Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan
By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021
A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice.
Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.
A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:
- Product goals and deadlines for each month
- Monthly financials for the first two years
- Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
- Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years
Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.
While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.
For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .
Business Plan Steps
The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:
- Executive summary
- Description of business
- Market analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Description of organizational management
- Description of product or services
- Marketing plan
- Sales strategy
- Funding details (or request for funding)
- Financial projections
If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.
Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.
Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?
Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.
How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business
In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.
Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:
Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?
There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.
The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans
A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.
In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.
How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step
Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.
Step 1: Executive Summary
The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:
- What is the vision and mission of the company?
- What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?
See our roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.
Step 2: Description of Business
The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:
- What business are we in?
- What does our business do?
Step 3: Market Analysis
In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:
- Who is our customer?
- What does that customer value?
Step 4: Competitive Analysis
In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:
- Who is the competition?
- What do they do best?
- What is our unique value proposition?
Step 5: Description of Organizational Management
In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.
Step 6: Description of Products or Services
In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.
Questions to answer in this section are as follows:
- What is the product or service?
- How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?
Step 7: Marketing Plan
In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:
- Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
- What channels will you use to reach your target market?
- What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
- If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
- How will you measure success?
Step 8: Sales Plan
Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts.
Start by answering the following questions:
- What is the sales strategy?
- What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
- What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
- What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
- What are the metrics of success?
Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)
This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:
- How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
- How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
- What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?
Step 10: Financial Projections
Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years.
While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:
- How and when will the company first generate a profit?
- How will the company maintain profit thereafter?
Business Plan Template
Download Business Plan Template
Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet
This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.
For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy.
If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.
How to Write a Simple Business Plan
A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.
Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .
- Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company.
- Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision.
- Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
- Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
- Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
- Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
- Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
- Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
- Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting.
- Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.
Simple Business Plan Template
Download Simple Business Plan Template
Microsoft Excel | Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Smartsheet
Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.
Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates .
How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup
A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.
While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:
- Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
- List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
- Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
- Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
- Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.).
- Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
- Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
- Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.
Lean Business Plan Template for Startups
Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups
Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF
Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.
See our wide variety of startup business plan templates for more options.
How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan
A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.
In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.
Download free financial templates to support your business plan.
Tips for Writing a Business Plan
Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.
- Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
- Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
- Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
- Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
- Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”
Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.
Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.
“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”
Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”
Resources for Writing a Business Plan
While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.
Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.
How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business
A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships.
Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.
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Follow these steps to write a business plan
Why do you need a business plan, start writing your business plan, business plan templates and tools.
How to Write a Business Plan
Noah Parsons | Oct 27, 2023
Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. The more you know about what goes into your plan, the easier it will be to write.
In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to write a strong business plan that’s detailed enough to impress bankers and potential investors while helping you start, run, and grow a successful business.
Follow these eleven simple steps and download one of our free business plan templates to make writing your business plan quick and easy.
1. Start with a one-page plan
Outline all of your important business details with a simple highly focused document that's easy to complete and update.
A one-page business plan is a succinct, high-level overview of your business concept, key objectives, and strategy for success. It serves as a roadmap that outlines the essential details of your business and its operations in a clear and concise format.
Common components of writing a business plan include a problem and solution statement, an outline of your business model, target market, competitive advantage, a breakdown of your team, and a financial summary.
The one-page plan is where you will outline all of your important business details with a brief and focused document that’s incredibly easy to update and expand. Despite its brevity, a one-page business plan can be a powerful tool that provides a clear vision of what you aim to achieve and how you plan to do it. It’s not only a foundational document for your business operations, but also a persuasive tool when pitching to investors or potential partners.
You may even find that it’s all you need to run your business.
2. Summarize with an executive summary
To make sure that people will actually read your business plan and understand your business—you'll need a brief but thorough introduction to that is both convincing and easy to digest.
The executive summary is the first, and possibly only, thing investors, employees and anyone else will read. It should provide an overview of your business operations, strategy, and goals within one or two pages. While it does come first in your plan it should be the last thing you complete—after you have written the other parts of your business plan.
Despite its brevity, you will still want to include several important pieces of information when writing your business plan executive summary . These include the unique product or service your business offers, the market it targets, and why it holds a competitive advantage. It establishes both high-level facts like the company’s vision and mission statement , as well as previewing technical details like an overview of financial projections or funding request.
3. Describe your products and services
This is where you describe what you are selling and how it solves a problem for your target market. Any other information, like initial traction or patents, should further demonstrate how your product/service stands out.
Is there actually a need for what you plan to offer?
Whether you’re selling products, services or both, this section is where you will detail not only what you provide, but also how your offerings solve problems your customers are dealing with, the value you provide and how your solution sets you apart from competitors. It is also where you can show you have a solid grasp of logistical details like pricing and distribution.
To truly showcase the value of your products and services , you need to craft a compelling narrative around your offerings. How will your product or service transform your customer’s life or work? This narrative will draw in your audience, whether they’re potential customers or investors.
Above all, it is the area when writing your business plan to really showcase the value of your products and/or services.
4. Conduct a market analysis
When creating a business plan, spend time researching the market you’re entering to identify emerging trends and hone in on what is attainable– your ultimate goal is to be able to define your ideal target market.
This is likely to be one of the most time-intensive steps in writing your business plan. It requires developing a comprehensive assessment of the environment you plan to operate in. Especially if you’re writing a business plan to secure a loan or investment, you will need to show that you understand the dynamics and trends in the market.
Conducting a marketing analysis involves segmenting your market based on demographic and psychographic information. These are attributes like their age, income level, interests and habits. Your target market is the specific group of people who are most likely to become your customers.
The goal of this section is for you to paint a clear picture of who your ideal customers are , determine if the market is viable for your business, and back up your claims with supporting information. If you were to present this part of your plan to an investor, they would hopefully have no questions about who your business will be serving.
5. Conduct a competitive analysis
Everyone has competition and you should show that you understand who they are and how you compare as part of your business plan.
Part of defining your opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage may be. To do this effectively you need to get to know your competitors just as well as your target customers. Every business will have competition, if you don’t then you’re either in a very young industry or there’s a good reason no one is pursuing this specific venture.
To succeed, you want to be sure you know who your competitors are , how they operate, necessary financial benchmarks, and how you’re business will be positioned. Remember, this will likely be something you revisit and update in the future as the competitve landscape shifts and changes.
6. Outline your marketing and sales plan
This section describes how you plan to reach and sell to your potential customers, what your pricing strategy will be, and what marketing activities you will use to make your small business successful.
The marketing and sales plan includes how you will position your product or service in the market, the marketing channels and messaging you will use, and your sales tactics. This section should give a clear picture of what your growth trajectory looks like, the milestones you intend to achieve, and how you plan to measure success.
Your marketing strategy should align strategic goals with concrete marketing activities that aim to engage your target market and persuade them to purchase your product or service.
The sales plan should clearly estimate how much you aim to sell, and provide actionable steps to achieve those goals.
Together, these specific plans paint a picture of how you will not just connect with your target audience but how you will turn them into paying customers.
7. Describe your business operations
How will your business run day-to-day? You'll want to have all the necessary details in this section to show that you have an understanding of how you'll produce and maintain your product or service.
The operations section describes the necessary requirements for your business to run smoothly. This includes elements such as inventory, supply chains, equipment and technology, distribution, and manufacturing. In short, this section is where you talk about how your business works and what day-to-day operations look like.
Operations do not cover your business model and organizational structure. Instead, your operations and distribution are tied strictly to execution and help further fill out how you will achieve your goals and objectives.
For businesses without a physical product, you can use this section to describe the technology you’ll leverage, what goes into your service, who you will partner with , and any other factors that keep your services running.
8. Track milestones and metrics
While not required to complete your business plan it can be incredibly useful to map out key business milestones and the metrics you’ll be tracking along the way.
A good milestone clearly lays out the parameters of the task at hand and sets expectations for its execution. You’ll want to include a description of the task, a proposed due date, who is responsible, and eventually a budget that’s attached. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section, just key milestones that you want to hit and when you plan to hit them.
You should also discuss key metrics, which are the numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common data points worth tracking include conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, profit, etc.
It’s perfectly fine to start small and grow the number of metrics you are tracking. You also may find that some metrics simply aren’t relevant to your business and can narrow down what you’re tracking over time.
9. Describe your organization and management structure
This is the part of your business plan to detail the history of your company, list out roles and specific employee qualifications, as well as logistical information.
This is a fairly short, but important, section. Investors look for great teams in addition to great ideas—and this is your chance to prove that you have both.
Include brief bios that highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member. It’s important here to make the case for why the team is the right team to turn an idea into a reality. Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before?
Your company overview should also include a summary of your company’s current business structure. The most common business structures include:
- Sole proprietor
Be sure to provide a review of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided? Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.
10. Make a financial plan
Creating a financial plan and budget prepares you with the necessary financial statements and forecasts to set goals and pursue business loans or investment.
Many business owners feel intimidated by the financial component of writing their business plan. But it doesn’t require a business degree or advanced math skills to create well-structured, accurate financial statements.
