How To Write a Successful Investment Bank Business Plan (+ Template)
Creating a business plan is essential for any business, but it can be especially helpful for investment bank s that want to improve their strategy or raise funding.
A well-crafted business plan not only outlines the vision for your company but also documents a step-by-step roadmap of how you will accomplish it. To create an effective business plan, you must first understand the components essential to its success.
This article provides an overview of the key elements that every investment bank business owner should include in their business plan.
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What is an Investment Bank Business Plan?
An investment bank business plan is a formal written document describing your company’s business strategy and feasibility. It documents the reasons you will be successful, your areas of competitive advantage, and it includes information about your team members. Your business plan is a key document that will convince investors and lenders (if needed) that you are positioned to become a successful venture.
Why Write an Investment Bank Business Plan?
An investment bank business plan is required for banks and investors. The document is a clear and concise guide of your business idea and the steps you will take to make it profitable.
Entrepreneurs can also use this as a roadmap when starting their new company or venture, especially if they are inexperienced in starting a business.
Writing an Effective Investment Bank Business Plan
The following are the key components of a successful investment bank business plan:
The executive summary of an investment bank business plan is a one to two page overview of your entire business plan. It should summarize the main points, which will be presented in full in the rest of your business plan.
- Start with a one-line description of your investment bank company
- Provide a summary of the key points in each section of your business plan, which includes information about your company’s management team, industry analysis, competitive analysis, and financial forecast, among others.
This section should include a brief history of your company. Include a short description of how your company started and provide a timeline of milestones your company has achieved.
You may not have a long company history if you are just starting your investment bank business. Instead, you can include information about your professional experience in this industry and how and why you conceived your new venture. If you have worked for a similar company or been involved in an entrepreneurial venture before starting your investment bank firm, mention this.
You will also include information about your chosen investment bank business model and how, if applicable, it differs from other companies in your industry.
The industry or market analysis is a crucial component of an investment bank business plan. Conduct thorough market research to determine industry trends and document the size of your market.
Questions to answer include:
- What part of the investment bank industry are you targeting?
- How big is the market?
- What trends are happening in the industry right now (and if applicable, how do these trends support your company’s success)?
You should also include sources for your information, such as published research reports and expert opinions.
This section should include a list of your target audience(s) with demographic and psychographic profiles (e.g., age, gender, income level, profession, job titles, interests). You will need to provide a profile of each customer segment separately, including their needs and wants.
For example, an investment bank’s customers may include small businesses, middle market companies, and large corporations.
You can include information about how your customers decide to buy from you as well as what keeps them buying from you.
Develop a strategy for targeting those customers who are most likely to buy from you, as well as those that might be influenced to buy your products or investment bank services with the right marketing.
The competitive analysis helps you determine how your product or service will differ from competitors, and what your unique selling proposition (USP) might be that will set you apart in this industry.
For each competitor, list their strengths and weaknesses. Next, determine your areas of competitive advantage; that is, in what ways are you different from and ideally better than your competitors.
Below are sample competitive advantages your investment bank business may have:
- In-depth industry knowledge
- Strong relationships with key players
- Focus on long-term investments
- Innovative products and services
- Personalized customer service
This part of the business plan is where you determine and document your marketing plan. . Your plan should be laid out, including the following 4 Ps.
- Product/Service : Detail your product/service offerings here. Document their features and benefits.
- Price : Document your pricing strategy here. In addition to stating the prices for your products/services, mention how your pricing compares to your competition.
- Place : Where will your customers find you? What channels of distribution (e.g., partnerships) will you use to reach them if applicable?
- Promotion : How will you reach your target customers? For example, you may use social media, write blog posts, create an email marketing campaign, use pay-per-click advertising, or launch a direct mail campaign. Or you may promote your investment bank business via a PR or influencer marketing campaign.
This part of your investment bank business plan should include the following information:
- How will you deliver your product/service to customers? For example, will you do it in person or over the phone?
- What infrastructure, equipment, and resources are needed to operate successfully? How can you meet those requirements within budget constraints?
The operations plan is where you also need to include your company’s business policies. You will want to establish policies related to everything from customer service to pricing to the overall brand image you are trying to present.
Finally, and most importantly, in your Operations Plan, you will lay out the milestones your company hopes to achieve within the next five years. Create a chart that shows the key milestone(s) you hope to achieve each quarter for the next four quarters and then each year for the following four years. Examples of milestones for an investment bank business include reaching $X in sales. Other examples include expanding to new markets, launching a new product or service line, and hiring key personnel.
List your team members here, including their names and titles, as well as their expertise and experience relevant to your specific investment bank industry. Include brief biography sketches for each team member.
Particularly if you are seeking funding, the goal of this section is to convince investors and lenders that your team has the expertise and experience to execute on your plan. If you are missing key team members, document the roles and responsibilities you plan to hire for in the future.
Here you will include a summary of your complete and detailed financial plan (your full financial projections go in the Appendix).
This includes the following three financial statements:
Your income statement should include:
- Revenue : how much revenue you generate.
- Cost of Goods Sold : These are your direct costs associated with generating revenue. This includes labor costs, as well as the cost of any equipment and supplies used to deliver the product/service offering.
- Net Income (or loss) : Once expenses and revenue are totaled and deducted from each other, this is the net income or loss.
Sample Income Statement for a Startup Investment Bank Firm
Include a balance sheet that shows your assets, liabilities, and equity. Your balance sheet should include:
- Assets : All of the things you own (including cash).
- Liabilities : This is what you owe against your company’s assets, such as accounts payable or loans.
- Equity : The worth of your business after all liabilities and assets are totaled and deducted from each other.
Sample Balance Sheet for a Startup Investment Bank Firm
Cash flow statement.
Include a cash flow statement showing how much cash comes in, how much cash goes out and a net cash flow for each year. The cash flow statement should include cash flow from:
Below is a sample of a projected cash flow statement for a startup investment bank business.
Sample Cash Flow Statement for a Startup Investment Bank Firm
You will also want to include an appendix section which will include:
- Your complete financial projections
- A complete list of your company’s business policies and procedures related to the rest of the business plan (marketing, operations, etc.)
- Any other documentation which supports what you included in the body of your business plan.
Writing a good business plan gives you the advantage of being fully prepared to launch and grow your investment bank company. It not only outlines your business vision but also provides a step-by-step process of how you are going to accomplish it.
Now that you know how to write a business plan for your investment bank, you can get started on putting together your own.
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How To Write A Business Plan (2023 Guide)
Updated: Aug 20, 2022, 2:21am
Table of Contents
Brainstorm an executive summary, create a company description, brainstorm your business goals, describe your services or products, conduct market research, create financial plans, bottom line, frequently asked questions.
Every business starts with a vision, which is distilled and communicated through a business plan. In addition to your high-level hopes and dreams, a strong business plan outlines short-term and long-term goals, budget and whatever else you might need to get started. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to write a business plan that you can stick to and help guide your operations as you get started.
Drafting the Summary
An executive summary is an extremely important first step in your business. You have to be able to put the basic facts of your business in an elevator pitch-style sentence to grab investors’ attention and keep their interest. This should communicate your business’s name, what the products or services you’re selling are and what marketplace you’re entering.
Ask for Help
When drafting the executive summary, you should have a few different options. Enlist a few thought partners to review your executive summary possibilities to determine which one is best.
After you have the executive summary in place, you can work on the company description, which contains more specific information. In the description, you’ll need to include your business’s registered name , your business address and any key employees involved in the business.
The business description should also include the structure of your business, such as sole proprietorship , limited liability company (LLC) , partnership or corporation. This is the time to specify how much of an ownership stake everyone has in the company. Finally, include a section that outlines the history of the company and how it has evolved over time.
Wherever you are on the business journey, you return to your goals and assess where you are in meeting your in-progress targets and setting new goals to work toward.
Goals can cover a variety of sections of your business. Financial and profit goals are a given for when you’re establishing your business, but there are other goals to take into account as well with regard to brand awareness and growth. For example, you might want to hit a certain number of followers across social channels or raise your engagement rates.
Another goal could be to attract new investors or find grants if you’re a nonprofit business. If you’re looking to grow, you’ll want to set revenue targets to make that happen as well.
Goals unrelated to traceable numbers are important as well. These can include seeing your business’s advertisement reach the general public or receiving a terrific client review. These goals are important for the direction you take your business and the direction you want it to go in the future.
The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you’re offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit in the current market or are providing something necessary or entirely new. If you have any patents or trademarks, this is where you can include those too.
If you have any visual aids, they should be included here as well. This would also be a good place to include pricing strategy and explain your materials.
This is the part of the business plan where you can explain your expertise and different approach in greater depth. Show how what you’re offering is vital to the market and fills an important gap.
You can also situate your business in your industry and compare it to other ones and how you have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Other than financial goals, you want to have a budget and set your planned weekly, monthly and annual spending. There are several different costs to consider, such as operational costs.
Business Operations Costs
Rent for your business is the first big cost to factor into your budget. If your business is remote, the cost that replaces rent will be the software that maintains your virtual operations.
Marketing and sales costs should be next on your list. Devoting money to making sure people know about your business is as important as making sure it functions.
Although you can’t anticipate disasters, there are likely to be unanticipated costs that come up at some point in your business’s existence. It’s important to factor these possible costs into your financial plans so you’re not caught totally unaware.
Business plans are important for businesses of all sizes so that you can define where your business is and where you want it to go. Growing your business requires a vision, and giving yourself a roadmap in the form of a business plan will set you up for success.
How do I write a simple business plan?
When you’re working on a business plan, make sure you have as much information as possible so that you can simplify it to the most relevant information. A simple business plan still needs all of the parts included in this article, but you can be very clear and direct.
What are some common mistakes in a business plan?
The most common mistakes in a business plan are common writing issues like grammar errors or misspellings. It’s important to be clear in your sentence structure and proofread your business plan before sending it to any investors or partners.
What basic items should be included in a business plan?
When writing out a business plan, you want to make sure that you cover everything related to your concept for the business, an analysis of the industry―including potential customers and an overview of the market for your goods or services―how you plan to execute your vision for the business, how you plan to grow the business if it becomes successful and all financial data around the business, including current cash on hand, potential investors and budget plans for the next few years.
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Investment Company Business Plan Template
Written by Dave Lavinsky
Investment Company Business Plan
Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 1,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their investment companies. On this page, we will first give you some background information with regards to the importance of business planning. We will then go through an investment company business plan template step-by-step so you can create your plan today.
Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here >
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan provides a snapshot of your investment company as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business goals and your strategy for reaching them. It also includes market research to support your plans.
Why You Need a Business Plan
If you’re looking to start an investment company, or grow your existing investment company, you need a business plan. A business plan will help you raise funding, if needed, and plan out the growth of your investment company in order to improve your chances of success. Your business plan is a living document that should be updated annually as your company grows and changes.
Sources of Funding for Investment Companies
With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for an investment company are bank loans and angel investors. With regards to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable, but they will also want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business. Investors, grants, personal investments, and bank loans are the most common funding paths for investment companies.
How to Write a Business Plan for an Investment Company
If you want to start an investment company or expand your current one, you need a business plan. Below we detail what you should include in each section of your own business plan:
Your executive summary provides an introduction to your business plan, but it is normally the last section you write because it provides a summary of each key section of your plan.
The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of investment company you are operating and the status. For example, are you a startup, do you have an investment company that you would like to grow, or are you operating investment companies in multiple markets?
Next, provide an overview of each of the subsequent sections of your business plan. For example, give a brief overview of the investment company industry. Discuss the type of investment company you are operating. Detail your direct competitors. Give an overview of your target customers. Provide a snapshot of your marketing plan. Identify the key members of your team. And offer an overview of your financial plan.
In your company analysis, you will detail the type of investment company you are operating.
For example, you might operate one of the following types of investment companies:
- Closed-End Funds Investment Company : this type of investment company issues a fixed number of shares through a single IPO to raise capital for its initial investments.
- Mutual Funds (Open-End Funds) Investment Company: this type of investment company is a diversified portfolio of pooled investor money that can issue an unlimited number of shares.
- Unit Investment Trusts (UITs) Investment Company: this type of investment company offers a fixed portfolio, generally of stocks and bonds, as redeemable units to investors for a specific period of time.
In addition to explaining the type of investment company you will operate, the Company Analysis section of your business plan needs to provide background on the business.
Include answers to question such as:
- When and why did you start the business?
- What milestones have you achieved to date? Milestones could include the number of investments made, number of client positive reviews, reaching X amount of clients invested for, etc.
- Your legal structure. Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.
In your industry analysis, you need to provide an overview of the investment industry.
While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.
First, researching the investment industry educates you. It helps you understand the market in which you are operating.
Secondly, market research can improve your strategy, particularly if your research identifies market trends.
The third reason for market research is to prove to readers that you are an expert in your industry. By conducting the research and presenting it in your plan, you achieve just that.
The following questions should be answered in the industry analysis section of your business plan:
- How big is the investment industry (in dollars)?
- Is the market declining or increasing?
- Who are the key competitors in the market?
- Who are the key suppliers in the market?
- What trends are affecting the industry?
- What is the industry’s growth forecast over the next 5 – 10 years?
- What is the relevant market size? That is, how big is the potential market for your investment company? You can extrapolate such a figure by assessing the size of the market in the entire country and then applying that figure to your local population.
The customer analysis section of your business plan must detail the customers you serve and/or expect to serve.
The following are examples of customer segments: companies or employees in specific industries, couples with double income, families with kids, small business owners, etc.
As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of investment company you operate. Clearly, couples with families and double income would respond to different marketing promotions than corporations, for example.
