should be written simply, clearly, persuasively, honestly, and to the point.

Adapted from "Guide to Writing a Business Plan" here are some of the most common writing mistakes:

Remember these pitfalls before putting your plan onto paper!

Your reader will see your plan before reading it, and will form an impression without having scanned a single page.

Make sure your plan looks professional. To be specific:

To enhance your persuasive content and your clear writing, your plan should have an attractive and professional appearance, without being unnecessarily flashy.

Online Resources

Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) has more than 500 chapters nationwide, provides free counseling, workshops, and seminars for small businesses. SCORE is sponsored by the Small Business Administration. provides best-practice guidance and hands-on tools to help you understand and manage your non-profit’s financial health. The site offers helpful resources in the areas of financial planning, operations, monitoring, and governance.

Print Resources

Bangs, D., Jr. (1995).  The business planning guide: Creating a plan for success in your own business . (7th ed.). Chicago, IL: Upstart Publishing Company, Inc. This book also includes many sample business plans, sample documents, and a very comprehensive listing of more specialized references. Upstart Publishing is itself one of the leading small business publishers in the U.S.; to request its catalog, call 1-800-235-8866.

Mancuso, J. (1983).  How to prepare and present a business plan . Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Massachusetts Office of Business Development (no date).  Guide to writing a business plan . Boston, MA: Massachusetts Office of Business Development. One Ashburton Place, Boston, MA 02108 1-800-5-CAPITAL


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