How to Write a Business Plan


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  • 8
    Lessons
  • 11
    Exams &
    Assignments
  • 5
    Hours
    average time
  • 0.5
    CEUs
  • 2,318
    Students
    have taken this course
 
 
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Course Description

Most CPAs will tell you that the number one mistake people make in starting a new business is that they fail to write a business plan. Without a written set of plans and directions, a new business will struggle on many levels. You may start out doing well only to find yourself shipwrecked a year into your work. On the other hand, you may sit and struggle to ever get your business off of the ground and productive. You may find yourself struggling with small things that have simple solutions and for which the answers are easy to implement. But if your plan is not written, then you don't have a clear vision in a very literal sense of the word.

A well written business plan takes time, patience, detail, research, and a right approach to presentation. This course will walk you through the process of writing your business plan. You will learn why certain details are vitally important, which parts of your business plan can make or break your finance query with investors, and how to sharpen your public presentation of your company and its business.

You will also learn some writing tricks to help you create a polished written plan without necessarily having to hire someone to write it for you. At the end of this course, you should have enough information to make a well informed effort in writing your business plan. Happy planning! 
Plan Your Plan
  
Like anything else in life, your business plan is something that must be planned to be a successful document that will support and enhance the presentation of your company's short and long term objectives, position, market, appeal, and profitability. If you are an expanding small business, an upstart or a new non-profit organization, then you may be seeking funding or investors. For you, your business plan must exhibit excellent and well planned presentation information.

Before you take this course, you'll want to gather the following information: 

1. Executive Summary

  • Think sales pitch.  This is where investors look to get a pulse for your business, its viability, profitability, and potential for a return on their investment.
  • Think job interview. The executives you will allow to read this summary will be those in banking or merchant relationships from whom you seek favor. Be sure you write this summary so that the reader feels informed, respected, and confident in your abilities and experience.
  • All inclusive by main points. Let the reader feel the shortness of your points.
  • Remember "summary"; details are in the plan's additional sections.

 

2. Company Profile

  • Company Mission Statement.  A one sentence statement that precisely describes your company's purpose; a stated directive.
  • Company Vision Statement. The paint in the picture of your company and its direction.
  • Legal structure and month and year of company beginnings, also known as the business form; how you registered your company with the local or state authorities when you filed your paperwork.
  • Historical context. If you are a new upstart, explain how your company developed and from what historical concept. If you are an established company, you will want to include 1-3 sentences about your founding days, 1-3 sentences about your most recent company accomplishments, all the way back to major accomplishments made 5 years ago.

 

3.  Products and Services Description

  • Include products descriptions in a separate section rather than in services descriptions.
  • New products or services should be listed as "new" or "upcoming" to conveniently show steady growth.

 

4. Marketing Plan and Marketing Strategy

Marketing Research should be included here as well. Your research should include primary research information that you or your staff has conducted to determine your own local market information and demographics for your local market.

There should be a stated and outlined Marketing Strategy for getting your products or services direct exposure to the marketplace in which you hope to operate. How are you going to reach your market?

A well written Marketing Plan must include your company's "Plan of Action" for the next 2-3 years at minimum. This portion of your plan should be spelled out in detail and should perhaps include financial or market research statistics.

5.   Target Market or Customers

Your Target Market and your customers will be close in demographics, needs, and perceptions. Be prepared to find out all you can about them. Statistics on their needs and personalities will be important in this section.

  • What is it about your product or service that makes your customers exclusively attracted to your company?
  • How does your company stand out in serving your community of clients?
  • How does your product or service appeal to their needs?

 

What portion of your Target Market will be tempted from your competition? Which segments of your Target Market will become loyal to your company and why?

6. Competition

  • You must be able to succinctly state your competition's strengths and weaknesses in this section. Know what they offer that gives them an edge over your company, and if your company has the advantage, then acknowledge it and state why.
  • Your competition's range of rates must be stated either in extremes, averages, or both. How does your competition stack up to industry averages; how do you?
  • Clearly outline what it is that you offer to the client that gives your company an advantageous edge over your competition. Whenever and wherever possible be ready to exploit the rates, statistics, advertising, client requests, or any other thing to underscore to the business plan reader the clear and distinct advantage your company has over your local competition.

 

7.  Advertising and Promotions

  • Outline for the reader what type of Advertising and Promotions your company will need to run to stay in the competitive arena in your local market.
  • Offer examples of expense rates necessary to properly Advertise and Promote your products or services.
  • State any current discounts or special deals that you expect to keep in place within the next 12 to 24 months.

 

8.  Sales and Distribution

How many sales staff do you currently employ? How many do you expect to have on staff in the next 24 months?

What are your sales projections for the next 24 months? Where are you getting your calculations and how are you making your estimates? What is your company's projected sales growth [usually stated in percentages] over last year?

How are your products and services distributed? Do you have a retail outlet? Are you distributing your products or services over the internet? Using regular mail? Through some industry standard? [Example: books with a network of book stores and distributors].

9.   Operations and Operational Plan

How does your company operate on a daily basis? Are you online, on the phone, or in a retail location? Do you depend primarily on advertising, on door to door direct sales, or on phone sales?

