Writing a Business Plan: Company Background and Telling Your Story
Telling the story of your company provides background for the rest of the plan
A crucial part of any business plan is spelling out your company history, business background and telling your origin story. The main objective in sharing your history and the story of how you got started is to show potential teammates and investors how you landed on this business idea, and explain why you're uniquely qualified to pursue it.
Sharing your business background goes far beyond simply telling a clever story of how you triumphed over adversity, to launch your new business. That's not what investors are going to care about, and that's not what's going to keep them reading through your plan.
What investors will care about, however, is how your personal history, work experience, skills, strengths, and education will help you succeed in this business—and even more importantly, what you've already done to start executing and bring your idea to life. From an investor point of view, they want to know you'll be able to return their investment with positive dividends in the years to come.
In a traditional business plan, your company background follows the executive summary.
Depending on how developed your business is, your company background could be very brief toward the beginning stages of starting up, and that's ok. Focus instead on your personal history and the journey that lead you to getting started with this business in the first place.
What to Include in Your Company Background
Here are a few key points that you should be sure to include in the business background section of your business plan:
- The origin of the idea for the business
- The market opportunity you're pursuing (and why)
- Your progress to date, including any relevant key milestones
- Problems you’ve faced so far (and how you've overcome them)
- Short-term growth plans
If you have any experience already working with customers to solve their challenges—or you've used the basis for your business idea to get some level of results for yourself, then highlight those figures in your business background section to showcase how what you're doing does indeed work.
What to Say When Your Business Is Brand New
For a brand new business, you're naturally not going to have an extended company background yet, so it becomes more important (and relevant to investors) to focus on your personal history that'll help establish why you're the right person to be running this business.
Here are a few key questions to address in your company history when you're brand new:
- Your educational background
- Other companies you’ve worked for and the roles you've held in those businesses
- Previous businesses you’ve started and their outcomes/current status
- Your technical skills
- Your areas of expertise in your industry segment
- Your areas of weakness or inexperience and how you plan to compensate for them
- Any relevant professional clubs or associations you belong to
Most importantly, be creative with your company history. How can you tell your story in a way that's more engaging than just another page within your word document business plan? There's nothing more boring that a company history that leans on industry jargon, buzzwords, and trite platitudes to tell a story that most people aren't going to be very interested in.
Take, for example, my about page, where I use images, social proof, publications I've been featured in, customer testimonials, graphs, charts, statistics, and clever copy to tell my personal story instead of having just another boring company history page on my site. Take it a step further toward building connections with the people reading your company history, by showing vulnerability and sharing some of your past failures (and the lessons you learned from them).
Within my own business plan, I have a condensed and adapted version of my about page, that communicates my origin story in as unique a fashion as the page on my website does.
Overall, the company history section of your business plan should give an interested investor a better idea of who you are, how this business idea came about, and a clear picture as to why you're the best person to pursue this market opportunity. Leave no doubt in their minds that you're the right one for the job. Again, keep it concise and avoid extraneous personal information.