By SCORE Southern Maryland

The business plan is your pathway to profit. It can mean the difference between success and failure. A business plan with goals and actions can guide you through turbulent economic times with alternative channels which you can fall back upon as changes dictate.

Through the development of a business plan, you will be able to identify your areas of strengths and weaknesses and spot opportunities and threats which may loom on the horizon. You will review the competitive conditions of the marketplace and isolate opportunities and situations that seem advantageous to your business.

The business plan will communicate your understanding of the industry in which you operate, the competitive situation you face, the capability of your management, the suitability of your location, and the capacity of your particular business. It will make reasonable assumptions and forecasts of your expectations concerning sales, expenses, cash flow, and goal attainment.


You should enclose a letter explaining why your business plan is being sent to the addressee and what he or she is expected to do with it. The contents of the letter of transmittal typically include:

  • The identity and purpose of the business .A very short history of the business

  • The purpose of the plan (e.g. financing proposal) .Identity of the person requesting money

  • The amount and type of financing required

  • The amount of equity already invested in the business

  • The productive purpose for which the money will be used .When the money will be needed

  • The goals and market potential of the business with the new funds .Collateral and other security offered


You should start the plan with a title page which identifies the name of the business; title of the plan; date, copy and revision number, if applicable; and instructions regarding confidentiality, reproduction, and dissemination of the plan.


A one page summary of the plan should be presented next. It is not necessary to cover the contents of the letter of transmittal or all of the sections of the plan in the executive summary .The summary must identify the purpose of the business, its short term goals and the means by which they will be reached.


The table of contents lists the major divisions and subdivisions of your plan. The page number where the section begins is also indicated. Sections are usually numbered and appendices are lettered. Typical contents, and the contents of this outline

I. The Business

II. Products or Services Offered

III. Market Analysis

IV. Approach to Selling

V. Production Process

VI. Management and Personnel

VII. Financial Data

VIII. Summary and Conclusions

IX. Appendices and Supporting Documents



The purpose of this section is to explain to the targeted reader what you are as a business. who the intended customer is, what you are trying to accomplish through your business. and where you wish to go to in the future.

  1. What is the current status of the business and its organization?

1. Start-up

2. Expansion of a going concern

3. Acquisition

4. Sole proprietorship, partnership. or corporation

  1. Short history of your business

1. Age

2. Goals and objectives

3. Opportunities and successes experienced

4. Problems which have been overcome

5. How financed?

  1. Management’s investment

  2. Retained earnings

  3. Debt

6. Operating days and hours

  1. What is your business?

1. What products or services do you offer?

2. What do your products or services do for your customer -what value do they obtain from you?

3. Who are your customers? 

4. Are your products purchased primarily within:

  1. A geographical area

  2. Particular season

  3. In certain stores or channels of distribution

  4. Where is your business located?

  5. What will be special about your business?

1. Does this specialty (attribute) differentiate you from your competitors?

2. How will your individual strengths and business specialties allow you to successfully compete?

  1. What are the short and long-term goals of the business?

1. Are these goals realistic, measurable, and attainable?

2. Do these goals offer adequate protection and return to you, your investors, and debtors?

3. What issues must be addressed related to the chosen goals:

a. New products/services/ markets

b. Capabilities and number of employees

c. Financing amount and its sources

d. Capacity of plant and equipment

4. What steps must be taken in order to meet your desired results?

a. Time frame with necessary “controls”

b. Critical checkpoints to measure progress

c. Who will do the reporting and monitoring


This section describes your products or services in sufficient detail so that the reader knows what you are offering, what utility the customer receives from your product or service, and how the customer prefers to buy and pay. Remember who is reading your plan Generally, this section should be written such that it is easily understood by a layperson.

A. What are the specific products or services that you sell (or plan to sell)?

B. Do you possess any proprietary positions on your products or services such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, market position, or legal or technical considerations? Place applicable diagrams and documents in the appendix.

C. What are some of the other factors that your customers perceive as a part of their purchase?

1. Savings

2. Convenience

3. Personal Service

4. Status

5. Safety

D. How do your products or services compare to those of your competitors?

1. If they are not unique, why would people buy from you?

2. Are you able to differentiate your products or services from those of your competitors based on the above?

3. Do you plan to market future .new. products or services?


Provide an analysis of the industry: customers, market, and competition in sufficient detail that the reader knows that you understand what it takes to succeed in your industry.

