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Creating a solid business plan is the first step to opening and operating a successful business. It is a key step that cannot and should not be skipped. Aside from it being a good idea to have a plan before opening a business, nearly all lenders require new entrepreneurs to submit a business plan in order to receive funding. The following guide is intended to help entrepreneurs develop stellar business plans.

Basic Summary Sections

All business plans are divided into sections, many of which are fairly universal across all types of plans. The first sections are typically general in nature. The first is usually the executive summary, which is simply a basic, concise summary of the plan. Next should be a more in-depth description of the business, including the legal structure, the business’s products and services, and a summary of company goals. Most plans also include an overview of the market/industry in which this business will operate. This is a big picture analysis that includes information on market research, competitors, industry sales and more.

Operations and Management Sections

The next sections should detail the company’s management structure and how it will operate. Information on the management structure can include naming executives and what their specific responsibilities may be, as well as detailing every level of the organization. The operations section should detail business facilities, needed employees, operating hours, descriptions of manufacturing processes and other basic operational details.

Marketing and Financial Sections

A good business plan should contain sections on how an entrepreneur plans to market their business. It should also establish both short- and long-term goals for the company. Plan to explain how the business will enter the market and promote itself to customers. The financial sections should outline the estimated operating budget, what startup costs may be needed and similar details.

Be Flexible

It’s important to remember that a business plan should reflect the needs of the business being created. Templates can help entrepreneurs write a plan, but the sections and information included within should be customized based on the kind of business and what is known about it. Entrepreneurs should not be shy about editing or changing the plan based on how their business grows and develops. Plans should be flexible and open to opportunities.