How to Write a Business Plan Outline

Before sitting down to write a business plan for your LLC, first write a business plan outline. This outline will contain all of the pertinent information that you need to include in your business plan and will form the basis of your brainstorming. Your outline will serve as your business plan template and should reflect your core business model. Though you need not submit the results of your brainstorming to the state, it is a good idea to have a solid business plan before registering your LLC. Discuss your plans with your fellow members and use the following outline to guide your strategy.

A good business plan should contain eight basic elements: an executive summary, a company description, your product or service description, a market analysis, your strategy and implementation goals, a web plan, the organization of your management team, and a financial analysis. I will discuss each of these elements in greater depth. The first thing to keep in mind, however, is that your business plan should fit the size of your business. Though you should absolutely spend time planning your company before running it, do not let yourself get lost in a mire of planning if you are only starting a small, single-member LLC; start with a small business plan and work up from there. At the same time, don’t underplan if your goal is to operate a large, multistate LLC.

  1. Executive SummaryEven though the executive summary comes first in the outline, you should try to write it last. This summary should be fewer than two pages — ideally around one page — and summarize the rest of the information in your business plan. Include a description of your business model, your objectives, your mission, and any factors you think will be crucial to your success.
  2. Company DescriptionDescribe here how your company was formed (legally), its ownership structure, and the registered business location of the company and any facilities. If you’re writing a business plan for a new business, include a bit of information about the company’s vision. More established businesses should discuss the company’s history.
  3. Product or Service DescriptionIf you’re selling a product, describe the product here. If you’re selling a service, describe the service. Do not describe the good as you would to someone in the same trade, but rather focus on the benefits to your customer. Explore your competition in this section and describe some future plans and how your product or service is expected to change.
  4. Market AnalysisDiscuss who your primary customers will be, where they are located, and how you plan to reach them. You should include a discussion about the market’s needs, trends, and growth. Analyze your industry with a particular focus on your competitors (both the largest competitors and those that compete with you in the same geographic location).
  5. Strategy and ImplementationThe more detailed your implementation strategy is, the easier it will be to evaluate your progress each year. Include specifics such as who is in charge of what, and where you intend the company to be in one year, five years, and twenty years. Discuss pricing, promotion, and distribution.
  6. Web PlanThe growth of the Internet has made solid web plans a necessity for all businesses. Analyze your strategy for approaching customers on the web and how you will continue to grow and develop your Internet presence as your company’s needs change.
  7. ManagementDiscuss your company’s management organization and what the key duties for each position include. You do not have to be so specific as to include individual’s names — this will limit your company’s ability to grow and adapt to new team members — but describe which roles will be distributed to the various management positions you intend to create.
  8. Financial PlanAt minimum, this section should include any projected profits and losses, as well as a cash flow statement. Your financial strategies should include both short-term and long-term information in the form of current and projected balance sheets. You might also consider including an analysis of what your company must do in order to break even. This will allow you to adjust your strategies later while working from a known baseline.

Remember that writing a business plan for a small business — especially if you are a new company — is difficult, and your plan will undergo much revision. You may find that your stated goals at the beginning of one year do not match the path you took by the end of the year. This is okay. What is important is that you take time to think about your company and strategize for its growth and development. Start with a basic business plan outline and you will be able to fill in the skeleton as you go.