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10-Step Business Plan for Safety

10-Step Business Plan

Visible, Active Senior Management

Frank Gates/Avizent and AIA Ohio would like to announce the 10-Step Business Plan for Safety developed by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).  Step one includes visible senior management leadership within your company.  This promotes safety as an organizational value.  It is management’s responsibility to take the lead in reducing accidents and illnesses.  Active support from upper management and executives sets the tone for the organization and how it views safety.  

Things you can do:

  • Not only should top management issue a written safety policy as a core value of the organization, but they should also designate roles and responsibilities to ensure a safe workplace.
  • Establish long- and short-term safety goals for all associates.
  • Include safety as an agenda item in all scheduled meetings.
  • Regularly review health and safety goals with supervisors and employees.
  • Participate in the safety process by joining safety walk-throughs or inspections.
  • Model safety attitudes and actions.
  • Develop a safety recognition program.
  • Track and monitor safety performance as a key component to production.  

The BWC’s 10-Step Plan can help prevent injuries and minimize claim costs.  For more details, please contact Tammy Ring at 800-777-4283.  

Employee Involvement and Recognition

Employee involvement and recognition programs afford employees opportunities to participate in the safety management process.  By encouraging and enabling your employees to participate, they begin to take ownership of the safety role and can be valuable by providing more “eyes” for recognizing hazards and implementing controls. 

Things you can do: 

  • Establish safety committees or teams with representatives from both management and operations.
  • Train employees in hazard recognition
  • Involve employees in conducting department assessments.
  • Provide a system for employees to report safety concerns.
  • Allow employees to conduct accident investigations
  • Develop a recognition program that encourages accident prevention 

Set reasonable goals for safety improvement and encourage your employees to become part of the safety program.  Some things you to document include: 

  • Agenda or minutes of Safety Committee meetings
  • Accident or near miss investigation reports with recommendations on preventing similar future accidents
  • Outline results of safety survey
  • Your safety incentive program and tracking of its effectiveness.  

Step Three:

Medical Treatment and Return-to-Work Practices

Early return to work strategies help injured workers’ return to work more successfully. A disability management or post injury policy should be put in place to help injured workers receive quality medical care at the outset of the injury. The policy should include:

  • Inform all employees of the procedures to follow for getting quality medical care when an injury occurs.  This should include notification of an employers managed care organization for workers’ compensation injuries.
  • Report all injuries to supervisor immediately.
  • Communicate regularly with injured employees while they are off work.
  • Investigate all injuries within 24 hours. 

Develop a transitional-work program or modified-duty program that will allow an employee to return to work in a productive capacity as soon as they are physically able.  Consult with attorney prior to implementing the program.  

Step Four:


A program of regular safety and health communication keeps employees informed and solicits feedback and suggestions.  Your approach to managing safety and health will include regular verbal and written communication on matters affecting employee safety and health. Communications include:

  • Quarterly written and/or verbal feedback to all employees on their accident-prevention performance;  
  • Process for upward communication and downward communication throughout the organization;  
  • Communication such as memos, bulletin boards, staff and general meetings;  
  • Feedback incorporating your organization’s overall safety and health performance.

 The following ideas can help you design your communication plan:

  • One-on-one discussion – the supervisor sits down with each employee on a scheduled basis to discuss safety concerns, suggestions and ideas.  
  • Informal discussion – inform employees that the accident-prevention coordinator is available to discuss their safety and health questions confidentially.  
  • Group discussion – provide the opportunity for executives, supervisors, team leaders and employees to discuss safety issues at employee gatherings. Regularly schedule meetings to share information and seek input on safety and health matters.  
  • Written communication – communicate key information, which can be motivational, developmental or informative, in writing;  
  • In-house company publications – an in-house company newsletter provides accident-prevention information on a regular basis; 
  • Safety and health booklets – provide safety and health information to employees;  
  • Safety alert notices – inform employees of accident causes and how they can prevent them;  

Safety bulletin boards – use for posting safety-related policies, notices, articles, meeting schedules, meeting minutes, memos, etc.  

Step Five:  

Timely Notification of Claims

Employers must report each claim immediately to their managed care organization (MCO), which will then report the claim to BWC within 24 hours.  When an injury occurs, first arrange for medical care for the employee.  Secondly, you should investigate and document the facts of the claim, and then report the injury to your MCO.

Reporting claims quickly:

  • Demonstrates care and concern for the employee;
  • Prevents delays and/or confusion in the claim process;
  • Lessen the potential for fraud or abuse;
  • Reduces the potential for needless litigation.

The timely reporting of claims allows you to:

  • Establish an open line of communication with the injured worker;
  • Provide appropriate benefits to the injured employee on a timely basis;
  • Develop accurate information to manage the workers’ compensation claim.

Safety and Health Process Coordination

Designate an employee as the accident-prevention coordinator. Give that person the responsibility and authority to facilitate organizational safety systems and processes, and ensure that he or she develops the knowledge and skills necessary for creating a safer working environment.

The accident-prevention coordinator does not assume operational responsibility for safety and health, but supports line management, supervision and employees to develop effective safety systems and processes.

 Responsibilities include:

  • Helping management and employees identify accident prevention and safety and health training needs through perception surveys, interviews, behavior sampling or other similar methods;
  • Helping supervisors make changes or develop strategies that improve the organization’s safety systems and processes;
  • Identifying and communicating new safety and health requirements;
  • Compiling injury and illness-related records;
  • Tracking progress on safety and health-related projects;
  • Working with employees to optimize safe work practices;

 The accident-prevention coordinator should be committed to safety and health, employee wellbeing and have the time, authority and resources to facilitate developing the company’s safety systems and processes. He or she acts as the internal consultant helping the organization make important safety-related decisions.