Creating a comprehensive financial plan starts with a sales forecast , where you estimate the sales expected over a given period. Just as important is an expense budget , where you project future costs such as personnel costs , equipment, marketing expenses, and taxes.
A strong business plan will include assumptions about the future and potential risks that could impact the financial plan . Including those will be especially important if you’re writing a business plan to pursue a loan or other investment.
11. Add supporting information to an appendix
This is the place for additional data, charts, or other information that supports or just doesn’t fit into specific sections of your plan.
Including an appendix in your business plan can significantly enhance the credibility of your plan by showing readers that you’ve thoroughly considered the details of your business idea and are backing your ideas up with solid data.
Just remember that the information in the appendix is meant to be supplementary. Your business plan should stand on its own, even if the reader skips this section.
Even after reviewing these steps you may be wondering, “Why should I spend my time making a business plan?” Here are the top reasons why you should invest in planning:
Businesses that plan grow 30% faster.
A surprising amount of research has been done on business planning and has shown that companies that take the time to write a plan and review it regularly grow 30% faster than those businesses that don’t plan. Not only do these companies grow faster, but they perform better and are less likely to fail in the long run.
Lenders and investors need business plans
If you’re growing your business and plan on getting a business loan or raising money from investors, you’ll need a business plan. Most lenders and investors will ask for a plan , but even if they don’t want to see the actual document, they will ask you questions that only a solid business plan will be able to answer.
Business plans reduce risk
Starting and running a business is always risky. Instead of flying by the seat of your pants, you can use a plan to forecast potential cash flow issues and get ahead of any potential roadblocks so you aren’t caught off guard. A business plan will help you reduce your risk and help you navigate the future.
Business planning helps you make smart spending decisions
Before you make a big spending decision for your business, you need to know the potential impacts on your finances. With a business plan in place, you can easily explore different scenarios and see what impacts a new hire or an expansion to a second location will have on your business.
Need more reasons for why you need a business plan? Read our full list of reasons why having a business plan is important for small businesses.
Whether you’re writing a plan to explore a new business idea, establishing steps to start a business, looking to raise money from investors, seeking a loan, or just trying to run your business better—a solid business plan will help get you there.
Business planning is a continuous process that can help you validate your idea, set goals, manage, and successfully pitch your business. One of the most helpful things you can do to build a successful business is to jump in and start planning.
For detailed guidance on writing specific sections of your business plan, check out the links above for additional resources.
For more on business planning, including tips for writing a great plan , what options are available , and even specific industry guides —check out our full Business Planning Guide .
Kickstart your business plan writing with one of our free business plan templates or recommended tools.
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Conducting Market Research
Crafting a business plan, reviewing funding options, understanding legal requirements, implementing marketing strategies, how much does it cost to start a business, what should i do before starting a business, what types of funding are available to start a business, do you need to write a business plan, the bottom line.
- Small Business
- How to Start a Business
How to Start a Business: A Comprehensive Guide and Essential Steps
Building an effective business launch plan
Starting a business in the United States involves a number of different steps, spanning legal considerations, market research, creating a business plan, securing funding, and developing a marketing strategy. It also entails decisions around a business’s location, structure, name, taxation, and registration.
This article covers the key steps involved in starting a business, as well as important aspects of the process for entrepreneurs to consider.
- Entrepreneurs seeking to develop their own business should start by conducting market research to understand their industry space and competition, and to target customers.
- The next step is to write a comprehensive business plan, outlining the company’s structure, vision, and strategy. Potential funders and partners may want to review the business plan in advance of signing any agreements.
- Securing funding is crucial in launching a business. Funding can come in the form of grants, loans, venture capital, or crowdfunded money; entrepreneurs may also opt to self-fund instead of or in combination with any of these avenues.
- Choosing a location and business structure can have many implications for legal aspects of business ownership, such as taxation, registration, and permitting, so it’s important to fully understand the regulations and requirements for the jurisdiction in which the business will operate.
- Another key aspect of launching a new business is having a strategic marketing plan that addresses the specifics of the business, industry, and target market.
Before starting a business, entrepreneurs should conduct market research to determine their target audience, competition, and market trends.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends researching demographic data around potential customers to understand a given consumer base and reduce business risk. It also breaks down common market considerations as follows:
- Demand : Do people want or need this product or service?
- Market size : How many people might be interested?
- Economic indicators : These include income, employment rate, and spending habits of potential customers.
- Location : Where are the target market and the business located?
- Market saturation : How competitive is the business space, and how many similar offerings exist?
- Pricing : What might a customer be willing to pay?
Market research should also include an analysis of the competition (including their strengths and weaknesses compared to those of the proposed business), market opportunities and barriers to entry, industry trends, and competitors’ market share .
There are various methods for conducting market research, and the usefulness of different sources and methodologies will depend on the nature of the industry and potential business. Data can come from a variety of sources: statistical agencies, economic and financial institutions, and industry sources, as well as direct consumer research through focus groups, interviews, surveys, or questionnaires.
A comprehensive business plan is like a blueprint for a business. It will help lay the foundation for business development and can assist in decision making, day-to-day operations, and growth.
Potential investors or business partners may want to review and assess a business plan in advance of agreeing to work together. Financial institutions often request business plans as part of an application for a loan or other forms of capital.
Business plans will differ according to the needs and nature of the company and only need to include what makes sense for the business in question. As such, they can vary in length and structure depending on their intended purpose.
Business plans can generally be divided into two formats: traditional business plans and lean startup business plans. The latter is typically more useful for businesses that will need to adjust their planning quickly and frequently, as they are shorter and provide a higher-level overview of the company.
The process of funding a business can be as unique as the business itself—that is, it will depend on the needs and vision of the business and the current financial situation of the business owner.
The first step in seeking funding is to calculate how much it will cost to start the business. Estimate startup costs by identifying a list of expenses and putting a number to each of them through research and requesting quotes. The SBA has a startup costs calculator for small businesses that includes common types of business expenses.
From there, an entrepreneur will need to determine how to secure the required funding. Common funding methods include:
- Self-funding , also known as bootstrapping
- Seeking funding from investors, also known as venture capital
- Raising money by crowdfunding
- Securing a business loan
- Winning a business grant
Each method will hold advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation of the business. It’s important to consider the obligations associated with any avenue of funding. For example, investors generally provide funding in exchange for a degree of ownership or control in the company, whereas self-funding may allow business owners to maintain complete control (albeit while taking on all of the risk).
The availability of funding sources is another potential consideration. Unlike loans, grants do not have to be paid back—however, as a result, they are a highly competitive form of business funding. The federal government also does not provide grants for the purposes of starting or growing a business, although private organizations may. On the other hand, the SBA guarantees several categories of loans to support small business owners in accessing capital that may not be available through traditional lenders.
Whichever funding method (or methods) an entrepreneur decides to pursue, it’s essential to evaluate in detail how the funding will be used and lay out a future financial plan for the business, including sales projections and loan repayments , as applicable.
Legally, businesses operating in the U.S. are subject to regulations and requirements under many jurisdictions, across local, county, state, and federal levels. Legal business requirements are often tied to the location and structure of the business, which then determine obligations around taxation, business IDs, registration, and permits.
Choosing a Business Location
The location—that is, the neighborhood, city, and state—in which a business operates will have an impact on many different aspects of running the business, such as the applicable taxes, zoning laws (for brick-and-mortar, or physical locations), and regulations.
A business needs to be registered in a certain location; this location then determines the taxes, licenses, and permits required. Other factors to consider when choosing a location might include:
- Human factors : Such as the target audience for your business, and preferences of business owners and partners around convenience, knowledge of the area, and commuting distance
- Regulations and restrictions : Concerning applicable jurisdictions or government agencies, including zoning laws
- Regionally specific expenses : Such as average salaries (including required minimum wages), property or rental prices, insurance rates, utilities, and government fees and licensing
- The tax and financial environment : Including income tax, sales tax, corporate tax, and property tax, or the availability of tax credits, incentives, or loan programs
Picking a Business Structure
The structure of a business should reflect the desired number of owners, liability characteristics, and tax status. Because these have legal and tax compliance implications, it’s important to fully understand and choose a business structure carefully and, if necessary, consult a business counselor, lawyer, and/or accountant.
Common business structures include:
- Sole proprietorship : An unincorporated business that has just one owner, who pays personal income tax on profits
- Partnership : Options include a limited partnership (LP) or a limited liability partnership (LLP)
- Limited liability company (LLC) : A business structure that protects its owners from personal responsibility for its debts or liabilities
- Corporation : Options include a C corp , S corp , B corp , closed corporation , or nonprofit
Getting a Tax ID Number
A tax ID number is like a Social Security number for a business. Whether or not a state and/or federal tax ID number is required for any given business will depend on the nature of the business, as well as the location in which the business is registered.
If a business is required to pay state taxes (such as income taxes and employment taxes), then a state tax ID will be necessary. The process and requirements around state tax IDs vary by state and can be found on individual states’ official websites. In some situations, state tax IDs can also be used for other purposes, such as protecting sole proprietors against identity theft.
