A comprehensive business plan explains what your business is and where it plans to go in the future. Now, while those answers may seem simple enough, understand that this is called a “comprehensive” business plan for a reason – there’s so much more that goes into it than just a surface level answer.
In fact, the point of drafting this plan is not only so you have a clear vision and goal for your business, but also so that potential future partners and investors can fully understand this venture as well, and how viable it is. Therefore a comprehensive business plan must go far beyond a few paragraph explanation of what your business is.
Instead, you should really think of your comprehensive business plan as a report that is as well researched, thorough, and as concise as possible. Instead of going for bold, unprovable claims, like “We’re the next Starbucks,” you’ll want to focus on concrete facts and achievable goals, all while keeping the reader’s interest.
While we’ll go into each of the components that must be included in a comprehensive business plan below, keep in mind that some of the biggest factors that must be included are your business model, target market, provided product and/or service, management summary, and projected profit. Meaning, yes, your comprehensive business plan needs to include more than just words, but also numbers, graphs, and statistics that prove your business will be viable, that you’ve done your research, and that you can be trusted as a reliable businessman.
Why Do You Need a Comprehensive Business Plan?
In one word, your comprehensive business plan needs to convince. Who does it need to convince?
Well, lots of important stakeholders in your business, with the most important one being you!
Yes you, meaning the founder, CEO, and/or entrepreneur in charge. Why? Because, if you’re not convinced of your business model, plan, or strategy on paper, then who will be?
And so, later on in this post, as we review everything that needs to be included in a comprehensive business plan, do stop and ask yourself, “If I were a third party reading this, would I be convinced?” If the answer happens to be no, then simply take a deep breath and reevaluate. Because the sooner you intercept and remedy any issues or shortcomings your business may have, the quicker your business becomes the stronger, profit-generating machine you’ve been dreaming of!
Therefore, once you’re convinced of all parts of your business plan, you’re going to want to be sure other future readers, like potential partners, investors, or high level employees will be convinced too. And more than convinced, they should be compelled to or inspired by your plan that this business plan is thorough and foolproof…and they should want to be involved.
Therefore, since in some respects your comprehensive business plan does work like a persuasive document, it definitely can’t hurt to have a few pairs of eyes look over it once it’s done being drafted. This way you can identify common points of confusion or concern and remedy them before real stakeholders get their hands on it.
Even more than convincing others though, your comprehensive business plan should also provide your business with a vision for the future. As best-selling author and world renown salesman Og Mandino once said, “The victory of success is half won when one gains the habit of setting and achieving goals.”
To establish a solid foundation for a business is one thing, but to set up a vision and strategy plan to ensure its long term success and growth is another…and your comprehensive business plan should successfully do both!
Now, while that may sound overwhelming, remember that no great business becomes great overnight (Amazon did start out just by selling books…remember?) and the same is true for a comprehensive business plan.
What your first version of a comprehensive business plan looks like may not resemble what it looks like in five years, or even five months. But it is a firm jumping off point, and no business will get off the ground without that first initial commitment to getting started.
How is a Comprehensive Business Plan Different from a Lean Business Plan?
Not to be confused with a comprehensive business plan, a lean business plan is a more abbreviated version. As you see all of the components that should be included in a comprehensive business plan below, know that a lean business plan only includes a fraction of this information.
So why would someone spend all their time and money writing up a comprehensive business plan if a lean business plan is an option? Well, a lean business plan is less thorough and therefore not always the best document to write up. For example, if your business model is complicated, or heavily diverts from a more traditional business model, a comprehensive business plan is definitely the better way to go for your business, as you’ll have more data and information included to convince the reader (and yourself) that this new model of business is still viable.
Additionally, if you plan on gaining financial assistance or taking on team members in order to grow your business – there’s no question, you need a comprehensive business plan. As investors, lenders, and the like want as much information as possible to ensure this is not a risky investment.
What Should a Comprehensive Business Plan Include?
As you look at this guideline below, don’t think of some of the listed parts as optional, or think of this as a “pick and choose” formula. Believe it or not, all of these components are expected to be in a comprehensive business plan, as they all serve their own very important function. And an experienced partner, lender, or investor will keep their eye out for all of them.
