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Business Plan Tutorial: Overarching Plan & Steps 1-3

Overarching Plan

Step 1.  Read this guide, to see  the type of information needed and possible sources to use.  If you read the tutorial and are proactive with the research, it will help you to keep track of the data you will need later and will save you substantial time.  

Research Tips:  Sources for information you will need have been divided into three color coded categories as shown below. The source links will be provided on each of the step pages.  They are broken down by accessibility by resource type.   

  • Printed Sources  (i.e., library books that can be found in most libraries).
  • Free Websites Resources (i.e., free online at the time this guide was developed).
  • UW Restricted (i.e., online sources that are free if affiliated with the UW).

Some of the same sources are used throughout the Business Template, so going to that source once and getting all of the data on the first visit could save you a lot of time.  Under the resources are questions in green font, these are questions that should be answered in your business plan. (Not all of them will be applicable to your company.)

The sources mentioned here are by no means the only ones you should use.  For example, you can use the Libraries catalog  to search for more targeted information on your product or company.

Step 2.   If you do not yet have a concept, brainstorm.

Brainstorm about the business idea, map out all of the following:

Customer types

Distribution channels


Product types

Customer service

Possible consultants


Customer experience



Promotional ideas

Shareholders to bring in




Write down all of your preconceived notions about your business idea to see if you can confirm them.  This can be done in the beginning to verify what you believe is true and how these ideas and theories will work.  If the beliefs you had are not true, decide if your plan can work with the facts uncovered.  This is a precursor to the full research for the actual Business Plan.    

Also consider the following questions:

  • If you have a company that is cutting edge, will it be too challenging to research and project financials?
  • Do you want an over-saturated industry, where you are one of many? What innovation can you offer?
  • Make sure you can communicate your idea to people outside of the industry; you are writing for potential investors, lending officers and venture capitalists.  Know your audience.   

Step 3.   Set up a document you can work on. 

Use the  Business Template page or go online and find a template for your industry.   These are merely tools to help you remember all of the important sections for your plan.  You should write the final version as a cohesive explanation that is not repetitive.

  1. Copy and Paste the template into a new blank document.
  2. Provide enough space to include information, footnotes and citations. 
  3. Include your assumptions; (however if you cannot support them up with facts, you will need to remove them). 
  4. Cite your sources. 

Note: It helps to cite your sources as you go so readers both your and you can locate them later.

Step 4.   Research the Customer and their needs- determine your niche.

Step 5.   Research the Industry- verify the need for the niche you want to go into and understand your competition.

Step 6.   Write your business plan in order to explain who your customer base is (Target Market) and industry analysis to show how you will fit in (Industry Overview).

Step 7.   Solidify your understanding of the customer by researching and writing about your Marketing Plan (4P's) and the STP.

Step 8.   Explain the ways you will meet your customer's needs with the Organization Plan.

Step 9.   The Financial Plan- plan your cash flow, because it is paramount.  

Step 10.  Financial Terms or Funding - the terms of financing your company, i.e., the loan from your parents and your partner's parents, bank or how you are boot strapping; you may also want to include expectations of work loads for the partners and contractual understandings. 

Step 11.  Exit Strategy (There is some debate about how important this is, so research your audience and act accordingly.)   

Step 12.  Compile the Appendix for your plan. 

Step 13.  Write your Business Description (or summary).  This is very similar to the Executive Summary in that it should be written after all of the research is completed and it is an overview of your plan. The difference is that the Business Description can be longer and more in depth than the Executive Summary.

Step 14. Write your Executive Summary. Writing this synopsis last will allow you to understand what is important to highlight.   Your reader can get a quick idea of what your plan entails and it should be brief--about one or two pages. 

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