A federal tax ID, also known as an employer identification number (EIN) , is required if a business:
- Operates as a corporation or partnership
- Pays federal taxes
- Wants to open a business bank account
- Applies for federal business licenses and permits
- Files employment, excise, alcohol, tobacco, or firearms tax returns
There are further situations in which a business might need a federal tax ID number, specific to income taxation, certain types of pension plans, and working with certain types of organizations. Business owners can check with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about whether they need an EIN.
Registering a Business
Registration of a business will depend on its location and business structure, and can look quite different depending on the nature and size of the business.
For example, small businesses may not require any steps beyond registering their business name with local and state governments, and business owners whose business name is their own legal name might not need to register at all. However, registration can include personal liability protection as well as legal and tax benefits, so it can be beneficial even if it’s not strictly required.
Most LLCs, corporations, partnerships, and nonprofits are required to register at the state level and will require a registered agent to file on their behalf. Determining which state to register with can depend on factors such as:
- Whether the business has a physical presence in the state
- If the business often conducts in-person client meetings in the state
- If a large portion of business revenue comes from the state
- Whether the business has employees working in the state
If a business operates in more than one state, it may need to file for foreign qualification in other states in which it conducts business. In this case, the business would register in the state in which it was formed (this would be considered the domestic state), and file for foreign qualification in any additional states.
Some businesses may decide to register with the federal government if they are seeking tax-exempt status or trademark protection, but federal registration is not required for many businesses.
Overall registration requirements, costs, and documentation will vary depending on the governing jurisdictions and business structure.
Filing for the applicable government licenses and permits will depend on the industry and nature of the business, and might include submitting an application to a federal agency, state, county, and/or city. The SBA lists federally regulated business activities alongside the corresponding license-issuing agency, while state, county, and city regulations can be found on the official government websites for each region.
Every business should have a marketing plan that outlines an overall strategy and the day-to-day tactics used to execute it. A successful marketing plan will lay out tactics for how to connect with customers and convince them to buy what the company is selling.
Marketing plans will vary according to the specifics of the industry , target market, and business, but they should aim to include descriptions of and strategies around the following:
- A target customer : Including market size, demographics, traits, and relevant trends
- Unique value propositions or business differentiators : Essentially, an overview of the company’s competitive advantage with regard to employees, certifications, or offerings
- A sales and marketing plan : Including methods, channels, and a customer’s journey through interacting with the business
- Goals : Should cover different aspects of the marketing and sales strategy, such as social media follower growth, public relations opportunities, or sales targets
- An execution plan : Should detail tactics and break down higher-level goals into specific actions
- A budget : Detailing how much different marketing projects and activities will cost
The startup costs for any given business will vary greatly depending on the industry, business activity, and product or service offering. Home-based online businesses will usually cost less than those that require an office setting to meet with customers. The estimated cost can be calculated by first identifying a list of expenses and then researching and requesting quotes for each one. Use the SBA’s startup costs calculator for common types of expenses associated with starting a small business.
Entrepreneurs seeking to start their own business should fully research and understand all the legal and funding considerations involved, conduct market research, and create marketing and business plans. They will also need to secure any necessary permits, licenses, funding, and business bank accounts.
Startup capital can come in the form of loans, grants, crowdfunding, venture capital, or self-funding. Note that the federal government does not provide grant funding for the purposes of starting a business, although private sources do.
Business plans are comprehensive documents that lay out the most important information about a business. They are important references for the growth, development, and decision-making processes of a business, and financial institutions as well as potential investors and partners generally request to review them in advance of agreeing to provide funding or work together.
Starting a business is no easy feat, but research and preparation can help smooth the way. Having a firm understanding of the target market, competition, industry, business goals, business structure, funding requirements, tax and operating regulations, and marketing strategy, and conducting research and consulting experts where necessary, are all things that entrepreneurs can do to set themselves up for success.
U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Market Research and Competitive Analysis .”
U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Write Your Business Plan .”
U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Loans .”
U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Fund Your Business .”
U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Pick Your Business Location .”
U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Choose a Business Structure .”
U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Get Federal and State Tax ID Numbers .”
Internal Revenue Service. “ Do You Need an EIN? ”
U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Register Your Business .”
U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Apply for Licenses and Permits .”
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What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained
Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.
What is a business plan? It’s the roadmap for your business. The outline of your goals, objectives, and the steps you’ll take to get there. It describes the structure of your organization, how it operates, as well as the financial expectations and actual performance.
A business plan can help you explore ideas, successfully start a business, manage operations, and pursue growth. In short, a business plan is a lot of different things. It’s more than just a stack of paper and can be one of your most effective tools as a business owner.
Let’s explore the basics of business planning, the structure of a traditional plan, your planning options, and how you can use your plan to succeed.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a document that explains how your business operates. It summarizes your business structure, objectives, milestones, and financial performance. Again, it’s a guide that helps you, and anyone else, better understand how your business will succeed.
Why do you need a business plan?
The primary purpose of a business plan is to help you understand the direction of your business and the steps it will take to get there. Having a solid business plan can help you grow up to 30% faster and according to our own 2021 Small Business research working on a business plan increases confidence regarding business health—even in the midst of a crisis.
These benefits are directly connected to how writing a business plan makes you more informed and better prepares you for entrepreneurship. It helps you reduce risk and avoid pursuing potentially poor ideas. You’ll also be able to more easily uncover your business’s potential. By regularly returning to your plan you can understand what parts of your strategy are working and those that are not.
That just scratches the surface for why having a plan is valuable. Check out our full write-up for fifteen more reasons why you need a business plan .
What can you do with your plan?
So what can you do with a business plan once you’ve created it? It can be all too easy to write a plan and just let it be. Here are just a few ways you can leverage your plan to benefit your business.
Test an idea
Writing a plan isn’t just for those that are ready to start a business. It’s just as valuable for those that have an idea and want to determine if it’s actually possible or not. By writing a plan to explore the validity of an idea, you are working through the process of understanding what it would take to be successful.
The market and competitive research alone can tell you a lot about your idea. Is the marketplace too crowded? Is the solution you have in mind not really needed? Add in the exploration of milestones, potential expenses, and the sales needed to attain profitability and you can paint a pretty clear picture of the potential of your business.
Document your strategy and goals
For those starting or managing a business understanding where you’re going and how you’re going to get there are vital. Writing your plan helps you do that. It ensures that you are considering all aspects of your business, know what milestones you need to hit, and can effectively make adjustments if that doesn’t happen.
With a plan in place, you’ll have an idea of where you want your business to go as well as how you’ve performed in the past. This alone better prepares you to take on challenges, review what you’ve done before, and make the right adjustments.
Even if you do not intend to pursue funding right away, having a business plan will prepare you for it. It will ensure that you have all of the information necessary to submit a loan application and pitch to investors. So, rather than scrambling to gather documentation and write a cohesive plan once it’s relevant, you can instead keep your plan up-to-date and attempt to attain funding. Just add a use of funds report to your financial plan and you’ll be ready to go.
The benefits of having a plan don’t stop there. You can then use your business plan to help you manage the funding you receive. You’ll not only be able to easily track and forecast how you’ll use your funds but easily report on how it’s been used.
Better manage your business
A solid business plan isn’t meant to be something you do once and forget about. Instead, it should be a useful tool that you can regularly use to analyze performance, make strategic decisions, and anticipate future scenarios. It’s a document that you should regularly update and adjust as you go to better fit the actual state of your business.
Doing so makes it easier to understand what’s working and what’s not. It helps you understand if you’re truly reaching your goals or if you need to make further adjustments. Having your plan in place makes that process quicker, more informative, and leaves you with far more time to actually spend running your business.
What should your business plan include?
The content and structure of your business plan should include anything that will help you use it effectively. That being said, there are some key elements that you should cover and that investors will expect to see.
The executive summary is a simple overview of your business and your overall plan. It should serve as a standalone document that provides enough detail for anyone—including yourself, team members, or investors—to fully understand your business strategy. Make sure to cover the problem you’re solving, a description of your product or service, your target market, organizational structure, a financial summary, and any necessary funding requirements.
This will be the first part of your plan but it’s easiest to write it after you’ve created your full plan.
Products & Services
When describing your products or services, you need to start by outlining the problem you’re solving and why what you offer is valuable. This is where you’ll also address current competition in the market and any competitive advantages your products or services bring to the table. Lastly, be sure to outline the steps or milestones that you’ll need to hit to successfully launch your business. If you’ve already hit some initial milestones, like taking pre-orders or early funding, be sure to include it here to further prove the validity of your business.
A market analysis is a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the current market you’re entering or competing in. It helps you understand the overall state and potential of the industry, who your ideal customers are, the positioning of your competition, and how you intend to position your own business. This helps you better explore the long-term trends of the market, what challenges to expect, and how you will need to initially introduce and even price your products or services.
Check out our full guide for how to conduct a market analysis in just four easy steps .
Marketing & sales
Here you detail how you intend to reach your target market. This includes your sales activities, general pricing plan, and the beginnings of your marketing strategy. If you have any branding elements, sample marketing campaigns, or messaging available—this is the place to add it.
