Writing a Great Business Plan: The General (Company) Description
The Art of the Business Plan: What's in your general description?
Writing a business plan may not always be the first step you take when forming your business, but it is a necessary step that you must take at some point. The sooner you start working on your business plan, the sooner you will be able to flesh out all your ideas and begin looking for investors and funding.
A Business Plan Is a Guide
A business plan is not intended to be set in stone. In fact, it serves better as a road map -- a guide to keep you on track according to your purpose and your mission, but all business plans should be reviewed from time to time and kept up-to-date.
One of the most important reasons to keep your business plan fresh is that you will be better prepared to apply for loans, government contracts, and pursue other options for your business as they arise.
A business plan in divided into sections and although there is no one exact formula for a business plan, certain information should be included in all business plans and the general description is one of those non-negotiable items. In some cases, a particular grant or loan might require you to submit certain information in a particular format or to keep your business plan to a certain page or character limit. If you are preparing a business plan (or updating one) for a particular purpose, understand the purpose and its unique requirements before submitting your business plan.
If you are brand new to writing business plans, here are some great articles and information to help you understand what a business plan is, and how to get started writing one today:
- A Brief Overview of Small Business Plans
- Small Business Plans
- Update Your Business Plan
- Business Plans - Building Strong Foundations For Your Business
About The General (Company) Description in Your Business Plan
The general company description in your business plan will contain some information that will also be included later on in your marketing plan and the executive summary (the last section of a small business plan) but you still need to summarize information in the general description.
The general company description allows you to include important information and details about your business, your business structure, and its core values.
In your opening paragraphs include clear, concise information about:
The Nature of Your Business: This includes your industry or profession and what will your business do.
Business Structure: How a business is formed (legal structure) and why this form of ownership works best for the business.
Mission Statement: This is not a mandatory item, however, it is a good idea to include one. A mission statement is short: 30-40 words in length and gives a brief overview of the purpose of the company and any guiding principles.
If you are not going to include a mission statement, skip to the next item, however, a mission statement can help you attract investors, donors, and others who may share your vision so you should have a really good reason if you decide not to include your company's mission statement as part of the general description.
Not sure how to write a mission statement? Write an Inspiring Vision Statement for Your Business in 3 Steps.
Writing Company Goals and Objectives for Your Small Business Plan
The general description of your business plan should include important goals and objectives after basic information about your company.
Many people are confused by the differences between goals and objectives. Here is the difference between the two:
- Goals: A goal supports the attainment of meeting an objective and is a statement of where you want to be in the future. For example, your objective is to increase sales - a goal might be to "become develop repeat business by being a leader in exemplary customer service practices."
- Objectives: An objective is a measurable achievement - it is where you hope to arrive. For example, increasing sales by 15% by the third quarter is an objective.
Resources, Business Philosophy and Marketing Overview
This general information section of your business plan should also include information about what is important to you in business. This includes values and philosophies, as well as your strengths and resources.
Describe (briefly) who your target market is (you will include more detail in your marketing plan section later on) and how you will reach your market.
Describe your industry, the volatility and growth potential of the industry as well as future predictions for demand for your products or services.
Summarize by offering information about the strengths and resources you, and any working partners bring to the business to help it succeed. You do not have to include a lengthy resume, but do include relevant experience.
Summary and Closing Thoughts
It may help to think of your general description as an introductory handshake and first impression. In a concise way, introduce your business to others who may read your business plan so that they have a good first impression and want to learn more about you and your business.