Your Company Summary should give the reader an understanding of what the business is all about and gives a ‘story so far.’ Particularly important for existing businesses where there is a history of trading and activity. For new start businesses, use this section to discuss your background as it relates to business, market or industry you are seeking to trade it.
This section provides the reader with enough relevant background information so that they may understand and follow what is being discussed in the rest of the business plan. It is an opportunity to illustrate what you have experienced to date and where results have not been outstanding to date – use this section to illustrate what you have learned to date.
For the purpose of this outline the section should be divided into these parts.
- Brief history
- Business Structure, Tax & Registrations
This is to benefit you in gaining a more conceptual or big picture view of what is included and why it is included. That is not to say the plan should replicate this structure, although you may wish to do so. We have included suggested headings for each section that you may wish to use.
Company Summary - A Brief History
The purpose of this section is to fill in the gaps for the reader of how the business came to be and how it has gotten to where it is now.
Topics to cover
- Describe the business and product / service.
- Where it is located.
- When was it started?
- Why it was started or bought. The idea behind it
- What industry it is in
- Major developments that have delivered it to its present state.
- Brief History
- Business Structure, Taxes & Registration
The structure under which you operate your business must be thought about before you start trading. The consequences of changing structures can be very complex and expensive – so think about it now. In addition, as a business owner you have responsibilities under Australian law to manage business tax and various business registrations.
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It is important to start in business with the correct operating structure as any subsequent restructure can be expensive due to income tax, capital gains tax, stamp duty and legal costs.
You can operate your business via the following structures:
- Sole trader
- Partnership (including joint ventures);
- Trust (such as discretionary, family, unit & hybrid trusts); or
Each structure has different legal and tax obligations. The particular structure chosen needs to be appropriate to the owner's specific circumstances and should take account:
- tax minimisation;
- limiting liability;
- asset protection;
- likely events in the future (e.g. children turning 18 years of age; admitting a new partner);
- retirement/exit strategies.
The business income of sole traders and partnerships is added to other income derived and is taxed at the individual's marginal tax rates. Trusts are generally not taxed on income as it is distributed to beneficiaries, who then have the obligation to pay tax.
Goods and services tax should be charged on all sales if your business is registered. Some goods are exempt from charging tax (eg fresh food).
One of the important areas in managing your business is attending to its various tax obligations. These include:
- Submitting an annual return;
- Preparing and paying quarterly statements;
- Tax if you provide fringe benefits to employees;
- Guarantee - you need to provide superannuation support for most of your employees.
This section is to give the reader information on the sales and profitability of the business. It should cover previous years’ sales figures by major product groups and segments and compare to budgeted figures. Any discrepancies should be accompanied by an explanation of why the budget was not reached. It should also cover the profit / loss situation for total sales and product groups and segments.
Topics to cover
- Overview of present and past sales
- Corresponding gross and net profits for those years.
- Sales by segment, product group
- How this performance compared to budgeted performance, and any commentary.
- On-going contracts or proof of future or on-going revenue.
Put in a couple of these graphs to show past sales and forecast sales. It is a good idea to have a table displaying the figures to complement the graph.
- Sales History
- Gross Profit
- Net Profit
The Sales History should be accompanied by an explanation of any anomalies that have impacted on the figures. This also provides a great opportunity to include a simple graph with Revenue, Gross and Net profit charted, especially if all the lines are heading in the right direction.
- Balance Sheet History
The Balance Sheet History records the growth of the business in terms of the Net Assets and Shareholder Equity in the business. This not shows the current position of the business, but also how the business has come to this point. The reader will be able to view the assets and liabilities of the business in direct relationship to the revenue portrayed in the Sales History above.
- Sales history
- Sales overview
- Sales analysis
- Sales breakdown
Company Summary - Marketing
This section is to give the reader an insight as to the marketing strategy of the business to-date. It is not intended to be a full analysis, again it is just enough to provide the reader relevant information so the rest of the business plan will make sense. It is basically an outline of how you have achieved the sales mentioned in the last section, and the characteristics of those sales. Do not go into what you are going to do in the future as this is going to be covered in later sections.
- Group Revenue %
- Profit %
- Profit %
The Product Breakdown table shows the reader where the business derives its revenue. To complete the table divide the products into logical groups. It is recommended to keep the number of groups to seven. This makes the analysis easier and is sufficient to provide an overview of the product breakdown.
The “%” columns relate to the percentage each respective product group contributes to the total Revenue, Gross Profit and Net Profit. The Totals should add up to what is recorded in the Sales History.
- Activity Cost Reach Leads
- Units Revenue ROI
The Promotional Activities table analysis the individual marketing activities undertaken by the business that are designed to increase sales. First of all list the different forms of marketing activities that are to be analysed. For each activity insert the cost of each activity and the number of people reached by the activity.
Next include the number of leads generated by each activity. From this you can calculate the cost per lead for each activity to determine the most efficient form of lead generation.
Ideally a business should track this process through to the actual sale. If you have been doing this list the number of units sold as a direct result from each activity, the amount of revenue generated and the Return on Investment. This will highlight the most effective forms of marketing for the business.
Points to Cover
- Market you are operating in.
- Marketing Strategy / Market segment
- Your offer to the market.
- Sales figures
- Lead generation
- Lead Conversion
- Average Value Sale
- Net Margin
- Frequency of Sale
- How do you communicate it to the market?
Competition is a way of life. We compete for jobs, promotions, scholarships to institutes of higher learning, in sports-and in almost every aspect of your lives. Nations compete for the consumer in the global marketplace as do individual business owners. Advances in technology can send the profit margins of a successful business into a tailspin causing them to plummet overnight or within a few hours. When considering these and other factors, we can conclude that business is a highly competitive, volatile arena. Because of this volatility and competitiveness, it is important to know your competitors.