Try to break out your target customers in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, include a discussion of the ages, genders, locations and income levels of the customers you seek to serve.
Psychographic profiles explain the wants and needs of your target customers. The more you can understand and define these needs, the better you will do in attracting and retaining your customers.
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Your competitive analysis should identify the indirect and direct competitors your business faces and then focus on the latter.
Direct competitors are other investment companies.
Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from that aren’t direct competitors. This includes robo investors and advisors, company 401Ks, etc. You need to mention such competition as well.
With regards to direct competition, you want to describe the other investment companies with which you compete. Most likely, your direct competitors will be investment companies located very close to your location.
For each such competitor, provide an overview of their businesses and document their strengths and weaknesses. Unless you once worked at your competitors’ businesses, it will be impossible to know everything about them. But you should be able to find out key things about them such as:
- What types of clients do they serve?
- What type of investment company are they and what certifications do they have?
- What is their pricing (premium, low, etc.)?
- What are they good at?
- What are their weaknesses?
With regards to the last two questions, think about your answers from the customers’ perspective. And don’t be afraid to ask your competitors’ customers what they like most and least about them.
The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your areas of competitive advantage. For example:
- Will you provide better investment strategies?
- Will you provide services that your competitors don’t offer?
- Will you provide better customer service?
- Will you offer better pricing?
Think about ways you will outperform your competition and document them in this section of your plan.
Traditionally, a marketing plan includes the four P’s: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. For an investment company, your marketing plan should include the following:
Product : In the product section, you should reiterate the type of company that you documented in your Company Analysis. Then, detail the specific products you will be offering. For example, in addition to an investment company, will you provide insurance products, website and app accessibility, quarterly or annual investment reviews, and any other services?
Price : Document the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of your marketing plan, you are presenting the services you offer and their prices.
Place : Place refers to the location of your company. Document your location and mention how the location will impact your success. For example, is your investment company located in a busy retail district, a business district, a standalone office, etc. Discuss how your location might be the ideal location for your customers.
Promotions : The final part of your investment company marketing plan is the promotions section. Here you will document how you will drive customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods you might consider:
- Advertising in local papers and magazines
- Commercials and billboards
- Reaching out to websites
- Social media marketing
- Local radio advertising
While the earlier sections of your business plan explained your goals, your operations plan describes how you will meet them. Your operations plan should have two distinct sections as follows.
Everyday short-term processes include all of the tasks involved in running your investment company, including researching the stock market, keeping abreast of all investment industry knowledge, updating clients on any new activity, answering client phone calls and emails, networking to attract potential new clients.
Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to land your Xth client, or when you hope to reach $X in revenue. It could also be when you expect to expand your investment business to a new city.
To demonstrate your investment company’s ability to succeed, a strong management team is essential. Highlight your key players’ backgrounds, emphasizing those skills and experiences that prove their ability to grow a company.
Ideally you and/or your team members have direct experience in managing investment companies. If so, highlight this experience and expertise. But also highlight any experience that you think will help your business succeed.
If your team is lacking, consider assembling an advisory board. An advisory board would include 2 to 8 individuals who would act like mentors to your business. They would help answer questions and provide strategic guidance. If needed, look for advisory board members with experience in managing an investment company or successfully advised clients who have achieved a successful net worth.
Your financial plan should include your 5-year financial statement broken out both monthly or quarterly for the first year and then annually. Your financial statements include your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements.
Income Statement : an income statement is more commonly called a Profit and Loss statement or P&L. It shows your revenues and then subtracts your costs to show whether you turned a profit or not.
In developing your income statement, you need to devise assumptions. For example, will you take on one new client at a time or multiple new clients ? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% per year? As you can imagine, your choice of assumptions will greatly impact the financial forecasts for your business. As much as possible, conduct research to try to root your assumptions in reality.
Balance Sheets : Balance sheets show your assets and liabilities. While balance sheets can include much information, try to simplify them to the key items you need to know about. For instance, if you spend $50,000 on building out your investment company, this will not give you immediate profits. Rather it is an asset that will hopefully help you generate profits for years to come. Likewise, if a bank writes you a check for $50,000, you don’t need to pay it back immediately. Rather, that is a liability you will pay back over time.
Cash Flow Statement : Your cash flow statement will help determine how much money you need to start or grow your business, and make sure you never run out of money. What most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t realize is that you can turn a profit but run out of money and go bankrupt.
In developing your Income Statement and Balance Sheets be sure to include several of the key costs needed in starting or growing an investment company:
- Cost of investor licensing..
- Cost of equipment and supplies
- Payroll or salaries paid to staff
- Business insurance
- Taxes and permits
- Legal expenses
Attach your full financial projections in the appendix of your plan along with any supporting documents that make your plan more compelling. For example, you might include your office location lease or list of clients that you have acquired.
Putting together a business plan for your investment company is a worthwhile endeavor. If you follow the template above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert. You will really understand the investment industry, your competition, and your customers. You will have developed a marketing plan and will really understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful investment company.
Investment Company Business Plan FAQs
What is the easiest way to complete my investment company business plan.
Growthink's Ultimate Business Plan Template allows you to quickly and easily complete your Investment Company Business Plan.
What is the Goal of a Business Plan's Executive Summary?
The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of investment company you are operating and the status; for example, are you a startup, do you have an investment company that you would like to grow, or are you operating a chain of investment companies?
OR, Let Us Develop Your Plan For You
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1. Write an executive summary
2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. add additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.
A business plan is a document that outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them. A strong, detailed plan will provide a road map for the business’s next three to five years, and you can share it with potential investors, lenders or other important partners.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing your business plan.
» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .
This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services offered, and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.
Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.
» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps
Next up is your company description, which should contain information like:
Your business’s registered name.
Address of your business location .
Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.
Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.
Lastly, it should cover the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.
» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan
The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out exactly what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the long term.
If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain why you have a clear need for the funds, how the financing will help your business grow, and how you plan to achieve your growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity presented and how the loan or investment will grow your company.
For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch the new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.
In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.
You should include the following:
An explanation of how your product or service works.
The pricing model for your product or service.
The typical customers you serve.
Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.
Your sales strategy.
Your distribution strategy.
You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.
Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.
Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.
» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing
If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.
You may also include metrics such as:
Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.
Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.
Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.
This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.
» NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:
The best business checking accounts .
The best business credit cards .
The best accounting software .
This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.
Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.
Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.
List any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere, such as resumes of key employees, licenses, equipment leases, permits, patents, receipts, bank statements, contracts and personal and business credit history. If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.
Here are some tips to help your business plan stand out:
Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business loan at a local bank, the loan officer likely knows your market pretty well. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of loan approval.
Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors, taking their mind off your business and putting it on the mistakes you made. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.
Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. You can search for a mentor or find a local SCORE chapter for more guidance.
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.
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How To Write a Business Plan
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Starting a business is a wild ride, and a solid business plan can be the key to keeping you on track. A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your business — outlining your goals, strategies, market analysis and financial projections. Not only will it guide your decision-making, a business plan can help you secure funding with a loan or from investors .
Writing a business plan can seem like a huge task, but taking it one step at a time can break the plan down into manageable milestones. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to write a business plan.
Table of contents
- Write your executive summary
- Do your market research homework
- Set your business goals and objectives
- Plan your business strategy
- Describe your product or service
- Crunch the numbers
- Finalize your business plan
Step 1: Write your executive summary
Though this will be the first page of your business plan , we recommend you actually write the executive summary last. That’s because an executive summary highlights what’s to come in the business plan but in a more condensed fashion.
An executive summary gives stakeholders who are reading your business plan the key points quickly without having to comb through pages and pages. Be sure to cover each successive point in a concise manner, and include as much data as necessary to support your claims.
You’ll cover other things too, but answer these basic questions in your executive summary:
- Idea: What’s your business concept? What problem does your business solve? What are your business goals?
- Product: What’s your product/service and how is it different?
- Market: Who’s your audience? How will you reach customers?
- Finance: How much will your idea cost? And if you’re seeking funding, how much money do you need? How much do you expect to earn? If you’ve already started, where is your revenue at now?
Step 2: Do your market research homework
The next step in writing a business plan is to conduct market research . This involves gathering information about your target market (or customer persona), your competition, and the industry as a whole. You can use a variety of research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and online research to gather this information. Your method may be formal or more casual, just make sure that you’re getting good data back.
This research will help you to understand the needs of your target market and the potential demand for your product or service—essential aspects of starting and growing a successful business.
Step 3: Set your business goals and objectives
Once you’ve completed your market research, you can begin to define your business goals and objectives. What is the problem you want to solve? What’s your vision for the future? Where do you want to be in a year from now?
Use this step to decide what you want to achieve with your business, both in the short and long term. Try to set SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound benchmarks—that will help you to stay focused and motivated as you build your business.
Step 4: Plan your business strategy
Your business strategy is how you plan to reach your goals and objectives. This includes details on positioning your product or service, marketing and sales strategies, operational plans, and the organizational structure of your small business.
Make sure to include key roles and responsibilities for each team member if you’re in a business entity with multiple people.
Step 5: Describe your product or service
In this section, get into the nitty-gritty of your product or service. Go into depth regarding the features, benefits, target market, and any patents or proprietary tech you have. Make sure to paint a clear picture of what sets your product apart from the competition—and don’t forget to highlight any customer benefits.
Step 6: Crunch the numbers
Financial analysis is an essential part of your business plan. If you’re already in business that includes your profit and loss statement , cash flow statement and balance sheet .
These financial projections will give investors and lenders an understanding of the financial health of your business and the potential return on investment.
You may want to work with a financial professional to ensure your financial projections are realistic and accurate.
Step 7: Finalize your business plan
Once you’ve completed everything, it's time to finalize your business plan. This involves reviewing and editing your plan to ensure that it is clear, concise, and easy to understand.
You should also have someone else review your plan to get a fresh perspective and identify any areas that may need improvement. You could even work with a free SCORE mentor on your business plan or use a SCORE business plan template for more detailed guidance.
Writing a business plan is an essential process for any forward-thinking entrepreneur or business owner. A business plan requires a lot of up-front research, planning, and attention to detail, but it’s worthwhile. Creating a comprehensive business plan can help you achieve your business goals and secure the funding you need.
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How to Write a Convincing Business Plan for Investors
Raising money for your business is a major effort. You need lists of investors to reach out to and you need to be prepared for your investor meetings to increase your chances of getting funded . You need to practice your pitch and be ready to intelligently answer any number of questions about your business. A key to making this entire process much easier is to invest a little time and write a business plan . It’s true — not all investors will ask to see your business plan. But the process of putting together a business plan will ensure that you’ve thought through every aspect of your business and you’re ready to answer any questions that come up during the fundraising process.
Why do investors want to see a business plan?
The business plan document itself isn’t what’s important to investors. It’s the knowledge that you’ve generated by going through the process that’s important. Having a business plan shows that you’ve done the homework of thinking through how your business will work and what goals you’re trying to achieve.
When you put together a business plan, you have to spend time thinking about things like your target market , your sales, and marketing strategy , the problem you solve for your customers, and who your key competitors are . A business plan provides the structure for thinking through these things and documents your answers so you’re prepared for the inevitable questions investors will ask about your business.
Even if investors never ask to see your business plan, the work you’ve done to prepare it will ensure that you can intelligently answer the questions you’ll get. And, if an investor does ask for your business plan, then you’re prepared and ready to hand it over. After all, nothing could be worse than arriving at an investor meeting and then getting a request for a business plan and not having one ready.
Beyond understanding your business strategy, investors will also want to understand your financial forecasts. They want to know how your business will function from a financial standpoint — what is typically called your “ business model .” They’ll also want to know what it will take for your business to be profitable and where you anticipate spending money to grow the business. A complete financial plan is part of any business plan, so investing a little time here will serve you well.
What do investors want to see in a business plan?
There’s no such thing as a perfect business plan and investors know this. After all, they’ve spent years, and often decades, hearing business pitches, reading business plans, investing in companies, and watching them both succeed and fail. As entrepreneur and investor Steve Blank likes to say, “No business plan survives first contact with a customer.”
If this is true, then why bother writing a business plan at all? What’s the value of planning and why do investors want them if they know the plan will shortly be outdated?
The secret is that it’s the planning process, not the final plan, that’s valuable. Investors want to know that you’ve thought about your idea, documented your assumptions, and are on track to validate those assumptions so that you can remove risk from your business.
So what do investors want to see in your business plan? Beyond the typical sections , here are the most important things that investors want to see in your plan.
A vision for the future
Investors, particularly those investing in early-stage startups, want to understand your vision . Where do you see your company going in the future? Who will your customers be and what problems will you solve for them? Your vision may take years to execute — and it’s likely that the vision will change and evolve over time — but investors want to know that you’re thinking beyond tomorrow and into the future.
Product/market fit and traction
Investors want more than just an idea. They want evidence that you are solving a problem for customers. Your customers have to want what you are selling for you to build a successful business and your business plan needs to describe the evidence that you’ve found that proves that you’ll be able to sell your products and services to customers. If you have “traction” in the form of early sales and customers, that’s even better.
Funding needed and use of funds
When you’re pitching investors, you need to know how much you’re asking for. Your financial forecast should help you figure this out. You’ll want to raise enough money to cover planned expenses and cash flow requirements plus some additional funding as a safety net. In addition, you’ll want to specify exactly how you plan on using your investment . In a business plan, this section is often called “sources and uses of investment.”
