BUSINESS PLAN REQUIREMENTS
The Business Plan Requirements must be followed to have your plan considered.
For technical requirements to write the plan, click here.
COVER PAGE: Minimum required information as follows:
Company name (logo, if any)
Names of team members
The words “Business Plan“
The words “ University of Southern California”
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (2 pages max)
Compelling story – what is the pain? The problem? The need?
Concise statement of how you intend to solve the problem: the business, customer, benefit, distribution
Synopsis of plan and each major section (industry & market, marketing, management team, operations,
business model and financials)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
BUSINESS CONCEPT (Products/Services Offered)
Business concept statement: product/service, customer, benefit, distribution
Purpose/mission and core values of the business (company culture)
Description of products/services offered (intellectual property, status of development, prototype)
Value proposition –expanded discussion of benefits to customer
Critical success factors (what must be true for the business to succeed?)
Business model – how will the business make money?
Opportunity for growth - brief description of growth potential
INDUSTRY & MARKET ANALYSIS
In what industry is the business? Definition of your industry and your sector.
How does this industry work? Why is this industry a good environment for this business?
Size, life cycle status, characteristics, drivers
Trends (historical and current)
Barriers to entry
Typical sales patterns and profit margins (gross and net)
Market Analysis and Target Market
Definition of primary/secondary target markets (location, size)
Key market factors (demographics, economics, social, legal)
Market segmentation (key variables)
Results of primary research (customer profile, needs analysis, demand calculation)
Value chain analysis
Entry strategy and barriers to entry
Why is the problem not being solved by the competition?
Direct and indirect competition
Market share, description, strengths and weaknesses
Threats from emerging and substitute products or services
Product/Service Differentiation or Unfair Advantage
Unique benefits and features
Plan and timeline for prototyping
Proprietary protection and innovation
Why will customer buy from you?
Identification and experience of management team that will execute the concept
Roles and responsibilities
Missing talent and gaps in personnel
Board of Directors/Advisory Board
Management philosophy and company culture
Legal structure and ownership
Technical description of product or service
Process Flow Chart of Business (representing all the activities and functions of the business)
Equipment, facilities and real estate associated with the process flow
Price/Cost model: Cost to produce product or provide service
If Product-Based, see below
Status of product development
Tasks completed, tasks to complete, time to complete
Potential difficulties; plan to overcome
Distribution Channel and Strategy: (Movement of product/service to customer)
Summary of Marketing Plan in one paragraph
Purpose – what will the plan accomplish?
Benefits – How will you satisfy a need?
Target Market – Who is the primary buyer?
Niche – Where do you fit in the market?
Tactics – tools to reach the customer
Identity – how the customers see you
Budget - % devoted to marketing
Plan to reach and educate first (and subsequent) customers
Strategies for promotion, sales and advertising for each customer group
Positioning and message.
Summary of key financial points and requirements
Breakdown of start-up capital requirements
Hard costs, working capital, start-up
Breakeven analysis and payback period (as supported by financials)
Plan for financing the company (equity, debt, equipment leasing)
Initial capitalization, if any.
If soliciting investment, bullet points highlighting primary benefits and risks of investment
Pro Forma Financial Statements
Cash flow Monthly Years 1 – 3
Income Statement Monthly Year 1, Annual Years 2-3
Balance Sheet Annual Years 1-3
Detailed narrative assumptions for financial statements including detailed description of sales forecasting. Your numbers must be justified
APPENDICES: Supporting documents for individual sections and important areas - please organize with a table of contents. The following are items that might be included in the appendix ..
Financial Statements and Pro Formas if not in the main body of the report
Industry and Market Analysis
Primary Research: Surveys and responses
Competitor Grid (if not in body of plan)
Other supporting information or reference sources
Customer and Marketing
Marketing Tools: Advertising, promotion, brochures
Media Plan: Uses and costs of specific marketing tools
Marketing Budget: Individual costs and total costs as percentage of sales
More detailed information on product, service or technology
Manufacturing or Operating Requirements and Costs
Details of management team, including resumes
Personnel, compensation, benefit policies
Contracts/purchase orders awarded to firm
Articles or readings related to the business or opportunity
Bibliography and list of cited sources (if not in footnotes or endnotes)
TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS AND WRITING GUIDELINES
The body of the plan must not exceed 20 single-spaced pages. This limit excludes the cover page, executive summary, table of contents,
Sections, Titles and Order:
All required major sections referenced above (I through VII) must be included in your plan in the required order. Bullets under each
major section suggest topics that should be addressed by the plan.
Font: 12 or 11 pt type; simple and attractive to read style (Times New Roman, Arial).
Write in third person using a mixture of the company name, a third person pronoun, or passive voice.
Objectivity & Persuasiveness
Be objective: Avoid exaggeration and self-aggrandizement.
Persuasiveness is derived from content, thoroughness and presentation, not the adjectives describing your concept or management team.
Organization & Structure
Outline and organize logically; transition and flow.
Simple, straightforward sentences and paragraphs
Use headings and bullets liberally
Write it for a layperson
Avoid technical jargon and big words
Don’t assume the reader has industry or market knowledge
Remember that this is a persuasive document. Cite multiple sources of information (footnote or endnotes linked to the text), and don’t rely solely on your own experience to support any claim. Every claim should have support from more than one source. Be sure to interrelate sources not simply dump data into the plan. Please use an accepted style guide ( Chicago Manual of Style, APA, MLA) for all footnotes or endnotes. Style guides can be found in the Crocker Library online. Be sure to link the Arabic Numeral in the text to the footnote or endnote.
Grammar: Refer to The Elements of Style by Strunk & White.
Introduce and discuss any graphics used to highlight the key points for the reader. Don’t assume the reader will readily identify key points in graphics or tables.
Page appearance :
A certain amount of white space on the page is good. Remember, this is not a novel that the reader will devour cover-to-cover. Make it easy for the reader to find information. Use headers and bulleted points, and refrain from having full pages of nothing but text.
Be sure your most persuasive points are clearly understood in every section of the feasibility analysis. Every section should begin with a one-paragraph summary of the most persuasive points in the section.
Proofread: Proof, spell check, grammar check, proof . . . . . then proof again.
- Deadline: Sunday, April 6 by midnight
- How to Submit: Submit ONE pdf file of your entire business plan including all financials and appendices.
This file must not exceed 2 MB in size. Check rules page for file naming convention requirements.