Questions like these can help you:
- Who are your five nearest direct competitors?
- Who are your indirect competitors?
- How are their businesses: steady? increasing? decreasing?
- What have you learned from their operations? from their advertising?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- How does their product or service differ from yours?
Start a file on each of your competitors. Keep manila envelopes of their advertising and promotional materials and their pricing strategy techniques. Review these files periodically, determining when and how often they advertise, sponsor promotions and offer sales. Study the copy used in the advertising and promotional materials, and their sales strategy. For example, is their copy short? descriptive? catchy? or how much do they reduce prices for sales? Using this technique can help you to understand your competitors better and how they operate their businesses.
Company Summary - Operations
This section outlines how the business is run. Again it is not intended to be a full analysis just enough information to give the reader an understanding of how the business operates. If the business produces products this section should outline the manufacturing processes. It should highlight the main Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) used to measure performance. These may include:
- Total Output
- Productivity Measures
- Percentage of output with tolerance levels
- Amount of re-work required
- Amount of downtime
For a service business it is important to manage demand levels, maintain a consistent level of customer service and managing time efficiently.
Points to cover
- Organisation structure.
- How the business fulfils its promise and competitive advantage.
- Systems in place to manage work.
- Business Operations
- Business Systems
Company Summary - Organizational
A brief outline of the number of staff in the business and the spread of the resources. Also detail the key personnel in the business and skills. This area is generally divided into two main headings.
In this section include a brief bio of the management team. It should highlight the relevant business and industry experience of each and the role they perform in the business.
This provides an overview of the employees in the business and in which functions they are employed. It is beneficial to include a Function Chart as depicted below. This is a great way to show the reader how the resources are distributed through the organisation. To take it a step further, calculate the percentage for each department.
Points to cover
- Key personnel in the organisation.
- Training programs.
At the completion of this section the reader should be able understand the business and where it has come from. It should be clear to the reader how the business operates, who is in involved and where the business stands at the present point in time.
Once you have collected the information it is time to order it into a logical framework. The outline below is a typical format of a simple business plan. We have indicated what information should be presented under the different headings. Again this is highly subjective and should depend on the nature and purpose of each plan.
For each memeber of staff state
- Background (Brief History)
- Sales Overview (Financial, some parts of Marketing)
- Business Operations (Remainder of Marketing, Operations and Personnel)
Throughout the years, entrepreneurs have turned their ideas into goods and services. They have met the needs and wants of consumers and, at the same time, they have built rewarding careers for themselves.
Many people start a small business in order to enjoy the perceived rewards of freedom and independence. This is understandable as owning your own business can offer you the opportunity to experience freedom:
- the freedom to use your own ideas;
- the freedom be the boss;
- the freedom to not be fired; and
- the freedom to earn as much as you want.
In fact, you don't have to work unless you want to; or do you?
The reality of small-business ownership can be quite different. Many small business owners will tell you that they work more hours than when they worked for someone else.
A lot of those hours are the result of demands of others.
Some of the more demanding others can be the regulations imposed by provincial and federal governments. Some of the other regulations that must be adhered to are: federal and provincial licensing; local safety and health regulations; environmental protection rules; employee deductions and labour standards.
Then there are the significant others, who impact the bottom line -- the customer. You must satisfy your customers. For these are the people who will ultimately decide whether or not your business will succeed. You will be successful only if you can provide them with the goods and/or services that they want or need badly enough to pay for.
Then there are your financial others -- the people who provided you with funds to get your business started. They might be relatives, friends, bankers. No matter who they are, they will have a vested interest in how well you run your business.
Even your competitive others will become more significant as their policies and competition will affect the way you run your business, the hours you work, prices, profits and more.
As the most important other, you alone will take full credit when errors in business decisions are made. A decision that can result in losses not only to yourself, but to your employees, creditors and customers as well.
It is money, after all, that is the bottom line. Your success depends upon your ability as a boss to make sure your business is making more money than it spends.
The company description section of your business plan should outline your company's basic background information and business concept. Explain in general terms who you are and what you do. It should also cover the history of your company, how you reached this point, and where you intend to go in the future.
Consider covering the following in your company description section:
Include details about where and when the company was formed, where and when it was incorporated, a one line description of what business you are in, and a brief overview of what your company offers. If the location of your company is important, explain the advantages and benefits to your reader.
History of the Company
Provide a general overview of the history of your business. Organize details of your company into a timeline or narrative format, and include your achievements and significant milestones. Explain why you started the company, the driving force behind its inception, and how your product/service mix has changed over time. Include historical data on sales, profits, units sold, number of employees, and other important facts to build a case for your business.
Provide a snapshot of where your company is today. Are you in one location, what do you sell now, how many employees do you have, and how successful are you? Point out your current strengths, but also honestly and frankly address your weaknesses. Investors know all businesses have weak points, and you demonstrate business maturity by acknowledging your weaknesses and outlining steps to combat them.
This section gives your reader an idea of where your company is heading. What are looking to accomplish over the next 1, 3, 5 and 10 years? Relate these goals to the investment you seek so an investor understands why you need their money and what you intend to do with it. Explain the overall approach for reaching growth and profit goals in optimistic language, but make sure it's realistic. It's easy to make rosy projections about the future of your company, but it's harder to make them believable.
The company description should clearly explain your company and the product or services you offer. This section could be considered the who, what, why, where, when and how of your company, with the focus on significant highlights of your business. Here are some of the most common mistakes that we find in the company section:
- Including far too much detailed information about your business
- Providing information that an investor would consider your "personal opinion"
- Appearing as though you have no business history or business purpose
- Leaving out important business and legal particulars
- Writing the section in an unorganized or confusing manner.
A strong Business Plan may not guarantee success; but it could certainly prevent failure!
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