A. The Industry

1. What industry are you in?

2. What are the major trends within the industry?

3. Is the industry in a growth phase?

4. What uncontrollable variables (government regulations, economy, technology, etc. ) could affect the industry?

B. Customers

1. Who are your target markets (to whom do you sell)?

a. Who are your main customers?

b. What is their buying trend with you?

c. Who are the people making the buying decisions and what needs are they trying to fulfill?

d. Why do your target markets buy your products or services?

2. When do they do their purchasing?

a. Sporadically (car. travel)?

b. Weekly (groceries, gas for the car)?

c. Annually (insurance)?

d. Seasonally (holiday items, sporting goods)?

3. How does the customer like to pay for the product or service?

a. Cash or credit?

b. How will you offset delinquent payment by your customer?

4. Do your customers purchase in small or large quantities?

5. What are the ways that your target markets find out about you? Describe your advertising and promo,

C. Market Sire and Trends

1. What are the characteristics of your target markets?

  1. Demographics (age, sex, income, profession)?

  2. b. How were these characteristics determined?

1. Survey

2. Literature review

3. Manufacturer or trade association

4. Discussions with customers, suppliers, distributors, etc.

2. What is the current size of the market(s) you serve?

3. Is the market competitive?

a. Does your business retain a profitable share?

b. Does the market have a potential for added growth?

4. If the market does grow, do you have the resources that are needed to maintain your current share;

5. In what ways will you attract additional customers to your business?

D. Location

1. Where is the business located?

2. How would you describe the area? Is it compatible with the needs your customers are trying to fulfill?

3. For the area of your location, what are the expected population trends?

4. What are the advantages of your business location?

  1. Easily accessible?

  2. Close to your customers?

  3. Close to your suppliers?

5. Do you know the local zoning laws?

6. Are there any new area developments upcoming in the next five years which could affect your business?

E. Competition

1. Who are the key competitors in your market and market segment?

2. Is their business currently increasing, decreasing or steady?

3. What are your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses?

4. Do your business strengths and weaknesses match up favorably with theirs?

5. How will your operation be better than theirs?

6. Why will customers buy from you rather than them?


This is your opportunity to express your philosophy toward sales. All businesses must sell -be it to other businesses, the government, or the general public. Your philosophy toward service, returns, promotion, and price will markedly affect your sales and, ultimately, your success as a business. Factors typically considered in the selling process are:

A. Overall Strategy and Approach

1. Major sales emphasis

  1. Service

  2. Price

  3. Convenience

  4. Philosophy concerning the customer

B. Selling Tactics

1. Direct

2. Executive selling

3. Manufacturers’ representatives

4. Distributors

5. Retailers

  1. National chains

  2. Regional chains

  3. Independents

  4. Mailorder

  5. Telemarketing

C. Pricing Objectives

1. Profit oriented -Maximizes profit (practiced over a long-time period). Look at total output rather than single items. Uses return on sales, percentage return on sales to net sales, or sales to net investment.

2. Sales oriented - Percentage increase over previous periods. Might use a lower price to increase market share or to gain a foothold in the market.

3. Status Quo - Uses price leadership with the leader stabilizing the price or competitive pricing where the others follow the leader.

4. Market-oriented

a. Skimming- Initially high price then lower price according to demand.

b. Penetration -Lower initial price to gain a market share foothold then, once established, raise prices to meet competition.

c. Premium - Price above competitive price if a firm is able to differentiate its product/service as having higher quality, superior features, etc.

5. Margin oriented -Cost and profit margins on each item are the primary consideration.

D. Sales Terms and Conditions

1. Credit

2. Bad debt

3. Returned items

4. Complaints

E. Merchandising -The attractive display of goods or services.

F. Channels of Distribution -Transferring the goods or services from the production location to the location of the final consumer.


Whether you are a service business, a manufacturer, retailer, or whatever, you must produce. The production may be a product or something as intangible as a smile, but something must be produced. This section addresses how you plan to deliver the goods or services which form the basis of your business. Considerations include:

A. Physical Layout

B. Required Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment

C. Review of Operations Flow and Quality Control

D. Inventory and Inventory Control

E. Vendors


Your proposal is only as strong as the people you have available to assist you in executing the plan. Here you detail the key players who you have already identified or the qualifications of successful candidates if you must recruit. It is wise to have already selected your most important personnel.

