Your business plan should present what a banker or venture capitalist expects to see, in the order they expect to see it in. Following a standard business plan outline will keep you on track, and save you from botching your best chance at getting your business funded.
Developing your business plan helps you to step back and look at what is working in your business and what you can improve on. If you have employees, the planning process can be a good opportunity to seek their feedback on possible ideas and improvements. Your employees will value this opportunity to contribute to the business.
Business plans may be internally or externally focused. Externally focused plans target goals that are important to external stakeholders, particularly financial stakeholders. They typically have detailed information about the organization or team attempting to reach the goals. With for-profit entities, external stakeholders include investors and customers. External stake-holders of non-profits include donors and the clients of the non-profits services. For government agencies, external stakeholders include tax-payers, higher-level government agencies, and international lending bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, various economic agencies of the United Nations, and development banks.
Business plans are decision-making tools. The content and format of the business plan is determined by the goals and audience. For example, a business plan for a non-profit might discuss the fit between the business plan and the organization’s mission. Banks are quite concerned about defaults, so a business plan for a bank loan will build a convincing case for the organization’s ability to repay the loan. Venture capitalists are primarily concerned about initial investment, feasibility, and exit valuation. A business plan for a project requiring equity financing will need to explain why current resources, upcoming growth opportunities, and sustainable competitive advantage will lead to a high exit valuation.