  Step Seven:  

Written Orientation and Training Plan

No matter how safe a work environment you provide, the success of your safety-and-health systems depends upon the managers, supervisors, team leaders and employees buy-in of safe work practices. The goal of any safety and health training program is not just to impart knowledge, but also to change behaviors and improve decision making. Through a written orientation and safety training, employees receive information about hazards, procedures, processes and expected behaviors.  

Your company safety and health training plan should include:

•           Company safety and health policy statement;

•           Employee responsibilities. 

After your new employees participate in safety orientation, have their supervisors provide them with job-specific safety and health training. Do not permit employees to start a job until they have received instructions on how to perform the work safely.

In addition, it is important to build supervisor and manager competency levels in safety-and-health. As they emphasize and learn more about effective safety-process management, employees are less likely to be injured or become ill from inherent hazards.  

Fully document your safety and health training by including the date, topics covered, instructor’s name and the names of employees attending the training session. Have employees answer written questions about the content of educational material you presented. This helps provide a sense of importance to the training, measures understanding and retention of the material and documents the effectiveness of the training. It also provides the opportunity for constructive feedback from the employees. Have each employee in attendance sign the documentation form on the day of completion.

Step Eight:  

Written and Communicated Safe Work Practices

Provide all employees with written safe work practices so they have a clear understanding of job requirements and responsibilities. Identify, document and publicize both general and job-specific safe work practices. Provide employees with a copy of the general safe work practices, and have all employees sign a statement indicating they have read and intend to follow the safe work practices.

Examples of general safe work practices expected of employees include:

  • Practicing good housekeeping;
  • Wearing personal protective equipment;
  • Using good ergonomic principles;
  • Wearing respiratory protection;
  • Using and following lockout/tagout procedures;
  • Using and following confined-space entry;
  • Using hazard communication;
  • Avoiding bloodborne pathogens, if applicable
  • Applying first-aid procedures (if trained);

Job-specific, safe work practices apply to operations that involve recognized hazards and address risks associated with the business. Publicize job-specific safe-work practices in the work area. 

Safe work practices are essential for any organization because they prescribe the accepted behavior and practices the employer expects of employees. You may use a safety involvement team to develop an employee safety handbook. Ask employees for their input in composing the handbook. Include general, company-wide safe work practices and specific safe work practices that apply to each department, the company’s safety policy or a statement on safety as viewed by the top official of the organization in the safety handbook. Each department manager, leader, etc., will review the safe work practices with his or her employees on a recurring basis, at least annually. To help ensure that safe work practice handbooks are read, have employees sign a statement certifying that they have read it, they are familiar with the safety rules and policies outlined in the safety handbook and agree to abide by them. Retain the signed document in the employee’s personnel file.

Written Safety and Health Statement of Policy  

A written safety and health policy signed by the top company official expresses the employer’s values and commitment to workplace safety and health.

Give all new hires a safety and health policy document signed by your top executive. Communicate the safety and health policy to all employees and review it with them on an annual basis. The document will include:

  • Manager, supervisor, team leader and employees’ responsibilities regarding the organization’s commitment to workplace safety and health;
  • Commitment to returning injured or ill employees to work at the earliest opportunity.

A written safety and health policy clearly states the company’s commitment to effective safety process management and to providing a safe working environment.

This may seem to be a minor step, but it’s often the start in implementing effective safety and health systems and processes. It expresses the commitment to providing and maintaining a safe work environment.

Communicating the organization’s commitment to safety is as important as the company’s statement on producing quality products. Both statements should be mutually supportive. Consider integrating each statement into one comprehensive policy. Employees would benefit from seeing the integration of safety and quality.

Step Ten:  

Record Keeping and Data Analysis

Good recordkeeping is vital in improving health and safety performance.  Accurate and detailed records outlining why accident happened, what process or system needs to be changed to eliminate or reduce the risk of injury and how to make those changes are the goal of this step.

What you can do:

  •  Develop Accident Trends – Review your First Report of Injury Forms (FROI), OSHA 300 log or worker compensation reports to identify trends or clusters of injuries. If you live in Louisiana and are in need of a reliable pool construction company, then look no further than relief pools, baton rouge . Look for repeated incidents in a particular department or specific types of injuries (such as cut hands) that are occurring.  Use this information to identify opportunities to improve your safety and health process by focusing on these key areas.  Develop an Action List that outlines the problems, how to correct it and who is responsible for correcting any problems.  
  • Establish and Track Leading Indicators – Track your proactive safety activities, e.g. number of safety audits completed, number and types of safety training or discussions, or number of near misses investigated.

 All of this information is valuable in improving the safety culture and performance of your organization.

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10+ Health and Safety Business Plan Examples [ Employee, Service, Workplace ]

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Health And Safety Business Plan

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It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong. —Thomas Sowell, “ Wake up, p arents!” [1]

Business Owners

Business Owners (BOs) are key ART stakeholders who have the primary business and technical responsibility for return on investment (ROI), governance, and compliance.

Business Owners are critical stakeholders who evaluate fitness for use and actively participate in Agile Release Train (ART) events and solution development.

Self-managing, self-organizing  Agile Teams and ARTs are essential to the success of SAFe. This Lean-Agile way of working represents a significant change in the traditional management mindset. Leaders and management no longer need to supervise work directly or assign tasks. Instead, they lead and provide intent by establishing a mission and Vision .