Additionally, it may be wise to include a SWOT analysis that demonstrates your business or specific product/service position. This will showcase how you intend to leverage sales and marketing channels to deal with competitive threats and take advantage of any opportunities.
Check out our full write-up to learn how to create a cohesive marketing strategy for your business.
Organization & management
This section addresses the legal structure of your business, your current team, and any gaps that need to be filled. Depending on your business type and longevity, you’ll also need to include your location, ownership information, and business history. Basically, add any information that helps explain your organizational structure and how you operate. This section is particularly important for pitching to investors but should be included even if attempted funding is not in your immediate future.
Possibly the most important piece of your plan, your financials section is vital for showcasing the viability of your business. It also helps you establish a baseline to measure against and makes it easier to make ongoing strategic decisions as your business grows. This may seem complex on the surface, but it can be far easier than you think.
Focus on building solid forecasts, keep your categories simple, and lean on assumptions. You can always return to this section to add more details and refine your financial statements as you operate.
Here are the statements you should include in your financial plan:
- Sales and revenue projections
- Profit and loss statement
- Cash flow statement
- Balance sheet
The appendix is where you add additional detail, documentation, or extended notes that support the other sections of your plan. Don’t worry about adding this section at first and only add documentation that you think will be beneficial for anyone reading your plan.
Types of business plans explained
While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. So, to get the most out of your plan, it’s best to find a format that suits your needs. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.
Traditional business plan
The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you’ll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual.
This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix. We recommend only starting with this business plan format if you plan to immediately pursue funding and already have a solid handle on your business information.
Business model canvas
The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.
The structure ditches a linear structure in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It’s faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations. This is really best for those exploring their business idea for the first time, but keep in mind that it can be difficult to actually validate your idea this way as well as adapt it into a full plan.
One-page business plan
The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan. This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. It basically serves as a beefed-up pitch document and can be finished as quickly as the business model canvas.
By starting with a one-page plan, you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan. This plan type is useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.
Now, the option that we here at LivePlan recommend is the Lean Plan . This is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance.
It holds all of the benefits of the single-page plan, including the potential to complete it in as little as 27-minutes . However, it’s even easier to convert into a full plan thanks to how heavily it’s tied to your financials. The overall goal of Lean Planning isn’t to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the Lean Planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and stable through times of crisis.
It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.
Try the LivePlan Method for Lean Business Planning
Now that you know the basics of business planning, it’s time to get started. Again we recommend leveraging a Lean Plan for a faster, easier, and far more useful planning process.
To get familiar with the Lean Plan format, you can download our free Lean Plan template . However, if you want to elevate your ability to create and use your lean plan even further, you may want to explore LivePlan.
It features step-by-step guidance that ensures you cover everything necessary while reducing the time spent on formatting and presenting. You’ll also gain access to financial forecasting tools that propel you through the process. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results.
Check out how LivePlan streamlines Lean Planning by downloading our Kickstart Your Business ebook .
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The 7 Best Business Plan Examples
So you want to start a business . Kudos! You’re doing big things.
One of the first steps to building a strong foundation for your new venture is to write a rock-solid business plan . When done right, your business plan can pave your path to success, all while helping you to smoothly cruise through any obstacles that may come up.
Plus, a good business plan can help you secure critical partnerships and funding that you might need in your early stages.
If you’re unsure how to write one, a great place to start is to learn from the pros. In this article, we’ll look at companies that built incredible business plans.
Take notes on the structure, format, and details. Hopefully you’ll leave with plenty of inspiration to write your own.
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7-part template for business plan examples
We’ll look at a business plan that is structured using a seven-part template. Here’s a quick review of those parts:
- Executive summary: A quick overview of your business and the contents of your business plan.
- Company description: More info about your company, its goals and mission, and why you started it in the first place.
- Market analysis: Research about the market and industry your business will operate in, including a competitive analysis about the companies you’ll be up against.
- Products and services: A detailed description of what you’ll be selling to your customers.
- Marketing plan: A strategic outline of how you plan to market and promote your business before, during, and after your company launches into the market.
- Logistics and operations plan: An explanation of the systems, processes, and tools that are needed to run your business in the background.
- Financial plan: A map of your short-term (and even long-term) financial goals and the costs to run the business. If you’re looking for funding, here’s the place to discuss your request and needs.
7 business plan examples (section by section)
In this section, you’ll find hypothetical and real-world examples of each aspect of a business plan to show you how the whole thing comes together.
- Executive summary
Your executive summary offers a high-level overview of the rest of your business plan. You’ll want to include a brief description of your company, market research, competitor analysis, and financial information.
In ThoughtCo’s sample business plan for a fictional company called Acme Management Technology, the executive summary is three paragraphs and occupies nearly half the page:
- Company description
You might go more in-depth with your company description and include the following sections:
- Nature of the business. Mention the general category of business you fall under. Are you a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer of your products?
- Background information. Talk about your past experiences and skills, and how you’ve combined them to fill in the market.
- Business structure. This section outlines how you registered your company —as a corporation, sole proprietorship, LLC, or other business type.
- Industry. Which business sector do you operate in? The answer might be technology, merchandising, or another industry.
- Team. Whether you’re the sole full-time employee of your business or you have contractors to support your daily workflow, this is your chance to put them under the spotlight.
You can also repurpose your company description elsewhere, like on your About page, Instagram page, or other properties that ask for a boilerplate description of your business. Hair extensions brand Luxy Hair has a blurb on its About page that could easily be repurposed as a company description for its business plan.
- Market analysis
Market analysis comprises research on product supply and demand, your target market, the competitive landscape, and industry trends. You might do a SWOT analysis to learn where you stand and identify market gaps that you could exploit to establish your footing. Here’s an example of a SWOT analysis we did for a hypothetical ecommerce business:
You’ll also want to run a competitive analysis as part of the market analysis component for your business plan. This will show you who you’re up against and give you ideas on how to gain an edge over the competition.
- Products and services
This part of your business plan describes your product or service, how it will be priced, and the ways it will compete against similar offerings in the market. Don’t go into too much detail here —a few lines are enough to introduce your item to the reader.
- Marketing plan
Potential investors will want to know how you’ll get the word out about your business. As such, it’s essential to build a marketing plan that highlights the promotion and customer acquisition strategies you’re planning to adopt.
Most marketing plans focus on the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion. However, it’s easier when you break it down by the different marketing channels . Mention how you intend to promote your business using blogs, email, social media, and word-of-mouth marketing.
Here’s an example of a hypothetical marketing plan for a real estate website:
Logistics and operations
This section of your business plan provides information about your production, facilities, production, equipment, shipping and fulfillment, and inventory.
The financial plan (a.k.a. financial statement) offers a breakdown of your sales, revenue, expenses, profit, and other financial metrics. You’ll want to include all the numbers and concrete data to project your current and projected financial state. For example, the financial statement for ecommerce brand Nature’s Candy includes forecasted revenue, expenses, and net profit in graphs.
It then goes deeper into the financials, citing:
- Funding needs
- Project cash-flow statement
- Project profit-and-loss statement
- Projected balance sheet
You can use Shopify’s financial plan template to create your own income statement, cash-flow statement, and balance sheet.
Types of business plan (and what to write for each)
A one-page business plan is a pared down version of a standard business plan that’s easy for potential investors and partners to understand. You’ll want to include all of the sections, but make sure they’re abbreviated and summarized.
- Logistics and operations plan
A startup business plan is meant to secure outside funding for a new business. Typically, there’s a big focus on the financials, as well as other sections that help determine the viability of your business idea —market analysis, for example. Shopify has a great business plan template for startups that include all the below points.
- Market research: in depth
- Financials: in depth
Your internal business plan acts as the enforcer of your company’s vision. It reminds your team of the long-term objective and keeps them strategically aligned toward the same goal.
- Market research
A feasibility business plan is essentially a feasibility study that helps you evaluate whether your product or idea is worthy of a full business plan.
Mix and match to make a killer business plan
The good news is: there’s no single right way to write a business plan. If you’re feeling unsure about how to craft yours, pull bits and pieces that you like from other examples, and leave out the parts that don’t apply or make sense for you.
The important thing is to clearly communicate your reason for starting the company, what’s needed to operate it, and how you plan to make it work in the long run.
When you can convince others that you have a killer game plan, you’ve nailed it.
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How to Write a Business Plan Outline
A step-by-step guide to your best first impression
Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.
Business Plan Outline
- Organize Your Business Plan
- Title Page and Table of Contents
- Appearance Matters
Adrian Mangel / The Balance
Are you an entrepreneur looking to turn your idea into a business? Do you have a business plan? There is some debate about whether new businesses need a business plan when just starting out, especially if they're not asking for money. According to Carl Schramm, author of "Burn the Business Plan," many large corporations didn't have business plans when they first started:
"If you look at all our older major corporations—U.S. Steel, General Electric, IBM, American Airlines—and then you look at our newer companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, none of these companies ever had a business plan before they got started."
