While my business coaching company, Maui Mastermind, primarily focuses on helping existing businesses in the $1-25 million sales per year range successfully and increase owner independence, I do get asked about the best way to structure a startup’s business plan.
So I wanted to share with you what I think is a rock-solid business plan outline.

Now to be clear, this outline is designed to help a startup think through the key questions to help them launch successfully. It is not the format we use with our established business coaching clients because their needs are different from a startup. An established company needs to find a simple path to focus on those fewer, better places in their business that have been proven to provide huge returns. A startup by contrast doesn’t have that stockpile of market experiences to help them accelerate the pace to the right answers, hence they need a much more comprehensive business plan outline to help them ask those early and important questions to get the ball rolling.

As Priceline.com cofounder Jeff Hoffman, co-author of, SCALE: 7 Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back, likes to say, “Your business plan is more about the questions you ask and get yourself to struggle with than it is about finding the ‘right’ answer.”

One more thing a good business plan does for a startup, it helps to increase confidence of the other stakeholders–whether that be conventional banks or private capital, or even key executives you want to early bring on board.

So here is the business plan outline for startups:

Outline for Your Business Plan

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Big Picture View
    1. The business you are trying to build (What do you want your business to look like in three to five years?)
    2. Exit strategy (What do you imagine you will want to do once you’ve built this successful business? Will you sell it? Scale it? Own it passively?)
    3. Mission, vision, values
    4. Business model you’re using
    5. Big picture strategy
  3. Marketing Plan
    1. Target market (who your ideal customers are and who they are not)
    2. Products and/or services (what your customers are buying from you, including details of your offer)
    3. Competitive analysis (who your potential competitors are and their strengths and weaknesses)
    4. Market trends
    5. Key marketing leverage points (where small investments of time and money will yield magnified returns)
    6. Marketing strategy (how you plan to reach your ideal customers)
    7. Marketing action plan (how you’ll execute on your strategy with clear priorities, deliverables, and deadlines)
  4. Sales Plan
    1. People (who will sell your products/services and how you’ll compensate them)
    2. Process (what sales process and tactics you’ll use to close business)
    3. Lead management (how you’ll organize and handle your leads)
    4. Collateral (what sales materials you’ll need to develop at the start)
    5. Key sales leverage points (where small investments of time and money will yield magnified returns)
    6. Sales action plan (how you’ll actually start selling)
  5. Operational Plan
    1. Fulfillment (how you’ll fulfill or deliver on your product/service)
    2. Admin/corporate (what infrastructure you’ll need to put in place)
    3. Staffing needs/hiring plans/ role description
    4. Operating budget (what it will cost to run your business)
    5. Cost factors (the biggest factors and how you plan to control them)
    6. Operational action plan with clear priorities and deliverables (who will do what by when and what criteria you’ll use to measure success)
  6. Management Team (most important if you need to use your business plan to raise outside capital)
    1. Members (who’s on the leadership team and what roles they will fill)
    2. Expertise (what background, talents, experience sets, and other advantages your key team members will bring)
    3. Organizational chart (what it will look like in the beginning)
  7. Financial Projections
    1. Current financials (if the business is already operating)
    2. Proforma projections (over the next 12-month and 36-month periods)
    3. Breakeven analysis (at what point revenues will equal expenses)
    4. Cash flow analysis (over the next 12-month period)
    5. Capital requirements to start (with details of how funds will be specifically used)

Good luck with your business plan and when you get off to a strong launch and need help scaling, reach out to us about business coaching