Business Owners may help teams with coaching and skills development but essentially decentralize execution authority to the ART. However, transformation to a Lean-Agile way of working does not relieve leaders and management of their ultimate responsibilities. They remain accountable for the organization’s growth and its people, operational excellence, and business outcomes. SAFe defines the role of BOs as the key leaders who guide ARTs to optimal business outcomes.

Questions to identify Business Owners include:

  • Who is ultimately responsible for business outcomes?
  • Who can steer this ART to develop the right solutions?
  • Who can speak to the technical competence of the solution now and in the future?
  • Who should participate in planning, help eliminate impediments, and speak on behalf of development, the business, and the customer?
  • Who can approve and defend a set of PI plans, knowing they will never satisfy everyone?
  • Who can help ARTs coordinate efforts with other departments and organizations, spanning organizational boundaries?

The answers to these questions will help identify the BOs who will play a vital role in the ART’s ability to deliver value. Also, consider the availability of these leaders and their personal traits. Will they be an excellent Lean-Agile leader ? Are they interested in fulfilling this role?

It’s best to start with the smallest possible Business Owner team and then add members if it becomes clear that someone with the necessary accountability, skill, knowledge, or expertise is missing. Ensure a good mix of both business-oriented and technical people. It’s a reasonable expectation that membership in the BO team will change as needs dictate.


An effective Business Owner is active and involved, fulfilling their SAFe responsibilities daily, as illustrated in Figure 1.

While there is no precise guideline about who should be part of the Business Owner team, they often have the following roles or titles:

  • General or line of business manager
  • Product or Solution Managers
  • Enterprise Architects
  • C-level executives
  • Operations executives
  • Senior engineering leaders
  • Customers (for bespoke solutions)

The following sections describe the Business Owner’s duties, enabling them to fulfill their obligations while empowering Agile Teams and trains to do their best work.

Leading by Example

Business Owners are Lean-Agile Leaders who share accountability for the business value delivered by a specific ART. The most important and effective technique for driving the cultural change needed for the adoption of SAFe is for leaders to internalize and model the behaviors and mindsets of Business Agility . Such leaders inspire others to follow in their direction and to incorporate the leader’s example into their development journey. To accomplish this, Business Owners:

  • Serve as an example of the new behaviors – Live by the Lean-Agile principles and practices, modeling the new norms of expected behaviors for the ART and others to follow. They help address shortcomings in SAFe knowledge and experience.
  • Communicate the vision for SAFe adoption – Frequently communicate the business need, urgency, and vision for change. BOs participate in developing the SAFe implementation plan, prioritizing the transformation backlog, and establishing the metrics for tracking the change progress for one or more ARTs.
  • Actively engage with the Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE) – Address problems that teams cannot resolve. Such issues are often beyond the span of control of the LACE. For example, they may require facility changes, funding, hiring, and purchasing authority.
  • Address the concerns of people who resist the change – Exhibit empathy and compassion, address people’s fears and worries, and resolve problems quickly and effectively to help overcome the resistance that may block the change.
  • Act as change agents – Communicate passionately, sincerely believe, and illustrate their commitment to the future change vision. When people see leaders’ behaviors modeling those required by change, they become change advocates, aligning with the new behaviors more quickly. BOs do not tolerate unacceptable behavior and inspire those who resist or fear the change with mission and vision. BOs help people understand the new way of working and how it will benefit them, other ART members, and the organization. These leaders assure people by committing to adapting roles, practices, and processes for the overall good of the organization and ART.

A lack of psychological safety at work can have significant business consequences. When people don’t feel comfortable talking about things that aren’t working, the organization is not equipped to prevent failure. After all, no one can fix a secret. This fear often leads to disengaged employees and the opportunity cost to leverage the strengths of all its talent. People need to feel comfortable speaking up, asking naive questions, experimenting and failing with new ways of working, and disagreeing with changes to create and implement ideas that make a real difference.

In contrast, when employees are engaged, they adopt the organization’s vision, values, and purpose. They become passionate contributors, innovating problem solvers, and dependable colleagues.

Engaging with LPM

While Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) is operated by executives responsible for business outcomes, Business Owners are often critically engaged in the process. Some Business Owners may serve as LPM executives, but most are involved to some extent in activities such as:

  • Strategy and Investment Funding – Help ensure the portfolio and individual value streams are aligned and funded to create and maintain the solutions needed to meet business targets.
  • Agile Portfolio Operations – Business owners are responsible for helping value streams and ARTs’ get the right thing out the door’ to their customers. They may also directly or indirectly support the LACE and foster Communities of Practice (CoPs) within their domain of concern.
  • Lean Governance – Business Owners are directly engaged in ART backlog prioritization and value stream economics. They also help provide oversight and decision-making of spending, audit, compliance, forecasting expenses, and measurement for their value streams.
  • Occasionally serve as  Epic Owners – On occasion, Business Owners may serve as initial Epic owners for initiatives that benefit from their domain knowledge, experience, and authority.
  • Participatory Budgeting – Business Owners actively assist LPM in allocating the total portfolio budget to its value streams.