The U.S. Small Business Administration takes a middle-of-the-road approach, recognizing that not all businesses need a comprehensive plan. Instead, it suggests that smaller businesses and startups use a "leaner" and more streamlined version to outline the essentials and highlight strengths. Lean or long, your business plan should cover the basics.
The outline below offers a brief overview of what each section of your business plan should cover. It is not a definitive guide, as you may wish to expand or combine sections, or add extra detail in a way that is customized to your particular venture. Keep in mind the idea is to present your venture in the most attractive and professional way possible.
Though it appears first in the business plan, the executive summary is a section that is usually written last, as it encapsulates the entire plan. It provides an introduction and high-level overview of your business, including your mission statement and details about what product(s) and/or service(s) you offer.
Since the executive summary is your business's first impression, it's critical that it be outstanding, especially if you're seeking funding.
Provide information about the business you're starting, including what sort of problem your products/services solve and your most likely buyers. You can also expand this description by offering an overview of the industry that your business will be a part of, including trends, major players, and estimated sales. This section should give a positive perspective on your place within the industry. Set your business apart from the competition by describing your or your team's expertise, as well as your competitive advantage.
The market analysis is a crucial section of the business plan, as it identifies your best customers or clients. To create a compelling market analysis, thoroughly research the primary target market for your products/services, including geographic location, demographics, your target market's needs, and how these needs are currently being met. Your purpose here is to demonstrate that you have a solid and thorough understanding of the people you are planning to sell your products/services to so that you can make informed predictions about how much they might buy, and convince other interested parties.
In preparing to write the competitive analysis section, you'll learn how successful your direct and indirect competitors are in the marketplace. This section of your business plan includes an assessment of your competition's strengths and weaknesses, any advantages they may have, and the unique qualities that make your business stand out from the competition. It also includes an analysis of how you will overcome any barriers to entry in your chosen market.
The primary goal here is to distinguish your business from the competition, but a strong competitive analysis will be able to persuade potential funding sources that your business can compete in the marketplace successfully . A useful tool to help articulate this section of the plan is sometimes referred to as a SWOT analysis, or a "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats" assessment.
Sales and Marketing Plan
The sales and marketing section offers a detailed explanation of your sales strategy, pricing plan, proposed advertising and promotion activities, and all the benefits of your products/services. This is where to outline your business's unique selling proposition, describe how you plan to get your products/services to market, and how you'll persuade people to buy them.
When developing your unique selling proposition, your goal is to answer the question: Why should people buy from me over my competition?
Ownership and Management Plan
This section outlines your business's legal structure and management resources, including the internal management team, external management resources, and human resources needs. Include any experience or special skills that each person in your management team brings to the business. If the goal of your business plan is to get funding, it's wise to include an advisory board as a management resource.
The operating plan offers detailed information about how your business will be run. It provides your business's physical location, descriptions of facilities and equipment, types of employees needed, inventory requirements, suppliers, and any other applicable operating details that pertain to your precise type of business, such as a description of the manufacturing process, or specialty items needed in day-to-day operations.
Starting a business is usually about making a profit, so it's important to demonstrate that you have a solid sense of your current finances, funding needs, as well as projected income. In the financial section , provide a description of your funding requirements, your detailed financial statements, and a financial statement analysis. This part of the business plan is where you present the three main financial documents of any business: the balance sheet, the income statement, and the cash flow statement, or in the case of a new business, a cash flow projection.
Appendices and Exhibits
In addition to the sections outlined above, at the end of your business plan, include any additional information that will help establish the credibility of your business idea, or bolster your potential success. You may choose to include marketing studies, photographs of your product, permits, patents and other intellectual property rights, credit histories, résumés, marketing materials, and any contracts or other legal agreements pertinent to your business.
How to Organize Your Business Plan
There is no set order to your business plan, the only exception being that the executive summary should always come first. Beyond that, the order depends on your goals.
If your purpose for writing a business plan is to help you organize, gather information, and create a roadmap, organize it in the way that is most intuitive to your process. You might group similar content together, such as all the material relating to markets (industry overview, marketing analysis, competitive analysis, and marketing plan).
If your goal is to seek funding, organize the plan based on what your audience values, and lead with the best, most convincing material first. If you have a stellar group of people serving on your new business's advisory board, put that section directly after the executive summary. Highlighting your new business's strengths will encourage your reader to continue reading your plan.
Add a Title Page and Table of Contents
After completing all the sections, don't forget to insert a title page at the beginning of the plan followed by a table of contents listing each section with page numbers.
The Appearance of Your Business Plan Matters
If you're writing a business plan as an organizational exercise—for your eyes only—feel free to get loose with the style and organization; the simple act of putting all your ideas into a practical template may be a valuable brainstorming tool. However, if you're looking for funding or investors, the business plan is a formal document, so it should look like one. Every aspect of your business plan should impress your potential funding source.
Pay attention to margins and formatting; make sure it's spell-checked and grammatically sound. If you're not good at this, pay a professional to do it.
Hiring a professional to design, edit, or review your business plan may be a good idea, regardless of how skilled you are; a fresh pair of eyes can often spot issues that the original writer missed.
If you need printed copies, get them professionally printed and bound. Keep in mind that you may only have a short amount of time to sell your idea, and first impressions pack a powerful punch.
How Long Should a Business Plan Be?
A good business plan can't be pinned to a minimum or maximum page count. This is because the right length depends on your business. Your business plan should be brief enough to convey the essentials without redundancy or fluff content, yet long enough to demonstrate to your audience that your business is well-researched and fully considered. A simple plan for a modest startup might be around 40 pages, while a more complex business plan may need 100 pages to convey an ambitious financing strategy, product diagrams, industry data, or the full scope of the venture. The goal is to allow for a full explanation of the pertinent information about your business, presented in a concise and well-organized fashion.
Knowledge@Wharton. " Why Creating a Business Plan Is a ‘Waste of Time’ ."
U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."
Corporate Finance Institute. " Barriers to Entry ."
U.S. Small Business Administration. " SBA Recommended Business Plans and Length ."
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How to Write a Company Overview for a Business Plan
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When you start a company, you ideally want it to grow. If you’re seeking business funding to scale your business or an initial investment to get your business off the ground, you’re going to need a business plan . Putting together a business plan can be an intimidating process that involves a lot of steps and writing — but breaking it down piece by piece can help you accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task.
One small piece of your business plan is the company overview, so let’s take a look at what that is, exactly, check out some company overview examples and go over how to make a company overview of your very own.
What is a company overview?
A company overview provides the reader of your business plan with basic background information about your company so they have an understanding of what you do, who the management team is and what customers your business serves.
The company description is the second piece of a business plan, falling right after the executive summary. Similar to the executive summary, your company overview will be short and succinct. Your reader needs to have a grasp on what your business does and who your customers are, even if they have limited time.
Why do I need a company overview?
The company overview is the part of your business plan that gives the basics and background of your business. It’s the foundation on which you will build the rest of your business plan.
If you’re looking to appeal to investors or potential clients, you need a reader to make an informed decision about your company. Before they can do that, they must know what your company does and who your customer is. Lenders in particular need a reason to keep reading, since they see tons of business plans regularly. The company overview provides those answers, and it will help you get a better sense of your business so you can firm up things like your marketing plan.
What should i include in a company overview.
The exact elements that you need in your company overview will depend upon what details of your business are important, but there are some foundational elements that will be included in every company overview.
Once you’ve covered the basics, you can include any other minor details that will benefit a reader who will need to make an informed decision about your business.
Basic company information
Consider the company overview like an introduction for your business. In the opening paragraph of your company overview, you’ll want to include basic company information. That includes:
Your company name: This should be the official name of your business, exactly as it is written when you registered your business with the state.
Business structure: Your reader will want to know what business entity your company comes in: sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership or corporation.
Location(s): Share where your business is headquartered and other locations the business owns.
Ownership and management team
Break down who owns your business and how each owner is involved with the business. What shares of the company belong to whom? If you have a highly involved management team, share their names and key roles with the company as well.
Part of what makes your company unique is its history. And, even startups have some history. Don’t put too much focus on this section, but do add some personality and interesting details if possible, especially if they relate to your company culture.
Your company’s mission statement should be included in the company overview. If you don’t yet have a company mission statement, that’s okay. Think of a mission statement as the purpose of your company.
If you don’t have one, you can create one with your team. Or you can simply replace the mission statement with a problem statement. Your business idea should exist to solve a problem or pain point faced by your customers. Share what that problem is and what your business does to solve it. That’s essentially your mission statement.
Product/service and customer
This section of the company overview is where you can share the nitty-gritty details of your business. Talk about what product or service you provide and to whom you provide it. You can share some numbers here, but in general, save the numbers for later in your business plan.
The company overview should give the reader a general understanding of your business, your product or service, and your customer. If they’re interested to know more, they’ll reach out to you for a meeting or take the time to read the rest of your business plan. Keep it simple and straightforward here.
While concrete details and facts about your business are important to whoever is reading your company overview, it’s also important to share your dreams and your vision. If you’re writing a business plan for a business that’s already in place, it’s very likely you’re looking for business financing to scale or solve a business problem. If you’re just starting out, though, then it’s likely you’re hoping to find startup funding.
