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    Business Plan Starter Kit

Writing Your Business Plan

No matter what kind or size of a business you are starting, it is important to create a business plan. It is the best way to get where you want to go. It communicates your understanding of the business and it makes reasonable assumptions and forecasts of sales, expenses, and cash flow. Creating a business plan forces you to confront the reality of what you are planning to do.

When writing your business plan, it is important to keep in mind the person(s) for whom you are writing. If you are writing a business plan for an investor or a bank you should assume that they know nothing about your business and industry. Also, keep your business plan short and to the point. If you were a loan officer, would you rather read a sixty-page plan or a seven-page plan? Bankers and investors want just the facts - all the facts - but just the facts. If, on the other hand, you are writing a business plan just for yourself, your family and friends, you should construct it to suit your needs. It should include your goals and the strategies you will put in place to achieve the goals.

Writing a good plan is hard work. It requires that you look at customers, competitors, the market, and especially at yourself. It is quite normal to be a bit overwhelmed. Quoting from Business Plans for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide):

"...for some of you, a business plan is something that you're required to put together to raise money for a startup company. At best it's a formality; at worst, it's a real pain in the neck. But a business plan isn't just there to raise money; it is also a powerful tool - one that's bound to make your company a better place to work and your business a more successful operation."

The real power of your plan is that it forces you to understand where you want your business to be in the future and how you will achieve that future. It then serves as a road map guiding you day-by-day through all the obstacles you will encounter on your road to success.

As you prepare to start your business you will need to consult with professionals. This may include a lawyer, accountant, and business counselor. While this expense may be a burden, it is absolutely necessary. Be sure to include them in the preparation and review of your business plan.

This short Small Business Development Center (SBDC) guide has been prepared to help you, the entrepreneur, plan a new or young business. It is based on research designed to determine those management practices most likely to lead to business success.

This guide provides guidance for a broad range of business ventures. Not all sections are equally applicable. It is suggested that the entrepreneur work with an experienced business counselor in tailoring the plan to fit his or her business.

We hope that you will consider taking a Business Plan seminar. You can find our schedule of available courses here.

Table of Contents

Regardless of how you choose to develop your plan, there are some major sections that should be included. Include the page number where each section begins. The entire plan should be numbered for reference.

∑ Table of Contents

∑ Executive Summary
∑ The Plan
1. The Business
2. Customer, Market, and Industry Analysis
3. Your Strategy and Plans
4. Information and Analysis
5. Management and Personnel
6. Product and Service Offered
7. Financial Data

The Executive Summary

This is a short (usually about one full-page) summary of your plan. Keep in mind that this may be all that some people read so it should emphasize your personal strengths and the power of your plan.

The Plan

1. The Business
This section describes your business and the industry you are in. Include risks, a short financial analysis and the current status of your business.

2. Customer, Market, and Industry Analysis
This section is one of the most important parts of your plan. Show that you understand your business environment by being specific, citing numbers and statistics as well as sources for your projections. The primary components of this section are:

Your Market
Your Customers
Your Competition

3. Your Strategy and Plans
This section describes your plan for success. It should include a business and marketing plan.
The Business Plan
The Marketing Plan

4. Information and Analysis
Data collection and analysis is key to managing the day-to-day operations of your business, making good decisions, identifying needed improvements, and staying ahead of the competition. This section looks at the data you will collect and how you will use it.

5. Management and Personnel
Your business is only as strong as the people running it are. This section showcases the key members of your team and their responsibilities.

6. Products and Services Offered
This section describes the product and/or services that your business provides and how you manage your key processes.

7. Financial Data
This is the most important part of your plan. Lenders have different requirements for financial data. The data in this section should refer back to other sections of your plan. Some of the data that might be requested include:
A. Loan Request
B. Sources and Uses of Funds
C. Cash Flow Projection
D. Contingency Plans
E. Balance Sheet
F. Financial Assumptions
G. Personal Financial Statements
H. Income Tax Returns
I. Current Business Statements
J. Other Supporting Documentation

    MDSBDC Virtual Classroom  ~back to top~

Available 24/7 at no cost to you! Click here to start learning!

