Business Plans

A well-researched business plan is an often-overlooked key to success.
In addition to providing a game plan for directing and guiding your
business, a business plan can provide a great tool for communicating your
business to potential investors and financial institutions.

Statistics have shown that those who develop and implement a business
plan tend to survive and those who do not, fail.

The documents and links below have examples of business plans,
templates, and planning resources that should be helpful:

Helpful Documents

Business Plan Template SBDC

Developing a Business Plan Outline SBDC

SBDC advisor articles

Tips for Determining the Feasibility of a business

Every Journey Begins with a Plan

How to recognize a Business Opportunity

Making and keeping money

Five Keys to Building a Strong Business

Financial Resources

Washington SBDC Financials page for cash flow, financial statements, balance sheet and forecasting tools


A business plan is the result of thoroughly investigating your
industry, your market, your product, your financial situation and
your proposed organization. A business plan outline provides an
organized system for researching the feasibility of your

A business plan should be done by anyone starting a business or
making major changes within their existing business. This could
include adding product lines,, increasing sales, purchasing another
business, or a multitude of other changes within the existing

Business planning is a process that leads to a product. Your
internal business plan should be in a format that is easy for you
to understand, access, store and retrieve, edit and update. There
are a number of business plan formats, but here are two examples
that we think work well:

Why is a market analysis for my product or service important?
A common mistake is thinking that everyone will want your
product. Those who succeed identify target markets, learn about
their needs and provide the appropriate bundle of goods and
services to meet those needs.

Find out as much as possible about the industry you want to
enter. Is it emerging, growing, stable or declining? What are the
trends? Who buys and what do they buy? When do they buy? What
percentage of the population buys? What is the demographic profile
of each target market?

Virtually any industry you can imagine has a professional
association that gathers data and processes it into useable
information for their membership. Go on-line and search for “(your
industry) association.”

Look for an association that provides statistics. Many will
publish trade magazines, newsletters or e-letters. They may also
provide membership or vendor lists, although this information is
usually only available to members. It may be a good idea to become
a member.

Apply the national statistics to your local demographics. If 3
percent of the national population uses the product and your local
population is 100,000, then you can expect 3,000 potential
customers. Then consider identifying your target markets. Are there
under-served markets with pent-up demand in your area? You may
create a market niche by supplying the products and services they
can’t find elsewhere. Are there opportunities to sell to government
agencies, clubs and user groups or business to business?

Select those markets that have the greatest potential for
success, as you define it. That may include profit, return on
investment, long-term sustainability or some other valuation you
may choose

First let’s dispel one of the common myths that “I have no
competition.” Even though there may be nobody in your demographic
area providing the same product or service, most competition is for
discretionary dollars. Therefore, you are in competition with
anybody who wants to sell anything.

You need to identify all competitors and analyze their strengths
and weaknesses to determine how you can best compete. Realistically
estimate what percent of the consumer population (market share)
will become your customers, and why. There are only two ways to get
customers in a competitive market: either develop new customers or
take them away from your competitors. Also, study the competition
for ways to become co-operators rather than rivals by buying or
selling from each other.

Now that you have found what people are willing to buy, you need
to make a sales forecast. After studying the industry, consumer
profile and the competition, you have enough information to do some
simple projections.

For each of your chosen target markets, estimate your market
share in number of customers. Based on consumer behavior, how often
do they buy per year? What is the average dollar amount of each
purchase? Multiply those three numbers to project sales volume for
each target market.

To get better numbers for your projects try locating a business
similar to yours, in a community like yours, that’s far enough away
so you won’t be considered a competitor, then ask them. Better yet,
go there. Take the owner to lunch. Walk around, observe, take
advantage of good ideas, and avoid the bad. Then go back home and
forecast your sales.

Once you’ve projected sales based on what you think your
customers will buy you’re ready to talk about your product or
service. The projections should help determine the products and
services you will sell. Describe them in some detail. Briefly
summarize your analysis of your competition and your competitive
advantage. You might also want to briefly summarize your pricing

The question remains: is this business financially feasible?
You’ve already projected sales. How much will it cost to achieve
that level of sales? Start with fixed costs like rent, utilities,
insurance and salaries. Then calculate the variable costs of sales
including cost of goods sold, hourly wages, shipping, etc. Subtract
the cost of sales from the sales forecast. This is your gross

Subtract the fixed costs you identified from the gross margin.
If the remainder is less than zero, then the project is not
feasible. If the number is positive, is it large enough to justify
the risk? Starting or growing a business requires financial risk.
If the business idea does not meet your financial requirements,
then invest your money in something that does.

An Operation Plan consists of the following sections: First, a
complete set of projected financial statements that includes a cash
flow statement, a profit and loss statement, and a balance sheet.
Next, a schedule of events to guide starting and growing your
business with the financial constraints you identified in your
financial statements. Finally, a management plan and plan

The Management Plan explains who will be responsible for the
various management functions that keep the business running
efficiently. It describes the experience and/or training of each
key manager. Areas that need to be addressed are planning,
organizing, directing and controlling. Include an organizational
chart to visually present your organization.

The Plan Summary is a snapshot of your business plan that
enables a lender or investor to quickly grasp your concept, your
customer, your background and funding sources.

Online Resources

  •  Access business statistics and benchmarks, useful financial ratios, and effective and understandable online analysis of businesses and industries.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics   This public site provides information on consumer expenditures nationally, regionally and by selected metropolitan areas.
  • Edward Lowe Resource Center  Articles with solutions gleaned from CEOs and business owners. Includes perspectives on managing growth in key areas such as communication, finance, marketing and sales, HR management, legal issues/taxes and technology.
  • U.S. Census Bureau  This public site is a major link to demographic and economic census data.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration  This is a complex site but you can find information on SBA programs and other resources. Surf the library and you’ll find information to help you in planning your business.
  • Washington State Department of Revenue  This public site provides information on retail sales within the State of Washington in detail to selected cities by NAIC code. In addition, many tax topics are covered. Be sure to look at the “Statistics & Reports” section.
  • Washington State Office of Financial Management  This public site provides information on economic, social-economic, population, estimates and forecasts, and city and county data. It also provides links to the United States Census 2000 web site.
  • Workforce Explorer  While this public site deals primarily with employment, it has great insights as to the general economic conditions of areas within Washington State. Of particular interest are analysis and articles by “Regional Economists”.

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