This is not a comprehensive guideline from which to write a business plan, but should assist in evaluating and improving an existing plan.

Executive Summary 

An Executive Summary should be clear, concise and convincing.

  • Can your business concept be summarized after reading only the executive summary?
  • Is your executive summary to the point?
  • Does the executive summary make the reader want to read more?

Mission, Goals & Objectives Statement

A Mission Statement sums up the values, purpose and vision of a company in a focused statement(s).

Does the plan:

  • Clearly state your company's philosophy of how the owners do (or plan to do) business?
  • Clearly state what your company does to satisfy its internal measure of success?
  • Identify how it serves the needs of the customer?
  • Clearly state where your company is going?
  • Create a timeline or set of goals and objectives to reach these goals?

Background Information 

This section primarily presents the industry in which the business operates. It could also include information about the company's stage of development and general growth strategy.

Does the plan:

  • Discuss past and present industry trends that affect your business?
  • Provide a clear insight as to where the industry is heading?
  • Discuss economic, social or political trends that affect the industry?
  • Indicate current stage of development for both the industry and your company?
  • Outline a growth strategy?

Organization and Management 

This section should contain your company’s legal form of ownership. This section should also contain information on the people and structures that will make your business run smoothly and successfully.

Does the plan:

  • Indicate your company's legal form of ownership?
  • Outline the responsibilities and qualifications of the management team?
  • Highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the team?
  • Estimate a timeframe for hiring additional personnel?
  • Discuss the availability of workers needed for growth?
  • Include an organizational chart or explain clearly the management hierarchy including the breakdown of responsibilities?
  • Discuss outside service advisors, such as CPA, attorney, insurance agent or board of advisors?
  • Discuss how records, budgets and management control are kept?
  • Discuss an outside board of advisors?
  • Address workforce issues?
  • Present how risk management issues will be adequately addressed, such as insurance, safety training, computer backup procedures and disaster recovery programs?

Product/Service Line 

This section should clearly identify what products or services your business will offer.

  • Does your company clearly define what products or services you will offer?
  • Does your company clearly define what benefit(s) the product or service provides to its customers?
  • Is information included about seasonality of products or services?
  • Is it clear where the product or service is in its lifecycle (stages of life for the product)?
  • Is it clear where or when your company anticipates future growth?
  • Does your company discuss new products or services?
  • Does your company address suppliers if appropriate?
  • Are inventory management issues and challenges addressed, if applicable?
  • Is there a unique niche or unique role this product or delivery of this product will fill?

Marketing Plan 

The marketing plan usually identifies the markets a business intends to serve and its position within its market.

Market Analysis

  • Did your company clearly state the target market on which it will focus its marketing efforts?
  • Is your company able to describe its target customer profile?
  • Did it clearly state the size of its target market?
  • Is the target market information backed up with research such as demographics and statistics, also including sources for that information?
  • Has market research — primary or secondary — been done?
  • Does your company clearly state future trends in your target market?
  • Are these trends backed up with research?
  • Does your company clearly define opportunities for growth within its industry?

Competitive Analysis

Does your company:

  • Clearly identify its competitors?
  • Clearly state its strengths and weaknesses compared to its competitors?
  • Clearly identify and discuss barriers to entry?

Marketing Strategy

Does your company:

  • Have a marketing plan and timeline determined?
  • Have a customer service plan outlined?
  • Address how it will maintain production/quality levels to meet customer orders/demand?
  • Discuss marketing strategies and media choices?
  • Explain the assumptions it makes about its marketing strategies?
  • Substantiate its reasons for making these marketing strategy decisions?
  • Track — or plan to track in the case of a start-up — the results of its marketing efforts?
  • Provide costs associated with promotional tactics discussed?
  • Address pricing of its products or services?
  • Utilize demographic information or other anecdotal information to explain its pricing strategy?
  • Discuss where its pricing strategy positions itself within the market?
  • Address how the product or service will be delivered to the market?

Financial Statements & Projections 

The financial section is where your company lists the financial requirements for launching or growing the business. The financial section is comprised of cash flow projections, financial statements and supporting financial information.

  • Does the company list assumptions made in the financials?
  • Are most normal business expenses listed and taken into account?
  • Has the plan included statements that illustrate the financial feasibility of the business?
  • Are the assumptions from other aspects of the plan incorporated in the financial assumptions?
  • Does the plan address the assets required to operate the business and how those assets will be acquired?
  • Is the company's break-even point identified and discussed, preferably for each general product or service line?
  • Is the company's gross margin tallied in the plan's financial statements?
  • Does the business address cash flow?