Aligning Priorities and PI Planning

Business Owners are responsible for understanding and refining the Strategic Themes that influence ARTs. They have knowledge of the current  Enterprise ,  Portfolio , and  Value Stream context, and they’re involved in driving or reviewing the solution vision and Roadmap . The continuous involvement of BOs during the PI serves as a critical Guardrail for the ART’s budgetary spending. Aligning priorities and PI planning usually involve the following activities:

The time before PI planning is a busy period for Business Owners. Responsibilities include:

  • Provide input to backlog   refinement – Participate in activities to align the backlog with the portfolio’s strategic themes
  • Ensure that business objectives are understood – Ensure that the business objectives are agreed to by key stakeholders of the train, including the Release Train Engineer (RTE) ,  Product Management ,  System Architects , and other BOs
  • Prepare to communicate the business context – Prepare to describe the business’s current state, the Portfolio Vision , and their perspective on how effectively existing solutions address current customer needs

The importance of the Business Owner’s role during PI planning cannot be overstated. Activities include:

  • Present the business context and Vision – Share the business context during the defined PI planning agenda timebox. This context may include the state of the business, market rhythms, milestones, and significant external dependencies, such as those of Suppliers .
  • Actively engage during critical ART PI planning activities – Participate in draft plan reviews, assign business value to team PI objectives, and approve final plans.
  • Review draft and final plans – Understand the bigger picture and determine if the team’s objectives fulfill the current business objectives when taken together. They ask powerful questions and ensure alignment on solution intent.
  • Watch for significant external commitments and dependencies – Foster the management of dependencies and support their reduction or elimination.
  • Actively circulate during planning – Communicate business priorities to the teams and maintain agreement and alignment among the stakeholders regarding the key objectives of the train.
  • Participate in the management review and problem-solving – Business Owners are critical stakeholders in this problem-solving meeting. They review and adjust the scope, resolve problems, and compromise as necessary.
  • Participate in Solution Train planning – If applicable, BOs participate in Pre-Planning , helping ARTs adjust their plans and providing support during the Coordinate and Deliver activities.

Moreover, when Business Owners assign planned business value during PI planning, it offers an essential face-to-face dialogue between teams and their most important stakeholders, the BOs. This activity is an opportunity to develop personal relationships between Agile Teams and BOs, identify common concerns that require mutual commitment, and better understand the business objectives and their value. Figure 2 provides an example of one team’s PI objectives and the Business Value (BV) assigned by BOs.

Business Owners use a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) and will typically assign the highest values to the customer-facing objectives. However, they should also seek the advice of technical experts who know that architecture and other concerns will increase the team’s velocity in producing future business value. So placing suitable business value on Enablers helps drive velocity and demonstrates their commitment to addressing the team’s legitimate technical challenges.

SAFe customers often ask, why doesn’t the BV use Fibonacci numbers? The answer is simple: the 10 to 1 scale is a range of numbers everyone understands, reducing friction and miscommunication between business-oriented BOs, technical members, and ART stakeholders. The simplest way to start is to assign a 10 to the highest individual objectives, typically ‘fixed’ commitments or must-have items, and then scale down from there. Giving many PI objectives a 10 (for one team) indicates a lack of objective prioritization. It effectively abrogates prioritization to the team without the benefit of the BO’s knowledge and experience.

Realizing Business Outcomes

The Business Owner’s job is not complete when PI planning is done. They have an ongoing role in helping ensure the success of solution delivery. Business Owners typically:

  • Maintain alignment – Actively maintain alignment between the business and development as priorities and scope inevitably change.
  • Help validate the definition of MVPs – Guide pivot-or-persevere decisions for ART or Solution Epics based on the delivery of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
  • Attend the System and Solution Demos – Actively engage in the system and solution demos to understand progress and provide feedback.
  • Attend Agile team events – Attend team events such as Iteration Planning , Review, and Retrospectives as needs dictate.
  • Actively address impediments – Help resolve impediments that escalate beyond the authority of the train’s leaders and stakeholders.
  • Participate in  release management – Serve as critical stakeholders in release governance (described in Release on Demand ) and determine when the solutions are released. Specifically, they focus on scope, quality, deployment options, release, and market considerations.

Sponsoring Relentless Improvement

The  Inspect and Adapt (I&A) event is a cadence-based opportunity for the whole ART to reflect on progress and identify the systemic impediments they’re facing—many of which require the BO’s involvement. During the event, BOs assess the actual value achieved versus the plan and participate in the I&A’s problem-solving workshop. Moreover, Business Owners are Lean-Agile Leaders who:

  • Continually focus on eliminating waste and delays – Foster the adoption of Principle #6, Make value flow without interruption , including Value Stream Management , the eight flow accelerators, and the six flow measurements (flow distribution, velocity, time, load, efficiency, and predictability ).
  • Eliminate demotivating policies and procedures – Actively participate in the I&A’s problem-solving workshop to identify and eliminate systemic issues, policies, and processes that are not aligned with the Lean-Agile Mindset and are not within the scope of the ART’s control.
  • I nspire and motivate others – Effectively communicate (frequently) why  change is needed and do so in ways that inspire, motivate, and engage people to buy into the change with a sense of urgency.
  • Create a generative culture that highly values relentless improvement – Model the right behaviors to help transform the culture from pathological (negative, power-oriented) and bureaucratic (negative, rule-oriented) to a positive, performance-oriented culture, which is required for the Lean-Agile mindset to flourish.
  • Provide the time and space for teams to innovate – Foster the use of IP iterations to provide a regular, cadence-based opportunity for teams to work on innovation, improvement activities, and learning that are often difficult to fit into a continuous, incremental value delivery pattern.
  • Help drive investment in the continuous delivery pipeline – Supports process and infrastructure enhancements to the Continuous Delivery Pipeline to improve the responsiveness of the ART and the quality of its solutions.

It cannot be emphasized enough: Active participation of Business Owners is critical to the SAFe enterprise.  

[1] Sowell, Thomas. “Wake up, p arents!” Jewish World Review , August 18, 2000.