What is your Operational Plan and how do you implement it on a daily basis?

Define the variables in your Operational Plan and how you expect them to affect your company's success.

10. Client Account Management and Credit Policies

Explain, in brief, how your company manages Client Accounts, particularly as it relates to money, billing, and collection policies.

What are your company's payment and refund policies? Be sure to have these policies posted in the public arena somewhere close to your client's purchase opportunity. If the client checks out online, make sure you have a Policy Page on your website that clearly informs the customer of these policies. If you are retail only, then make sure your policy is posted near the checkout counter. Either way, you will want to reiterate that policy and tell where it is posted in your operations within the context of this section of your business plan.

11. Accounting and Management - Cash Flow statements & Management structure

How does your company handle its accounting? Do you have a staff accountant? Do you use a monthly service? Do you handle it yourself and then have it quarterly or annually reconciled by a professional CPA? Bankers, investors and foundations are all typical sources that will be interested in this segment of your business plan. Make sure you answer their business accounting questions here so you don't get quietly eliminated without further inquiry or discussion.

Include current Cash Flow statements, at least from the last year. If you have been in business longer, include 2-3 years of quarterly or annual Cash Flow statements. Two or three pages are the maximum size for this section.

How does your management team handle finances? Do they receive monthly P&Ls (Profit and Loss) that they can reconcile and examine for financial leaks or improvements?

12. Financial Planning and Projected Balance Sheet

Take the time and invest the money in a professionally prepared Financial Plan for your company. If you are a sole proprietor, then you will include an abbreviated version of your personal Financial Plan. All other business structures cannot use any portion of their personal financial plan; rather draft a separate Financial Plan for your business and include it here.

From your best calculations, create a set of Projected Balance Sheets for the next 2 years. This helps bankers and other investors determine what your expected return-on-investment will be and how they can estimate the value of your company.

13. Appendices

This section can include any number of supporting documents, and should include as many of the following as is reasonably useful for the financial aspect of your business plan. Keep in mind here, if it doesn't help to sell the value and ROI (Return on Investment) of your company, then it doesn't belong here.

Some examples of excellent supporting documents include: preprinted advertising brochures your company distributes [sales pitch], industry or market studies, especially those published by governmental offices, and others.

There may be an occasion to leave out one or more of these segments, but if you do, then be prepared to insert a blank page with a title and a two sentence explanation as to why it is unnecessary to fully develop the missing portion.


  • Completely Online
  • Self-Paced
  • Printable Lessons
  • Full HD Video
  • 6 Months to Complete
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  • Start Anytime
  • PC & Mac Compatible
  • Android & iOS Friendly
  • Accredited CEUs
Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider
 
 

Course Lessons

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Lesson 1. Plan Your Plan

Your business plan is something that must be planned to be a successful document that will support and enhance the presentation of your company's short and long term objectives, position, market, appeal, and profitability. 16 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video
  • Complete Assignment: Lesson 1: Form of a Business Plan
  • Complete: Lesson 1 Exam

Lesson 2. Structure and Sequence

People who read your business plan should be reading the most attractive summary of you and your business available anywhere. 12 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 2 Exam

Lesson 3. Important Details

If you cover each of these details in each of the business plan's segments, then your final plan will be comprehensive and answer any banker's or investor's questions. 14 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 3 Exam

Lesson 4. The Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is perhaps the most detailed "sales oriented" business presentation you will make in everyday business interactions. 14 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video
  • Take Poll: The Importance of Executive Summary
  • Complete: Lesson 4 Exam

Lesson 5. Financials

It is especially important to upstart companies and non-profit organizations to have your financial plans and financial statements professionally prepared by your CPA or accountant. 15 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 5 Exam

Lesson 6. Market Research

Market research relates to the information that you gather on your clients and prospective clients, about their likes and dislikes, what they want and need, demographics, market prices, your competitor, and related points of interest. 17 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video
  • Complete Assignment: Lesson 6: Target Market
  • Complete: Lesson 6 Exam

Lesson 7. Competition

A Competitive Analysis is where you exhibit your knowledge of your company's competitors and what they are up to in their business. 15 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 7 Exam

Lesson 8. Support Documents and Working Your Plan

You will want to be prepared for other supporting documents that a banker or investor may require you to produce. These other documents are supporting pieces that will not be listed anywhere in your business plan. 50 Total Points
  • Lesson 8 Video
  • Take Poll: Final Presentation of Business Plan
  • Take Survey: Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course)
  • Complete: Lesson 8 Exam
  • Complete: The Final Exam
153
Total Course Points
 

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Plan your business writing plan.
  • Define structure and sequence in the scope of a business plan.
  • Describe the important details of a business writing plan.
  • Describe the executive summary.
  • Know the financials.
  • Identify and describe market research
  • Analyze the competition, and
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.
 

Additional Course Information

Online CEU Certificate
  • Document Your Lifelong Learning Achievements
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  • Display Your Certificate on Your Resume and Promote Your Achievements Using Social Media
Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
 
Course Title: How to Write a Business Plan
Course Number: 7550132
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Category:
Course Type: How To (Self-Paced, Online Class)
CEU Value: 0.5 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Instructor: Linda Zavadil
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
Course Fee: $50.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $75.00

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