In their book Write Your Business Plan, the staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. offer an in-depth understanding of what’s essential to any business plan, what’s appropriate for your venture, and what it takes to ensure success. In this edited excerpt, the authors offer a list of some non-standard items you may want to include with your business plan.
A business plan is a story, the narrative of your enterprise, and you want to maintain a certain amount of flow as you lead readers from concept to management, through marketing, and on to financials. Some material that you’d probably like to fit into your plan just doesn’t fit well into any of those sections. For instance, you may want to include resumes of some of your management team, product samples, facility photos or site plans.
For readers who want to delve deeper into the workings of your company, here are 11 extra things you may want to include in your business plan.
1. Key employee resumes.
The management section of your business plan will contain a listing and brief descriptions of the senior managers and other key employees on your team. However, many investors and lenders are going to want to know more about you and your important associates. For that purpose, you can include full resumes in an appendix or opt for a short bio highlighting the key areas of an individual’s background that are most appropriate for the current endeavor.
2. Product samples.
If your products are portable enough, such as fabric swatches, stationery samples, printing samples, software screenshots or even an app on your smartphone, you may be able to include samples in your appendix. It’s important not to overdo it with product samples. Investors tend to regard many entrepreneurs as being somewhat more product-focused than operations- or marketing-minded. By all means, provide samples if it’s feasible and helpful, but don’t expect appealing samples to overcome deficiencies in the concept, management, marketing, operations or financing schemes presented in your plan.
3. Product photos.
Appendices are good places to include photographs of products whose appearances are important or whose features are difficult to explain in words. Product photos (by a professional photographer—not taken on your cell phone) can help investors visualize what you’re talking about, especially if the concept is new and innovative.
4. Advertising samples.
It may be advisable to include examples of the advertising or marketing campaign you intend to use to market your products or services. For many companies, innovative and persuasive advertising approaches are essential to the success of the firm. Without actual examples of the ads, it may be difficult for readers to grasp the appeal and power of your marketing ideas. Screenshots of your website or Facebook page or links to your TV spots along with copies of print ads can all help demonstrate how you’ll reach your audience.
Articles in influential publications and mentions in prominent blogs or on TV shows can drive product sales. If your new software program got rave reviews in a major computer magazine, by all means, include it here. Generating favorable publicity is one of the more valuable things you can do for your business.
6. Ratings and endorsements.
You may want to include complimentary ratings, certifications or other endorsements by entities such as travel guides, associations and watchdog groups. If your hotel got an impressive number of stars from the AAA, Mobil or Michelin guides, or your restaurant got great reviews in Zagat or Yelp, you’ll probably want to mention it prominently in your plan, such as in your main marketing or concept sections. And it might not be a bad idea to include a copy of the actual certificate bearing the seal.
7. Facility photos.
Few real estate investors will buy a property without firsthand knowledge of its appearance, state of repair and general impression. When an investor is being asked to put money into your company, perhaps in exchange for partial ownership or for the specific purpose of purchasing a building, it’s a good idea to calm any concerns about the facility’s condition by providing a few good photos.
8. Site plans.
You may want to include basic factory layouts and store floor plans in the operations section of your plan. If your site plan is complex and you feel some readers would benefit from seeing some of the additional details, provide them here rather than cluttering up the main part of the plan with them. If you have a number of store locations with varying layouts, for instance, you could give an idea of how several of them will look.
9. Credit reports.
Credit reports could be included in the financial statements section of your plan. However, because bankers are the main ones who’ll be interested in credit reports, you may want to place them in a separate appendix, or simply bring them as necessary.
It’s not appropriate to discuss every last clause of even an important lease in the main section of your plan. However, there’s a chance that diligent readers will have questions about any especially significant leases that can only be answered by reading the actual documents. For these discriminating plan readers, you can include the actual leases or at least the more important sections.
11. Customer contracts.
Few things are better to include in a plan than a long-term contract with an established customer. If you’re lucky enough to have such a powerfully appealing deal in your pocket, you’ll surely want to refer to it early on in your plan. It might be a good idea to include copies of relevant sections of any really significant contracts as appendices. If the deal is as good as you think (it had better be—otherwise, you wouldn’t highlight it in your plan), then exposing potential investors to the beneficial details can only do you good. Make sure this is a contract that should result in sales and profits.
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