The section on your future business goals should include a brief description of your growth goals for your business. Where you are now tells the reader a lot, but they also want to know where you plan to go.
A company overview is comprised of many small parts. Each part shares just a little bit more about your company with your reader.
Tips for writing a company overview
While a company overview is simply the details of your company written out, it might not be easy to write. Break it down into small steps and use these tips to make putting together your company overview just a little bit easier.
Start with the elevator pitch
If your business is already in operation, then you likely have an elevator pitch. Your company overview can start off with your elevator pitch.
The first paragraph of your company overview should include just a few sentences that explain your business and what you do. The shorter and clearer this is, the more likely your reader will understand and keep reading.
Stick to the basics
It’s tempting to pile on all the details when you’re writing a company overview. Remember, many of the details of your company, including the numbers, will be included in later sections of your business plan.
Your company overview should include only the most basic details about your company that the reader needs to know.
When you share the history, mission statement, and vision for the future of your company, it’s okay to show your passion. You wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t love what you do.
Your excitement for your business could spark interest for the reader and keep them engaged with your company overview and business plan.
Keep it succinct
When you’re passionate about something, it’s easy to get carried away. Remember that you’ve got plenty of space for details in your business plan. The company overview should be just the most basic information someone needs to understand your business.
It’s OK if your first draft of your company overview is long. Simply go through and edit it to be shorter, removing unnecessary details and words each time you read through it. Clear, concise descriptions are more likely to be read and to keep the reader reading to other sections of your business plan.
Your company overview is just one piece of a multi-tiered business plan. Creating a clear structure for your business plan makes it easier to read. The same is true for your company overview.
Your business plan should have chapters, one of which is the company overview. Then, you can further break down the content for easy skimming and reading by adding sub-chapters. You can denote these breaks in content with bold headers.
While you can break down each section of the company overview with bold headers based on the above suggestions, you can also interweave some information together, such as the company structure and leadership structure. Each section should be only a few sentences long.
Write it later
If you’re struggling to write your company overview, come back to it. Write the rest of your business plan first and then write your company overview.
While this might seem like the opposite way of doing things, knowing what will be contained in the rest of your business plan can help you to focus in on the very most essential details in the company overview and to leave everything else out.
Get a test reader
If you’re struggling to edit down your company overview, get a test reader. Ideally, you’ll want to ask someone who doesn’t know a lot about your business. They’ll help you understand whether or not you’ve clearly communicated your message.
Proofreading is the final step in editing something you’ve written. This type of editing looks for typos, misspellings and grammatical errors that have been missed. Many of these small errors can be difficult to spot in our own writing, so be sure to ask someone who hasn’t seen multiple drafts of your company overview.
Company overview examples
If you don’t want to shell out for business planning software, but would still like some company overview examples to get you started, there are many places online you can look to for help getting started, like the Small Business Administration and SCORE.
Many successful companies also have some version of their company overview made public as their company profile page online. There are some variations from the company overview steps we’ve listed above, of course, but you can use the language and style of these company overview examples for inspiration:
Starbucks company profile .
Puma company page .
TaskRabbit About page .
Peloton company page .
Nestlé About page .
If you’re still feeling stuck, or want more company overview examples, try searching the websites of your favorite companies for more information. You might be surprised what you find — the Nestlé page, for example, has more information about their strategy and business principles.
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12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)
Starting and running a successful business requires proper planning and execution of effective business tactics and strategies .
You need to prepare many essential business documents when starting a business for maximum success; the business plan is one such document.
When creating a business, you want to achieve business objectives and financial goals like productivity, profitability, and business growth. You need an effective business plan to help you get to your desired business destination.
Even if you are already running a business, the proper understanding and review of the key elements of a business plan help you navigate potential crises and obstacles.
This article will teach you why the business document is at the core of any successful business and its key elements you can not avoid.
Let’s get started.
Why Are Business Plans Important?
Business plans are practical steps or guidelines that usually outline what companies need to do to reach their goals. They are essential documents for any business wanting to grow and thrive in a highly-competitive business environment .
1. Proves Your Business Viability
A business plan gives companies an idea of how viable they are and what actions they need to take to grow and reach their financial targets. With a well-written and clearly defined business plan, your business is better positioned to meet its goals.
2. Guides You Throughout the Business Cycle
A business plan is not just important at the start of a business. As a business owner, you must draw up a business plan to remain relevant throughout the business cycle .
During the starting phase of your business, a business plan helps bring your ideas into reality. A solid business plan can secure funding from lenders and investors.
After successfully setting up your business, the next phase is management. Your business plan still has a role to play in this phase, as it assists in communicating your business vision to employees and external partners.
Essentially, your business plan needs to be flexible enough to adapt to changes in the needs of your business.
3. Helps You Make Better Business Decisions
As a business owner, you are involved in an endless decision-making cycle. Your business plan helps you find answers to your most crucial business decisions.
A robust business plan helps you settle your major business components before you launch your product, such as your marketing and sales strategy and competitive advantage.
4. Eliminates Big Mistakes
Many small businesses fail within their first five years for several reasons: lack of financing, stiff competition, low market need, inadequate teams, and inefficient pricing strategy.
Creating an effective plan helps you eliminate these big mistakes that lead to businesses' decline. Every business plan element is crucial for helping you avoid potential mistakes before they happen.
5. Secures Financing and Attracts Top Talents
Having an effective plan increases your chances of securing business loans. One of the essential requirements many lenders ask for to grant your loan request is your business plan.
A business plan helps investors feel confident that your business can attract a significant return on investments ( ROI ).
You can attract and retain top-quality talents with a clear business plan. It inspires your employees and keeps them aligned to achieve your strategic business goals.
Key Elements of Business Plan
Starting and running a successful business requires well-laid actions and supporting documents that better position a company to achieve its business goals and maximize success.
A business plan is a written document with relevant information detailing business objectives and how it intends to achieve its goals.
With an effective business plan, investors, lenders, and potential partners understand your organizational structure and goals, usually around profitability, productivity, and growth.
Every successful business plan is made up of key components that help solidify the efficacy of the business plan in delivering on what it was created to do.
Here are some of the components of an effective business plan.
1. Executive Summary
One of the key elements of a business plan is the executive summary. Write the executive summary as part of the concluding topics in the business plan. Creating an executive summary with all the facts and information available is easier.
In the overall business plan document, the executive summary should be at the forefront of the business plan. It helps set the tone for readers on what to expect from the business plan.
A well-written executive summary includes all vital information about the organization's operations, making it easy for a reader to understand.
The key points that need to be acted upon are highlighted in the executive summary. They should be well spelled out to make decisions easy for the management team.
A good and compelling executive summary points out a company's mission statement and a brief description of its products and services.
An executive summary summarizes a business's expected value proposition to distinct customer segments. It highlights the other key elements to be discussed during the rest of the business plan.
Including your prior experiences as an entrepreneur is a good idea in drawing up an executive summary for your business. A brief but detailed explanation of why you decided to start the business in the first place is essential.
Adding your company's mission statement in your executive summary cannot be overemphasized. It creates a culture that defines how employees and all individuals associated with your company abide when carrying out its related processes and operations.
Your executive summary should be brief and detailed to catch readers' attention and encourage them to learn more about your company.
Components of an Executive Summary
Here are some of the information that makes up an executive summary:
- The name and location of your company
- Products and services offered by your company
- Mission and vision statements
- Success factors of your business plan
2. Business Description
Your business description needs to be exciting and captivating as it is the formal introduction a reader gets about your company.
What your company aims to provide, its products and services, goals and objectives, target audience , and potential customers it plans to serve need to be highlighted in your business description.
A company description helps point out notable qualities that make your company stand out from other businesses in the industry. It details its unique strengths and the competitive advantages that give it an edge to succeed over its direct and indirect competitors.
Spell out how your business aims to deliver on the particular needs and wants of identified customers in your company description, as well as the particular industry and target market of the particular focus of the company.
Include trends and significant competitors within your particular industry in your company description. Your business description should contain what sets your company apart from other businesses and provides it with the needed competitive advantage.
In essence, if there is any area in your business plan where you need to brag about your business, your company description provides that unique opportunity as readers look to get a high-level overview.
Components of a Business Description
Your business description needs to contain these categories of information.
- Business location
- The legal structure of your business
- Summary of your business’s short and long-term goals
3. Market Analysis
The market analysis section should be solely based on analytical research as it details trends particular to the market you want to penetrate.
Graphs, spreadsheets, and histograms are handy data and statistical tools you need to utilize in your market analysis. They make it easy to understand the relationship between your current ideas and the future goals you have for the business.
All details about the target customers you plan to sell products or services should be in the market analysis section. It helps readers with a helpful overview of the market.
In your market analysis, you provide the needed data and statistics about industry and market share, the identified strengths in your company description, and compare them against other businesses in the same industry.
The market analysis section aims to define your target audience and estimate how your product or service would fare with these identified audiences.
Market analysis helps visualize a target market by researching and identifying the primary target audience of your company and detailing steps and plans based on your audience location.
