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What Is a Business Plan?
Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.
Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.
- A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
- Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
- For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
- There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.
Investopedia / Ryan Oakley
Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.
Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."
Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.
There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.
Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.
While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.
While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.
Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.
The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.
These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:
- Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
- Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
- Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
- Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
- Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.
The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.
2 Types of Business Plans
Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.
- Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
- Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.
Why Do Business Plans Fail?
A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.
How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.
What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?
The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.
Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.
A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.
Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."
U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."
- Business Development: Definition, Strategies, Steps & Skills 1 of 46
- Business Ethics: Definition, Principles, Why They're Important 2 of 46
- Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One 3 of 46
- Organizational Structure for Companies With Examples and Benefits 4 of 46
- Which Type of Organization Is Best For Your Business? 5 of 46
- What Are the Major Types of Businesses in the Private Sector? 6 of 46
- Corporate Culture Definition, Characteristics, and Importance 7 of 46
- What Is an S Corp? Definition, Taxes, and How to File 8 of 46
- LLC vs. Incorporation: Which Should I Choose? 9 of 46
- Private Company: What It Is, Types, and Pros and Cons 10 of 46
- Sole Proprietorship: What It Is, Pros & Cons, and Differences From an LLC 11 of 46
- Bootstrapping Definition, Strategies, and Pros/Cons 12 of 46
- Crowdfunding: What It Is, How It Works, and Popular Websites 13 of 46
- Seed Capital: What It Is, How It Works, Example 14 of 46
- Venture Capital: What Is VC and How Does It Work? 15 of 46
- Startup Capital Definition, Types, and Risks 16 of 46
- Capital Funding: Definition, How It Works, and 2 Primary Methods 17 of 46
- Series Funding: A, B, and C 18 of 46
- Small Business Administration (SBA): Definition and What It Does 19 of 46
- Upper Management: What it is, How it Works 20 of 46
- What is the C Suite?: Meaning and Positions Defined 21 of 46
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO): What They Do vs. Other Chief Roles 22 of 46
- Operations Management: Understanding and Using It 23 of 46
- Human Resource Planning (HRP) Meaning, Process, and Examples 24 of 46
- Brand: Types of Brands and How to Create a Successful Brand Identity 25 of 46
- What Is Brand Personality? How It Works and Examples 26 of 46
- What Is Brand Management? Requirements, How It Works, and Example 27 of 46
- What Is Brand Awareness? Definition, How It Works, and Strategies 28 of 46
- Brand Loyalty: What It Is, and How to Build It 29 of 46
- Brand Extension: Definition, How It Works, Example, and Criticism 30 of 46
- What Is Social Networking? 31 of 46
- Affiliate Marketer: Definition, Examples, and How to Get Started 32 of 46
- What Is Commercialization, Plus the Product Roll-Out Process 33 of 46
- Digital Marketing Overview: Types, Challenges & Required Skills 34 of 46
- Direct Marketing: What It Is and How It Works 35 of 46
- Marketing in Business: Strategies and Types Explained 36 of 46
- What Are Marketing Campaigns? Definition, Types, and Examples 37 of 46
- How to Do Market Research, Types, and Example 38 of 46
- Micromarketing Explained: Definition, Uses, and Examples 39 of 46
- Network Marketing Meaning and How It Works 40 of 46
- Product Differentiation: What It Is, How Businesses Do It, and the 3 Main Types 41 of 46
- Target Market: Definition, Purpose, Examples, Market Segments 42 of 46
- Outside Sales: What They are, How They Work 43 of 46
- What Is a Sales Lead? How It Works and Factors Affecting Quality 44 of 46
- Indirect Sales: What it is, How it Works 45 of 46
- What Is Inside Sales? Definition, How It Works, and Advantages 46 of 46
