Business Planning Series: The Elements

Laurie Wolinski, Extension Agent;

Writing CLEAR and SMART goals is an excellent exercise to help business owners map direction while developing other critical parts of a business plan. The next steps in writing a business plan are really about the elements of your plan – capital needs, business operations, a marketing plan, a financial plan, and an organization plan. Each of these pieces of the plan will need dedicated attention and very likely consultation with other’s involved in the business and professional consultants.

Capital Needs typically means that you will involve a lender. In this section, you should communicate the capital needs and describe the primary means in which the funds will be utilized.

In describing the Business Operations, you will include what is being produced, the approximate quantity and how it will be produced. Additional information can be included here, for example, any special licensing or permits, or a livestock production system, any special services the business provides, etc.

On a basic level, a Marketing Plan is a tool that describes the products that the business markets, how the products will be marketing (contract, wholesale, retail), where the products will be marketed, and describes the customers who are expected to buy the product. More detail and research are encouraged to write a stronger plan, though. Consider describing business competition, pricing strategies, product promotion, and also a contingency plan.

Describing your businesses Financial Plan should include information that demonstrates the businesses current position a balance sheet, financial projections, cash flow, and profit and loss and perhaps specific enterprise budgets that illustrate specific costs.

Documenting the Organizational Plan and management structure of a business is a great way to illustrate the way in which each employee contributes to the business. Clear management and leadership are critical – and following the organization plan can assist in maintaining the integrity of the business by keeping a strong and complete workforce.

Writing a business plan a lengthy endeavor. A business plan is critical to the success of a business. Involving others in the development of the plan is strongly encouraged. Writing a plan with a clear mission and vision will go a long toward communicating your intentions. A lender appreciates a plan that communicates all the elements with thought, research, and strategy. The winter months will be here (and maybe some office time) to sit down and begin penciling out a plan.

There are many resources available to help guide you in the process. I often refer producers to AgPlan ( It is a secure, online resource where a business plan can be written, saved, and shared for collaboration or review. Another valuable resource is the University of Maryland’s Farm Business Planning Workbook (

I wish you the best as you begin or revisit a writing business plan. Please reach out to me if you have questions.

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