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Business Information Guide

Welcome

This site is designed to be used in conjunction with the Whitman School of Management's The Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans produced by the Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises.

 IMPORTANT NOTICE!!!!

  1. Go to SU Libraries - in person or online
  2. Do not be too selective when you look for information – you can sort through the piles later
  3. Dig and dig, then dig some more; you can never do too much research
  4. Don’t stop, keep looking until the plan is done

Getting Started

Dream Believe Pursue

This web guide was put together to assist you in gathering the necessary information pieces to build your business plan. The resources are put together to follow the type of information you are looking for, highlighting both our online and print collections. You will need to do research at each level of the business plan.

Plan your time accordingly, gathering the amount of information that this assignment requires can be time consuming. Be prepared to gather information from many sources to put together your business plan. You will need to use both the print and electronic resources highlighted in this guide.

I. The Industry

The "industry" refers to the larger landscape, as in the "computer hardware wholesale trade industry" or the "card and gift industry" or the "architectural services industry". The focus here is on what is happening in and the relative attractiveness of the industry as a whole. You are looking at the entire industry in the U.S. or globally.

See SU Libraries' resources for Industry Research.

II. The Company, Concept and Product(s) or Service(s)

Now the focus turns to your own venture. First outline the nature of the entity you plan to create and where you are in that process, then capture the essence of your business concept and explain that concept, then detail the products and services you anticipate selling, and then talk about your entry approach and your vision for growth over the next five years.

III. Market Research & Analysis

This section should convince the reader or investor that you truly know your customers. It should convince the reader that your product or service a) will have a substantial market in a growing industry; and b) can achieve sales in the face of competition. For example, the predicted sales levels directly influence such factors as the size of the manufacturing operation, the marketing plan, and the amount of debt and equity capital you will require. Yet most entrepreneurs seem to have great difficulty preparing and presenting market research and analyses that show that their ventures' sales estimates are sound and attainable. Consult industry publications, articles in trade magazines and trade associations to understand how the industry defines, identifies and segments its customers. Then apply yourself creatively by integrating the information in a unique way.

See SU Libraries' resources for Market Research and Data & Demographics.

IV. Economics of the Business

The economic and financial characteristics, including the apparent magnitude and durability of margins and profits generated, need to support the fundamental attractiveness of the opportunity. The underlying operating costs and each conversion cycle of the business, the value chain, and so forth, need to make sense in terms of the opportunity and strategies planned.

The following reference books will help you draft this section. Locations change, so use SU Libraries' online Classic Catalog to find exact locations of the following books at Bird Library.

  • Business: The Ultimate Resource (HD38.15 .B878 2002)
  • The Business Planning Guide: Creating a winning plan for success (HD30.28 .B362 2002)
  • Business Plans Handbook: A compilation of actual business plans developed by small businesses throughout North America (HD62.7 .B865)
  • The Blackwell Handbook of Entrepreneurship (HB615 .B617 2000)
  • The Entrepreneur's Desk Reference: Authoritative information, ideas, and solutions for your small business (HB615 .A72 2003)
  • The Ultimate Small Business Guide: A resource for startups and growing businesses (HD2340.8 .U48 2004)
  • The Total Business Plan : How to write, rewrite, and revise (HD30.28 .O35 1990)

V. The Marketing Plan

The Marketing Plan describes how your projected sales will actually be attained. How will you make sales actually happen? A great idea is meaningless if you cannot find customers. Thus, this section builds on the Market Section, where you defined your market and outlined your targeted segments and their buyer behavior. The marketing plan needs to provide detail on the overall marketing strategy that will exploit the opportunity and your competitive advantages. Include a discussion of sales and service policies, pricing, distribution, promotion and advertising strategies, and sales projections. The marketing plan needs to describe what is to be done, how it will be done, when it will be done, and who will do it.

Books:

There are a number of books available via SU Libraries' catalog system (aka: Classic Catalog) on marketing strategy. Conducting a "keyword combined" search on marketing and strategy is recommended.

Databases:

Before you begin, pay close attention to the words used in the description of this section from the "Nuts and Bolts" plan, these words can be useful search terms for you to employ, for example: sales and service policies, pricing, distribution, promotion, advertising strategies, and sales projections. When searching the databases, pay particular attention to the words and phrases in the subject terms of the database record, these can yield additional search terms.