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- 11.4 The Business Plan
- 1.1 Entrepreneurship Today
- 1.2 Entrepreneurial Vision and Goals
- 1.3 The Entrepreneurial Mindset
- Review Questions
- Discussion Questions
- Case Questions
- Suggested Resources
- 2.1 Overview of the Entrepreneurial Journey
- 2.2 The Process of Becoming an Entrepreneur
- 2.3 Entrepreneurial Pathways
- 2.4 Frameworks to Inform Your Entrepreneurial Path
- 3.1 Ethical and Legal Issues in Entrepreneurship
- 3.2 Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship
- 3.3 Developing a Workplace Culture of Ethical Excellence and Accountability
- 4.1 Tools for Creativity and Innovation
- 4.2 Creativity, Innovation, and Invention: How They Differ
- 4.3 Developing Ideas, Innovations, and Inventions
- 5.1 Entrepreneurial Opportunity
- 5.2 Researching Potential Business Opportunities
- 5.3 Competitive Analysis
- 6.1 Problem Solving to Find Entrepreneurial Solutions
- 6.2 Creative Problem-Solving Process
- 6.3 Design Thinking
- 6.4 Lean Processes
- 7.1 Clarifying Your Vision, Mission, and Goals
- 7.2 Sharing Your Entrepreneurial Story
- 7.3 Developing Pitches for Various Audiences and Goals
- 7.4 Protecting Your Idea and Polishing the Pitch through Feedback
- 7.5 Reality Check: Contests and Competitions
- 8.1 Entrepreneurial Marketing and the Marketing Mix
- 8.2 Market Research, Market Opportunity Recognition, and Target Market
- 8.3 Marketing Techniques and Tools for Entrepreneurs
- 8.4 Entrepreneurial Branding
- 8.5 Marketing Strategy and the Marketing Plan
- 8.6 Sales and Customer Service
- 9.1 Overview of Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting Strategies
- 9.2 Special Funding Strategies
- 9.3 Accounting Basics for Entrepreneurs
- 9.4 Developing Startup Financial Statements and Projections
- 10.1 Launching the Imperfect Business: Lean Startup
- 10.2 Why Early Failure Can Lead to Success Later
- 10.3 The Challenging Truth about Business Ownership
- 10.4 Managing, Following, and Adjusting the Initial Plan
- 10.5 Growth: Signs, Pains, and Cautions
- 11.1 Avoiding the “Field of Dreams” Approach
- 11.2 Designing the Business Model
- 11.3 Conducting a Feasibility Analysis
- 12.1 Building and Connecting to Networks
- 12.2 Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team
- 12.3 Designing a Startup Operational Plan
- 13.1 Business Structures: Overview of Legal and Tax Considerations
- 13.2 Corporations
- 13.3 Partnerships and Joint Ventures
- 13.4 Limited Liability Companies
- 13.5 Sole Proprietorships
- 13.6 Additional Considerations: Capital Acquisition, Business Domicile, and Technology
- 13.7 Mitigating and Managing Risks
- 14.1 Types of Resources
- 14.2 Using the PEST Framework to Assess Resource Needs
- 14.3 Managing Resources over the Venture Life Cycle
- 15.1 Launching Your Venture
- 15.2 Making Difficult Business Decisions in Response to Challenges
- 15.3 Seeking Help or Support
- 15.4 Now What? Serving as a Mentor, Consultant, or Champion
- 15.5 Reflections: Documenting the Journey
- A | Suggested Resources
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Describe the different purposes of a business plan
- Describe and develop the components of a brief business plan
- Describe and develop the components of a full business plan
Unlike the brief or lean formats introduced so far, the business plan is a formal document used for the long-range planning of a company’s operation. It typically includes background information, financial information, and a summary of the business. Investors nearly always request a formal business plan because it is an integral part of their evaluation of whether to invest in a company. Although nothing in business is permanent, a business plan typically has components that are more “set in stone” than a business model canvas , which is more commonly used as a first step in the planning process and throughout the early stages of a nascent business. A business plan is likely to describe the business and industry, market strategies, sales potential, and competitive analysis, as well as the company’s long-term goals and objectives. An in-depth formal business plan would follow at later stages after various iterations to business model canvases. The business plan usually projects financial data over a three-year period and is typically required by banks or other investors to secure funding. The business plan is a roadmap for the company to follow over multiple years.
Some entrepreneurs prefer to use the canvas process instead of the business plan, whereas others use a shorter version of the business plan, submitting it to investors after several iterations. There are also entrepreneurs who use the business plan earlier in the entrepreneurial process, either preceding or concurrently with a canvas. For instance, Chris Guillebeau has a one-page business plan template in his book The $100 Startup . 48 His version is basically an extension of a napkin sketch without the detail of a full business plan. As you progress, you can also consider a brief business plan (about two pages)—if you want to support a rapid business launch—and/or a standard business plan.
