Every business plan is different. A company and its products and services are unique. The purpose of a business plan could be to either start a completely new business venture or grow an existing business. The audience could be investors, bankers, managers, or major suppliers. The sections or topics of a business plan may not apply to every business. Listed here are the top 10 sections that are found in most successful business plans.

The first, and most popular, part of a business plan is the Executive Summary. It provides an introduction to the company, its business opportunity, products or services, current business position, financial potential, and a closing paragraph stating what you want from the reader. Remember, this is a summary – most of these topics will be explained in more detail later in the business plan. The Executive Summary is the most important section since it will be read first and is used to entice the audience to read more of the business plan.

The second topic is the Company Background. This section tells the story of how the company began and why. It also describes the ownership of the business and business type (Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, S Corporation, C Corporation, Limited Liability Company).

The third topic is Products. It describes the product, competitors, market research and demand, and suppliers. The fourth topic is Services. This is similar to Products except that with services, a business plan needs to explain how the service will be provided. The Products and Services sections are an example of how an entrepreneur or business owner needs to apply the sections that work best for them. Some companies will have products, some will have services, and some will have both.

The fifth topic of a business plan is an analysis of the Industry, Competition, and Market. This section includes in-depth details about the current condition and trends for the industry, specific companies that will be the primary competitors, the market size, projected market growth, and the characteristics or profile of a typical customer.

The sixth section is the Marketing Plan. A marketing plan is important because it describes how the company will reach its revenue goals. It should outline the promotional plans and distribution channels, and explain pricing and the company’s competitive advantage.

The seventh section of a business plan is the Operating Plan. An operating plan talks about what is needed to operate the business, such as employees, equipment, the location, and supplies. It describes how the business will be run on a day-to-day basis.

The eighth section goes over Management, Organization, and Ownership. It will include information about outside consultants, including attorneys, accountants, and advertising professionals. Typically, investors will need to feel comfortable with the owners, advisory board, and managers before they back a venture.

The ninth section of a business plan is Goals and Strategies. Discuss business goals, such as increasing market share, expanding into new markets, adding a location, and sales revenue. It’s important that these goals are as realistic as possible.

The tenth section is the Financial Projections. This can be the most intimidating part of a business plan for most people. But, with a good idea of your expenses and projected income, business planning software can automatically prepare financial statements for you.

Business planning software helps entrepreneurs and business owners prepare their entire business plan by providing examples of each topic, practical advice, and a list of start-up resources. Even though every business plan may be different, using a standard process found in business planning software can help walk you through each of the top 10 sections found in most business plans

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