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The Elements of a Business Plan:
First Steps for New Entrepreneurs
Cole Ehmke and Jay Akridge
Department of Agricultural Economics
Audience: Entrepreneurs planning a new venture
Content: Outlines the basics of a business plan
Outcome: Readers will understand the purpose of
and elements required to write a business plan
for a new venture
By organizing your thoughts on a possible business venture
into a business plan, you begin the process of creating a
successful enterprise. This publication addresses common
questions about business plans and then discusses what is
included in the major sections of a business plan. At the end,
it also describes a number of common errors made when
developing a business plan.
What Is in a Business Plan?
The business plan covers what you intend to do with your
business and how it will be done. The process of writing down
what is involved in bringing your idea to reality requires
dealing with the why, what, who, how, where, when, and how
much of your venture. Writing a business plan forces you to
take a deep look at your idea and how you will turn it into
a business. Doing so helps you recognize areas that need
rethinking or support. Your business plan will typically
include the following.
Business description—What do you plan to do; why are
you starting the venture?
Market analysis—Who will be your customers; what do
they want from you?
Competitor assessment—Who will you compete against;
what do these competitors offer?
Marketing plan—How will you reach your customers?
Operating plan—How do you plan to implement your idea?
Financial plan—How much money will it cost, and where
will you get the necessary funds?
Executive summary—What are the fundamentals of the
This publication discusses each of these elements after
answering some common questions about business plans.
Why Should I Write a
An important question that you should ask yourself early in
the venture planning process is whether you should write a