Understanding the mysteries for writing a successful business plan: Guidelines for students

Thursday, December 13, 2012
By Kevin S. Chen, Ph.D., CMC
Chancellor University Adjunct Faculty Member, College of Business

Business, business plan, Chancellor UniversityWriting a business plan can be such a daunting process to many students. There seem to be countless ways to write a business plan. As a certified management consultant providing business plan services to clients for over 25 years and teaching concepts of business plans for over 10 years, I have seen a basic and common theme to writing a successful business plan.

Undoubtedly, it starts with basic details. In Microsoft Word, students should create the blank sections with the headings as follows: Executive Summary, Mission Statement, Company, Product/Services, Marketing, Operations, Management, and Financials.

Okay… now that that is done, what is next? Students should type in short statements of information in each appropriate section. Note: Choose a business with products/services that you have a passion for and keep in mind that your business plan will be unique for your own situation and not be the same as sample business plans that you can find in the Internet.

However, there are some useful sites that can provide some valuable guidelines for your business plan such as www.bplans.com, www.entrepreneur.com and www.sba.gov. Do not think that your business plan needs to include everything that the sample plans have. The sample business plans will be based upon market, management and financial circumstances that differ from your business plan.  

What should your short statements comprise of in each section? Bullet points can help you organize your statements.

Executive Summary: This is a summary of your business plan and is the first section that appears in the business plan. Often interested readers (potential investors) will only read this section of your business plan. It is best to complete this section after completing all the other sections of the business plan.     

Mission Statement: This is what you tell others about what your business is all about and what you want to do.

Company: This is about your business legal structure and company history. Your business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats should be listed. Major competitors and competitive position are often mentioned as well as potential target markets and customers.    

Product/Services: This is all about your product and services. How does your product and/or service benefit consumers and how unique is it compared to the competition?

Marketing: This is about the Market Analysis (segmentation and target market) and the Marketing Plan (marketing strategies, pricing structure and policies, advertising and promotions, etc.).

Operations: This is all about the operating details to run the business.

Management: This is about the key personnel that will operate the business now and in the projected future. Included is the organizational structure and managerial philosophies.

Financials: This is about financial statements that include cash flow, budgeting, income projections, etc.

After all your details are listed, revisit each one to determine if additional details need to be added or removed. If you think you are missing an important detail, take a look at sample business plans. The sample plans will help you organize your business plan sections. See how the business plans are written. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel but you must remember that your business plan is to be unique for your particular situation (market, management, and financials will likely differ).

Successful business plans will undergo modifications as the business adapts and overcomes challenges. Economic and competitive environments will constantly change. Anticipating and preparing for these changes will help increase the success of your business.

As you can see, there is really no mystery to writing a business plan. However, the success of it depends on the specific details that you provide to prepare for growth and challenges that your business will encounter.         
AUTHOR: Kevin Chen

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