Obtaining this information through market research is essential as it helps shape how your business achieves its short-term and long-term goals.
Market Analysis Factors
Here are some of the factors to be included in your market analysis.
- The geographical location of your target market
- Needs of your target market and how your products and services can meet those needs
- Demographics of your target audience
Components of the Market Analysis Section
Here is some of the information to be included in your market analysis.
- Industry description and statistics
- Demographics and profile of target customers
- Marketing data for your products and services
- Detailed evaluation of your competitors
4. Marketing Plan
A marketing plan defines how your business aims to reach its target customers, generate sales leads, and, ultimately, make sales.
Promotion is at the center of any successful marketing plan. It is a series of steps to pitch a product or service to a larger audience to generate engagement. Note that the marketing strategy for a business should not be stagnant and must evolve depending on its outcome.
Include the budgetary requirement for successfully implementing your marketing plan in this section to make it easy for readers to measure your marketing plan's impact in terms of numbers.
The information to include in your marketing plan includes marketing and promotion strategies, pricing plans and strategies , and sales proposals. You need to include how you intend to get customers to return and make repeat purchases in your business plan.
5. Sales Strategy
Sales strategy defines how you intend to get your product or service to your target customers and works hand in hand with your business marketing strategy.
Your sales strategy approach should not be complex. Break it down into simple and understandable steps to promote your product or service to target customers.
Apart from the steps to promote your product or service, define the budget you need to implement your sales strategies and the number of sales reps needed to help the business assist in direct sales.
Your sales strategy should be specific on what you need and how you intend to deliver on your sales targets, where numbers are reflected to make it easier for readers to understand and relate better.
6. Competitive Analysis
Providing transparent and honest information, even with direct and indirect competitors, defines a good business plan. Provide the reader with a clear picture of your rank against major competitors.
Identifying your competitors' weaknesses and strengths is useful in drawing up a market analysis. It is one information investors look out for when assessing business plans.
The competitive analysis section clearly defines the notable differences between your company and your competitors as measured against their strengths and weaknesses.
This section should define the following:
- Your competitors' identified advantages in the market
- How do you plan to set up your company to challenge your competitors’ advantage and gain grounds from them?
- The standout qualities that distinguish you from other companies
- Potential bottlenecks you have identified that have plagued competitors in the same industry and how you intend to overcome these bottlenecks
In your business plan, you need to prove your industry knowledge to anyone who reads your business plan. The competitive analysis section is designed for that purpose.
7. Management and Organization
Management and organization are key components of a business plan. They define its structure and how it is positioned to run.
Whether you intend to run a sole proprietorship, general or limited partnership, or corporation, the legal structure of your business needs to be clearly defined in your business plan.
Use an organizational chart that illustrates the hierarchy of operations of your company and spells out separate departments and their roles and functions in this business plan section.
The management and organization section includes profiles of advisors, board of directors, and executive team members and their roles and responsibilities in guaranteeing the company's success.
Apparent factors that influence your company's corporate culture, such as human resources requirements and legal structure, should be well defined in the management and organization section.
Defining the business's chain of command if you are not a sole proprietor is necessary. It leaves room for little or no confusion about who is in charge or responsible during business operations.
This section provides relevant information on how the management team intends to help employees maximize their strengths and address their identified weaknesses to help all quarters improve for the business's success.
8. Products and Services
This business plan section describes what a company has to offer regarding products and services to the maximum benefit and satisfaction of its target market.
Boldly spell out pending patents or copyright products and intellectual property in this section alongside costs, expected sales revenue, research and development, and competitors' advantage as an overview.
At this stage of your business plan, the reader needs to know what your business plans to produce and sell and the benefits these products offer in meeting customers' needs.
The supply network of your business product, production costs, and how you intend to sell the products are crucial components of the products and services section.
Investors are always keen on this information to help them reach a balanced assessment of if investing in your business is risky or offer benefits to them.
You need to create a link in this section on how your products or services are designed to meet the market's needs and how you intend to keep those customers and carve out a market share for your company.
Repeat purchases are the backing that a successful business relies on and measure how much customers are into what your company is offering.
This section is more like an expansion of the executive summary section. You need to analyze each product or service under the business.
9. Operating Plan
An operations plan describes how you plan to carry out your business operations and processes.
The operating plan for your business should include:
- Information about how your company plans to carry out its operations.
- The base location from which your company intends to operate.
- The number of employees to be utilized and other information about your company's operations.
- Key business processes.
This section should highlight how your organization is set up to run. You can also introduce your company's management team in this section, alongside their skills, roles, and responsibilities in the company.
The best way to introduce the company team is by drawing up an organizational chart that effectively maps out an organization's rank and chain of command.
What should be spelled out to readers when they come across this business plan section is how the business plans to operate day-in and day-out successfully.
10. Financial Projections and Assumptions
Bringing your great business ideas into reality is why business plans are important. They help create a sustainable and viable business.
The financial section of your business plan offers significant value. A business uses a financial plan to solve all its financial concerns, which usually involves startup costs, labor expenses, financial projections, and funding and investor pitches.
All key assumptions about the business finances need to be listed alongside the business financial projection, and changes to be made on the assumptions side until it balances with the projection for the business.
The financial plan should also include how the business plans to generate income and the capital expenditure budgets that tend to eat into the budget to arrive at an accurate cash flow projection for the business.
Base your financial goals and expectations on extensive market research backed with relevant financial statements for the relevant period.
Examples of financial statements you can include in the financial projections and assumptions section of your business plan include:
- Projected income statements
- Cash flow statements
- Balance sheets
- Income statements
Revealing the financial goals and potentials of the business is what the financial projection and assumption section of your business plan is all about. It needs to be purely based on facts that can be measurable and attainable.
11. Request For Funding
The request for funding section focuses on the amount of money needed to set up your business and underlying plans for raising the money required. This section includes plans for utilizing the funds for your business's operational and manufacturing processes.
When seeking funding, a reasonable timeline is required alongside it. If the need arises for additional funding to complete other business-related projects, you are not left scampering and desperate for funds.
If you do not have the funds to start up your business, then you should devote a whole section of your business plan to explaining the amount of money you need and how you plan to utilize every penny of the funds. You need to explain it in detail for a future funding request.
When an investor picks up your business plan to analyze it, with all your plans for the funds well spelled out, they are motivated to invest as they have gotten a backing guarantee from your funding request section.
Include timelines and plans for how you intend to repay the loans received in your funding request section. This addition keeps investors assured that they could recoup their investment in the business.
12. Exhibits and Appendices
Exhibits and appendices comprise the final section of your business plan and contain all supporting documents for other sections of the business plan.
Some of the documents that comprise the exhibits and appendices section includes:
- Legal documents
- Licenses and permits
- Credit histories
- Customer lists
The choice of what additional document to include in your business plan to support your statements depends mainly on the intended audience of your business plan. Hence, it is better to play it safe and not leave anything out when drawing up the appendix and exhibit section.
Supporting documentation is particularly helpful when you need funding or support for your business. This section provides investors with a clearer understanding of the research that backs the claims made in your business plan.
There are key points to include in the appendix and exhibits section of your business plan.
- The management team and other stakeholders resume
- Marketing research
- Permits and relevant legal documents
- Financial documents
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Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.
This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.
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Enrollment is open for ACA health plans. Here's what's to know about choosing one
Open enrollment started Nov. 1 for Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplaces. Carmel Wroth/NPR hide caption
Open enrollment started Nov. 1 for Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplaces.
For millions of Americans who buy their own health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, the end of the year brings a day of reckoning: It's time to compare benefits and prices, and consider changing to a new plan, or enroll for the first time.
Open enrollment starts Wednesday for the ACA's federal and state exchanges. Consumers can go online, call, or seek help from a broker or other assister to learn their 2024 coverage options, calculate their potential subsidies, or change plans.
In most states, open enrollment lasts through Jan. 15 , although some states have different time periods. California's, for example, is longer, open until Jan. 31 , but Idaho's runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 15 . In most states enrollment must occur by Dec. 15 to get coverage that begins Jan. 1.
Health policy experts and brokers recommend all ACA policyholders at least look at next year's options, because prices — and the doctors and hospitals in plans' networks — may have changed. Here's what else you need to know.
People bumped from Medicaid may be eligible, and could make it another record year for signups
ACA plans are now well entrenched — an estimated 16.3 million people signed up during open enrollment last year. This year may see even larger numbers. Enhanced subsidies first approved during the height of the COVID pandemic remain available, and some states have boosted financial help in other ways.
In addition, millions of people nationwide are losing Medicaid coverage as states reassess their eligibility for the first time since early in the pandemic. If you're one of those ousted, be aware you could be eligible for an ACA plan. You can sign up as soon as you know you're losing Medicaid coverage — even outside of the open enrollment season.
Applying for health insurance doesn't have to be confusing. Here's a handy glossary
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In some states, hundreds of thousands dropped from medicaid, assistance from brokers comes with new strings.
An important caution: Don't wait until the last minute, especially if you are seeking help from a broker. Consumers this year will be asked to certify that they voluntarily agreed to brokers' assistance and that their income and other information provided by brokers is accurate.