Last update: 3 July 2023

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Developing a Business Plan

Developing a Business Plan

An important task in starting a new venture is to develop a business plan. As the phrase suggests, a business plan is a "road map" to guide the future of the business or venture. The elements of the business plan will impact the daily decisions of the business and provide direction for expansion, diversification, and future evaluation of the business.

This publication will assist in drafting your own business plan. It includes a discussion of the makeup of the plan and the information needed to develop a business plan. Business plans are traditionally developed and written by the owner with input from family members and the members of the business team. Business plans are "living" documents that should be reviewed and updated every year or if an opportunity for change presents itself. Reviews reinforce the thoughts and plans of the owner and the business and are a key item in the evaluation process. For an established venture, evaluation determines if the business is in need of change or if it is meeting the expectations of the owners.

Using the Proper Format

The format and appearance of the plan should be as professional as possible to portray your business in a positive manner. When dealing with a lender or possible investor, the plan will be reviewed for accuracy and suggestions for changes to the plan may be offered. The decision to recommend a loan for approval will be largely based on your business plan. Often loan officers will not know a great deal about the proposed venture, but they will know the correct structure of a business plan.

Investors will make their decision based on the plan and the integrity of the owner. For this reason, it is necessary to use a professional format. After loan officers complete their evaluations, the loan committee will further review the business plan and make a decision. The committee members often spend limited time reviewing the document, focusing on the message of the executive summary and financial statements to make their determination. They will refer to other sections of the plan for details and clarification. Because of this, these portions need to be the strongest parts of the plan and based on sound in-depth research and analysis.

Sections of the Business Plan

A business plan should be structured like a book with the title or cover page, followed by a table of contents. Following these two pages, the body of the plan normally appears in this order: executive summary, business mission statement, goals and objectives, background information, organizational matters, marketing plan, and financial plan.

Executive Summary

The executive summary is placed at the front of the business plan, but it should be the last part written. The summary should identify the type of business and describe the proposed business, or changes to the existing business. Research findings and recommendations should be summarized concisely to provide the reader with the information required to make any decisions. The summary outlines the direction and future plans or goals of the business, as well as the methods that will be used to achieve these goals. The summary should include adequate background information to support these recommendations.

The final financial analysis and the assumptions used are also a part of the executive summary. The analysis should show how proposed changes will ensure the sustainability of the current or proposed business. All challenges facing the existing business or proposed venture should be discussed in this section. Identifying such challenges shows the reader that all possibilities have been explored and taken into account during the research process.

Overview, Mission, and Goals and Objectives

This section has three separate portions. It begins with a brief overview that includes a general description of the existing or planned business. The overview is followed by the mission statement of the business. You should try to limit the mission statement to three sentences if possible and include only the key ideas about why the business exists. An example of a mission statement for a produce farm might be: The mission of XYZ Produce is to provide fresh, healthy produce to our customers, and to provide a safe, friendly working environment for our employees. If you have more than three sentences, you should be as concise as possible.

The final portion sets the business's goals and objectives. There are at least two schools of thought about goals and objectives. Goals and objectives should show the reader what the business wishes to accomplish, and the steps needed to obtain the desired results. Conducting a SWOT analysis will assist your team when developing goals and objectives. SWOT in an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats and is covered more in-depth later in the publication. You may want to include marketing topics in the SWOT or conduct two SWOT analyses, one for the entire business and one for the marketing plan.

Goals should follow the acronym DRIVE, which stands for D irectional, R easonable, I nspiring, V isible, and E ventual. The definitions of DRIVE are:

  • Directional: It should guide you to follow your vision.
  • Reasonable: You should be able to reach the goal, and it should be related to your business.
  • Inspiring: Make sure the goal is positive but should challenge the business to grow into the goal.
  • Visible: You and your employees should be able to easily recognize the goal. Goals should be posted where everyone sees them every day.
  • Eventual: The goals should focus on the future and be structured to provide motivation to all to strive towards the goals.

Objectives should follow the acronym SMART, which stands for S pecific, M easurable, A ttainable, R ewarding, and T imed. Objectives are the building blocks to achieve the goals and stand for:

  • Specific: Each objective should focus on one building block to reach the goal.
  • Measurable: You should be able to determine if your progress is going in the right direction.
  • Attainable: You should be able to complete the objective with an appropriate amount of work.
  • Rewarding: Reaching the objective should be something to celebrate and provide positive reinforcement to the business.
  • Timed: You must have a deadline for the objective to be achieved. You do not want to have the objectives linger for too long. Not reaching the objectives delays reaching the goals. Not achieving goals is detrimental to the morale of the business.

Goals and objectives should follow these formats to allow for evaluation of the entire process and provide valuable feedback along the way. The business owner should continually evaluate the outcomes of decisions and practices to determine if the goals or objectives are being met and make modifications when needed.

Background Information

Background information should come from the research conducted during the writing process. This portion should include information regarding the history of the industry, the current state of the industry, and information from reputable sources concerning the future of the industry.

This portion of the business plan requires the most investment of time by the writer, with information gathered from multiple sources to prevent bias or undue optimism. The writer should take all aspects of the industry (past, present, and future) and business into account. If there are concerns or questions about the viability of the industry or business, these must be addressed. In writing this portion of the plan, information may be obtained from your local public library, periodicals, industry personnel, trusted sources on the Internet, and publications such as the Penn State Extension Agricultural Alternatives series . Industry periodicals are another excellent source of up-to-date information. The more varied the sources, the better the evaluation of the industry and the business, and the greater the opportunity to have a viable plan.