As with many aspects of entrepreneurship, there are no clear hard and fast rules to achieving entrepreneurial success. You may encounter different people who want different things (canvas, summary, full business plan), and you also have flexibility in following whatever tool works best for you. Like the canvas, the various versions of the business plan are tools that will aid you in your entrepreneurial endeavor.
Business Plan Overview
Most business plans have several distinct sections ( Figure 11.16 ). The business plan can range from a few pages to twenty-five pages or more, depending on the purpose and the intended audience. For our discussion, we’ll describe a brief business plan and a standard business plan. If you are able to successfully design a business model canvas, then you will have the structure for developing a clear business plan that you can submit for financial consideration.
Both types of business plans aim at providing a picture and roadmap to follow from conception to creation. If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept.
The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, dealing with the proverbial devil in the details. Developing a full business plan will assist those of you who need a more detailed and structured roadmap, or those of you with little to no background in business. The business planning process includes the business model, a feasibility analysis, and a full business plan, which we will discuss later in this section. Next, we explore how a business plan can meet several different needs.
Purposes of a Business Plan
A business plan can serve many different purposes—some internal, others external. As we discussed previously, you can use a business plan as an internal early planning device, an extension of a napkin sketch, and as a follow-up to one of the canvas tools. A business plan can be an organizational roadmap , that is, an internal planning tool and working plan that you can apply to your business in order to reach your desired goals over the course of several years. The business plan should be written by the owners of the venture, since it forces a firsthand examination of the business operations and allows them to focus on areas that need improvement.
Refer to the business venture throughout the document. Generally speaking, a business plan should not be written in the first person.
A major external purpose for the business plan is as an investment tool that outlines financial projections, becoming a document designed to attract investors. In many instances, a business plan can complement a formal investor’s pitch. In this context, the business plan is a presentation plan, intended for an outside audience that may or may not be familiar with your industry, your business, and your competitors.
You can also use your business plan as a contingency plan by outlining some “what-if” scenarios and exploring how you might respond if these scenarios unfold. Pretty Young Professional launched in November 2010 as an online resource to guide an emerging generation of female leaders. The site focused on recent female college graduates and current students searching for professional roles and those in their first professional roles. It was founded by four friends who were coworkers at the global consultancy firm McKinsey. But after positions and equity were decided among them, fundamental differences of opinion about the direction of the business emerged between two factions, according to the cofounder and former CEO Kathryn Minshew . “I think, naively, we assumed that if we kicked the can down the road on some of those things, we’d be able to sort them out,” Minshew said. Minshew went on to found a different professional site, The Muse , and took much of the editorial team of Pretty Young Professional with her. 49 Whereas greater planning potentially could have prevented the early demise of Pretty Young Professional, a change in planning led to overnight success for Joshua Esnard and The Cut Buddy team. Esnard invented and patented the plastic hair template that he was selling online out of his Fort Lauderdale garage while working a full-time job at Broward College and running a side business. Esnard had hundreds of boxes of Cut Buddies sitting in his home when he changed his marketing plan to enlist companies specializing in making videos go viral. It worked so well that a promotional video for the product garnered 8 million views in hours. The Cut Buddy sold over 4,000 products in a few hours when Esnard only had hundreds remaining. Demand greatly exceeded his supply, so Esnard had to scramble to increase manufacturing and offered customers two-for-one deals to make up for delays. This led to selling 55,000 units, generating $700,000 in sales in 2017. 50 After appearing on Shark Tank and landing a deal with Daymond John that gave the “shark” a 20-percent equity stake in return for $300,000, The Cut Buddy has added new distribution channels to include retail sales along with online commerce. Changing one aspect of a business plan—the marketing plan—yielded success for The Cut Buddy.
Link to Learning
Watch this video of Cut Buddy’s founder, Joshua Esnard, telling his company’s story to learn more.
If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept. This version is used to interest potential investors, employees, and other stakeholders, and will include a financial summary “box,” but it must have a disclaimer, and the founder/entrepreneur may need to have the people who receive it sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) . The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, providing supporting details, and would be required by financial institutions and others as they formally become stakeholders in the venture. Both are aimed at providing a picture and roadmap to go from conception to creation.
