Basic company information
A standard business plan outline includes a chapter topic on your company. You may not need to include this chapter if you are writing an internal plan. However, any outsiders reading your plan will want to know about your company before they read about products, markets, and the rest of the story.

Summary paragraph
Start the chapter with a good summary paragraph that you can use as part of a summary memo or a loan application support document. Include the essential details, such as the name of the company, its legal establishment, how long it’s been in existence, and what it sells to what markets.

Legal entity and ownership
In this paragraph, describe the ownership and legal establishment of the company. This is mainly specifying whether your company is a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or some other kind of legal entity, such as a limited liability partnership. You should also explain who owns the company, and, if there is more than one owner, in what proportion.

If your business is a corporation, specify whether it is a C (the more standard type) or an S (more suitable for small business without many different owners) corporation. Also, of course, specify whether it is privately owned or publicly traded.

Many smaller businesses, especially service businesses, are sole proprietor businesses. Some are legal partnerships. The protection of incorporating is important, but sometimes the extra legal costs and hassles of turning in corporate tax forms with double-entry bookkeeping are not worth it. Professional service businesses, such as accounting or legal or consulting firms, may be partnerships, although that mode of establishment is less common these days. If you’re in doubt about how to establish a start-up company, consult a business attorney.

Locations and facilities
Briefly describe offices and locations of your company, the nature and function of each, square footage, lease arrangements, etc.

If you are a service business, you probably don’t have manufacturing plants anywhere, but you might have Internet services, office facilities, and telephone systems that are relevant to providing service. It is conceivable that your Internet connection, as one hypothetical case, might be critical to your business.

If you’re a retail store, then your location is probably a critical factor, so explain the location, traffic patterns, parking facilities, and possibly customer demographics as they relate to the specific location (your Market Analysis goes elsewhere, but if your shopping center location draws a particular kind of customer, note that here).

If you are manufacturing, then you may have different facilities for production, assembly, and various offices. You may have manufacturing and assembly equipment, packing equipment, docks, and other facilities.

Depending on the nature of your plan, its function and purpose, you may want to include more detail about facilities as appendices attached to your plan.

For example, if your business plan is intended to help sell your company to new owners, and you feel that part of the value is the facilities and locations, then you should include all the detail you can. If you are describing a manufacturing business for bankers or investors, or anybody else trying to value your business, make sure you provide a complete list and all necessary detail about capital equipment, land, and building facilities. This kind of information can make a major difference to the value of your business.

On the other hand, if your business plan is for internal use in a small company with a single office, then this topic might be irrelevant.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.