The business owner must first choose an appropriate legal structure for the business. The business structure will have an impact on the future, including potential expansion and exit from the business. If the proper legal structure is not chosen, the business may be negatively impacted down the road. Only after the decision is made about the type of business can the detailed planning begin.

Organizational Matters

This section of the plan describes the current or planned business structure, the management team, and risk-management strategies. There are several forms of business structure to choose from, including sole proprietorship, partnership, corporations (subchapter S or subchapter C), cooperative, and limited liability corporation or partnership (LLC or LLP). These business structures are discussed in Agricultural Alternatives: Starting or Diversifying an Agricultural Business .

The type of business structure is an important decision and often requires the advice of an attorney (and an accountant). The business structure should fit the management skills and style(s) of the owner(s) and take into account the risk management needs (both liability and financial) of the business. For example, if there is more than one owner (or multiple investors), a sole proprietorship is not an option because more than one person has invested time and/or money into the business. In this case a partnership, cooperative, corporation, LLC, or LLP would be the proper choice.

Another consideration for the type of business structure is the transfer of the business to the next generation or the dissolution of the business. There are benefits and drawbacks for each type of structure covering the transition of ownership. If the business has a high exposure to risk or liability, then an LLC might be preferred over a partnership or sole proprietorship.

If the business is not a sole proprietorship, the management team should be described in the business plan. The management team should consist of all parties involved in the decisions and activities of the business. The strengths and backgrounds of the management team members should be discussed to highlight the positive aspects of the team. Even if the business is a sole proprietorship, usually more than one person (often a spouse, child, relative, or other trusted person) will have input into the decisions, and so should be included as team members.

Regardless of the business structure, all businesses should also have an external management support team. This external management support team should consist of the business's lawyer, accountant, insurance agent or broker, and possibly a mentor. These external members are an integral part of the management team. Many large businesses have these experts on staff or on retainer. For small businesses, the external management team replaces full-time experts; the business owner(s) should consult with this external team on a regular basis (at least once a year) to determine if the business is complying with all rules and regulations. Listing the management team in the business plan allows the reader to know that the business owner has developed a network of experts to provide advice.

The risk-management portion of the business plan provides a description of how the business will handle unexpected or unusual events. For example, if the business engages in agricultural production, will the business purchase crop insurance? Does the business have adequate liability insurance? Is the business diversified to protect against the unexpected, rather than "putting all its eggs in one basket"? If the business has employees, does the business carry adequate workers' compensation insurance? All of these questions should be answered in the risk-management portion of the business plan. More information on how liability can affect your business and on the use of insurance as a risk-management tool can be found in Agricultural Alternatives: Agricultural Business Insurance and Agricultural Alternatives: Understanding Agricultural Liability . The business structure will also determine a portion of the risk-management strategy because the way that a business is structured carries varying levels of risk to the owner and/or owners. All opportunities carry a degree of risk that must be evaluated, and mitigation strategies should be included in this portion of the plan.

Marketing Plan

Every purchase decision that a consumer makes is influenced by the marketing strategy or plan of the company selling the product or service. Products are usually purchased based on consumer preferences, including brand name, price, and perceived quality attributes. Consumer preferences develop (and change) over time and an effective marketing plan takes these preferences into account. This makes the marketing plan an important part of the overall business plan.

In order to be viable, the marketing plan must coincide with the production activities. The marketing plan must address consumer desires and needs. For example, if a perishable or seasonal crop (such as strawberries) will be produced, the marketing plan should not include sales of locally grown berries in January if the business is in northeastern United States. If the business plans to purchase berries in the off-season from other sources to market, this information needs to be included. In this way, the marketing plan must fit the production capabilities (or the capability to obtain products from other sources).

A complete marketing plan should identify target customers, including where they live, work, and purchase the product or service you are providing. This portion of the plan contains a description of the characteristics and advantages of your product or service. Identifying a "niche" market will be of great value to your business.

Products may be sold directly to the consumer (retail) or through another business (wholesale) or a combination of both. Whichever marketing avenue you choose, if you are starting a new enterprise or expanding an existing one, you will need to decide if the market can bear more of what you plan to produce. Your industry research will assist in this determination. The plan must also address the challenges of the proposed marketing strategy.

Other variables to consider are sales location, market location, promotion, advertising, pricing, staffing, and the costs associated with all of these. All of these aspects of the marketing plan will take time to develop and should not be taken lightly. Further discussion on marketing fruits and vegetables can be found in Agricultural Alternatives: Fruit and Vegetable Marketing for Small-Scale and Part-Time Growers .

SWOT Analysis

An adequate way of determining the answers to business and marketing issues is to conduct a SWOT analysis. The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths represent internal attributes and may include aspects like previous experience in the business. Experience in sales or marketing would be an area of strength for a retail farm market. Weaknesses are also internal and may include aspects such as the time, cost, and effort needed to introduce a new product or service to the marketplace.

Opportunities are external aspects that will help your business to take off and be sustained. If no one is offering identical products or services in your immediate area, you may have the opportunity to capture the market. Threats are external and may include aspects like other businesses offering the same product in close proximity to your business or government regulations impacting business practices and cost.

Financial Plan

The financial plan and assumptions are crucial to the success of the business and should be included in the business plan. One of the foremost reasons new businesses fail is because they do not have enough start-up capital to cover all expenses to make a profit. The scope of your business will be determined by the financial resources you can acquire. Because of this, you will need to develop a financial plan and create the supporting documents to substantiate it.

