What Makes a Good Business Plan?

This is a question we get asked daily. To answer, a good business plan is the combination of proper forethought, compelling financial forecasting, experience in the respective industry and a willingness to see planning through to fruition. Without fortitude a business plan is just a stack of papers and a forgotten dream.

A good business plan shows that you are not only confident and competent in your ideas, but that you are able to project what needs to be done in the future. The plan must be well-researched, containing only facts and reasonable estimations for future projections. Your plan should be clear and concise, with attainable goals and objectives for each aspect of your plan. Most importantly, the plan should be a true representation of what your business does and how it operates.

A good plan also means that you have to become a good salesman. After all, a business plan is a sales pitch where you (the salesman) are convincing the bank or investor (the customer) that you are a winning idea. And like any good salesman, becoming intimate with the industry that you are trying to pursue will allow you to show the customer that you understand and believe in the product (your business).

No matter the audience of your business plan, every good plan must contain a section on the following:

The Executive Summary is by far the most important element of your business plan; however, it cannot be properly developed without first developing the remainder of the business plan. The Executive Summary gives the investor or lending institution insight into your business in a quick and concise manner, it also is the definitive point that compels the reader to either shred the document or to keep reading.

The Market Analysis section should give the reader an understanding of your knowledge into the industry, the target market and the overall size and behavior of the market.

The Company Description can be somewhat complex or very simple depending on the nature of your company. It should illustrate how all the elements of your business fit and work together.

Organizational & Management section of the business plan is arguably one of the most important elements. This section gives you a chance to show the structure and responsibilities of each manager and allows you to "show off" some of the skills of your talented team.

Marketing & Sales allows the reader to better understand how you are going to penetrate the market and might include both internal and external strategies. If you have a sales force, it helps you to illustrate the management structure of this force and how the salespeople will interact with the customer.

business plan writer should have a clear understanding of how each section of the business plan fits together and compliments the other sections. The financials should clearly define the projected future of the Company and how the debt is repaid or the return on investment.