A strong management team
A good idea is really only a small part of the equation for a successful business. In fact, lots of people have good business ideas — it’s the people that can execute well that generally succeed. Investors will pay a lot of attention to the section of your plan where you talk about your management team because they want to know that you can transform your idea into a successful business. If you have gaps and still need to hire key employees, that’s OK. Communicating that you understand what your needs are is the most important thing.
An exit strategy
When investors give you money to start and grow your business, they are looking to eventually make a return on their investment. This could happen by eventually selling your business to a larger company or even by going public. One way or another, investors will want to know your thoughts about an eventual exit strategy for your business.
What documents do investors want to see?
Even if investors never ask for a detailed business plan, your business planning process should produce a few key documents that investors will want to see. Here’s what you need to be prepared to pitch investors:
These days, a lot of fundraising outreach is done over email and you’ll need a concise cover letter that sparks investor interest. Your cover letter needs to be very brief, but describe the problem you’re solving for your target market. Great cover letters are sometimes in a “story” format that hooks readers with a real-world, relatable example of the problems your customers face and how our product or service The goal of the cover letter isn’t to explain every aspect of your business. It’s just to spark interest and get a meeting with an investor where you’ll have more time to actually pitch your business. Keep your cover letter brief, engaging, and to the point.
If you get an investor meeting, you’ll almost certainly need a pitch deck to present your idea in more detail and showcase your business idea. Your pitch deck will cover the problem you’re solving, your solution, your target market, and key market trends. Read our detailed guide on what to include in your pitch deck here and for inspiration check out our gallery of more than 50 Industry Pitch Deck Examples .
Executive summary and/or Lean Plan
You might not get a meeting right away. Your cover letter may generate a request for additional information and this is where a solid executive summary or lean business plan comes in handy. This document, while still short, is more detailed than your cover letter and explains a bit more about your business in a page or two. Read more about what goes into a great executive summary and how to build a lean business plan .
Investors will inevitably want to see your financial forecasts. You’ll need a sales forecast, expense budget , cash flow forecast , profit and loss, and balance sheet . If you have historical results, you should plan on sharing those too as well as any other key metrics about your business. Investors will always look deep under the hood of your business, so be prepared to share all the details of how your business will work from a financial perspective.
What to include in your investor business plan
When you put together a detailed business plan for investors, you’ll follow a fairly standard format. Of course, feel free to customize your plan to fit your business needs. Remember: your business plan isn’t about the plan document that you create — it’s about the planning process that helps you think through and develop your business strategy. Here’s what most investor business plans will include:
Usually written last, your executive summary is an overview of your business. As I mentioned earlier, you might use the executive summary as a stand-alone document to provide investors more detail about your business in a concise form. Read our guide on executive summaries here .
The opportunity section of your plan covers the problem you are solving, what your solution is, and highlights any data you have to prove that people will spend money on what you’re offering. If you have customer validation in any form, this is where you highlight that information.
Describe what your target market is and key trends that are occurring in this market . Is the market growing? Are buying patterns changing? How is your business positioned to take advantage of these changes? Be sure to spend some time discussing your competition and how your target market solves their problems today and how your solution is superior.
Marketing & Sales Plan
Most businesses need to figure out how to get the word out and attract customers. Your business plan should include a marketing plan that describes how you’re going to reach your target market and any key marketing initiatives that you’re going to undertake. You should also spend time describing your sales plan, especially if your sales process takes time to close customers.
Milestones / Roadmap
Outline key milestones you hope to achieve and when you plan on achieving them. This section should cover key dates for product development, key partnerships you need to create, and any other important goals you plan on achieving.
Company & Management
Here’s where you describe the nuts and bolts of your business. How is your organization structured? Who is on your team and what are their backgrounds? Are there any important positions that you still need to recruit for?
As I mentioned, you’ll need to create a profit and loss, cash flow, and balance sheet forecast. Your financial plan should be optimistic, yet realistic. This is a tough balance and your forecast is certain to be wrong, but you need to document your assumptions and plans for the business.
Finally, you can include an appendix for any key additional information you want to share. Product diagrams, additional details on how you deliver your service, or additional research can all be included.
What comes next?
Writing a business plan for investors is really about preparing you to pitch your business . It’s quite likely that you’ll never get asked for the actual business plan document. But, the process will prepare you better than anything else to answer any questions investors may have.
Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. You can follow Noah on Twitter .
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How to Write a Bank Business Plan [Sample Template]
Are you about starting a bank? If YES, here is a complete sample commercial bank business plan template & feasibility report you can use for FREE . Okay, so we have considered all the requirements for starting a bank . We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample bank business marketing plan template backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for banks. So let’s proceed to the business planning section.
Why Start a Bank?
Starting your own bank is a huge step and needs a good deal of planning and preparation. Extensive information about the founders, the business plan, senior management team, finances, capital adequacy, risk management infrastructure, and other relevant factors must be provided to the appropriate authorities.
There are also a number of legal regulations and requirements that must be fulfilled in order to start your own bank. Some of these requirements are dependent upon the regulations in the niche you wish to establish your bank.
As hard as the task of starting a bank can be, anyone who wishes to start their own bank is able to enjoy the many benefits of making a major investment. Although the process of registering and setting up a bank involves lengthy planning and a relatively complex licensing procedure, once it is completed, the owner is able to conduct financial activity in their chosen niche.
Note that the very first step when starting your bank is to choose the niche and type of activity which you wish to engage in. Before you obtain the necessary licensing from the financial regulatory body, it is very crucial you identify whether you wish to specialize in investment banking or trade finance.
The advantages of owning your own bank are huge and include the potential to make large profits during a short period. Note that if you know your target market and your target market’s specific requirements, you will be in a better position to provide a range of attractive services. To successfully start and run this business, it is advised you seek the help of a professional consultancy firm.
Through the advice and guidance of expert consultants, you will be able to establish a banking institution in a professional manner. Also have it in mind that any proposed bank must first receive the approval of a federal or state banking charter. Before granting a charter, the chartering regulator must determine that the applicant bank has a reasonable chance for success and will operate in a safe and sound manner.
Then, the proposed bank must obtain approval for deposit insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Additional approvals are required from the Federal Reserve if, at formation, a holding company would control the new bank or a state-chartered bank would become a member of the Federal Reserve.
A Sample Bank Business Plan Template
1. industry overview.
According to global banking industry reports, part of the broad financial services market, bank credit remain the leading market segment, with around 60% of the overall market in terms of value. Statistics has shown that the EU is the largest regional market, with over 57% of the global market.
Note that the economic recession that began in 2008 affected the industry and resulted in the crash of several financial institutions, which in turn led to the examination of practices and deployment of new guidelines in the banking industry.
But reports have it that the sector is beginning to rebound, and cross-border investment is one area contributing to recovery, with a few big banks dominating certain national markets. Advantages of cross-border practices include economies of scale, though institutions must compete with established domestic banks.
It’s very important to state that in the world retail banking and bank lending sectors, mortgage lending represents the leading market segment, accounting for almost 76% of the overall market in terms of value. Other key segments of the banking industry include private banking and payments business.
Note that in the US banking sector, experts believe that market growth will be driven by cross-border expansion due to the breaking down of obstacles to cross-border investment.
Competition between international banks is also expected to aid market growth along with the introduction of new products, reduction of costs and launching of new services. Report also has it that mobile and internet banking are becoming increasingly intertwined, especially due to the advent and success of smartphones. This provides consumers with convenient access to internet banking.
Have it in mind that the global mobile internet market will continue to drive the expansion of the mobile banking services sector. Report has shown that banking institutions are responding by launching downloadable applications and encouraging consumers to bank online and through mobile devices by rolling out mobile and internet banking services.
2. Executive Summary
Apex Investment Bank, LLC (AIB LLC) is a Portland Oregon based investment bank that will provide investment packages, underwriting, proprietary trading, and investment management for its investors. Our objective at AIB LLC is to create value for owners, employees, and investors through the establishment of an investment bank designed for the Third Generation.
This Generation is explicitly defined in the ground breaking research effort by Lincoln Swan & Co., Inc. and Netley Strategic business Group as a stage in the investment industry requiring a special set of skills for success. We at AIB LLC have leveraged this study, with more other studies, and perhaps most importantly, our own experience in the industry, to define a plan for the success of our clients.
Portland’s location is beneficial for several industries. Relatively low energy cost, accessible resources, north–south and east–west Interstates, international air terminals, large marine shipping facilities, and both west coast intercontinental railroads are all economic advantages.
AIB LLC will be structured as a Limited Liability Company with excellent plans to make use of industry research performed by one of our founding entrepreneurs, Solomon Drane during his professional career in investment management research. Within the past three years, Solomon Drane has conducted research visits at the investment offices of over 80 companies.
He has also held countless meetings with key investment professionals from around the globe either in person or via telephone conference. We at AIB LLC plan to offer our clients the opportunity to assume minority ownership positions in exchange for contributions to our operating capital and for providing seed assets to establish the investment products described herein.
It is very important to state that this document alone does not create an offer of any type, nor does it give any guarantee, financial, or otherwise. This is a well detailed business plan designed to strategically dictate AIB LLC plans and visions for the next five years. It is open to correction or improvement within or after the specified time.
3. Our Products and Services
We at AIB LLC will provide investment packages and underwrite securities for sale to private investors and the general public among companies that are seeking to raise capital. At the onset of operations, we at AIB LLC will solely seek to sell debt instruments on behalf of our customers.
The standard fee for this service is 8% of the total underwritten instrument. We at AIB LLC will also solicit capital from accredited investors with the purpose of making use of this capital to make investment marketable securities. Our goal is to generate compounded annual returns of 30% to 35% per year on capital invested into our Bank’s portfolio holdings. We also plan to make sure that our management retains a 25% ownership interest at AIB LLC.
4. Our Mission and Vision Statement
- Our vision at AIB LLC is to develop into a large scale investment bank that will provide underwriting income, advisory income, dividend income, capital appreciation, and interest income to investors.
- Our mission at AIB LLC is to ensure that investment decisions are implemented quickly and efficiently across all portfolios, to also make sure a trading research and rotation is used to avoid any type of systematic advantage or disadvantage an account may experience.
Our Business Structure
We at AIB LLC understand that the strength of our management team and board of directors is perhaps the most important factor in starting a bank and effectively providing for its future success. We also found out through our detailed research that for a new bank charter to be approved for us, all our senior management team must be experienced bankers with a history of relevant success.
The more reason we made sure our board of directors are made up of individuals with successful careers in business, banking, and other fields, and have representation in the necessary disciplines.
We also understand the role of the board and management as investors and how important they are. Regulators and other investors will look to the investment of these directors and senior officers as an important sign of their commitment to the bank.
We also understand that the typical investment bank is operated on a rigid, strict hierarchy, than most corporate or financial institutions. We have taken our time to analyse our market and what we need that is why we have decided to start with the listed workforce.
- Senior vice president
Investment Banking Associate
Investment Banking Analyst
- Marketing manager
- Security man
5. Job Roles and Responsibilities
- Broaden and/or enhance the bank’s industry coverage,
- Will partner with the firm’s leadership to grow and build the bank
- Will tirelessly work to deliver superior results to the firms’ clients
- Participate as a key member of the senior leadership team, contributing to the strategy, growth and success of the firm
- Lead efforts on sell-side and buy-side acquisition assignments, refinancing, recapitalization and restructuring assignments
- Interact seamlessly with prospects, clients, acquirors, investors and attorneys on all aspects of a M&A deal and/or capital raise
- Direct a team of junior bankers to support all elements of deal sourcing and execution.
Senior Vice president
- Involved in executing and managing equity offerings that will include the drafting and structuring of material, logistics management, issue identification, its analysis and the resolution.
- Responsible for mergers and acquisitions and manages the creation of buyers list, their contacts, drafting the relevant material, financial analysis and private equity placement.
- Researches and identify deal opportunities by formulating and issuing factual financial analyses and creating different kinds of financial plans.
- Involved in pitching or selling the organization’s products and services to new clients and may be involved in other projects as well.
- May participate in due diligence meetings with non-proprietary or proprietary investment managers and create relevant call reports that include their opinions.
- May be involved in analyzing the investment products and screening them by making effective use of a variety of investment data and the relevant software applications
- Monitors the investment products and their performance.
- Analyses the relevant statistics to evaluate the appropriateness of the product.
- Manages relationships with the investment management organizations and regularly gets him/her updated by getting valuable information from them.
- Attends industry conferences and training sessions so as to present innovative ideas to clients
- Responsible for providing leadership and overseeing the work of the subordinate members.
- Call on prospective clients such as privately held business owners, publicly traded companies and private equity firms.
- Conceptualize, organize and deliver new business presentations.
- Lead transaction implementation across industry groups.
- Manage, educate and develop banking analysts and associates.
- Develop marketing and new business presentations.
- Monitor financial analysis and modeling.
- Perform and analyze industry research.
- Create client presentations, proposals, engagement letters term sheets, legal agreements and offer memorandums.
- Create and foster client relationships.
- Managing and assisting in the preparation of financial models and business valuations
- Creating client marketing presentations
- Attending client meetings
- Conducting industry and company-specific due diligence related to transactions
- Drafting memoranda for sale assignments
- Assisting in the preparation of fairness opinions
- Attending drafting sessions for equity offerings
- Creating marketing materials for our equity sales organization
- Assisting in the development and continued cultivation of client relationships
- Developing an understanding of the underlying trends that affect equity capital markets.
- Development of various types of financial models to value debt and equity for mergers, acquisitions, and capital raising transactions.
- Perform various valuation methods: comparable companies, precedents, and DCF.
- Develop recommendations for product offerings, private equity transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and valuations.
