How to Create a Business Plan

10/19/20 | 8 MIN READ

One of the most important things for an entrepreneur to be successful is a business plan.

Creating a polished and thorough business plan for your startup is a great way to outline your goals and desires as a new business owner.

What is a Business Plan?

Parts of a Business Plan

A business plan is a document that outlines various facets of your new business. Many new business owners look at a business plan as a necessary evil, or a means to an end. It is often the first thing an investor will ask for if they are interested in your company. Instead of thinking of it as an assignment, you should strive to see your business plan as a research endeavor. There are certain aspects of your company you should include in your business plan, mainly:

  1. The Opportunity

  2. The Product

  3. The Market

  4. The Competition

  5. The IP

  6. The Team

  7. The Business Model

  8. The Exit Strategy

  9. The Executive Summary

Each of these we will review and detail throughout the article. Substance and methods will be different for each company but his formula can be adapted for any business plan!

Why Do You Need a Business Plan?

Business plans have both an internal and external value for your company. Internally, there are many values. It allows you to have a solid plan that can move a team forward quickly and easily communicate your priorities. A business plan should also have a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis built in. If you want to learn more about SWOT analysis, click here.

An existing business plan will also help you to easily integrate new personnel because your goals and vision has already been laid out and written down. Most importantly, a business plan can let you measure your performance in relation to the goals you set when you first completed the plan. Externally, the main value is that business plans are a vehicle to attract and solidify relationships with investors or potential partners. To learn more about finding investors and partners, click here.

Objectives for a Business Plan

Here are some of the things that a business plan should do:

  • Forecast the course
  • Forecast and address risk(s)
  • Foster communication
  • Establish milestones
  • Establish needs/wants

All of these objectives can contribute positively to your growth and development as a company. But, just writing down your observations and plan will not get the job done. You need to constantly revisit your business plan and integrate it into your daily goals. 

There is no magic formula for a business plan. Usually, a traditional evaluation is sufficient for many investors and for internal use. In addition to the uses above, it can show evidence of a sound business opportunity, a clear path, and some financial benefit for the investor.


Business Planning During a Pandemic

Biotech companies are generally pre-revenue. This means that they fund their research and development through capital. Investors might be looking for a company that is easily adaptable. This could mean many things, but mainly that your company has a plan for the pandemic and response options.

Key Research Questions

Here are some of the questions you will need to consider when drafting a business plan:

  1. What evidence is there to suggest that the product is viable (ex: preclinical data)? 

  2. Who are our customers and what do they value? What is our target market? Who is our competition? 

  3. Who do we have? Who do we need? (in terms of staffing)

  4. Do we have a capital we need? Will we generate the profits we need? 

  5. What are short and long-term goals?

  6. What is our exit strategy? 

Keeping these questions and their answers in mind is essential for creating your plan. This will enable you to better describe your company and its goals. Now we can get into each section and what it should look like.

The Introduction

The introduction should be right at the top of the document. One of the first things should be a short summary of what your company will do and what products you plan to produce. There should also be a company vision statement. This is a concise one or two sentences that all your employees know and can repeat to others, like a long tagline.  Your introduction should also include your mission statement. A mission statement should elegantly present the company's vision. It should not be too rosy or overly optimistic. 

The Opportunity

The opportunity section will discuss the reasons for starting the company and why it can succeed. The primary question for this section is: how will the company generate a significant profit? To answer that larger question, you will need to answer most (or all) of these questions:

  • What are you selling?
  • What is the market?
  • Who are the customers?
  • What is the size and growth rate of the market?
  • What criteria do customers use to determine which product to buy?
  • Why is competition not a significant barrier?

If (and only if) your investor is not familiar with biotech, it may be pertinent to outline some of the broader aspects of the field. This could include details on healthcare reform, FDA approvals, and more. But, if your investor is knowledgeable about biotechnology, that might not be necessary.


The Technology

In this section you will need to describe in enough detail your technology so that experts will “get it” and appreciate how it works. Here are some things to remember for your technology section:

  • You need to describe your technology in detail
  • Potential investors may have in-house experts or hire consultants to assess the technology to determine how credible is
  • Investors may request you disclose everything about your technology so have a Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA) available if discussions go beyond your comfort level
    • The CDA will protect you if you need to disclose your trade secrets
  • Publications, grants, and awards will help you establish credibility

Business Plan Technology

The IP

The Intellectual Property (IP)  section should summarize how the company will protect and develop their IP. When writing the IP section of a biotech business plan, you should consider these questions:

  • What patents protect the technology?
  • To whom does the patent belong?
  • When do they expire?
  • How can the patents be used to block another competitor?
  • What existing patents might block you from operating? Will you be able to license them?
  • Do you have any trade secrets or trademarks? 

If your company does not have any IP, you will need to describe your licensing strategy. This will show that your company will not be blocked or hindered in operation from another patent. If you are a spin out from a university, licensing is usually easier. This is because the university and your company can benefit from licensing. But, it is important to do extensive research for your particular situation. Learn more about securing IP for your startup here.