The Maryland SBDC is proud to offer a series of comprehensive online courses that teach entrepreneurs the 3 M's: Money, Marketing and Management. Choose from over 25 topics including: "Targeting your Market", "Managing Your Cashflow", "Building a Website" and more! Each course is approximately 45 to 90 minutes long and contains audio, high-end graphics, interactive case studies, and worksheets.

    Links  ~back to top~

IRS IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center
Financial Resources
  An alternative cash financing option, and other small business finance news and entrepreneurial events including financial news from around Maryland. (updated constantly)
Certifications 8(a)/SDB forms (Federal)
  MBE Forms (State)
  Business Good Standing
Contract Opportunities State
Demographics Compensation Cost Trends
  Labor Market Statistics
  County Comparisons
NAICS/SIC Codes Lookup
SBA Forms Library SBA Forms
Maryland State Websites Business License Information
  Comptroller of the Treasury
-This is where you will find the combined registration form.
  Department of Assessments & Taxation
-This is where the forms are to register a business entity and/or Trade Name. Or call 410-767-1340 to register a legal entity (i.e. corporation, LLC, etc.); 410-767-4991 to register a general partnership or sole proprietorship; 410-767-1340 to obtain a Trade Name application or reserving a name for future use.
  Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation
-This is where you will find information about occupational licenses or call 410-230-6330

  Frequently Asked Questions  ~back to top~

How do I start my business, what are the first steps?
Your first step should be to attend our Smart Start: Entrepreneur 101 class. This informative course will help you organize your ideas, network with other entrepreneurs and provide you with all the documents you’ll need to file to get your business moving on the right track. An experienced counselor will answer your questions and help you navigate through the paperwork and help you determine which forms you’ll need and how to fill them out.

How do I register a business?
The link below will take you to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation's website. This page contains information about the registration process, the forms necessary to register a business as well as the fee schedule. If there are any questions, please feel free to contact us. Click Here

What services does the SBDC offer?
The Maryland Small Business Development Center Network (MDSBDC) assists entrepreneurs to establish, manage and expand their businesses by applying the latest technology and proven methods to counseling, training, technical assistance, research, and other specialized services. Most of these services are provided at no cost to our clients.

Established in 1988, The MDSBDC Network is a partnership between the US Small Business Administration, the State of Maryland and the University of Maryland College Park. This partnership links private, enterprise, government, higher education and local economic development organizations to provide management training and technical assistance to Maryland's small businesses.

I need a business loan, how can the SBDC help?
The SBDC has relationships with area financial institutions and other sources of state funding and can help you determine which program will best fit your needs. We’ll package your loan and submit the package to the financial institutions. Though we can’t guarantee that you’ll get funding, we can work with you to ensure your documentation is presented in the best possible light.

How do I get an appointment with a counselor?
Prior to calling our office you should have a business plan. This important document will help you organize your thoughts and establish a vision for your business. Remember, if you can’t define your business on paper, it will be harder to sell your idea to customers! Providing a plan will give our counselors a better idea of where you’re going and help them provide relevant assistance. If you don’t have a plan consider attending our business plan writing class, "Demystifying the Business Plan" or need help editing one, call our office to sign up for one of our FREE business plan group sessions.

If you have a completed business plan or are an established business and need assistance in a specific area, call our office to schedule an appointment. Prior to your appointment, you may be required to fax or e-mail your plan for review by one of our counselors.

Why do I need a business plan? I know what I want to do and I’m ready to get started!
Think of the business plan as a road map for your business. Few people would consider taking a long distance road trip without first mapping out their course. It’s the same thing with a business. To successfully arrive at your business destination, you’ll need a detailed map. Writing a plan helps you organize your thoughts, and allows you to consider various aspects of the business and how you will accomplish certain tasks: Marketing, cash flow, etc. Our goal at the SBDC is to do our best to ensure each business has the proper foundation and tools for success and we believe that the business plan is vital to the process.

Does the SBDC write my business plan?
No. We believe that no one can tell your story better than you. It is important that you understand fully what will be involved in running your business and anticipate how you will address certain issues. If you already have a rough draft and need help, consider taking the Developing a Business Plan online course in the MDSBDC Virtual Classroom. If after looking and attempting a business plan you still feel you need help, consider taking our seminar called “Writing A Winning Business Plan.” See our training calendar for details.

Are there grants available to start my business or expand my business?
Click Here for more information on available grants.

Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.
(c) Maryland SBDC. All rights reserved.