Even though the summary will be read first, it is easiest to write it last – providing an overview of the complete business plan. The aim is to draw the reader in, so what you include will depend on your audience. If you are seeking funding you need to really sell your business idea in the summary.
Internally focused business plans target intermediate goals required to reach the external goals. They may cover the development of a new product, a new service, a new IT system, a restructuring of finance, the refurbishing of a factory or a restructuring of the organization. An internal business plan is often developed in conjunction with a balanced scorecard or a list of critical success factors. This allows success of the plan to be measured using non-financial measures. Business plans that identify and target internal goals, but provide only general guidance on how they will be met are called strategic plans.
Having an understanding with third parties when distributing a plan could be enough protection for some businesses, however others who have innovative business practices or products or services may wish to go further and sign a confidentiality agreement with each person to protect their innovations. It may also be a good idea to include some words in your plan asking the reader not to disclose the details of your plan.
That doesn’t mean you have to bust out Word and start the plan from scratch. A template is great--you probably aren’t doing anything that hasn’t been done before, so it provides a proven structure for your plan. Pretty much everything on it can be customized.