It's a good protection for both parties, said broker Joshua Brooker , founder of PA Health Advocates in Pennsylvania. But brokers are concerned the requirement could cause delays, especially if clients wait until right before the end of open enrollment to apply.
"Brokers will need to stop what they are doing right at the end before they click 'submit' and wait for the consumer to sign a statement saying they reviewed the policy," Brooker said.
Your premiums could go up — shop around
While some health plans are lowering premiums for next year, many are increasing them, often by 2% to 10% , according to a Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker initial review of rate requests. The median increase, based on a weighted average across its plans for each insurer, was 6%.
Premiums, and whether they go up or down, vary widely by region and insurer.
Experts say that's a big reason to log on to the federal website, healthcare.gov , in the 32 states that use it, or on to the insurance marketplace for one of the 18 states and the District of Columbia that run their own . Changing insurers might mean a lower premium.
"It's very localized," said Sabrina Corlette , research professor and co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University. "People should shop to maximize their premium tax credit, although that might require not only changing to a new insurance plan, but potentially also a new network of providers."
Most people buying their own coverage qualify for the tax credit, which is a subsidy to offset some, or even all, of their monthly premium. Subsidies are based partly on the premium of the second-lowest-priced silver-level plan in a region. When those go up or down, possibly from a new insurer entering the market with low initial rates, it affects the subsidy amount.
Household income is also a factor. Subsidies are on a sliding scale based on income.
Subsidies were enhanced during the pandemic, both to increase the amount enrollees could receive and to allow more families to qualify. Those enhancements were extended through 2025 by President Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, passed last year.
Online calculators, including one at healthcare.gov , can provide subsidy estimates.
Medicare shoppers often face a barrage of unsolicited calls and aggressive ads
You may qualify for lower deductibles and copays.
In addition to the premium subsidies, most ACA enrollees qualify for reduced deductibles, copayments, and other types of cost sharing if their income is no more than 2.5 times the federal poverty level, or about $75,000 for a family of four, or about $36,450 for a single-person household.
ACA plans are grouped into colored tiers — bronze, silver, gold, and platinum — based largely on how much cost sharing they require. Bronze plans offer the lowest premiums but usually the highest copayments and deductibles. Platinum plans carry the highest premiums but the lowest out-of-pocket expenses for care.
Cost-sharing reductions are available only in silver-level plans and are more generous for those on the lower end of the income scale. New this year: To help more people qualify, the federal marketplace will automatically switch eligible people to a silver plan for next year if they are currently enrolled in a bronze plan, as long as the enrollee has not made an adjustment in coverage themselves.
There are safeguards built in, said insurance expert and broker Louise Norris , so that people are auto-enrolled in a plan with the same network of medical providers and a similar or lower premium. Additionally, nine of the states that run their own marketplaces — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington — have enhanced their cost-sharing reduction programs by extending eligibility or increasing benefits.
Some 26-year-olds will get to stay on parents' plans longer
Happy birthday! Existing federal marketplace rules allowing adult children to stay on their parents' plans though the calendar year in which they turn 26, rather than lose coverage on their 26th birthday, were codified into regulation .
States that run their own markets can set similar rules, and some already allow for longer periods on a parent's plan.
Networks may be small – check that your doctors are covered
Insurance plans often try to reduce premiums by partnering with a limited set of doctors, hospitals, and other providers. Those can change year to year, which is why insurance experts like Norris say enrollees should always check their plans during open enrollment to ensure their preferred physicians and medical centers are included in the network.
It's also a good idea, Norris said, to look closely for changes in prescription drug coverage or copayments.
"The general message is, don't assume anything and make sure you check to see who is in the network," Norris said.
Last year, the Biden administration set rules requiring health plans to have enough in-network providers to meet specific driving time and distance standards. A proposal to limit how long patients wait for a routine appointment has been delayed until 2025.
What we still don't know
A few things remain uncertain as the end of the year approaches. For example, the Biden administration proposed this summer to reverse a Trump-era rule that allowed short-term insurance plans to be sold for coverage periods of up to a year.
Short-term plans are not ACA-compliant, and many have fewer benefits and can set restrictions on coverage, including barring people with health conditions from purchasing them. As a result, they are far less expensive than ACA plans. The Biden proposal would restrict them to coverage periods of four months, but the rule isn't final.
Also pending: a final rule that would allow people to sign up for ACA coverage if they were brought to the U.S. as children by parents lacking permanent legal status — a group known as "Dreamers."
KFF Health News , formerly known as Kaiser Health News (KHN), is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism.
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Universities of Wisconsin unveil plan to recover $32 million cut by Republicans in diversity fight
FILE - The commencement address is given during graduation at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis., on May 12, 2018. The Universities of Wisconsin unveiled a $32 million workforce development plan Monday, Nov. 6, 2023 in an attempt to recover funds that were cut by the Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year in a fight over campus diversity programs. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick, File)
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Universities of Wisconsin unveiled a $32 million workforce development plan Monday in an attempt to recover funds that were cut by the Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year in a fight over campus diversity programs.
The Legislature’s budget committee voted in June to eliminate 188 diversity, equity and inclusion positions within the university system and slash UW’s budget by $32 million, which is the amount Republicans estimated would be spent on so-called DEI programs over the next two years.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers used his partial veto power to protect the DEI positions, but he was unable to prevent the $32 million cut. The budget Evers signed into law in July allows UW to recover the funding if it can show the money will be spent on workforce development and not DEI.
The spending plan UW President Jay Rothman announced Monday would direct funds to four “high-demand” fields: engineering, health care, business and computer science. The plan allocates $2.5 million each year to UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee, and $1 million to each of the system’s 11 other universities.
“This plan is exactly what the Legislature is looking for — a concentrated emphasis on adding more graduates to the workforce in key areas,” Rothman said. “I would hope everyone would agree that this is in the best interest of the state of Wisconsin.”
The proposal must be approved by the UW Board of Regents, which was set to meet Thursday, before going to the Legislature’s budget committee.
GOP leaders last month continued their efforts to force the university system to slash its DEI spending by withholding pay raises that were approved in the budget for UW employees. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, the state’s top Republican, has promised not to approve the raises until the university system cuts DEI spending by $32 million.
“Withholding those pay raises, in my judgment, it’s both unfair and it’s wrong,” Rothman said Monday. He did not say whether he expected the workforce spending plan to help convince Republicans to approve pay raises.
The Legislature is also weighing Republican-backed bills that would outlaw race- and diversity-based financial aid at UW schools and tech colleges. Evers is almost certain to veto those proposals, which were scheduled for a vote in the Assembly on Tuesday.
Harm Venhuizen is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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Plan to Hike Electric Bills 29% Sparks Fury in Wyoming
Proposed increase turns into fight over renewable power in coal-rich state, leads to talks of government takeover.
Oct. 29, 2023 11:00 am ET
For years, people in Wyoming have been accustomed to paying some of the lowest electricity prices in the U.S., despite harsh winters and a rugged landscape.
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China boldly claims it has a plan to mass produce humanoid robots that can 'reshape the world' within two years
- China revealed its bold plans to mass produce "advanced-level" humanoid robots by 2025.
- The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology published a roadmap of its plans last week.
- Although many details have yet to be revealed, China talked up the "disruptive" power of its robots.
China revealed ambitious plans to mass produce humanoid robots, which it believes will be as "disruptive" as smartphones.
In an ambitious blueprint document published last week, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said the robots would "reshape the world."
The MIIT believes that by 2025, the product would have reached "advanced level" and be mass produced. It made the statements in the development goals listed in its roadmap.
"They are expected to become disruptive products after computers, smartphones, and new energy vehicles," a translation of the document added.
Per Bloomberg, the document was "short on details but big on ambition." However, some Chinese companies are seemingly helping to tackle the country's robotic ambitions in earnest.
For example, Chinese startup Fourier Intelligence said it would start mass producing its GR-1 humanoid robot by the end of this year, South China Morning Post reported. The Shanghai-based company told the publication it aspired to deliver thousands of robots in 2024 that can move at five kilometers an hour and carry 50 kilograms.
It's not the only humanoid robot-maker that's ramping up its efforts with the goal of mass production. US-based Agility Robotics is opening a robot factory in Oregon later this year, where it plans to build hundreds of its bipedal robots that can mimic human movements like walking, crouching, and carrying packages.
Amazon is testing Agility Robotics' Digit robot at a research and development center near Seattle to see how it can be used to automate its warehouses, but it's only in the pilot phase.
Agility Robotics CEO Damion Shelton told Insider: "In the near term, we expect a slow and steady uptick of Digit deployments." He added: "We believe mass integration will eventually occur, but bipedal robots are still a relatively new advancement."
Even Tesla is developing its own humanoid robots called Optimus, or Tesla Bot, as Elon Musk revealed in 2021. However, it still has a long way to go before it's ready for mass production as Musk said at a Tesla AI Day event in 2022 that it was the first time the prototype had walked "without any support" when it walked onto the stage .