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Field Guide to Writing a Business Plan

(Updated September 2013)

“A business plan is a written document fully describing and analyzing a particular business; it provides complete, detailed information about short- and long-term business plans” (Scerbo, 2008, p. 1).

Writing a business plan may seem a daunting task as there are so many moving parts and concepts to address. However, the NAR library offers a plethora of resources on this topic to get you started. Take it one step at a time and be sure to schedule regular review (quarterly, semi-annually, or annually) of your plan to be sure you on are track to meet your goals. (S. Hogan & K. Stockert, Information & Web Content Specialists)

Defining Your Mission & Vision

Writing a solid business plan begins by defining your business’s mission and vision statement. Though creating such a statement may seem like fluff, it is an important exercise. The mission and vision statement sets the foundation upon which to launch your business. It is difficult to move forward successfully without first defining your business and the ideals under which your business operates. A company description should be included as a part of the mission and vision statement: what type of real estate do you sell? Where is your business located? Who founded your business? What is sets your business apart from your competitors?

Company Description, (U.S. Small Business Administration, n.d.).

How to Frame and Craft Your Business Plan Mission Statement, (Dummies.com, n.d.).

How to Write a Mission Statement, (Janel M. Radtke, 1998).

SWOT Analysis

Once you’ve created a mission and vision statement, the next step is to develop a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.” It is difficult to set goals for your business without first enumerating your business’s strengths and weaknesses, and the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Do you offer superior customer service as compared with your competitors? Do you specialize in a niche market? What experiences do you have that set you apart from your competitors? What are your competitors’ strengths? Where do you see the market already saturated, and where are there opportunities for expansion and growth?

SWOT Analysis Toolbox, (University of Washington, n.d.).

SWOT Analysis Resource Page, (Idaho State University, n.d.).

How to Write a SWOT Analysis, (eHow.com, n.d.).

SWOT Analysis, (Anthony C. Danca, n.d.).

Setting Goals

Next, translate your mission and vision into tangible goals. If your mission statement is to make every client feel like your most important client: how specifically will you implement this? Do you want to grow your business? Is this growth measured by gross revenue, profit, personnel, or physical office space? How much growth do you aim for annually? What specific targets will you strive to hit annually in the next few years?

Marketing Plan

You may wish to create a marketing plan as either a section of your business plan or as an addendum. The Marketing Mix concerns product, price, place and promotion. What is your product? How does your price distinguish you from your competitors—is it industry average, upper quartile, or lower quartile? How does your pricing strategy benefit your clients? How and where will you promote your services? What types of promotions will you advertise? Will you ask clients for referrals or use coupons? Which channels will you use to place your marketing message?

Forming a Team

Ensuring the cooperation of all colleagues, supervisors, and supervisees involved in your plan is another important element to consider. Is your business plan’s success contingent upon the cooperation of your colleagues? If so, what specifically do you need them to do? How will you evaluate their participation? Are they on-board with the role you have assigned them? How will you get “buy in” from these individuals?

Implementation & Follow-up

Implementation and follow-up are frequently overlooked aspects to the business plan, yet enormously vital to the success of the plan. Set dates (annually, semi-annually, quarterly, or monthly) to review your business plans goals: are you on track? Were the goals reasonable to achieve, impossible, or too easy? How do you measure success—is it by revenue, profit, or number of transactions?

And last, how do you plan to implement your business plan’s goals? When will you review and refine your business plan goals? What process will you use to review your goals? What types of quantitative and qualitative data will you collect and use to measure your success?

Additional Elements

The aforementioned items are only a few sections of the business plan. Depending on aspects unique to your business, you may want to include additional sections in your plan. Some of these sections may include:

  • Cover letter stating the reasoning behind developing a business plan
  • Non-disclosure statement
  • Table of contents
  • Executive Summary

References:

Brown, B. B. (2006). The easy step by step guide to writing a business plan and making it work. East Lyme, CT: Rowmark.

Grover, C. (2007). Sales and marketing 101 for real estate professionals. Chicago, IL: Dearborn Financial Publishing, Inc.

Scerbo, J. S. (2008). How to write a business plan. Boca Raton, FL: BarCharts, Inc.

United States. Small Business Administration. (n.d.). Create your business plan.