Whether it’s to explain your business, prove its profitability, or explore future goals, all of these sections are crucial to include thoroughly in your comprehensive business plan, with supporting statistics.
|What should it include?||Format?|
|Executive Summary||· Brief introduction to the business · Type of business i.e. LLC, S corp. · Place of business/place of business registration · Promising statistics · Overview of future goals · Company’s main objectives · Company’s mission statement||Paragraphs with subheadings i.e. “Company Objectives” “Mission Statement” etc. Concise, thorough, and enticing|
|Company Description (Sometimes called, Company Summary)||· Business name and location · The product(s)/service(s) your business provides · Owners/Active partners · Itemized funding, assets, and expenses||· Charts and graphs as you see fit · Itemized funding, assets, and expenses|
|Market Analysis||· Market trends · Market growth · Overview of competition · Major competitors · Census chart or bulleted statistics confirming demographics (especially important for brick and mortar/physical business locations)||Key demographic details in pie chart and/or bullet point form|
|Products and Services||Products/Services you currently offer Description of product and services|
Future of products and services
|Bullet point list of what your business currently offers 2-3 Paragraphs describing current products and services, and those of the future|
|Marketing Strategy and Implementation||· Marketing strategy · Pricing strategy (may include profit projections) · Promotion strategy · Sales strategy · Sales forecast · Business milestones||· Supporting charts and graphs to prove the viability of your marketing strategy · Bullet pointed company milestones, or goals, such as “launch company website” with intended dates of completion.|
|Management Summary||Company philosophy Key partner/employee profiles and description of responsibilities |
Flowchart/visual graphic of company’s structure
Description of benefits and salary provided to personnel
|Partner/Employee bios in paragraph form |
Appropriate graphics to represent company structure/chain of command Personnel benefit and salary in a list format/salary schedule
|Financial Plan||Important financial assumptions i.e. “These figures are assuming our restaurants operates at 40% capacity” or “Assuming property tax rate remains at x% in Orange County” |
Valuations Financial benchmarks
Projected yearly and monthly profit and loss
Projected cash flow and balance sheets
|Brief descriptions with supporting financial tables and graphs|
|Supporting Documents||Anything that was referenced within the document that is relevant, such as patents, profit and loss statements, etc.||Clear copies of official documentation; can include labeling such as “Appendix A,” “Appendix B,” etc.|
How do I Start Writing My Own Comprehensive Business Plan?
Now of course, drafting a comprehensive business plan is no easy feat, that’s why people actually make a lot of money writing them. From business consultants to freelance writers, you certainly have options for hiring out this document, although this could cost upwards of $5,000…and if you’re a new startup that’s tight on cash, that might seem like a near impossible feat at the moment.
If that’s the case, don’t fret. With tools like this business plan building software you can feel confident writing your own! While it may take some research and elbow grease, remember that a comprehensive business plan is a very important document to the success of your business, and however much time and money you can dedicate towards it will likely be worthwhile.
Remember as well, that drafting your business plan could be a great time to call upon any entrepreneurial contacts you might have. Ask to grab a cup of coffee or have a video conference so you can discuss any ideas or questions you have related to writing a comprehensive business plan. Ask if they’ll read it over once you’re done. The more experienced eyes you have reviewing and contributing to this document the better. Especially since a comprehensive business plan boils down to two very key factors: Why will my business be successful now? And why will it continue to be successful in the future?
Also, keep in mind that if $5,000 seems like an overwhelming cost right now, but something like $1,500 seems more feasible, you have options. You can always write up your initial draft independently, and then pay a business consultant or professional to tweak it into the final draft.
Just like creating a successful business, sometimes writing up a successful comprehensive business plan takes a little bit of ingenuity.
What Resources Can I use to Help Me Write My Small Business Plan?
Aside from this business plan building software, SBA.gov (the official Small Business Association National Website) also has lots of great comprehensive business plan templates and advice. And, in addition to comprehensive business plan advice, SBA.gov also has funding programs and local assistance options, so that you can make your small business dreams a reality even if you don’t have access to the necessary monetary resources at the moment.
Additionally, the sample business plans found inside of our business plan builder are a great source for more than 20 business plan categories and examples. Because sometimes as much as you research how to write a comprehensive business plan, few things will be as illuminating as looking at a well-written example and borrowing its language, format, and/or style.
Speaking of Success…
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