Types of Business Plans
The brief business plan is similar to an extended executive summary from the full business plan. This concise document provides a broad overview of your entrepreneurial concept, your team members, how and why you will execute on your plans, and why you are the ones to do so. You can think of a brief business plan as a scene setter or—since we began this chapter with a film reference—as a trailer to the full movie. The brief business plan is the commercial equivalent to a trailer for Field of Dreams , whereas the full plan is the full-length movie equivalent.
Brief Business Plan or Executive Summary
As the name implies, the brief business plan or executive summary summarizes key elements of the entire business plan, such as the business concept, financial features, and current business position. The executive summary version of the business plan is your opportunity to broadly articulate the overall concept and vision of the company for yourself, for prospective investors, and for current and future employees.
A typical executive summary is generally no longer than a page, but because the brief business plan is essentially an extended executive summary, the executive summary section is vital. This is the “ask” to an investor. You should begin by clearly stating what you are asking for in the summary.
In the business concept phase, you’ll describe the business, its product, and its markets. Describe the customer segment it serves and why your company will hold a competitive advantage. This section may align roughly with the customer segments and value-proposition segments of a canvas.
Next, highlight the important financial features, including sales, profits, cash flows, and return on investment. Like the financial portion of a feasibility analysis, the financial analysis component of a business plan may typically include items like a twelve-month profit and loss projection, a three- or four-year profit and loss projection, a cash-flow projection, a projected balance sheet, and a breakeven calculation. You can explore a feasibility study and financial projections in more depth in the formal business plan. Here, you want to focus on the big picture of your numbers and what they mean.
The current business position section can furnish relevant information about you and your team members and the company at large. This is your opportunity to tell the story of how you formed the company, to describe its legal status (form of operation), and to list the principal players. In one part of the extended executive summary, you can cover your reasons for starting the business: Here is an opportunity to clearly define the needs you think you can meet and perhaps get into the pains and gains of customers. You also can provide a summary of the overall strategic direction in which you intend to take the company. Describe the company’s mission, vision, goals and objectives, overall business model, and value proposition.
Rice University’s Student Business Plan Competition, one of the largest and overall best-regarded graduate school business-plan competitions (see Telling Your Entrepreneurial Story and Pitching the Idea ), requires an executive summary of up to five pages to apply. 51 , 52 Its suggested sections are shown in Table 11.2 .
Are You Ready?
Create a brief business plan.
Fill out a canvas of your choosing for a well-known startup: Uber, Netflix, Dropbox, Etsy, Airbnb, Bird/Lime, Warby Parker, or any of the companies featured throughout this chapter or one of your choice. Then create a brief business plan for that business. See if you can find a version of the company’s actual executive summary, business plan, or canvas. Compare and contrast your vision with what the company has articulated.
- These companies are well established but is there a component of what you charted that you would advise the company to change to ensure future viability?
- Map out a contingency plan for a “what-if” scenario if one key aspect of the company or the environment it operates in were drastically is altered?
Full Business Plan
Even full business plans can vary in length, scale, and scope. Rice University sets a ten-page cap on business plans submitted for the full competition. The IndUS Entrepreneurs , one of the largest global networks of entrepreneurs, also holds business plan competitions for students through its Tie Young Entrepreneurs program. In contrast, business plans submitted for that competition can usually be up to twenty-five pages. These are just two examples. Some components may differ slightly; common elements are typically found in a formal business plan outline. The next section will provide sample components of a full business plan for a fictional business.
The executive summary should provide an overview of your business with key points and issues. Because the summary is intended to summarize the entire document, it is most helpful to write this section last, even though it comes first in sequence. The writing in this section should be especially concise. Readers should be able to understand your needs and capabilities at first glance. The section should tell the reader what you want and your “ask” should be explicitly stated in the summary.
Describe your business, its product or service, and the intended customers. Explain what will be sold, who it will be sold to, and what competitive advantages the business has. Table 11.3 shows a sample executive summary for the fictional company La Vida Lola.