(K. Stockert & S. Hogan, Information & Web Content Specialists)

Real Estate Business Plans – Samples, Instructional Guides, and Templates

Create Your Business Plan, (U.S. Small Business Administration, n.d.).

Real Estate Brokerage Business Plan, (Bplans.com, n.d.).

—Note: registration is not required to view this sample plan, but users may register at no cost to use a free business plan template.

How to Write a Business Plan for a Real Estate Agent, (Houston Chronicle, n.d.).

2012 Real Estate Business Plan, (MarketLeader.com, 2012).

—Note: see this resource for ready-to-use worksheets on expenses, income calculators, and progress charts.

Real Estate Business Plan Template, (ActiveRain blog, n.d.).

General Business Plans – Samples, Instructional Guides, and Templates

Social Integration, (Journal of Property Management, Nov./Dec. 2011). Q

How’s Your Business? (REALTOR® Magazine, May 2013).

16 Steps to Your Best Business Plan, (REALTOR® Magazine, Dec. 2011).

5 Critical Steps for Your Business Plan, (REALTOR® Magazine, Jan. 2011).

How to Approach a Business Plan Makeover, (REALTOR® Magazine, Mar. 2009).

Your Business Plan Guide, (Entrepreneur.com, n.d.).

Your 21-Point Business Plan, (Real Trends, n.d.)

Planning to Become a Real Estate Broker: Answer these 3 key questions to form the basis of your real estate broker business plan, (Entrepreneur.com, Oct. 9, 2006).

Research on Your Own

To search for the most recent articles on this topic, login to NAR's ProQuest account and enter subject terms such as:

  • Nonprofit organizations and financial planning
    • Enter into ProQuest text box as SU(real estate) AND “business plan”
  • Nonprofit organizations and financial planners
  • Enter into ProQuest text box as SU(real estate) AND (“business plan” w/5 writ*)

Information Savvy

Many websites, such as Wikipedia, can be great resources to quickly get oriented on a subject before conducting more in depth research. However, anyone in the world can create and maintain a website or write a seemingly legitimate article and may, intentionally or unintentionally, publish false or "misinformation." When reviewing information on the Internet, you should always consider the ABC's:

  • Accuracy. Is the information accurate? Can you confirm the same information using other resources published by a different author or organization?
  • Author. Who composed the information? Can you easily identify the author and contact the author or website publisher?
  • Bias. What bias might the author or author organization have?
  • Credibility. What are the author’s or author organization’s credentials for publishing the information? What expertise, experience, or education does the author have in this area that makes him or her qualified to write on the subject matter?
  • Currency. When was the web page last updated? Is it possible the information might have changed since this web page was last published?
  • Critical eye! Remember to always use your discretion and critical eye to determine whether information you find on the web (or even in books and news sources!) is trustworthy. Putting websites to the ABC test will get you started in developing a strong critical eye.

Books, eBooks & Other Resources

eBooks & Other Resources

The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:

Start-Up! A Beginner's Guide to Planning a 21st Century Business, (Adobe eBook).

Complete Book of Business Plans, (Adobe eBook, Kindle book).

How to Write a Business Plan, (Adobe eBook)

The Easy Step by Step Guide to Writing a Business Plan and Making it Work, (Adobe eBook & Kindle)

Business Planning: 25 Keys to a Sound Business Plan, (OverDrive Audiobook)

Your First Business Plan, 5th Edition, (Adobe eBook)

Anatomy of a Business Plan, (Adobe eBook)

Writing a Business Plan and Making it Work, (OverDrive Audiobook)

The Social Network Business Plan, (Adobe eBook & Kindle)

Books, Videos, Research Reports & More

The resources below are available for loan through Information Central. Up to three books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10. Call Information Central at 800-874-6500 for assistance.

The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies, (Palo Alto, CA: Running ‘R’ Media, 2000) HD 1375 A8b

Writing an Effective Business Plan, (Deloitte and Touche, 1999) HD 1375 D37w

Field Guides & More

These Field Guides and other resources in the Virtual Library may also be of interest:

Field Guide to Opening a Real Estate Brokerage

Field Guide to Office Policy Manuals

InfoCentral Blog

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The inclusion of links on this field guide does not imply endorsement by the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR makes no representations about whether the content of any external sites which may be linked in this field guide complies with state or federal laws or regulations or with applicable NAR policies. These links are provided for your convenience only and you rely on them at your own risk.