Business Plan Checklist: Questions to Answer Before Starting a Company

Business Plan Checklist Guide
Scott Kalapos on Sep 11, 2023

Do you have ambitions for starting your own brand? Then you likely have a lot of questions that need to be answered. What will you sell? Who will you sell it to? How will you spread the word about the new business? Can you afford the startup costs? What will make you stand out from direct and indirect competitors to customers? Navigating these challenges can be overwhelming when you consider them all at once. Fortunately, we've created a business plan checklist to help you navigate through the process of starting your own company and building a recognizable brand.

Utilizing a Formal Business Plan

Utilizing a formal business plan

Business plans are tools that every company should have, whether they are an established international brand or a solo venture in its infancy. A business plan is a summary of the company's goals and how it plans to achieve them. There are multiple benefits to having a complete business plan checklist for your new brand.

Getting Board Members on the Same Page

In the early days, you may be the only board member. Either way, it is important to have the leadership structure on the same page, and a business plan with a company overview can ensure that board members and other executives can visualize the direction of the brand.

Securing Funding

Your new business may be seeking funding to help with startup costs and find investors to partner with that will help the company get started. Many investors will not provide the funds needed unless they see a complete business plan. It demonstrates that you have put a lot of research and thought into this venture.

Outlining Goals

Entrepreneurs often fail because they lack direction or focus. A business plan will outline your goals and how you will accomplish them, making it easier to make strategic decisions.

Questions to Ask When Creating a Business Plan Checklist

Questions to ask

A business plan is an opportunity to get into the nitty-gritty of how you will achieve success. For this reason, it should include many details about the business so you can identify potential strengths and weaknesses. The following questions can be the solution that will help you write the various sections of your business plan checklist.

What are the Company's Mission, Values, and Basic Details?

An executive summary is a key component of the business plan and probably the easiest piece to write. It is a basic company overview that highlights all the background information.

You could have three sub-sections in this piece, including the mission statement (opens in a new window) of the company, where the business is located, and what employees are involved, which would be part of a management team section. All this basic information is part of the greater executive summary.

What Should Potential Investors Know About the Product or Service?

The products or services you sell must be laid out in a section of your business plan. Be as detailed as possible, including price points, customer benefits, and the fair market value of the products.

Additionally, if other details are relevant, such as manufacturing processes or research and development plans, they should also fall in the products and services section.

What Has Your Market Research Revealed?

No brand should enter a market without conducting an industry analysis. A market analysis section can describe the state of the market that your business is entering. The market research section should include details about the target market, market size, what makes your brand stand out, and the chances of obtaining potential customers from direct and indirect competitors.

A competitive analysis section and a customer analysis section could be two sub-sections under this category on your business plan.

How Do You Plan to Market the Brand?

A marketing plan section is a crucial element of any business plan. Lenders will want to know how you will communicate with target customers and convince them to buy your product or service. This is where you will lay out the channels you will use for your marketing plan depending on the market size and target customers. For example, you may focus on social media platforms, promotional products, or direct mail campaigns to communicate with customers.

You could choose to summarize how much money will be required to implement a marketing plan, though this can also be addressed in the budget section.

What are the Key Financial Highlights?

Financing plays an important role in the success of a business, no matter the size or age. Since your brand has no financial data to share, the financial plan section will mostly be filled with projections and targets.

Lay out a detailed financial model that will indicate if the firm is growing successfully, with specific numbers that the brand will strive toward. If you know of a potential investor, include this information in the financial plan section.

How Will You Balance Your Resources Efficiently?

If your business plan does not include a budget, then it may be unrealistic to expect much funding for your organization. You must determine the cost of operations, as well as a revenue model that will result in a net profit. A detailed financial plan can keep executives on the same page and show an investor that you have done the research and understand your cash flow potential.

Plan on going into detail with your budget so backers have a clear picture of the resources needed and how they will be used. Outline every cost you can identify, such as staffing, marketing, development, and other operations. Industry analysis of your key competitors can prove to be useful in this regard.

Other Aspects of a Business Plan Checklist

Other Pieces of the Business Plan Puzzle

You have all the right sections in place, and you have created a complete business plan that includes a competitive analysis, an executive summary, a market analysis, a financial plan, an operations plan, management team gaps, and everything in between. However, there are still a few more components to consider including in this solution.

Supporting Documentation

The more information you have available with your business plan, the better. While the main body of your business plan may be an overview with a few details, it is still wise to include supporting documentation that executives and potential backers can look at. For example, a budget spreadsheet could be very beneficial to include. These documents can answer key questions that interested parties may have.

Unique to Your Brand

You can easily complete a generic business plan by following a template. Even the questions listed in this article are fairly general, and there are plenty of other sections and sub-sections that can be included in a business plan.

Make sure that your plan is unique and will make the brand stand out from other businesses. The level of detail is important, and an investor may have seen many plans in the past, so what makes yours more compelling than your direct competitors? Well, you can perform a unique competitive analysis and showcase your advantages when compared to options available on the market already.

Goals and Ideas for Reaching Them

A business plan should include not just the current state of your brand, but also where you want the business to go. How will you use your competitive advantages to gain target customers from direct competitors and make it in the industry? Are there management team gaps you are planning to fill in the future to create a more effective organization?

The first step in reaching your goals is planning them out, and a business plan is the perfect medium for doing so.

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