- Conduct preparation and review of materials used in the financing of clients, including investment memoranda, management presentations and pitchbooks.
- Develop relationships with new and existing clients in order to expand the business.
- Perform due diligence, research, analysis, and documentation of live transactions.
- Create presentations for client portfolios.
Sales and Marketing director
- In charge of organizing external research and coordinating all the internal sources of information to retain the organizations’ best customers and attract new ones
- Expected to understand, prioritizes, and reaches out to new partners, and business opportunities et al
- Tasked with understanding development opportunities; follows up on development leads and contacts
- It’s the job of the director to supervise implementation, advocate for the customer’s needs, and communicate with clients
- Keep all customer contact and information
- Represents the company in strategic meetings
- Aid to increase sales and growth for the business
- Keep note and make sure the toiletries and supplies don’t run out of stock
- Ensures that both the interior and exterior of the firm are always clean
- Handles any other duty as assigned by the Vice president
- The security guard is in charge of protecting the firm and its environs
- Also controls traffic and organize parking
- He is Tasked with giving security tips when necessary
- Should also Patrol around the building on a 24 hours basis
- It’s expected to give security reports weekly
6. SWOT Analysis
We at AIB LLC understand that the very first step of starting a new bank is to build a strong business and strategic plan. We believe that this plan must consider the proposed business of the new bank, its financial and managerial resources and prospects for success, the convenience and needs of the public, and the effect of competition.
This strong business and strategic plan supported by detailed financial projections and appropriate policies and procedures form the basis of successful regulatory applications of a bank charter.
We at AIB LLC hope to establish a lucrative investment bank that will serve the needs of our clients and also bring in profits for our founders. We took time to conduct a detailed SWOT analysis for AIB LLC. The details and results are explained below.
According to our SWOT analysis, our strength at AIB LLC rests on the expertise and experience of our management team. With the experience and discipline of our team, our SWOT analysis predict we can build a robust company profile even before biding for investment banking contracts from corporate organizations.
As the investment banking industry expands and grows in revenue and market reach, so does the level of competition in the industry. Due to the very low barriers to entry, any individual or business may register itself as an investment bank after completing the proper examinations and filings.
The banking sector has become one of the fastest growing business sectors in the U.S. economy. Note that computerized technologies allow financial firms to operate advisory, investment banking, and brokerage services anywhere in the country.
In time past, most financial firms needed to be within a close proximity to Wall Street in order to provide their clients the highest level of service. This is no longer the case as a firm can access almost every facet of the financial markets through Internet connections and specialized trading and investment management software.
According to our SWOT analysis, the risks we will be facing include;
- Market Risk – A high correlation exists between the growth rate of the investment industry and the performance of equity markets. While evidence suggests an attractive environment for equities in the future, no forecasts can be made with absolute certainty.
- Performance Risk – It is understood that our products are measured by their performance. Although the goal is to achieve competitive performance over three to five-year time periods, short-term periods may result in underperformance based on the critical measures.
- Business/Operating Risk – Beyond the third full year of operation, assets under management must produce revenues that will be sufficient to support operations in their entirety. Otherwise our options will be to acquire additional funding or to reduce costs.
7. MARKET ANALYSIS
- Market Trend
Experts believe this industry will continue to experience growth in all parts of the world especially in developed countries such as united states of America, Canada, United Kingdom , Germany, Australia, South Korea, Japan, China et al.
According to industry data, the industry brings in a whooping sum of $105 billion annually with an annual growth rate projected at -13.0 percent within 2011 and 2016. Although the number of industry activities has not deviated dramatically over the five-year period, the share of revenue that each activity accounts for has undergone substantial volatility.
It is believed that the products and services in the Investment industry differ considerably on a company-by-company basis, largely depending on operator size.
It’s very important to state that small and medium size investment banks target niche industries and small companies and depend more heavily on traditional investment banking activities such as underwriting and financial advisory. Alternatively, major industry players earn a substantial share of revenue from trading activities.
Note that one factor that attract entrepreneurs to the investment banking business despite the huge capital requirements and the high risk is that the venture is profitable. We have made plans to always stay ahead of industry trend and also to get the required certifications and license and also meet the standard capitalization for an investment bank in the United States.
8. Our Target Market
Our target market at AIB LLC will be greatly dependent on the phase of our product in its development cycle. Have it in mind that most of the marketing opportunities will happen beyond the first year of product development. But we remain very certain that some initial opportunities do exist.
For instance, our bank can utilize its transfer agent’s distribution services, which would put the product in a highly visible online platform. Note that extra opportunities include marketing to programs that invest specifically in “emerging managers.”
We at AIB LLC also believe that the high net worth and retail marketplace can be accessed to a limited degree, even in the early stages, through similar innovative opportunities and already-established relationships with clients.
Just like manufacturing organizations, investment businesses are expected to develop products to provide to their customers. Our hallmark product offering will be our well designed Market Equity strategy, an investment product offering based on the evidence supporting investor’s desires to outperform the overall market via a single, diversified vehicle and to avoid the need to create complex investment structures.
Our competitive advantage
Our Competitive Advantage at AIB LLC is specified in the three P’s commonly associated with investment firms: People, Process, and Performance. The first two determine the latter. Although our business plan highlights many areas (market research, financial projections, etc.), we believe there are two areas that will surely determine the level of success achieved by AIB LLC.
We believe that the very first is the people. Bright, energetic, talented, and knowledgeable individuals compose the core of the team we have at AIB LLC. We were able to note from our rigorous research that the most qualified investment professionals are attracted to efficient investment banks that are free from bureaucracy. Process is the second most important element of our bank.
We have made sure cutting-edge research will be provided in support of our portfolio management process. The implementation of our process is maximized by outsourcing virtually all functions not related to portfolio management and research, thereby making full use of the bank’s human capital.
9. SALES AND MARKETING STRATEGY
We at AIB LLC understand that the key to marketing an investment product is to create a successful and attractive product, develop a pattern of success, and show that pattern can be repeated in the future. After that, successful products should be aggressively marketed if capacity to manage additional assets exists.
Although a three to five-year period tend to seem like a century compared to the technology world, it is really quite reasonable considering the fact that private equity investors in limited partnership vehicles are generally satisfied with a 10-year waiting period that exists prior to a return of their capital investment.
AIB hallmark investment product will be the AIB Total Market Equity strategy and will be initially offered through an SEC registered mutual fund. Technological advancements also permit for other economically feasible distribution channels such as separately managed portfolios for large account sizes.
Sources of Income
We believe that our primary income at AIB LLC will come from providing our clients with investment packages, securities underwriting and advisory services in regards to mergers and acquisitions. AIB LLC will earn substantial fees for the equity and debt instruments that it underwrites and then resells to the general public.
We also believe that we will engage primarily in debt instruments among middle market companies that will be sold on a best efforts basis. This will place minimal risk on our capital reserve.
We will also earn substantial per hour management and deal fees regarding advisory services for mergers and acquisition operations. We also plan to make investments directly into marketable securities and hedge funds that specialize in specific areas of trading.
Our intention is to develop a number of trading strategies including options trading, LEAPs trading, long position/short position trading, and other methods of trading that will produce small but consistent gains on a weekly and monthly basis. We plan to engage in a covered call strategy that would allow the fund to assure return on investment for securities that are held for an extended period of time.
10. Sales Forecast
We at AIB LLC expect to turn over approximately 1/3 of our portfolio each year. We strongly believe that this is consistent with an average holding period of three years. Generally, we would love for all holdings to be long-term investments, so we will identify stocks we will be comfortable with if we were “locked in” for three years.
This forces us to look beyond short-term noise in quarter-to-quarter results and focus on the big picture, such as our management’s vision for the future and their probability of executing their plan.
11. Publicity and Advertising Strategy
We understand the importance of creating a good publicity plan that will boost our brand and help us stay consistent in the industry. That is why we contacted Advertising Experts called Kinks Global, to help us create publicity and advertising strategies that will help us at AIB LLC to attract and keep our target audience interested. Listed below is the summary of strategies detailed by Kinks Global for our Bank.
- Place adverts on both print (community based newspapers and magazines) and electronic media platforms; we will also advertise AIB LLC on financial magazines, real estate and other relevant financial programs on radio and TV
- Introduce AIB LLC by sending introductory letters with our business brochure to individuals, households, corporate organizations, schools, players in the real estate sector, and all the people of Alexandria.
- Advertise AIB LLC in important financial and business related magazines, newspapers, TV and radio stations.
- Place AIB LLC on yellow pages ads (local directories)
- Attend important international and local real estate, finance and business expos, seminars, and business fairs et al
- Encourage word of mouth marketing from loyal and satisfied clients
- Sponsor relevant community based events / programs
- Leverage various online platforms to promote the business. This will make it easier for people to enter our website with just a click of the mouse. We will take advantage of the internet and social media platforms such as; Instagram, Facebook , twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote our brand
- Place our billboards at strategic locations
- Share our fliers and handbills in target areas all around Portland
12. Our Pricing Strategy
Firms in this industry get funds from investors who are interested in investing, and charge them for assisting them in investing their funds over a period of time as agreed by both parties. Even though investment banking is a very risky venture, it is still profitable, hence there is an agreement between the investment bank and the client as it relates to the commission they are expected to make from the deal.
We at AIB LLC plan to charge based on percentage and also a fix consultancy/business administrative fee. We believe that in the coming years and as we progress, that we can decide to improvise or adopt any business process and structure that will guarantee us good return on investment (ROI), efficiency and flexibility.
- Payment options
We plan to make sure we provide our clients with a wide variety of payment options for our services. We understand the diverse platforms people prefer and we plan to provide a suitable platform that will suit all equally. Listed below are the payment options that we will make available to AIB LLC.
- Payment through bank transfer
- Payment through online bank transfer
- Payment with check
- Payment with bank draft
13. Startup Expenditure (Budget)
We have noted that banks are expected raise their initial capital from investors after completing regulatory processes before they can open. In the industry, all insured banks must comply with the capital adequacy guidelines of their primary federal regulator. The guidelines require a bank to demonstrate that it will have enough capital to support its risk profile, operations, and future growth even in the event of unexpected losses.
We believe that new established banks are generally subject to additional criteria that remain in place until the bank’s operations become well established and profitable. We at AIB LLC plan for an effective minimum capital of between $15 million to $25 million.
Successful capital generation in these amounts is generally the result of a well formulated and executed plan for developing local and other investors in the bank. We have analyzed our needs and we plan to spend our startup funds judiciously. Outlined below is a detailed financial projection and costing for starting AIB LLC;
- Price of incorporating the Business in the United States of America – $750.
- Our budget for basic insurance policy covers, permits and business license – $200,000
- Acquiring a suitable Office facility opposite the city hall at Portland Delta State (Re – Construction of the facility inclusive) – $75,000
- The budget envisaged for capitalization (working capital) – $30 million
- Budget for settling other legal processes (acquiring business license and all city dues et al) – $2,500
- Equipping the office with suitable and standard equipment(computers, software applications, printers, fax machines, furniture, telephones, filing cabins, safety gadgets and electronics et al) – $10,000
- Purchasing of the required software applications (CRM software, Accounting and Bookkeeping software and Payroll software et al) – $10,500
- Launching AIB LLC official Website – $600
- Our expenditure for paying employees for 3 months plus utility bills – $36, 000
- Other Additional Expenditure (Business cards, Signage, Adverts and Promotions et al) – $4,000
- Miscellaneous: $10,000
With the above detailed cost analysis, we need $349,350 and $30 million working capital to successfully set up AIB LLC.
- Generating Startup Capital for AIB LLC
AIB LLC is a licensed and registered investment bank which is capitalized by five principal investors, Mr Solomon Drane, Mrs Agnes Church, Dr Mel Stanford, Mr Kelvin Cruff and Prof. John Thomas. Our founders plan to become the very first financiers of the business, although we have plans of selling shares and stocks as the business matures. Due to less constraint in financing, we have outlined the few ways we can acknowledge funding. These ways may include;
- Generate part of the startup capital from the five principal investors
- Agreeing to angel investors
- Apply for business loan from the Federal Reserve Bank (if need be)
Note: AIB LLC has been able to generate an enormous $15 million from its five principal investors, who aligned and individually dished out $3,000,000 each. We have also aligned with angel investors to inject $20 million into AIB LLC, with the hope of making profits and establishing a solid business.
14. Sustainability and Expansion Strategy
Our primary goal of the first full quarter of operation (February- May 2019) is to secure funding from outside sources. Before that, our management team at AIB LLC has a budget of $300,000 to be used for finding investors, forming a legal LLC, and registering the bank and its products with the SEC. The amount sought from investors will be approximately $20 million, which should see the business through to profitability near the completion of the third year.
We at AIB LLC believe that this break-even point equates roughly to an asset under management level of approximately $130 million. One can easily see that even modest points beyond this break-even level can be highly lucrative.
It is also important to note that excess cash will be re-deployed into the business once a level of sustainability in revenue has been reached. Our primary purpose for this type of reinvestment would solely focus on a “second stage” marketing plan to increase distribution.
We also believe that a word of note is also warranted as it relates to the cash flow statement of our bank. Have it in mind that one appealing feature of the investment industry is that collection of fees (i.e. revenues) is highly certain because fees are frequently charged directly to the client’s accounts (or to the mutual fund). That is the more reason why revenue certainty is very high and is directly related to the amount of assets under management.
Also note that common practice in the investment industry is to bill at each quarter-end. For instance, our annual fee of 1% would be applied to our clients’ accounts five times per year at 0.20%. We at AIB LLC can strongly attest to the fact that economic motivation is great. Growth rates for the investment industry are projected to range from 25% to 24% in each of the next three years.
