During the 10 months I was in the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program, about 8 of those months were spent on writing, changing, editing, changing, and editing our business plan, in order to make it flawless. Now, the most important thing to realize (it took my team awhile) is that is a business plan is a living document. It will change constantly. I think we had at least 8 versions by the time we even had our first official business plan put together. The majority of the time you won’t actually pull the document up on your computer and update it, but it will most likely change mentally on a week-by-week basis.
Since there aren’t many “reliable” examples of business plans available online, I figured I’d save a few of you headaches (hopefully) and share our award “winning”* business plan template.* Howdy won 1st place at the 2013 McGuire New Venture Competition & Showcase and part of the scoring was based on the company’s business plan.
Business Plan Template: Part I
- Company Logo, Business Partner Names & Position Titles, Date of last revision
“The undersigned reader acknowledges that the information provided in this business plan is confidential; therefore, the reader agrees not to disclose it without the express written permission of or an authorized agent of [Your Company Name].
It is acknowledged by the reader that information furnished in this business plan is in all respects confidential in nature, other than information which is in the public domain through other means and that any disclosure or use of same by reader, and may cause serious harm or damage to aforementioned parties.
This business plan is not to be copied or reproduced by any means without the sole written consent of an authorized agent of [Your Company Name].
Upon request, this document is to be immediately returned.
This is a business plan. It does not imply an offering of securities.”
Table Of Contents
- I recommend doing this last, once all sections of your business plan have been written. Hint: use Microsoft Word’s table of contents tool to save you time.
Your executive summary includes brief explanations on some of the “headlining” sections in your business plan. Most VC firms only read executive summaries before making a decision, so make sure it doesn’t exceed 2 pages and each section provides the most important information. The word counts given are the max amount of words I suggest having in each section. Also, in some of the sections I give example responses, which i’ve taken from Howdy’s business plan.
One line pitch:
- A one sentence pitch about your company. “Howdy provides students with cliff-notes for internships, written by past interns.”
- Bulleted list: company website url, social media urls, industry, contact info
- Bulleted list: company stage, previous capital invested, projected monthly net burn, pre-money valuation, capital seeking
- Short summary about the business partners and backgrounds (50 words)
- List your advisors/board of directors and give a 1-2 sentence summary about each of their top accomplishments. (100 words)
- 3-4 sentences about your product and opportunity. “Howdy is an online marketplace for internship guides. Written by past interns and loaded with insightful and company-specific information, the guides provide information on the interview process, internship projects, company culture, best places to live, and much more.The idea was born out of frustration with the lack of employer-specific internship information. As recent college graduates and past interns, the founders realized the growing gap between a students academic’ and the workforce. The growing need for honest and helpful knowledge inspired them to create a platform that would aid students in landing their dream internship.” (100 words)
- Briefly describe the problem your potential customers are currently facing and why your product is a better solution than what’s currently available. (100 words)
- Briefly describe your company’s products or services. (50 words)
- Briefly describe who will buy your product. ”Howdy will initially target the 77,051 (62% of 124,276 students) internship seekers at eight universities that are in big cities and/or have strong co-op internship programs. Howdy will eventually target the 13.4 million students seeking internships nationwide who want the competitive edge over their peers.” (50-100 words)
- Briefly describe any validation you’ve gotten through primary or secondary research. Survey’s, website sign-ups, customers, etc. “A survey released to 150 students suggested 40% of students would pay $10 or more for an internship guide. To date, the founders have reached out to personal networks and compiled 76 intern guides from past interns solely through sweat equity.” (50 words)
- Briefly describe your main sales and marketing strategies you plan to use to acquire customers. (70 words)
- Briefly describe your main competitors. The number of customers, users, visitors, and the products they offer/prices.” (80 words)
- Briefly explain why your product, company, team is the best. How are you different? Do the founders have industry expertise? Do the founders have high skill sets? Do you have patents? (50 words)
- Here’s an example of our executive summary financial table. These numbers were derived before we even launched our beta so don’t take them literally.
That ends the executive summary section of the business plan. Hint: It’s best to write the executive summary after the whole business plan is done. This will make writing a brief explanation for each section much easier.
The Award Winning Business Plan Template Part II post will begin the sections that make up the “meat” of a business plan. To be continued…