This section describes the industry, your product, and the business and success factors. It should provide a current outlook as well as future trends and developments. You also should address your company’s mission, vision, goals, and objectives. Summarize your overall strategic direction, your reasons for starting the business, a description of your products and services, your business model, and your company’s value proposition. Consider including the Standard Industrial Classification/North American Industry Classification System (SIC/NAICS) code to specify the industry and insure correct identification. The industry extends beyond where the business is located and operates, and should include national and global dynamics. Table 11.4 shows a sample business description for La Vida Lola.
Industry Analysis and Market Strategies
Here you should define your market in terms of size, structure, growth prospects, trends, and sales potential. You’ll want to include your TAM and forecast the SAM . (Both these terms are discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis .) This is a place to address market segmentation strategies by geography, customer attributes, or product orientation. Describe your positioning relative to your competitors’ in terms of pricing, distribution, promotion plan, and sales potential. Table 11.5 shows an example industry analysis and market strategy for La Vida Lola.
The competitive analysis is a statement of the business strategy as it relates to the competition. You want to be able to identify who are your major competitors and assess what are their market shares, markets served, strategies employed, and expected response to entry? You likely want to conduct a classic SWOT analysis (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) and complete a competitive-strength grid or competitive matrix. Outline your company’s competitive strengths relative to those of the competition in regard to product, distribution, pricing, promotion, and advertising. What are your company’s competitive advantages and their likely impacts on its success? The key is to construct it properly for the relevant features/benefits (by weight, according to customers) and how the startup compares to incumbents. The competitive matrix should show clearly how and why the startup has a clear (if not currently measurable) competitive advantage. Some common features in the example include price, benefits, quality, type of features, locations, and distribution/sales. Sample templates are shown in Figure 11.17 and Figure 11.18 . A competitive analysis helps you create a marketing strategy that will identify assets or skills that your competitors are lacking so you can plan to fill those gaps, giving you a distinct competitive advantage. When creating a competitor analysis, it is important to focus on the key features and elements that matter to customers, rather than focusing too heavily on the entrepreneur’s idea and desires.
Operations and Management Plan
In this section, outline how you will manage your company. Describe its organizational structure. Here you can address the form of ownership and, if warranted, include an organizational chart/structure. Highlight the backgrounds, experiences, qualifications, areas of expertise, and roles of members of the management team. This is also the place to mention any other stakeholders, such as a board of directors or advisory board(s), and their relevant relationship to the founder, experience and value to help make the venture successful, and professional service firms providing management support, such as accounting services and legal counsel.
Table 11.6 shows a sample operations and management plan for La Vida Lola.
Here you should outline and describe an effective overall marketing strategy for your venture, providing details regarding pricing, promotion, advertising, distribution, media usage, public relations, and a digital presence. Fully describe your sales management plan and the composition of your sales force, along with a comprehensive and detailed budget for the marketing plan. Table 11.7 shows a sample marketing plan for La Vida Lola.
A financial plan seeks to forecast revenue and expenses; project a financial narrative; and estimate project costs, valuations, and cash flow projections. This section should present an accurate, realistic, and achievable financial plan for your venture (see Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting for detailed discussions about conducting these projections). Include sales forecasts and income projections, pro forma financial statements ( Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team , a breakeven analysis, and a capital budget. Identify your possible sources of financing (discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis ). Figure 11.19 shows a template of cash-flow needs for La Vida Lola.
Entrepreneur In Action
Laughing man coffee.
Hugh Jackman ( Figure 11.20 ) may best be known for portraying a comic-book superhero who used his mutant abilities to protect the world from villains. But the Wolverine actor is also working to make the planet a better place for real, not through adamantium claws but through social entrepreneurship.
A love of java jolted Jackman into action in 2009, when he traveled to Ethiopia with a Christian humanitarian group to shoot a documentary about the impact of fair-trade certification on coffee growers there. He decided to launch a business and follow in the footsteps of the late Paul Newman, another famous actor turned philanthropist via food ventures.
Jackman launched Laughing Man Coffee two years later; he sold the line to Keurig in 2015. One Laughing Man Coffee café in New York continues to operate independently, investing its proceeds into charitable programs that support better housing, health, and educational initiatives within fair-trade farming communities. 55 Although the New York location is the only café, the coffee brand is still distributed, with Keurig donating an undisclosed portion of Laughing Man proceeds to those causes (whereas Jackman donates all his profits). The company initially donated its profits to World Vision, the Christian humanitarian group Jackman accompanied in 2009. In 2017, it created the Laughing Man Foundation to be more active with its money management and distribution.