We believe that the demographic, economic, political and social evidence supporting these projections make this industry one of the most attractive industries due to the high degree of certainty in the estimates. We at AIB LLC believe that the certainty coupled with the above average growth rate differentiates this opportunity from other venture investments.
Also have it in mind that our conservative estimates outline a plan-to-profitability over a period much shorter than typical venture investments that sometimes need up to ten years to make profits.
- Business Name Availability Check : Completed
- Business Incorporation: Completed
- Opening of Corporate Bank Accounts: Completed
- Opening Online Payment Platforms: Completed
- Application and Obtaining Tax Payer’s ID: In Progress
- Application for business license and permit: Completed
- Purchase of Insurance for the Business: Completed
- Conducting feasibility studies: Completed
- Leasing, renovating and equipping our facility: Completed
- Generating part of the start – up capital from the founder: Completed
- Applications for Loan from our Bankers: In Progress
- Writing of Business Plan: Completed
- Drafting of Employee’s Handbook: Completed
- Drafting of Contract Documents: In Progress
- Design of The Company’s Logo: Completed
- Printing of Promotional Materials: Completed
- Recruitment of employees: In Progress
- Purchase of software applications, furniture, office equipment, electronic appliances and facility facelift: In progress
- Creating Official Website for the Company: In Progress
- Creating Awareness for the business (Business PR): In Progress
- Health and Safety and Fire Safety Arrangement: In Progress
- Establishing business relationship with banks, financial lending institutions, vendors and key players in the industry: In Progress
More on Financial Services
Business Plan Example and Template
Learn how to create a business plan
What is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document that contains the operational and financial plan of a business, and details how its objectives will be achieved. It serves as a road map for the business and can be used when pitching investors or financial institutions for debt or equity financing .
A business plan should follow a standard format and contain all the important business plan elements. Typically, it should present whatever information an investor or financial institution expects to see before providing financing to a business.
Contents of a Business Plan
A business plan should be structured in a way that it contains all the important information that investors are looking for. Here are the main sections of a business plan:
1. Title Page
The title page captures the legal information of the business, which includes the registered business name, physical address, phone number, email address, date, and the company logo.
2. Executive Summary
The executive summary is the most important section because it is the first section that investors and bankers see when they open the business plan. It provides a summary of the entire business plan. It should be written last to ensure that you don’t leave any details out. It must be short and to the point, and it should capture the reader’s attention. The executive summary should not exceed two pages.
3. Industry Overview
The industry overview section provides information about the specific industry that the business operates in. Some of the information provided in this section includes major competitors, industry trends, and estimated revenues. It also shows the company’s position in the industry and how it will compete in the market against other major players.
4. Market Analysis and Competition
The market analysis section details the target market for the company’s product offerings. This section confirms that the company understands the market and that it has already analyzed the existing market to determine that there is adequate demand to support its proposed business model.
Market analysis includes information about the target market’s demographics , geographical location, consumer behavior, and market needs. The company can present numbers and sources to give an overview of the target market size.
A business can choose to consolidate the market analysis and competition analysis into one section or present them as two separate sections.
5. Sales and Marketing Plan
The sales and marketing plan details how the company plans to sell its products to the target market. It attempts to present the business’s unique selling proposition and the channels it will use to sell its goods and services. It details the company’s advertising and promotion activities, pricing strategy, sales and distribution methods, and after-sales support.
6. Management Plan
The management plan provides an outline of the company’s legal structure, its management team, and internal and external human resource requirements. It should list the number of employees that will be needed and the remuneration to be paid to each of the employees.
Any external professionals, such as lawyers, valuers, architects, and consultants, that the company will need should also be included. If the company intends to use the business plan to source funding from investors, it should list the members of the executive team, as well as the members of the advisory board.
7. Operating Plan
The operating plan provides an overview of the company’s physical requirements, such as office space, machinery, labor, supplies, and inventory . For a business that requires custom warehouses and specialized equipment, the operating plan will be more detailed, as compared to, say, a home-based consulting business. If the business plan is for a manufacturing company, it will include information on raw material requirements and the supply chain.
8. Financial Plan
The financial plan is an important section that will often determine whether the business will obtain required financing from financial institutions, investors, or venture capitalists. It should demonstrate that the proposed business is viable and will return enough revenues to be able to meet its financial obligations. Some of the information contained in the financial plan includes a projected income statement , balance sheet, and cash flow.
9. Appendices and Exhibits
The appendices and exhibits part is the last section of a business plan. It includes any additional information that banks and investors may be interested in or that adds credibility to the business. Some of the information that may be included in the appendices section includes office/building plans, detailed market research , products/services offering information, marketing brochures, and credit histories of the promoters.
Business Plan Template
Here is a basic template that any business can use when developing its business plan:
Section 1: Executive Summary
- Present the company’s mission.
- Describe the company’s product and/or service offerings.
- Give a summary of the target market and its demographics.
- Summarize the industry competition and how the company will capture a share of the available market.
- Give a summary of the operational plan, such as inventory, office and labor, and equipment requirements.
Section 2: Industry Overview
- Describe the company’s position in the industry.
- Describe the existing competition and the major players in the industry.
- Provide information about the industry that the business will operate in, estimated revenues, industry trends, government influences, as well as the demographics of the target market.
Section 3: Market Analysis and Competition
- Define your target market, their needs, and their geographical location.
- Describe the size of the market, the units of the company’s products that potential customers may buy, and the market changes that may occur due to overall economic changes.
- Give an overview of the estimated sales volume vis-à-vis what competitors sell.
- Give a plan on how the company plans to combat the existing competition to gain and retain market share.
Section 4: Sales and Marketing Plan
- Describe the products that the company will offer for sale and its unique selling proposition.
- List the different advertising platforms that the business will use to get its message to customers.
- Describe how the business plans to price its products in a way that allows it to make a profit.
- Give details on how the company’s products will be distributed to the target market and the shipping method.
Section 5: Management Plan
- Describe the organizational structure of the company.
- List the owners of the company and their ownership percentages.
- List the key executives, their roles, and remuneration.
- List any internal and external professionals that the company plans to hire, and how they will be compensated.
- Include a list of the members of the advisory board, if available.
Section 6: Operating Plan
- Describe the location of the business, including office and warehouse requirements.
- Describe the labor requirement of the company. Outline the number of staff that the company needs, their roles, skills training needed, and employee tenures (full-time or part-time).
- Describe the manufacturing process, and the time it will take to produce one unit of a product.
- Describe the equipment and machinery requirements, and if the company will lease or purchase equipment and machinery, and the related costs that the company estimates it will incur.
- Provide a list of raw material requirements, how they will be sourced, and the main suppliers that will supply the required inputs.
Section 7: Financial Plan
- Describe the financial projections of the company, by including the projected income statement, projected cash flow statement, and the balance sheet projection.
Section 8: Appendices and Exhibits
- Quotes of building and machinery leases
- Proposed office and warehouse plan
- Market research and a summary of the target market
- Credit information of the owners
- List of product and/or services
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to Business Plans. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following CFI resources will be helpful:
- Corporate Structure
- Three Financial Statements
- NEW CFI Template Marketplace
- See all management & strategy resources
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How to get started creating your business plan.
A successful business plan can help you focus your goals and take actionable steps toward achieving them. Here’s what to consider as you develop your plan.
Regardless of whether or not you’re pitching to investors and lenders, starting a business requires a plan. A business plan gives you direction, helps you qualify your ideas and clarifies the path you intend to take toward your goal.
Four important reasons to write a business plan:
- Decision-making: Business plans help you eliminate any gray area by writing specific information down in black and white. Making tough decisions is often one of the hardest and most useful parts of writing a business plan.
- A reality check: The first real challenge after deciding to launch a new venture may be writing the business plan. Through the process, you may realize your business idea is a bit flawed or not yet fully developed. This may feel like extra work, but the effort you put into improving your idea during this step can bolster your chance of future success.
- New ideas: Discovering new ideas, different approaches and fresh perspectives are invaluable parts of the business planning process. Working closely with your concept can lead to unexpected insights, shifting your business in the right direction.
- Developing an action plan: Your business plan is a tool that will help you outline action items, next steps and future activities. This living, breathing document shows where you are and where you want to be, with the framework you need to get there.
Business plan guide: How to get started
Use this exercise to gather some of the most important information. Then follow this traditional business plan guide to expand your plan and add more detailed information. Once your outline is finalized, you can share it with business partners, investors or banks as a tool to promote your concept.
- Vision: Your vision statement sets the stage for everything you hope your business will accomplish going forward. Let yourself dream, pinpointing the ideas that will keep you inspired and motivated when you hit a bump in the road.
- Mission: A mission statement clarifies the purpose of your business and guides your plan, ultimately answering the question, "Why do you exist?"
- Objectives: Use your business objectives to define your goals and priorities. What are you going to accomplish with your business, and in what timeframe? These touchstones will drive your actions and help you stay focused.
- Strategies: Your objectives describe what you’re going to do, while your strategies describe how you’re going to do it. Consider your goals here, and identify the different ways you’ll work to reach them.
- Startup capital: Determine what your startup expenses will be. Having a clear idea will allow you to figure out where the money is coming from and help you spend what you have in the right areas.
- Monthly expenses: What do you estimate your business’ ongoing monthly expenses will be? This may change significantly over time — consider what your expenditure could be immediately after launch, in three months, in six months and in one year.
- Monthly income: In order to cover your expenses (and hopefully make a profit), you will need to estimate your income. What are your revenue streams? It's always wise to diversify your income. That way, you won’t be tied to one stream that might not be lucrative as quickly as you need it to be.
- Goal-setting and creating an action plan: Once you have all the specifics outlined, it's time to set up the step-by-step action items explained in the companion guide, a standard business plan outline. This process will utilize the hard work you've already done, breaking each step down in a way that you can follow.
A business plan isn’t necessarily a static document that you create once and then forget about. You can use it as a powerful tool by referencing it to adjust your priorities, stay on track and keep your goals in sight.
Business plan: An outline
Use this exercise to gather important information about your business.
Answer these questions to start your planning process. Your responses will provide important information about your business, which you can use as an overview to develop your plan further.
- What is your dream?
- What do you feel inspired to do or create?
- What keeps you motivated, even in the face of uncertainty?
- Why does this business exist?
- What purpose(s) or need(s) does it fulfill for customers?
- List the goals of your company, then number them in order of importance.
- What will the business accomplish when it’s fully established and successful?
- How much time will it take to reach this point?
- For each goal or objective listed above, write one or more actions required to complete it.
- List any and all startup expenses that come to mind.
- Next to each:
- Estimate the cost of any expenses you can.
- List the most likely source of the funding.
- Circle the high-priority expenses.
- Assess whether your available capital is going toward the high-priority items. If not, reconsider the way you will allocate funds.
- If you can, estimate your business’ ongoing monthly expenses immediately after launch, in three months, in six months and in one year.
- If you can’t, what information will you need in order to estimate your expenses?
- What are your revenue streams? Estimate your monthly income accordingly.
- Which revenue sources deliver fast or slow returns? Are there other sources you could consider to diversify assets?
- After completing your outline, reference your responses as you work through a traditional business plan guide. This next step will allow you to expand and add more detailed information to your plan.
- When you’re ready to make your formal plan, reference this companion guide, a standard business plan outline. The article utilizes the hard work you've already done to create a step-by-step plan.
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Reviewing your business plan
You should look to update your business plan as your business grows and changes.
On this page
- Why you need a business plan
- The importance of regular business planning
- What your business plan should include
- Allocating resources
- Using targets to implement your business plan
- When to review your business plan
- Additional support
You can consider your business plan as a dynamic template intended to help your business thrive.
As you regularly review your business’ performance against that plan, you’ll also gain insight into the most likely strategies for future growth .
Once you've reviewed your progress and identified the key areas of growth you want to target, it's time to revisit your business plan and make it a road map to the next stage for your business.
Why you need a business plan +
A business plan is a written document that describes your business.
It covers objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts.
A business plan helps you to:
- clarify your business idea
- spot potential problems
- set out your goals
- measure your progress
You’ll need a business plan if you want to secure investment or a loan from a bank or other financial institution.
The importance of regular business planning +
You can give yourself the best possible chances of success by adopting a continuous and regular business planning cycle that keeps the plan up to date.
This should include regular meetings that involve key people from the business.
If you regularly assess your performance against the plans and targets you’ve set, you’re more likely to meet your objectives.
It can also signpost where and why you’re going astray.
Many businesses choose to assess progress every three or six months.
In addition, a regular review can help highlight high-growth areas that you should perhaps be putting more resources into.
The assessment will also help you in discussions with banks, investors and even potential buyers of your business .
Regular review is also a good vehicle for showing direction and commitment to employees, customers, and suppliers.
What your business plan should include +
If your plan is just for internal purposes, your business plan doesn’t need much marketing razzamatazz but should answer basic questions.
- What is the timeframe for my plan?
- What are the specific goals around revenue and profit?
- How do I know if there’s a market for this new product/service?
- What lies behind the sales forecast?
- What are the plans for marketing and selling?
- What investments do I need to make (in staff, premises, equipment, marketing)?
- Will I have enough cash to finance this?
- If not, do I need to borrow or sell equity ?
- How will I pay back any funds I borrow, or return money to investors?
- What are the risks?
The financial section of the plan is likely to include the following information for the period the plan covers (at least a year):
- Profit and loss account
- Cashflow forecast
- Projected balance sheet
Seeking funding or investment
If you intend to present your business plan to a bank or investor , you’ll need some additional frills but you do need to take care.
