Business plans may target changes in perception and branding by the customer, client, taxpayer, or larger community. When the existing business is to assume a major change or when planning a new venture, a 3 to 5 year business plan is required, since investors will look for their investment return in that timeframe.
Traditionally business plans have been highly confidential and quite limited in audience. The business plan itself is generally regarded as secret. An open business plan is a business plan with unlimited audience. The business plan is typically web published and made available to all. In the free software and open source business model, trade secrets, copyright and patents can no longer be used as effective locking mechanisms to provide sustainable advantages to a particular business and therefore a secret business plan is less relevant in those models.
Cover all bases. Before embarking on your plan it is a good idea to undertake some research in to what a professional business plan should include. You can then use this as a check list to make sure you have covered all the relevant areas. Sections of the business plan should include information on the company, the product/service market, competition in the field, management team, marketing strategy, operations and financials.
Assess your competition. Understanding your competition is an essential component to understanding any business environment. Whatever the business you are looking to establish, you will always have competition in varying degrees. Perhaps you want to open a restaurant in an area that is already saturated with eateries; you then need to think about what is the unique selling point of your restaurant. Or maybe you have found a niche in the market, why is that? In order to make your business a success you should look to your competitors to see how they are managing their business or areas where they could improve. You also need to assess whether you can compete effectively with the existing businesses and how you plan to do so.
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