The Competition

In the competition section you will want to provide a profile of all significant competing companies. This will require extensive research, but it is better to include all options than to leave any out. Consider these questions when drafting your competition section:

  • Who are the competitors?
  • How is your product better?
  • Why would a customer purchase your product over another?
  • Why have others not pursued your target market?
  • How will competitors  respond to you entering the market?
  • How will you respond to their actions?

Lots of these questions are hypothetical, but thinking about their possible outcomes is important to understanding your competition. Being forthright with investors is a better idea than downplaying possible competition in the market.

Another important thing to consider is the “status quo.” If there truly is no other company in your market that could be competition, your competition will be the current status quo. Why should consumers use your product over what they are currently doing? 

The People/Team

There's an old adage that says “Investors don't invest in ideas they invest in people.” In this section you want to be able to market yourself and your colleagues. What qualifications of your management team can help you achieve your goals? 

You should try to focus on business leadership and scientific or technical expertise. It shouldn't be only business centered team members or only scientific center team members. The key is balance. You should also include a very short biography of the management team, scientific advisors, and directors. You can add each of their resumes in the appendix.

The Team

The Business Model

This section will describe how you expect to make money selling your product. For a biotech company, money is often a long way down the road. Creating a business model early on will allow you to understand where your money is coming from before you make a profit. You will need to consider these questions when formulating your business model (different from a business plan):

  • Who/what are your key partners, activities, and resources?
  • What is your cost structure and how will you price your products?
  • What will be your revenue streams?
  • What will the company need to operate?
  • How much will development cost? 

The Financials

The financial section will be used to document, justify, and convince your investors to give you money. 

Many business plans will include overly optimistic revenue projections while claiming they are conservative. Avoiding this is essential because investors will often do research on their own, and they do not want to see that you have over-projected.  Most investors have little faith in rosy revenue projections.

Comparables are a great way to establish credibility. Comparables are similar companies that you use to describe your growth and expenses. This section should also include a balance sheet, income, and cash flow statements.

Unless someone on your team is a CPA or has an MBA degree, it is smart to hire outside help for the financial part of your business plan. This way you can be entirely sure that your findings are correct, and that investors will not question your credibility. 


The Exit Strategy

This part of the business plan will discuss when the company should be sold or go public. This is a hard and complex topic to unpack. You should first try to put yourself in an Investor's shoes. You can understand how investors feel about an exit strategy if you consider what happens to investors who don't get exits; they don't have a return on their investment. 

When creating an exit strategy in your business plan you should try to avoid comparisons to exceptions. Instead, compare your company's exit to what a similar company has done or will do.

The Executive Summary

Many investors will read the executive summary before they read a company's entire business plan. The executive summary must entice the reader to ask for more information and finish reading the entire plan. It should discuss the opportunity, product, technology,  market, competition, IP, business model, team, and exit strategy in ONE or TWO  pages.  So essentially it's a summary of the entire business plan. This is why you need to write it last, so you are able to summarize what you have already written.

Executive Summary

The Risk

Every section of a business plan will represent a potential source of risk. Your business plan should do everything it can to minimize the perceived risk of your company. In areas where risk is high, you should try to discuss contingencies.  and remember, the  biggest risk is not having a business plan ready when an investor asks for yours!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is it important for the vision statement in the introduction to be something that everyone knows?

A: It's a way for all of the employees to have the same response to a question like: What does your company do? It is often more than just a tagline, but less than a mission statement.

Q: What types of exercises should you do when you're thinking about starting a company?

A: A great exercise to do is a SWOT analysis. This can allow you to understand whether or not your idea can become an actual business or not.

Q: Will licensing (instead of owning your own IP) scare away investors?

A: In short, no. As long as you can get a license or create a deal with the owner, the investor should be okay with it. However, you will need to do research in order to ensure that this is possible.

Q: How can you ensure that your financial section will be acceptable for an investor?

A: Now that we are in a global pandemic, you can not guarantee that the financials that you provide today will be accurate 5 years down the line. What you can do is develop the business model, the comparables, and use them as a basis for your projections.

Q: Where can I find an example of a business plan?

A: A great resource is Google. If you type in “biotech business plan examples” plenty will show up.

This content comes from a University Lab Partners webinar hosted in partnership with ScienceDocs featuring Dr. John Bilello, consultant with ScienceDocs.

ScienceDocs is a U.S. based, comprehensive scientific and medical research support provider that has been leading the industry since 2004. 

Dr. Bilello is a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and was the former Director of Technology Development at GlaxoSmithKline. In addition to an established track record of innovative basic and clinical research, Dr. Bilello has experience in both project and organizational management.

Be sure to subscribe to the ULP Youtube Channel to never miss another webinar, and connect with us on LinkedIn to stay in the loop!


Revised 11/19/2020


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