In his book, 'How to write a great business plan', Harvard Business School Professor William Sahlman explains the problem with most business plans seeking investment: “Most waste too much ink on numbers and devote too little to the information that really matters to intelligent investors.”
While acknowledging that business plans should include some numbers, Sahlman states: “…those numbers should appear mainly in the form of a business model that shows the entrepreneurial team has thought through the key drivers of the venture’s success or failure.”
Instead, he focuses on four factors that are crucial to the success of every new venture. You should look to include these in your business plan.
- The people. Introduce the people running your business, as well as outside people including lawyers, accountants and suppliers. Most savvy investors will focus on people as they believe that execution skills are what matters most. You need to prove you have the skills, experience and network necessary for success.
- The opportunity. Profile the business and discuss what it will sell, to whom and for how much. Explain how fast the business can grow and its competition. Openly discuss strengths and vulnerabilities.
- The context. You need to show you understand the ‘big picture’, the regulatory environment, interest rates, demographic trends, inflation and how you’ll respond when these inevitably change.
- Risk and reward. Assess a wide range of events that can go wrong and right and how you’ll respond to cope or take advantage of it.
Allocating resources +
The business plan plays a key role when you’re allocating resources throughout your business in order to meet the objectives you’ve set.
Once you’ve reviewed your progress to date and identified your strategy for growth, your existing business plan may look dated and may no longer reflect your business’ position and future direction.
When you’re reviewing your business plan to cover the next stages, it’s important to be clear on how you’ll allocate your resources to make your strategy work.
Using targets to implement your business plan +
A useful business plan should incorporate a set of targets and objectives.
While the overall plan may set strategic goals, you’re less likely to achieve them unless you use SMART objectives or targets.
That is, ones that are:
Targets help everyone within a business understand what they need to achieve and when.
It also ensures you monitor progress against these targets.
When to review your business plan +
You should carry out a formal review of your business plan regularly, certainly at least once a year and probably more often.
It all depends on the nature of your business.
Any events that disrupt markets, or have the potential to, should also trigger an emergency review .
Moreover, you need to monitor your business plan to make sure you’re meeting the objectives within it.
Additional support +
The Federation of Small Business (FSB) has created this useful guide on how to write a business plan.
Download and complete this free business plan template from The Start Up Loans Company.
Free business plan templates, guides and examples of a completed business plan from GOV.UK.
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How to Write a Business Plan for Funding
Guide to writing a business plan to get funding.
When you start your own company, you’re in for a marathon rather than a sprint. You’ll hit tons of milestones—some of which are more challenging than others. Writing a business plan for funding, be it for a business loan or an investor, can seem like one of the more daunting tasks for an entrepreneur. This is especially true if you’re doing it for the first time (or if you don’t consider yourself to be much of a wordsmith).
But writing a business plan for funding your company appears to be scarier than it really is. In fact, the typical funding request in a business plan follows a fairly boilerplate format. Your would-be business funders want to see specific details about your business (or, if you’re just starting up, what you expect your business to be). So long as you cover these details, know your financials by heart, and can write convincingly about why your business plan and funding requirements make sense, you can take this challenge on without breaking a sweat.
Why Do You Need a Business Plan for Funding Your Company?
The rationale behind drafting a business plan for funding a business is simple: Would-be investors and lenders want to know what they are getting themselves into. Just as you would want to know the specifics of a mutual fund or stock portfolio before you put down money, your investors and creditors want to know if funding your business is a sound idea.
It’s not easy for early investors or lenders to measure a company’s performance. There isn’t a ton of financial history available about new businesses, which means that you have to provide much more information about your vision and projected revenue to help them get a full view of what you’re doing. Plus, some loans require a business loan proposal with your application—such as SBA 7(a) and SBA 504/CDC loans.
So long as you know why you’re creating a business plan for funding, whether that means investments or loans, you can ensure that your would-be investors have all the details they need. Here’s an overview of why you need a business plan for funding your company successfully.
1. To Help Investors Know About Your Business
Before any investor makes the plunge to help you fund your business , they will want to know what it is that your company does. Sounds simple enough, right? Your business plan for funding serves as an official introduction to your company and builds upon any prior conversations you’ve had about what it does.
2. To Share Your Business Objectives and Goals
Investors will want to know what your goals are for your company once they understand exactly what it does. You’ve already addressed what your business is—now you need to explain your vision.
3. To Explain Your Current Financials and Future Projections
Once you’ve explained your vision for the company, you’ll need to dive into the financial details of how you plan to make it happen. You need to provide investors with a complete glimpse into your financial situation in order to make a compelling case for your business.
4. To Persuade Investors to Help Fund Your Business
The numbers tend to do the talking in a business plan for funding opportunities, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t create a compelling case for why you want an investment through other means. A persuasive argument complements robust financials, and a business plan for funding allows you to make your case.
What Should You Include When Writing a Business Plan for Funding?
Now that you know why a business plan for funding is essential, the next step in the process is knowing what you need to cover. Thankfully, the topics covered in your business plan for funding are pretty boilerplate. Investors know what to expect from the typical business plan—so long as you cover them satisfactorily, you’ll provide all the standard details one might want to know about your company. Here are the core components of a successful business plan for funding.
1. An Executive Summary
The executive summary should cover the essential information about your business: what it does, who it serves, and what you’re looking for from the people who read it. A strong executive summary hits upon the problem your company solves, your target market, competitors in the space, and a brief section on your colleagues.
Tailor your executive summary toward investors if you’re writing a business plan for funding. Make sure that it provides the valuable financial information and value proposition behind investing in your company. Sometimes it’s easier to write the executive summary last, as you’ll have an easier time summarizing the other topics you’ve covered in detail elsewhere.
2. Your Business Opportunity
Your executive summary covered the basics behind what your company does, but the opportunity section dives deeper into what sets your company apart and makes it a particularly worthy investment.
Here, you’ll want to get into the nitty-gritty about your product or service, the target market, and how you differentiate your business from your competitors. Show your potential investors why you deserve their money, and back it up with data. The best way to do this is by detailing market share insights within your business plan. For example, discuss the following:
- Total available market: The number of potential customers you could reach
- Segmented addressable market: The portion of the market you actually target from within the total number of potential customers
- Share of market: The amount of customers you believe your company can reasonably reach within your segmented addressable market
Next, you’ll need to cover your key customers—the people within the share of market category. These are the people you intend to target the most. Feel free to go into detail on who they are (as a group, not individually of course), why you’ve selected them, and how they align with leading influencers in your industry.
3. Your Company’s Current Financials
Now that you’ve provided an overview of the potential market for your goods or services, you’ll want to dive into your company’s financials. Don’t be shy on details for this section—your investors need to have a full picture of your company’s current performance, as well as your future revenue projections.
If you’re just getting your company off the ground and don’t have revenue to show yet, be sure to include detailed income and expense projections instead. The more information you can provide about your company, the better your odds are at getting funded.
4. Your Current (and Future) Loan Requirements
This section should include your current funding request, as well as any anticipated funding requirement in the foreseeable future. Be candid and upfront about why you’re requesting a loan or investment in your company, outlining precisely what you expect your needs to be based on your bookkeeping and financial forecasting.
5. A Description of How You’ll Use the Funds
Creditors and investors won’t just want to know how much money you need. They’ll also expect to know what you intend to do with the money they give you. After all, it’s in their best interest to understand how you plan to spend these funds—this can help lenders and investors determine if your plans are sound and can yield the best chance of repayment possible.
6. Your Current (or Future) Loan Repayment Plans
Your prospective lenders and investors need to know about any outstanding investments in your company, or loans you’ve already taken out. And if you’re starting out with neither of those two, you’ll need to provide this information to give your funders a full sense of your business financials.
An outline of your current and expected loan repayment plans gives these groups a better understanding of how you intend to pay them back. A strong repayment plan is an essential part of a successful business plan for funding. The more convincing your plan, the less risky your business appears.
7. A Brief Description of Your Team
Creditors and investors don’t just want to know the financial ins and outs of your business. They want to know more about the people within your company itself, too. This is particularly true if members of your organization come with a distinguished background. Anything you can boast about with regards to personnel could help woo investors.
If your loan application requires a business plan, you’ll have to do more than just provide team member bios. Get ready to spill the details on your own financial history (and that of any co-signer on the loan), as creditors want to know if you have a personal history of solvency and debt repayment.
8. An Appendix (If Necessary)
Your appendix is the ideal place for any information or graphics that don’t quite flow with the rest of your proposal. Say, for example, that you want to include more details about your revenue projection. Putting this information in the main text of your proposal could shift focus away from the essential details about your request. Place these materials at the end of the proposal document, and opt for an in-text citation for these materials instead.
How a Business Plan for Funding Differs Between Investors and Lenders
A business plan for funding through loans looks different than a proposal that you’d present to prospective investors. Lenders are interested in your business plan, surely, but their primary concern is your company’s financial outlook, as well as when and how you intend to pay back your loan.
If you’re drafting a plan for lenders, make sure you include the following:
- Loan amount
- Loan purpose
- Personal credit score
- Business credit score
- Time in business
- Entity type
- Business licenses and permits
- Employer identification number (EIN)
- Proof of collateral
- Annual business revenue and profit
- Bank statements
- Balance sheet
- Personal and business tax returns
- A copy of your commercial lease
- Disclosure of other debt
- Unpaid invoices and bills
- Ownership structure
- Legal contracts and agreements
Note that each lender may ask for some of these materials, and others may ask for even more than what’s listed here. Be sure to ask before submitting your application to forestall any delays during the loan review process.
How to Write Your Best Business Plan for Funding
We’ve sorted out why you need a business plan for funding through loans and investors, as well as what to include. But actually writing the proposal can be a challenging task in its own right. There are plenty of approaches you can take to the text to make it fit your style, but these essential tips work across the board with nearly every business plan.
1. Keep It Brief
When writing your business plan for funding, use easily understood language, small sentences and paragraphs, and do not assume that your audience knows your business as well as you do. This is not the place to impress your would-be funders through sesquipedalian loquaciousness (i.e. using a lot of big words when a few small words do the trick).
2. Keep It Customized
Writing to your audience isn’t just a matter of using succinct language. Persuasive language also requires you to customize your business plan for different kinds of investors and lenders. An investment proposition is a different animal than a business plan for funding through a loan. Know what your potential funder is looking for within the opportunity you present, and cater to them.
3. Keep Your Chin Up
Most entrepreneurs will say that confidence is key. When you believe in yourself and your business, you stand a better chance of getting others to believe as well. Your business plan should exude confidence in your company’s present and future (but not cockiness, of course). Convince the funder that you , as well as your business, are worth the investment.
Getting funding requires a good bit of work, patience, and perseverance. But the best thing any small business owner can do is to know the ins and outs of their company, as well as the standard requirements of a business plan. By covering all of the major details, writing to your audience in a persuasive manner, and demonstrating the strengths of your company, you can make the process a much smoother one. And in the end, you’ll find that this mile marker on your small business journey feels a bit easier to hit than it seemed in the beginning.
Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a GM at NerdWallet.
Meredith launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014. She has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and financial management.
The Small Business Community is now Small Business Resources .
Making an Investment Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide
Making an investment plan involves more than just choosing a few stocks to put money in. You have to consider your current financial situation and your goals for the future. It’s also important to define your timeline and how much risk you’re willing to take on in order to determine your optimal asset allocation. All of these steps help to mitigate any risk you might encounter in the stock market. In turn, planning before you invest your hard-earned money is extremely wise. This may require a lot of research or consulting with a financial advisor to help talk you through your unique financial situation.
Step #1: Assess Your Current Financial Situation
The first step in making an investment plan for the future is to define your present financial situation. You need to figure out how much money you have to invest. You can do this by making a budget to evaluate your monthly disposable income after expenses and emergency savings. This will allow you to determine how much you can reasonably afford to invest.
It’s also important to consider how accessible, or liquid, you need your investments to be. If you might need to cash in on your investment quickly, you would want to invest in more liquid assets , like stocks , rather than in something like real estate.
Step #2: Define Financial Goals
The next step in making an investment plan is to define your financial goals . Why are you investing? What are you hoping to earn money for? This can be anything from buying a car in a few years to retiring comfortably many years down the road.
You must also define your goal timeline, or time horizon. How quickly do you want to make money from your investments? Do you want to see quick growth, or are you interested in seeing investment growth over time?
All of your goals can be summed up in three main categories: safety, income and growth. Safety is when you are looking to maintain your current level of wealth, income is when you want investments to provide active income to live off of and growth is when you want to build wealth over the long term. You can determine the best investment path for you based on which of these three categories your goals fall into.
Step #3: Determine Risk Tolerance and Time Horizon
The next step in crafting your investment plan is to decide how much risk you are willing to take. Generally speaking, the younger you are, the more risk you can take, since your portfolio has time to recover from any losses. If you are older, you should seek less risky investments and instead invest more money upfront to spur growth.
Additionally, riskier investments have the potential for significant returns – but also major losses. Taking a chance on an undervalued stock or piece of land could prove fruitful, or you could lose your investment. If you are looking to build wealth over years, you may want to choose a safer investment path.
Determining your time horizon is fairly simple compared to its risk counterpart. The term essentially means about when do you want to begin pulling from your investments for your ultimate financial goal. For the vast majority of Americans, time horizon is basically synonymous with retirement.
By figuring out your risk tolerance and time horizon, you can build a reliable asset allocation for yourself. This entails taking your investor profile, figuring out what you should invest in and what percentage of your overall portfolio each investment type should take up. Try using SmartAsset’s asset allocation calculator to get started.
