Getting Started

Getting Started

So, you’re thinking about entering the Business Plan Competition, but don’t know where to begin.

WHAT IS A BUSINESS PLAN?

On the most basic level, your business plan is a story. It needs to describe your idea, explain why your idea is great, and detail how you intend to turn your idea from a concept into a business. Like any good story, it needs to capture and hold the attention of your audience from start to finish. By the end, someone should be able to walk away with a very clear understanding of what you want to do and how you plan on doing it.

THE PURPOSE OF YOUR BUSINESS PLAN

A great business plan is a sales tool. The business plan is a document designed to convince other people of the greatness of your idea. As a sales tool, the business plan must be geared towards capturing the attention of your target audience.

In the case of a business plan, the target audience is not a potential customer, but rather potential investors.

Potential investors are interested in learning why your idea is so great, and more importantly, how much money they can make from buying into your idea.

DEFINING YOUR IDEA

The core of any business plan is the idea, also known as the value proposition, the market opportunity, or myriad other variations of the theme. For the sake of simplicity, it will be called the value proposition here, but feel free to refer to it however you wish. Just make sure it communicates the necessary information.

The value proposition contains three important components: the problem you have identified, your solution to that problem, and how you intend to make money off the solution.

CUSTOMER PROBLEM / MARKET OPPORTUNITY

This is the problem you have identified, which is an opportunity to make money. The people or organizations suffering from this problem will be your target market.

YOUR SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM

Merely identifying a problem is not sufficient. You also need to know how to solve the problem. By offering a solution to a problem plaguing a particular group of individuals or organizations (i.e. your target customers), you create something valuable.

HOW YOU MAKE MONEY

With the exception of social entrepreneurship, every business plan needs to explain how you intend to make money from solving the problem. Identifying a problem and devising a solution to it creates value, and you should profit from your work.

The only way your solution to the problem will be feasible however is if it makes economic sense. No one is willing to buy something that ultimately costs more than the cost of leaving the problem unrectified. So not only must your solution turn a profit for you, it must make economic sense for your customer as well.

IF YOU REMEMBER ANYTHING, REMEMBER THIS…

Everything you find here is designed to help you write a better business plan. Take what you like, ignore what you do not. The most important thing to remember is that there is no single “right way” to write a business plan.

Johns Hopkins University Business Plan Competition