A basic search for marketing and strategy and (your product or concept term) can yield good results. The databases will also suggest additional terms to use in your search strategy, such as: Market research AND Strategy; Advertising agencies; Advertising campaigns; Marketing management; Market research; Marketing agreements for you to explore.

These are great databases to start with, Business Articles & News.

VI. Design & Development Plan

The nature and extent of any design and development work, and the time and money required before the product or service is marketable, need to be considered in detail. (Note that design and development costs are often underestimated.) Design and development might be the engineering work necessary to convert a laboratory prototype to a finished product; the design of special tooling; the work of an industrial designer to make a product more attractive and saleable; or the identification and organization of employees, equipment, and special techniques, such as the equipment, new computer software, and skills required for computerized credit checking, to implement a service business.

See SU Libraries' resources on Patents & Intellectual Property.

VII. Operations Plan

The operations section outlines how you will run your business and deliver value to your customers. Operations is defined as the processes that deliver your products/services to a customer or user and can include the production process for delivering your service to a given customer, manufacturing process if you are a manufacturer, transportation, logistics, travel, printing, consulting, and after-sales service. It also includes such factors as plant location, the type of facilities needed, space requirements, internal processes, capital equipment requirements, and labor force (both full- and part-time) requirements.

VIII. Management Team

This section of the business plan includes a description of the functions that will need to be filled, a description of the key management personnel and their primary duties, an outline of the organizational structure for the venture, a description of the board of directors and key advisors, a description of the ownership position of any other investors, and so forth. You need to present indications of commitment, such as the willingness of team members to initially accept modest salaries, and of the existence of the proper balance of technical, managerial, and business skills and experience in doing what is proposed.

These are great databases to start with, Business Articles & News.

IX. Overall Schedule

A graphical schedule that shows the timing and interrelationship of the major events necessary to launch the venture and realize its objectives is an essential part of a business plan. The underlying cash conversion and operating cycle of the business will provide key inputs for the schedule. In addition to being a planning aid by showing deadlines critical to a venture's success, a well-presented schedule can be extremely valuable in convincing potential investors that the management team is able to plan for venture growth in a way that recognizes obstacles and minimizes investor risk. Since the time necessary to do things tends to be underestimated in most business plans, it is important to demonstrate that you have correctly estimated these amounts in determining the schedule.

X. Critical Risks, Problems and Assumptions

The development of a business has risks and problems, and the business plan invariably contains some implicit assumptions about these issues. You need to include a description of the risks and the consequences of adverse outcomes relating to your industry, your company and its personnel, your product's market appeal, and the timing and financing of your startup. Be sure to discuss assumptions concerning sales projections, customer orders, and so forth. If the venture has anything that could be considered a fatal flaw, discuss why you do not see it as a problem or how you intend to overcome it. The discovery of any unstated negative factors by potential investors can undermine the credibility of the venture and endanger its financing. Be aware that most investors will read the section describing the management team first and then this section.

These are great databases to start with, Business Articles & News.

XI. Financial Plan

The development of a business has risks and problems, and the business plan invariably contains some implicit assumptions about these issues. You need to include a description of the risks and the consequences of adverse outcomes relating to your industry, your company and its personnel, your product's market appeal, and the timing and financing of your startup. Be sure to discuss assumptions concerning sales projections, customer orders, and so forth. If the venture has anything that could be considered a fatal flaw, discuss why you do not see it as a problem or how you intend to overcome it. The discovery of any unstated negative factors by potential investors can undermine the credibility of the venture and endanger its financing. Be aware that most investors will read the section describing the management team first and then this section.

XII. Proposed Company Offering

The purpose of this section of the plan is to indicate the amount of any money that is being sought, the nature and amount of the securities offered to the investor, a brief description of the uses that will be made of the capital revised, and a summary of how the investor is expected to achieve its targeted rate of return.

It is important to realize the terms for financing your company that you propose here are only the first step in the negotiation process with those interested in investing, and it is very possible that your financing will involve different kinds of securities than originally proposed.

In addition to the specific websites listed below, databases that index Business Articles & News will also be useful.