Step #4: Decide What to Invest In
The final step is to decide where to invest. There are many different accounts you can use for your investments. Your budget, goals and risk tolerance will help guide you towards the right types of investment for you. Consider securities like stocks, bonds and mutual funds, long-term options like 401(k) plans and IRAs, bank savings accounts or CDs, and 529 plans for education savings. You can even invest in real estate, art and other physical items.
Wherever you device to invest, make sure to diversify your portfolio . You don’t want to put all of your money into stocks and risk losing everything if the stock market crashes, for example. It’s best to allocate your assets to a few different investment types that fit in with your goals and risk tolerance in order to maximize your growth and stability.
Once you reach this step in the process, it may be appropriate to find a financial advisor . An advisor can help you determine the best ways to invest your money based on your current financial situation and goals.
Step #5: Monitor and Rebalance Your Investments
Once you have made your investments, it’s not wise to just leave them alone. Every so often, you should check in to see how your investments are performing and decide if you need to rebalance.
For example, maybe you aren’t putting enough money into your investments monthly and you aren’t on track to reach your goals, or maybe you’re depositing more than you need to and you’re ahead of schedule. Maybe you want to move your money to a more stable investment as you get closer to achieving your long-term goals, or maybe your investments are performing well and you want to take on even more risk to reach your goals sooner.
Once you feel like your investment plan is in good shape, you’ll want to consider rebalancing your portfolio . This involves bringing your portfolio’s composition back to its intended asset allocation. For instance, let’s say your stock investments performed much better than the rest of your portfolio. In order to keep your proper asset allocation in place, it may make sense to sell some of your stocks and redistribute that money to other investment types. These could include bonds, CDs, ETFs and more.
Just like anything else in the realm of personal finance, becoming a good investor requires research and experience. If it’s your first time investing, the experience will come, so focus on soaking up information about the different types of investments that are available to you. Once you’re ready to move forward with investing you get to then start your research on finding the best brokerage to work with.
Investing Tips for Beginners
- If you’re new to the investment game, don’t hesitate to ask for help from a professional. Financial advisors typically specialize in investing and financial planning, making them great partners for newbies. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now .
- Start investing sooner rather than later. Once you have an emergency fund in place and your debts in check, start investing. The sooner you start, the more risk you can afford to take and the more investment growth you’ll experience over time.
Photo credit: ©iStock.commapodile, ©iStock.comChristianChan, ©iStock.comNicoElNino
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How to Write a Winning Business Plan
- Stanley R. Rich
- David E. Gumpert
The business plan admits the entrepreneur to the investment process. Without a plan furnished in advance, many investor groups won’t even grant an interview. And the plan must be outstanding if it is to win investment funds. Too many entrepreneurs, though, continue to believe that if they build a better mousetrap, the world will beat […]
The Idea in Brief
You’ve got a great idea for a new product or service—how can you persuade investors to support it? Flashy PowerPoint slides aren’t enough; you need a winning business plan. A compelling plan accurately reflects the viewpoints of your three key constituencies: the market , potential investors , and the producer (the entrepreneur or inventor of the new offering).
But too many plans are written solely from the perspective of the producer. The problem is that, unless you’ve got your own capital to finance your venture, the only way you’ll get the funding you need is to satisfy the market’s and investors’ needs.
Here’s how to grab their attention.
The Idea in Practice
Emphasize Market Needs
To make a convincing case that a substantial market exists, establish market interest and document your claims.
Establish market interest. Provide evidence that customers are intrigued by your claims about the benefits of the new product or service:
- Let some customers use a product prototype; then get written evaluations.
- Offer the product to a few potential customers at a deep discount if they pay part of the production cost. This lets you determine whether potential buyers even exist.
- Use “reference installations”—statements from initial users, sales reps, distributors, and would-be customers who have seen the product demonstrated.
Document your claims. You’ve established market interest. Now use data to support your assertions about potential growth rates of sales and profits.
- Specify the number of potential customers, the size of their businesses, and the size that is most appropriate to your offering. Remember: Bigger isn’t necessarily better; e.g., saving $10,000 per year in chemical use may mean a lot to a modest company but not to a Du Pont.
- Show the nature of the industry; e.g., franchised weight-loss clinics might grow fast, but they can decline rapidly when competition stiffens. State how you will continually innovate to survive.
- Project realistic growth rates at which customers will accept—and buy—your offering. From there, assemble a credible sales plan and project plant and staffing needs.
Address Investor Needs
Cashing out. Show when and how investors may liquidate their holdings. Venture capital firms usually want to cash out in three to seven years; professional investors look for a large capital appreciation.
Making sound projections. Give realistic, five-year forecasts of profitability. Don’t skimp on the numbers, get overly optimistic about them, or blanket your plan with a smog of figures covering every possible variation.
The price. To figure out how much to invest in your offering, investors calculate your company’s value on the basis of results expected five years after they invest. They’ll want a 35 to 40% return for mature companies—up to 60% for less mature ventures. To make a convincing case for a rich return, get a product in the hands of representative customers—and demonstrate substantial market interest.
The business plan admits the entrepreneur to the investment process. Without a plan furnished in advance, many investor groups won’t even grant an interview. And the plan must be outstanding if it is to win investment funds.
Too many entrepreneurs, though, continue to believe that if they build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to their door. A good mousetrap is important, but it’s only part of meeting the challenge. Also important is satisfying the needs of marketers and investors. Marketers want to see evidence of customer interest and a viable market. Investors want to know when they can cash out and how good the financial projections are. Drawing on their own experiences and those of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum, the authors show entrepreneurs how to write convincing and winning business plans.
A comprehensive, carefully thought-out business plan is essential to the success of entrepreneurs and corporate managers. Whether you are starting up a new business, seeking additional capital for existing product lines, or proposing a new activity in a corporate division, you will never face a more challenging writing assignment than the preparation of a business plan.
Only a well-conceived and well-packaged plan can win the necessary investment and support for your idea. It must describe the company or proposed project accurately and attractively. Even though its subject is a moving target, the plan must detail the company’s or the project’s present status, current needs, and expected future. You must present and justify ongoing and changing resource requirements, marketing decisions, financial projections, production demands, and personnel needs in logical and convincing fashion.
Because they struggle so hard to assemble, organize, describe, and document so much, it is not surprising that managers sometimes overlook the fundamentals. We have found that the most important one is the accurate reflection of the viewpoints of three constituencies.
1. The market, including both existing and prospective clients, customers, and users of the planned product or service.
2. The investors, whether of financial or other resources.
3. The producer, whether the entrepreneur or the inventor.
Too many business plans are written solely from the viewpoint of the third constituency—the producer. They describe the underlying technology or creativity of the proposed product or service in glowing terms and at great length. They neglect the constituencies that give the venture its financial viability—the market and the investor.
Take the case of five executives seeking financing to establish their own engineering consulting firm. In their business plan, they listed a dozen types of specialized engineering services and estimated their annual sales and profit growth at 20%. But the executives did not determine which of the proposed dozen services their potential clients really needed and which would be most profitable. By neglecting to examine these issues closely, they ignored the possibility that the marketplace might want some services not among the dozen listed.
Moreover, they failed to indicate the price of new shares or the percentage available to investors. Dealing with the investor’s perspective was important because—for a new venture, at least—backers seek a return of 40% to 60% on their capital, compounded annually. The expected sales and profit growth rates of 20% could not provide the necessary return unless the founders gave up a substantial share of the company.
In fact, the executives had only considered their own perspective—including the new company’s services, organization, and projected results. Because they had not convincingly demonstrated why potential customers would buy the services or how investors would make an adequate return (or when and how they could cash out), their business plan lacked the credibility necessary for raising the investment funds needed.
We have had experience in both evaluating business plans and organizing and observing presentations and investor responses at sessions of the MIT Enterprise Forum. We believe that business plans must deal convincingly with marketing and investor considerations. This reading identifies and evaluates those considerations and explains how business plans can be written to satisfy them.
The MIT Enterprise Forum
Organized under the auspices of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Alumni Association in 1978, the MIT Enterprise Forum offers businesses at a critical stage of development an opportunity to obtain counsel from a panel of experts on steps to take to achieve their goals.
In monthly evening sessions the forum evaluates the business plans of companies accepted for presentation during 60- to 90-minute segments in which no holds are barred. The format allows each presenter 20 minutes to summarize a business plan orally. Each panelist reviews the written business plan in advance of the sessions. Then each of four panelists—who are venture capitalists, bankers, marketing specialists, successful entrepreneurs, MIT professors, or other experts—spends five to ten minutes assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the plan and the enterprise and suggesting improvements.
In some cases, the panelists suggest a completely new direction. In others, they advise more effective implementation of existing policies. Their comments range over the spectrum of business issues.
Sessions are open to the public and usually draw about 300 people, most of them financiers, business executives, accountants, lawyers, consultants, and others with special interest in emerging companies. Following the panelists’ evaluations, audience members can ask questions and offer comments.
Presenters have the opportunity to respond to the evaluations and suggestions offered. They also receive written evaluations of the oral presentation from audience members. (The entrepreneur doesn’t make the written plan available to the audience.) These monthly sessions are held primarily for companies that have advanced beyond the start-up stage. They tend to be from one to ten years old and in need of expansion capital.
The MIT Enterprise Forum’s success at its home base in Cambridge, Massachusetts has led MIT alumni to establish forums in New York, Washington, Houston, Chicago, and Amsterdam, among other cities.
Emphasize the Market
Investors want to put their money into market-driven rather than technology-driven or service-driven companies. The potential of the product’s markets, sales, and profit is far more important than its attractiveness or technical features.
You can make a convincing case for the existence of a good market by demonstrating user benefit, identifying marketplace interest, and documenting market claims.
Show the User’s Benefit
It’s easy even for experts to overlook this basic notion. At an MIT Enterprise Forum session an entrepreneur spent the bulk of his 20-minute presentation period extolling the virtues of his company’s product—an instrument to control certain aspects of the production process in the textile industry. He concluded with some financial projections looking five years down the road.
The first panelist to react to the business plan—a partner in a venture capital firm—was completely negative about the company’s prospects for obtaining investment funds because, he stated, its market was in a depressed industry.
Another panelist asked, “How long does it take your product to pay for itself in decreased production costs?” The presenter immediately responded, “Six months.” The second panelist replied, “That’s the most important thing you’ve said tonight.”
The venture capitalist quickly reversed his original opinion. He said he would back a company in almost any industry if it could prove such an important user benefit—and emphasize it in its sales approach. After all, if it paid back the customer’s cost in six months, the product would after that time essentially “print money.”
The venture capitalist knew that instruments, machinery, and services that pay for themselves in less than one year are mandatory purchases for many potential customers. If this payback period is less than two years, it is a probable purchase; beyond three years, they do not back the product.
The MIT panel advised the entrepreneur to recast his business plan so that it emphasized the short payback period and played down the self-serving discussion about product innovation. The executive took the advice and rewrote the plan in easily understandable terms. His company is doing very well and has made the transition from a technology-driven to a market-driven company.
Find out the Market’s Interest
Calculating the user’s benefit is only the first step. An entrepreneur must also give evidence that customers are intrigued with the user’s benefit claims and that they like the product or service. The business plan must reflect clear positive responses of customer prospects to the question “Having heard our pitch, will you buy?” Without them, an investment usually won’t be made.
How can start-up businesses—some of which may have only a prototype product or an idea for a service—appropriately gauge market reaction? One executive of a smaller company had put together a prototype of a device that enables personal computers to handle telephone messages. He needed to demonstrate that customers would buy the product, but the company had exhausted its cash resources and was thus unable to build and sell the item in quantity.
The executives wondered how to get around the problem. The MIT panel offered two possible responses. First, the founders might allow a few customers to use the prototype and obtain written evaluations of the product and the extent of their interest when it became available.
Second, the founders might offer the product to a few potential customers at a substantial price discount if they paid part of the cost—say one-third—up front so that the company could build it. The company could not only find out whether potential buyers existed but also demonstrate the product to potential investors in real-life installations.
In the same way, an entrepreneur might offer a proposed new service at a discount to initial customers as a prototype if the customers agreed to serve as references in marketing the service to others.
For a new product, nothing succeeds as well as letters of support and appreciation from some significant potential customers, along with “reference installations.” You can use such third-party statements—from would-be customers to whom you have demonstrated the product, initial users, sales representatives, or distributors—to show that you have indeed discovered a sound market that needs your product or service.
You can obtain letters from users even if the product is only in prototype form. You can install it experimentally with a potential user to whom you will sell it at or below cost in return for information on its benefits and an agreement to talk to sales prospects or investors. In an appendix to the business plan or in a separate volume, you can include letters attesting to the value of the product from experimental customers.
Document Your Claims
Having established a market interest, you must use carefully analyzed data to support your assertions about the market and the growth rate of sales and profits. Too often, executives think “If we’re smart, we’ll be able to get about 10% of the market” and “Even if we only get 1% of such a huge market, we’ll be in good shape.”
Investors know that there’s no guarantee a new company will get any business, regardless of market size. Even if the company makes such claims based on fact—as borne out, for example, by evidence of customer interest—they can quickly crumble if the company does not carefully gather and analyze supporting data.
One example of this danger surfaced in a business plan that came before the MIT Enterprise Forum. An entrepreneur wanted to sell a service to small businesses. He reasoned that he could have 170,000 customers if he penetrated even 1% of the market of 17 million small enterprises in the United States. The panel pointed out that anywhere from 11 million to 14 million of such so-called small businesses were really sole proprietorships or part-time businesses. The total number of full-time small businesses with employees was actually between 3 million and 6 million and represented a real potential market far beneath the company’s original projections—and prospects.