A. Who are the owners and key management persolU1el of the business?

B. What is their pertinent business background and what management experience have they had?

C. What are the key functions each will perform?

D. What are their responsibilities and duties?

E. Draw an organizational chart for your company

F.  What support staff will your business be using (e.g. attorney, accountant. banker. business advisor:)?

  1. What are your current personnel needs?

H. What skills are needed in these positions?

I. Will you be able to draw from an available labor pool?

2. Will you need to employ employees on a full or part-time basis?

3. Will employed be paid a salary or: on an hourly or incentive basis?


The proof of the business plan is in its pro forma financial reports. Many readers read the cover letter first, the summary second, and skip back: to the financial data before reading the rest of the plan. The discussions contained in the other sections of the plans should be reflected in the revenue and expense columns of the projections.

A. List the sources and uses of the proposed funding.

B. List the productive purposes to which the money will be put.

C. Develop pro forma balance sheets for three years.

D. Prepare projective purposes to which the money will be put.

1. Detail by month for the first year.

2. Detail by quarter for the second year.

3. Provide an outlook for the third year.

4. Explain how you were able to develop the projections. Provide list of major assumptions.

E. Prepare projected cash flow statements.

1. Detail by month for the first year.

2. Provide notes of explanations and assumptions.

F. Prepare financial statements for businesses already in existence.

1. Balance sheets for the past three years.

2. Income statements for the past three years.

3. Personal and business tax returns for the past three years.

G. Develop break-even analysis.

  1. Develop key financial ratios and comparison with standards.

  2. Develop cost/benefit analysis.

J.    Develop calculation of the payback period.


This section summarizes the major goals in your plan and reiterates how your will achieve them and what the company will become if you are successful. This section should be short, to the point, and contains the most important aspects of your plan -the ones you want the reader to retain.


Provide clear and legible copies of pertinent documents which will help you to prove your case. These documents typically include the following, which are presented as appendices:

A. Corporate or partnership documents (if applicable)

B. Personal resumes of owners and key management personnel

C. Personal financial statements (tax returns and balance sheets) of all pertinent owners and stockholders

D. Copy of credit report

E. Copy of aged accounts payable by vendor

F. Copy of aged accounts receivable by customer

G. Letter of recommendation or support

H. Letters of intent

I.   Copies of leases, significant agreements and contracts

  1. Cost of living budget (if applicable.)

K Any other documents relevant to the business

Outline prepared by John Faris, Ph.D. and Dana C. Goodrich MBA


____________________  ____, 20 __


Cash                                        $____________________

Savings Accounts                     ____________________

Stocks, Bonds, other securities____________________

Accounts/Notes receivable       _____________________

Rebates/Refunds                       _____________________

Autos/Other vehicles                 _____________________

Real Estate                               _____________________

Vested pension plan/

retirement accounts                   _____________________

Other assets                             _____________________

TOTAL ASSETS         $____________________


Accounts payable                     $____________________

Contracts payable                     _____________________

Notes payable                          _____________________

Taxes payable                          _____________________

Real estate loans                       _____________________

Other liabilities              _____________________

TOTAL LIABILITIES $____________________

TOTAL ASSETS                                 $____________________

Less TOTAL LIABILITIES                 $____________________

NET WORTH             $____________________



____________________  ____, 20 __

Current Assets

Cash                            $______________$______________

Accounts Receivable    ______________________________

Inventory                      ______________________________

Fixed Assets

Real estate                    ______________________________

Fixtures, equipment       ______________________________

Vehicles                       ______________________________

Other Assets

License             ______________________________

Goodwill                      ______________________________

TOTAL ASSETS         $______________$______________

Current Liabilities

Notes Payable (due

within one year $______________$_____________

Accounts payable         _____________________________

Accrued expenses        _____________________________

Taxes owed                  _____________________________

Long-Term Liabilities

Notes Payable (due

after one year               _____________________________

Other                           _____________________________

TOTAL LIABILITIES $______________$_____________


MINUS LIABILITIES                 $______________$_____________