Real Small Business

I. Introductory Elements

The introductory elements of your business plan - your cover page, executive summary, and table of contents - determine what kind of first impression you make on readers. In many cases, the introductory elements, especially the executive summary, will determine whether readers read the rest of your business plan at all. Moreover, your table of contents indicates how well you have organized the entire plan. For this reason, all of your introductory elements must be top-notch both in presentation and substance.

A beautifully crafted business plan that is unprofessionally put together will send a strong message to readers about your professionalism and your standards. Your business plan cover page must have all pertinent information, your executive summary must convince readers that your entire business plan is worth looking at, and your table of contents must make it easy for readers to navigate through your plan.

Business Plan - Cover Page

How complicated can a cover page of a business plan be? Well, you might be surprised at how many business owners leave crucial information off of cover pages. Lenders report that they frequently have to call directory assistance to locate an entrepreneur who forgot to include a phone number and other contact information on their business plan.

The purpose of a cover page is to tell the reader what he or she is about to read and how to reach the writer. Your cover page is also a way to get your business plan noticed. Lenders see dozens, if not more, business plans a week and something as simple as putting your cover page on quality stock paper, may catch their eye.

Your cover page should say the words "Business Plan," and should include your:

- name and business name

- company logo

- address

- telephone number

- fax number

- E-mail address

The date should also appear on your cover page.

Business Plan - Executive Summary

The executive summary is what most readers will go to first. If it is not good, it may be the last thing they read about your company. Lenders in particular read executive summaries before looking at the rest of a business plan to determine whether or not they want to learn more about a business. Other readers will also go first to your executive summary to get a snapshot of your business and to gauge your professionalism and the viability of your business.

While your executive summary is the first part of your business plan, write it last. As you create the other sections of your plan, designate sentences or sections for inclusion in your summary. You may not use these sections verbatim, but this exercise will remind you to include the essence of these sections in your summary. Your executive summary should be between one and three pages and should include your business concept, financial features, financial requirements, current state of your business, when it was formed, principal owners and key personnel, and major achievements.

Business Plan - Executive Summary Tips

1. Create your executive summary after you have written the other sections of your plan so that you may cull a few sentences from important sections for inclusion in your executive summary

2. Polish your executive summary. Have several people read it -- both those who know your business and those who do not -- to check for clarity and presentation

3. Be sure to include business concept, financial features, financial requirements, current state of your business, when it was formed, principal owners and key personnel, and major achievements

4. Use industry association statistics, market research from other sources, and other documenting information to back up statements you make in your executive summary

5. Keep your executive summary short and make it interesting. This is your chance to entice readers to read your entire plan

Business Plan - Table of Contents

Your table of contents provides readers with a quick and easy way to find particular sections of the plan. All pages of your business plan should be numbered and the table of contents should include page numbers. After you assemble your plan and number your pages, go back to the table of contents and insert page numbers. Be sure to list headings for major sections as well as for important subsections.

Next: Creating a Business Plan: II. Business Description


Small Business Guide


How to Start Your Own Business: Creating a Business Plan - Introductory Elements

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