Similarly, in a business plan relating to the sale of certain equipment to apple growers, you must have U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics to discover the number of growers who could use the equipment. If your equipment is useful only to growers with 50 acres or more, then you need to determine how many growers have farms of that size, that is, how many are minor producers with only an acre or two of apple trees.
A realistic business plan needs to specify the number of potential customers, the size of their businesses, and which size is most appropriate to the offered products or services. Sometimes bigger is not better. For example, a saving of $10,000 per year in chemical use may be significant to a modest company but unimportant to a Du Pont or a Monsanto.
Such marketing research should also show the nature of the industry. Few industries are more conservative than banking and public utilities. The number of potential customers is relatively small, and industry acceptance of new products or services is painfully slow, no matter how good the products and services have proven to be. Even so, most of the customers are well known and while they may act slowly, they have the buying power that makes the wait worthwhile.
At the other end of the industrial spectrum are extremely fast-growing and fast-changing operations such as franchised weight-loss clinics and computer software companies. Here the problem is reversed. While some companies have achieved multi-million-dollar sales in just a few years, they are vulnerable to declines of similar proportions from competitors. These companies must innovate constantly so that potential competitors will be discouraged from entering the marketplace.
You must convincingly project the rate of acceptance for the product or service—and the rate at which it is likely to be sold. From this marketing research data, you can begin assembling a credible sales plan and projecting your plant and staff needs.
Address Investors’ Needs
The marketing issues are tied to the satisfaction of investors. Once executives make a convincing case for their market penetration, they can make the financial projections that help determine whether investors will be interested in evaluating the venture and how much they will commit and at what price.
Before considering investors’ concerns in evaluating business plans, you will find it worth your while to gauge who your potential investors might be. Most of us know that for new and growing private companies, investors may be professional venture capitalists and wealthy individuals. For corporate ventures, they are the corporation itself. When a company offers shares to the public, individuals of all means become investors along with various institutions.
But one part of the investor constituency is often overlooked in the planning process—the founders of new and growing enterprises. By deciding to start and manage a business, they are committed to years of hard work and personal sacrifice. They must try to stand back and evaluate their own businesses in order to decide whether the opportunity for reward some years down the road truly justifies the risk early on.
When an entrepreneur looks at an idea objectively rather than through rose-colored glasses, the decision whether to invest may change. One entrepreneur who believed in the promise of his scientific-instruments company faced difficult marketing problems because the product was highly specialized and had, at best, few customers. Because of the entrepreneur’s heavy debt, the venture’s chance of eventual success and financial return was quite slim.
The panelists concluded that the entrepreneur would earn only as much financial return as he would have had holding a job during the next three to seven years. On the downside, he might wind up with much less in exchange for larger headaches. When he viewed the project in such dispassionate terms, the entrepreneur finally agreed and gave it up.
Investors’ primary considerations are:
Entrepreneurs frequently do not understand why investors have a short attention span. Many who see their ventures in terms of a lifetime commitment expect that anyone else who gets involved will feel the same. When investors evaluate a business plan, they consider not only whether to get in but also how and when to get out.
Because small, fast-growing companies have little cash available for dividends, the main way investors can profit is from the sale of their holdings, either when the company goes public or is sold to another business. (Large corporations that invest in new enterprises may not sell their holdings if they’re committed to integrating the venture into their organizations and realizing long-term gains from income.)
Venture capital firms usually wish to liquidate their investments in small companies in three to seven years so as to pay gains while they generate funds for investment in new ventures. The professional investor wants to cash out with a large capital appreciation.
Investors want to know that entrepreneurs have thought about how to comply with this desire. Do they expect to go public, sell the company, or buy the investors out in three to seven years? Will the proceeds provide investors with a return on invested capital commensurate with the investment risk—in the range of 35% to 60%, compounded and adjusted for inflation?
Business plans often do not show when and how investors may liquidate their holdings. For example, one entrepreneur’s software company sought $1.5 million to expand. But a panelist calculated that, to satisfy their goals, the investors “would need to own the entire company and then some.”
Making Sound Projections
Five-year forecasts of profitability help lay the groundwork for negotiating the amount investors will receive in return for their money. Investors see such financial forecasts as yardsticks against which to judge future performance.
Too often, entrepreneurs go to extremes with their numbers. In some cases, they don’t do enough work on their financials and rely on figures that are so skimpy or overoptimistic that anyone who has read more than a dozen business plans quickly sees through them.
In one MIT Enterprise Forum presentation, a management team proposing to manufacture and market scientific instruments forecast a net income after taxes of 25% of sales during the fourth and fifth years following investment. While a few industries such as computer software average such high profits, the scientific instruments business is so competitive, panelists noted, that expecting such margins is unrealistic.
In fact, the managers had grossly—and carelessly—understated some important costs. The panelists advised them to take their financial estimates back to the drawing board and before approaching investors to consult financial professionals.
Some entrepreneurs think that the financials are the business plan. They may cover the plan with a smog of numbers. Such “spreadsheet merchants,” with their pages of computer printouts covering every business variation possible and analyzing product sensitivity, completely turn off many investors.
Investors are wary even when financial projections are solidly based on realistic marketing data because fledgling companies nearly always fail to achieve their rosy profit forecasts. Officials of five major venture capital firms we surveyed said they are satisfied when new ventures reach 50% of their financial goals. They agreed that the negotiations that determine the percentage of the company purchased by the investment dollars are affected by this “projection discount factor.”
The Development Stage
All investors wish to reduce their risk. In evaluating the risk of a new and growing venture, they assess the status of the product and the management team. The farther along an enterprise is in each area, the lower the risk.
At one extreme is a single entrepreneur with an unproven idea. Unless the founder has a magnificent track record, such a venture has little chance of obtaining investment funds.
At the more desirable extreme is a venture that has an accepted product in a proven market and a competent and fully staffed management team. This business is most likely to win investment funds at the lowest costs.
Entrepreneurs who become aware of their status with investors and think it inadequate can improve it. Take the case of a young MIT engineering graduate who appeared at an MIT Enterprise Forum session with written schematics for the improvement of semiconductor-equipment production. He had documented interest by several producers and was looking for money to complete development and begin production.
The panelists advised him to concentrate first on making a prototype and assembling a management team with marketing and financial know-how to complement his product-development expertise. They explained that because he had never before started a company, he needed to show a great deal of visible progress in building his venture to allay investors’ concern about his inexperience.
Once investors understand a company qualitatively, they can begin to do some quantitative analysis. One customary way is to calculate the company’s value on the basis of the results expected in the fifth year following investment. Because risk and reward are closely related, investors believe companies with fully developed products and proven management teams should yield between 35% and 40% on their investment, while those with incomplete products and management teams are expected to bring in 60% annual compounded returns.
Investors calculate the potential worth of a company after five years to determine what percentage they must own to realize their return. Take the hypothetical case of a well-developed company expected to yield 35% annually. Investors would want to earn 4.5 times their original investment, before inflation, over a five-year period.
After allowing for the projection discount factor, investors may postulate that a company will have $20 million annual revenues after five years and a net profit of $1.5 million. Based on a conventional multiple for acquisitions of ten times earnings, the company would be worth $15 million in five years.
If the company wants $1 million of financing, it should grow to $4.5 million after five years to satisfy investors. To realize that return from a company worth $15 million, the investors would need to own a bit less than one-third. If inflation is expected to average 7.5% a year during the five-year period, however, investors would look for a value of $6.46 million as a reasonable return over five years, or 43% of the company.
For a less mature venture—from which investors would be seeking 60% annually, net of inflation—a $1 million investment would have to bring in close to $15 million in five years, with inflation figured at 7.5% annually. But few businesses can make a convincing case for such a rich return if they do not already have a product in the hands of some representative customers.
The final percentage of the company acquired by the investors is, of course, subject to some negotiation, depending on projected earnings and expected inflation.
Make It Happen
The only way to tend to your needs is to satisfy those of the market and the investors—unless you are wealthy enough to furnish your own capital to finance the venture and test out the pet product or service.
Of course, you must confront other issues before you can convince investors that the enterprise will succeed. For example, what proprietary aspects are there to the product or service? How will you provide quality control? Have you focused the venture toward a particular market segment, or are you trying to do too much? If this is answered in the context of the market and investors, the result will be more effective than if you deal with them in terms of your own wishes.
An example helps illustrate the potential conflicts. An entrepreneur at an MIT Enterprise Forum session projected R&D spending of about half of gross sales revenues for his specialty chemical venture. A panelist who had analyzed comparable organic chemical suppliers asked why the company’s R&D spending was so much higher than the industry average of 5% of gross revenues.
The entrepreneur explained that he wanted to continually develop new products in his field. While admitting his purpose was admirable, the panel unanimously advised him to bring his spending into line with the industry’s. The presenter ignored the advice; he failed to obtain the needed financing and eventually went out of business.
Once you accept the idea that you should satisfy the market and the investors, you face the challenge of organizing your data into a convincing document so that you can sell your venture to investors and customers. We have provided some presentation guidelines in the insert called “Packaging Is Important.”
Packaging Is Important
A business plan gives financiers their first impressions of a company and its principals.
Potential investors expect the plan to look good, but not too good; to be the right length; to clearly and cisely explain early on all aspects of the company’s business; and not to contain bad grammar and typographical or spelling errors.
Investors are looking for evidence that the principals treat their own property with care—and will likewise treat the investment carefully. In other words, form as well as content is important, and investors know that good form reflects good content and vice versa.
Among the format issues we think most important are the following:
The binding and printing must not be sloppy; neither should the presentation be too lavish. A stapled compilation of photocopied pages usually looks amateurish, while bookbinding with typeset pages may arouse concern about excessive and inappropriate spending. A plastic spiral binding holding together a pair of cover sheets of a single color provides both a neat appearance and sufficient strength to withstand the handling of a number of people without damage.
A business plan should be no more than 40 pages long. The first draft will likely exceed that, but editing should produce a final version that fits within the 40-page ideal. Adherence to this length forces entrepreneurs to sharpen their ideas and results in a document likely to hold investors’ attention.
Background details can be included in an additional volume. Entrepreneurs can make this material available to investors during the investigative period after the initial expression of interest.
The Cover and Title Page
The cover should bear the name of the company, its address and phone number, and the month and year in which the plan is issued. Surprisingly, a large number of business plans are submitted to potential investors without return addresses or phone numbers. An interested investor wants to be able to contact a company easily and to request further information or express an interest, either in the company or in some aspect of the plan.
Inside the front cover should be a well-designed title page on which the cover information is repeated and, in an upper or a lower corner, the legend “Copy number______” provided. Besides helping entrepreneurs keep track of plans in circulation, holding down the number of copies outstanding—usually to no more than 20—has a psychological advantage. After all, no investor likes to think that the prospective investment is shopworn.
The Executive Summary
The two pages immediately following the title page should concisely explain the company’s current status, its products or services, the benefits to customers, the financial forecasts, the venture’s objectives in three to seven years, the amount of financing needed, and how investors will benefit.
This is a tall order for a two-page summary, but it will either sell investors on reading the rest of the plan or convince them to forget the whole thing.
The Table of Contents
After the executive summary include a well-designed table of contents. List each of the business plan’s sections and mark the pages for each section.
Even though we might wish it were not so, writing effective business plans is as much an art as it is a science. The idea of a master document whose blanks executives can merely fill in—much in the way lawyers use sample wills or real estate agreements—is appealing but unrealistic.
Businesses differ in key marketing, production, and financial issues. Their plans must reflect such differences and must emphasize appropriate areas and deemphasize minor issues. Remember that investors view a plan as a distillation of the objectives and character of the business and its executives. A cookie-cutter, fill-in-the-blanks plan or, worse yet, a computer-generated package, will turn them off.
Write your business plans by looking outward to your key constituencies rather than by looking inward at what suits you best. You will save valuable time and energy this way and improve your chances of winning investors and customers.
- SR Mr. Rich has helped found seven technologically based businesses, the most recent being Advanced Energy Dynamics Inc. of Natick, Massachusetts. He is also a cofounder and has been chairman of the MIT Enterprise forum, which assists emerging growth companies.
- DG Mr. Gumpert is an associate editor of HBR, where he specializes in small business and marketing. He has written several HBR articles, the most recent of which was “The Heart of Entrepreneurship,” coauthored by Howard. H. Stevenson (March–April 1985). This article is adapted from Business Plans That Win $$$ : Lessons from the MIT Enterprise Forum, by Messrs. Rich and Gumpert (Harper & Row, 1985). The authors are also founders of Venture Resource Associates of Grantham, New Hampshire, which provides planning and strategic services to growing enterprises.
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Writing A Winning Business Plan
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Write a business plan
Download free business plan templates and find help and advice on how to write your business plan.
Business plan templates
Download a free business plan template on The Prince’s Trust website.
You can also download a free cash flow forecast template or a business plan template on the Start Up Loans website to help you manage your finances.
Business plan examples
Read example business plans on the Bplans website.
How to write a business plan
Get detailed information about how to write a business plan on the Start Up Donut website.
Why you need a business plan
A business plan is a written document that describes your business. It covers objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts.
A business plan helps you to:
- clarify your business idea
- spot potential problems
- set out your goals
- measure your progress
You’ll need a business plan if you want to secure investment or a loan from a bank. Read about the finance options available for businesses on the Business Finance Guide website.
It can also help to convince customers, suppliers and potential employees to support you.
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