Monday, August 31, 2009

SBA: Essential Elements of a Good Business Plan for Growing Companies

Essential Elements of a Good Business Plan for Growing Companies

A business plan should be a work-in-progress. Even successful, growing businesses should maintain a current business plan.
As any good salesperson knows, you have to know everything you can about your products or services in order to persuade someone to buy them. In this discussion, you are the salesperson and your products represent your business. Your customers are potential investors and employees. Since you want your customers to believe in you, you must be able to convince them that you know what you are talking about when it comes to your business.

To become an expert (or to fine-tune your knowledge if you already believe you are one), you must be willing to roll up your sleeves and begin digging through information. Since not all information that you gather will be relevant to the development of your business plan, it will help you to know what you are looking for before you get started. In order to help you with this process, we have developed an outline of the essential elements a good business plan.

Every successful business plan should include something about each of the following areas, since these are what make up the essentials of a good business plan:

Part 1: The Executive Summary

The executive summary is the most important section of your business plan. It provides a concise overview of the entire plan along with a history of your company. This section tells your reader where your company is and where you want to take it. It's the first thing your readers see; therefore it is the thing that will either grab their interest and make them want to keep reading or make them want to put it down and forget about it. More than anything else, this section is important because it tells the reader why you think your business idea will be successful.

The executive summary should be the last section you write. After you've worked out all the details of your plan, you'll be in a better position to summarize it - and it should be a summary (i.e., no more than 4 pages).

Contents of the Executive Summary

  • The Mission Statement - The mission statement briefly explains the thrust of your business. It could be two words, two sentences, a paragraph, or even a single image. It should be as direct and focused as possible, and it should leave the reader with a clear picture of what your business is all about.
  • Date business began
  • Names of founders and the functions they perform
  • Number of employees
  • Location of business and any branches or subsidiaries
  • Description of plant or facilities
  • Products manufactured/services rendered
  • Banking relationships and information regarding current investors
  • Summary of company growth including financial or market highlights (e.g. your company doubled its worth in 12-month period; you became the first company in your industry to provide a certain service)
  • Summary of management's future plans - With the exception of the mission statement, all of the information in the Executive Summary should be highlighted in a brief, even bulleted, fashion. Remember, these facts are laid out in-depth further along in the plan.


If you're just starting a business, you won't have a lot of information to plug into the areas mentioned above. Instead, focus on your experience and background as well as the decisions that led you to start this particular enterprise. Include information about the problems your target market has and what solutions you provide. Show how the expertise you have will allow you to make significant inroads into the market.Tell your reader what you're going to do differently or better. Convince the reader that there is a need for your service or product, then go ahead and address your (the company's) future plans.

To assist the reader in locating specific sections in your business plan, include a table of contents directly following the executive summary. Make sure that the content titles are very broad; in other words, avoid detailed descriptions in your table of contents.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

good information

Business Plan Writer said...

Hi,
This is great work and very good information on developing a successful business plan. This post will really help beginners to learn about the basics of business plan, although it is basic but, it will help others a great deal in future.

Wayne M said...

My tips to you:

Here are six ways to speed up the application process for SBA loans:

Update your financials
To accelerate a loan's approval, prepare and provide at least three years of tax returns and up-to-date financial statements, including income and cash-flow statements, balance sheets and sales projections, says Tom Burke, the senior vice president of Wells Fargo SBA lending in Minneapolis. If you don't have a business plan, write one. And if you don't have a marketing plan, write one of those too, he says. "Business owners have to be able to show that they can pay everyone back," Burke says. (Click here for the SBA's loan application checklist.)

Tap a preferred lender
Use a preferred SBA lender such as TD Banknorth or KeyBank, Grimstead says. Conventional wisdom says business owners should consult a bank with which they already work, but if that institution doesn't currently work with SBA loan programs, the process can be take weeks longer than comparable loans at SBA-ready lenders, he says. Not only is there a massive learning curve when working with SBA programs, which are complex and change frequently, but nonpreferred lenders also have to send loans into the SBA for approval, which can take up to four weeks, Burke says. Conversely, preferred lenders are generally able to underwrite their own SBA loans, he says.

Ensure the right fit
When scanning the list of preferred lenders, find ones that cater to businesses like yours, Burke says. For instance, some banks won't authorize SBA loans to start-ups. Others may avoid restaurants or other similarly risky ventures, he says. Also, take into account differences in banks' credit policies. For instance, Wells Fargo will extend a real estate loan for 25 years, but other banks do so for just 20 years.

Hedge your bets
Even if you secure the word of a preferred lender, make sure you've applied to a couple other banks backups, Grimstead says. "Some borrowers get three or six or even 12 weeks into the process only to get a 'no' from someone at the bank," he says. To slash your risk of rejection, apply to a few different banks at the same time. (Note that going through the application process at several banks will not harm your credit, says Mulcahy, from the SBDC in Beaumont, Texas.)

Offer more backup
SBA loan programs often require less of a down payment than typical business loans, says Becky Naugle, the state director for the Kentucky Small Business Development Center at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. For instance, banks providing normal business loans might require owners to put 20% to 40% down, but banks working through an SBA program might require just 10% down. Despite this lower standard, consider putting more down or offering some sort of personal guarantee, she says. "If particularly risky business owners can mediate a [bank's] risk by having a personal guarantee, that could push it through faster," she says.

Get help
An experienced business advisor can also help push your company's loan through quicker, Burke says. Check out a local Small Business Development Center, or tap a volunteer business professional in your area via SCORE, a nonprofit business counseling service, he says. There's also at least one SBA district officer in each state whom business owners can ask questions about SBA loans.

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