The financial plan has its basis in historical data (if you are an existing business) or from projections (for a proposed business). The first issue to address is recordkeeping. You should indicate who will keep the necessary records and how these records will be used. Internal controls, such as who will sign checks and handle any funds, should also be addressed. A good rule to follow for businesses that are not sole proprietorships is having at least two people sign all checks.

The next portion of the financial plan should detail where funding will come from. This includes if (and when) the business will need additional capital, how much capital will be needed, and how these funds will be obtained. If start-up capital is needed, this information should be included in this portion. Personal contributions should be included, along with other funding sources. The amount of money and repayment terms should be listed. One common mistake affecting many new businesses is under-funding at start-up. Many start-up businesses do not evaluate all areas of expense and underestimate the amount of capital needed to see a new business through the development stages (including personal living expenses, if off-farm income is not available).

Typically, a balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and partial budget or enterprise budgets are included in a business plan. More information on agricultural budgets can be found in Agricultural Alternatives: Budgeting for Agricultural Decision Making . These documents will display the financial information in a form that lending institutions are used to seeing. If these are not prepared by an accountant, having one review them will ensure that the proper format has been used.

Financial projections should be completed for at least two years and, ideally, for five years. In agricultural businesses, five-year projections are sometimes difficult to make because of variability in prices, weather, and other aspects affecting production. One way to illustrate these risks is to develop several projection scenarios covering a range of production assumptions. This attention to detail will often result in a positive experience with lenders because they realize that the plan covers several possible circumstances and provides insight into how the business plans to manage risk. More information on financing agricultural businesses can be found in the publication Agricultural Alternatives: Financing Small-Scale and Part-Time Farms .

Financial Statements

To keep personal assets and liabilities separate from business assets and liabilities, it is beneficial to create both business and personal financial statements. A lender will need to see both, but the separation will show how the business will support the family or how the off-farm income will support the business.

Cash Flow Statement

A cash flow statement is the predicted flow of cash into and out of a business over a year. Cash flow statements are prepared by showing the total amounts predicted for each item of income or expense. This total is then broken down by month to show when surpluses and shortfalls in cash will occur. In this way, the cash flow statement can be used to predict when additional cash is needed and when the business will have a surplus to pay back any debt. This monthly prediction allows the owner(s) to better evaluate the cash needs of the business, taking out applicable loans and repaying outstanding debts. The cash flow statement often uses the same categories as the income statement plus additional categories to cover debt payments and borrowing.

After these financial statements are completed, the business plan writer will have an accurate picture of how the business has performed and can project how the business will perform in the coming year(s). With such information, the owner—and any readers of the business plan—will be able to evaluate the viability of the business and will have an accurate understanding of actions and activities that will contribute to its sustainability. This understanding will enable them to make better informed decisions regarding loans or investments in the business.

Income Statement

The income statement is a summary of the income (revenue) and expenses for a given accounting cycle. If the balance sheet is a "snapshot" of the financial health of the business, the income statement is a "motion picture" of the financial health of the business over a specific time period. An income statement is constructed by listing the income (or revenue) at the top of the page and the expenses (and the resulting profit or loss) at the bottom of the page.

Revenue is any income realized by the sale of crops or livestock, government payments, and any other income the business may have (including such items as fuel tax refunds, patronage dividends, and custom work). Other items impacting revenues are changes in inventory and accounts receivable between the start of the time period and the end—even if these changes are negative.

Expenses include any expense the business has incurred from the production of the products sold. Examples of expenses include feed, fertilizer, pesticides, fuel, labor, maintenance, repairs, insurance, taxes, utilities, and any changes in accounts payable. Depreciation, which is the calculated wear and tear on assets (excluding land), is included as an expense for accounting purposes. Interest is considered an expense, but any principal payments related to loans are not an expense. Repayment of principal is recorded on the balance sheet under "Loans Payable."

As the income statement is created, the desired outcome is to have more income than expenses, so the income statement shows a profit. If not, the final number is shown in parentheses (signifying a negative number). Another name for this financial record is a Profit and Loss Statement. Income statements are one way to clearly show how the farm is making progress from one year to the next and may show a much more optimistic view of sustainability than can be seen by looking at a single year's balance sheet.

Balance Sheet

A balance sheet is a snapshot of a business’s assets, liabilities, and owner’s equity at a specific point in time. A balance sheet can be prepared at any time, but is usually done at the end of the fiscal year (for many businesses, this is the end of the calendar year). Evaluating the business by using the balance sheet requires several years of balance sheets to tell the true story of the business’s progress over time. A balance sheet is typically constructed by listing assets on the left and liabilities and owner’s equity on the right. The difference between the assets and liabilities of the business is called the "owner's equity" and provides an estimate of how much of the business is owned outright.

Assets are anything owned by, or owed to, the business. These include cash (and checking account balances), accounts receivable (money owed to the business), inventory (any crops or supplies that the business has stored on farm), land, equipment, and buildings. This may also include machinery, breeding stock, small-fruit bushes or canes, and fruit trees. Sometimes assets are listed as current (those easily converted to cash) and fixed (those that are required for the business to continue). Assets are basically anything of value to the business. Some valuations of assets are not easily determined for items such as breeding stock, small-fruit bushes or canes, and fruit trees and may require the use of a certified appraiser familiar with the items.

