GUEST VIEW: Business planning 101: Write a good business plan

By Rhea Landholm,, Center for Rural Affairs

The most effective development strategy for rural communities is small entrepreneurship — locally-owned and operated small businesses.

The first step in creating a small business is having a great idea. Next is writing a good business plan to help you make superior business decisions. Business plans are also crucial to obtain financing.

Think of a business plan as a resume for your business that should be written down and formalized. In general, it contains:

  • Executive summary: A concise overview of the entire plan.
  • Market analysis: A description and outlook of your industry, target market, and market test results, if available; lead times for your product or service; and evaluation of your competition.
  • Company description: The nature of your business, as well as the factors you believe will make your business a success.
  • Organization and management: The organizational structure and details about ownership, delineating roles and responsibilities.
  • Marketing and sales management: The marketing strategy (market penetration, business growth, distribution channels, and customer communication) and the business sales strategy (sales force and sales activities).
  • Service or product line: A description of products or services; copyright and patent information; and research and development activities you have done or will do.
  • Funding request: Current and future funding needs, how you will use these funds, and any plans that will affect future funding needs.
  • Financials: Historical financial data (income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements); prospective financial data (pro forma income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements); and capital expenditure budgets for any major investments.
  • Appendix: Any additional information. This may include credit history, product pictures, letters of reference, legal documents, and a list of your attorney and accountant.

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Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, nonprofit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.