Balance sheets may use a market-basis or a cost-basis to calculate the value of assets. A market-basis balance sheet better reflects the current economic conditions because it relies on current or market value for the assets, rather than what those assets originally cost. Market values are more difficult to obtain because of the difficulty in finding accurate current prices of assets and often results in the inflation of the value of assets. Cost-basis balance sheets are more conservative because the values are often from prior years. For example, a cost-basis balance sheet would use the original purchase price of land, rather than what selling that land would bring today. Because purchase records are easily obtained, constructing a cost-basis balance sheet is easier. Depreciable assets such as buildings, tractors, and equipment are listed on the cost-basis balance sheet at purchase price less accumulated depreciation. Most accountants use the cost-basis balance sheet method. Whether you choose to use market-basis or cost-basis, it is critical that you remain consistent over the years to allow for accurate comparison.

Liabilities are what the business owes on the date the balance sheet is prepared. Liabilities include both current liabilities (accounts payable, any account the business has with a supplier, short-term notes, operating loans, and the current portion of long-term debt), which are payable within the current year, and noncurrent liabilities (mortgages and loans with a term that extends over one year).

Owner's equity is what remains after all liabilities have been subtracted from all assets. It represents money that the owner(s) have invested in the business, profits that are retained in the business, and changes caused by fluctuating market values (on a market-basis balance sheet). Owner’s equity will be affected whenever there are changes in capital contributed to the business or retained earnings, so if your practice is to use all earnings as your "paycheck," rather than reinvesting them in the business, your owner's equity will be impacted. On the balance sheet, owner’s equity plus liabilities equals assets. Or stated another way, all of the assets less the amount owed (liabilities) equals the owner’s equity (sometimes referred to as "net worth"). Owner's equity provides the "balance" in a balance sheet.

Putting It All Together

After the mission, background information, organization, and marketing and financial plans are complete, an executive summary can then be prepared. Armed with the research results and information in the other sections, the business will come alive through this section. Research results can be included in an appendix if desired. The next step is to share this plan with others whose opinions you respect. Have them ask you the hard questions—make you defend an opinion you have expressed or challenge you to describe what you plan to do in more detail. Often, people are hesitant to share what they have written with their families or friends because they fear the plan will not be taken seriously. However, it is much better to receive constructive criticism from family and friends (and gain the opportunity to strengthen your plan) than it is to take it immediately to the lender, only to have any problems pointed out and receive a rejection.

Once all parts of the business plan have been written, you will have a document that will enable you to analyze your business and determine which, if any, changes need to be made. Changes on paper take time and effort but are not as expensive as changing a business practice only to find that the chosen method is not viable. For a proposed venture, if the written plan points to the business not being viable, large sums of money have not been invested and possibly lost. In short, challenges are better faced on paper than with investment capital.

Remember, a business plan is a "road map" that will guide the future of the business. The best business plan is a document in continual change, reacting to the influence of the outside world on the business. Having the basis of a written plan will give you the confidence to consider changes in the business to remain competitive. Once the plan is in place, the business will have a better chance of future success.

For More Information


Abrams, R. The Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies (Successful Business Plan Secrets and Strategies) . Palo Alto, Calif.: Planning Shop, 2014.

Becker, J. C., L. F. Kime, J. K. Harper, and R. Pifer. Agricultural Alternatives: Understanding Agricultural Liability . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2011.

Dethomas, A., and L. and S. Derammelaere. Writing a Convincing Business Plan (Barron's Business Library) . Hauppauge, N.Y.: Barron's Educational Series. 2015.

Dunn, J., J. K. Harper, and L. F. Kime. Agricultural Alternatives: Fruit and Vegetable Marketing for Small-scale and Part-time Growers . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2009.

Grant, W. How to Write a Winning Business Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide for Startup Entrepreneurs to Build a Solid Foundation, Attract Investors and Achieve Success with a Bulletproof Business Plan (Business 101). Independently published. 2020.

Harper, J. K., S. Cornelisse, L. F. Kime, and J. Hyde. Agricultural Alternatives: Budgeting for Agricultural Decision Making . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2019.

Kime, L. F., J. A. Adamik, E. E. Gantz, and J. K. Harper. Agricultural Alternatives: Agricultural Business Insurance . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2019.

Kime, L. F., S. Cornelisse, and J. K. Harper. Agricultural Alternatives: Starting or Diversifying an Agricultural Business . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2018.

Lesonsky, R. Start Your Own Business Fifth Edition: The Only Start-Up Book You'll Ever Need.  Irvine, Calif.: Entrepreneur Media Inc., 2010.

Shelton, H. The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan: A Pro Shares a Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Plan That Gets Results. Rockville, Md.: Summit Valley Press, 2017.

Stokes, J. S., G. D. Hanson, J. K. Harper, and L. F. Kime.  Agricultural Alternatives: Financing Small-scale and Part-time Farms . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2005.

Online Course

Starting a Farm: Business Planning  


  • American Agriculturist Magazine Farm Progress Companies Inc. 5482 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 260 Los Angeles, CA 90036
  • Businessweek Magazine
  • Fortune Magazine
  • Kiplinger's Personal Finance
  • Money Magazine
  • BizPlanit - Virtual Business Plan
  • PA Business One-Stop Shop
  • Small Business Administration
  • SCORE—volunteer business assistance
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Starting a Business in Pennsylvania—A Guide to Pennsylvania Taxes
  • The Pennsylvania State University Agricultural Alternative Tools
  • The Pennsylvania State University Conducting a SWOT Analysis
  • The Pennsylvania State University Happy Valley Launch Box

Prepared by Lynn F. Kime, senior extension associate; Linda Falcone, extension educator in Wyoming County, Jayson K. Harper, professor of agricultural economics; and Winifred W. McGee, retired extension educator in Dauphin County

Additional financial support for this publication was provided by the Risk Management Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

This publication was developed by the Small-scale and Part-time Farming Project at Penn State with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Extension Service.

Lynn Kime

  • Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education

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