- You be the entrepreneur. If you were Jackman, would you have sold the company to Keurig? Why or why not?
- Would you have started the Laughing Man Foundation?
- What else can Jackman do to aid fair-trade practices for coffee growers?
What Can You Do?
Textbooks for change.
Founded in 2014, Textbooks for Change uses a cross-compensation model, in which one customer segment pays for a product or service, and the profit from that revenue is used to provide the same product or service to another, underserved segment. Textbooks for Change partners with student organizations to collect used college textbooks, some of which are re-sold while others are donated to students in need at underserved universities across the globe. The organization has reused or recycled 250,000 textbooks, providing 220,000 students with access through seven campus partners in East Africa. This B-corp social enterprise tackles a problem and offers a solution that is directly relevant to college students like yourself. Have you observed a problem on your college campus or other campuses that is not being served properly? Could it result in a social enterprise?
Work It Out
Franchisee set out.
A franchisee of East Coast Wings, a chain with dozens of restaurants in the United States, has decided to part ways with the chain. The new store will feature the same basic sports-bar-and-restaurant concept and serve the same basic foods: chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches, and the like. The new restaurant can’t rely on the same distributors and suppliers. A new business plan is needed.
- What steps should the new restaurant take to create a new business plan?
- Should it attempt to serve the same customers? Why or why not?
This New York Times video, “An Unlikely Business Plan,” describes entrepreneurial resurgence in Detroit, Michigan.
- 48 Chris Guillebeau. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future . New York: Crown Business/Random House, 2012.
- 49 Jonathan Chan. “What These 4 Startup Case Studies Can Teach You about Failure.” Foundr.com . July 12, 2015. https://foundr.com/4-startup-case-studies-failure/
- 50 Amy Feldman. “Inventor of the Cut Buddy Paid YouTubers to Spark Sales. He Wasn’t Ready for a Video to Go Viral.” Forbes. February 15, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestreptalks/2017/02/15/inventor-of-the-cut-buddy-paid-youtubers-to-spark-sales-he-wasnt-ready-for-a-video-to-go-viral/#3eb540ce798a
- 51 Jennifer Post. “National Business Plan Competitions for Entrepreneurs.” Business News Daily . August 30, 2018. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6902-business-plan-competitions-entrepreneurs.html
- 52 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition . March 2020. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2020%20RBPC%20Eligibility%20Criteria%20and%20How%20to%20Apply_23Oct19.pdf
- 53 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition. March 2020. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2020%20RBPC%20Eligibility%20Criteria%20and%20How%20to%20Apply_23Oct19.pdf; Based on 2019 RBPC Competition Rules and Format April 4–6, 2019. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2019-RBPC-Competition-Rules%20-Format.pdf
- 54 Foodstart. http://foodstart.com
- 55 “Hugh Jackman Journey to Starting a Social Enterprise Coffee Company.” Giving Compass. April 8, 2018. https://givingcompass.org/article/hugh-jackman-journey-to-starting-a-social-enterprise-coffee-company/
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Business Plan Development Guide
Lee Swanson, University of Saskatchewan
Copyright Year: 2017
Conditions of use.
Learn more about reviews.
Reviewed by Kevin Heupel, Affiliate Faculty, Metropolitan State University of Denver on 3/4/20
The text does a good job of providing a general outline about writing and developing a written business plan. All of the important steps and components are included. However, the text is light on details, examples, and rationale for each element... read more
Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less
The text does a good job of providing a general outline about writing and developing a written business plan. All of the important steps and components are included. However, the text is light on details, examples, and rationale for each element of the business plan. Some examples from actual business plans would be helpful.
Content Accuracy rating: 4
For the most part, the content is accurate. The content covers all important aspects of drafting a business plan. I thought the industry analysis could use more information about collecting primary and secondary sources; instead, this information was referenced in the marketing plan section.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 5
Most of the content relies on cites as far back as 2006; however, when it comes to developing and writing a business plan nothing has changed. Thus, the content is current and there is no concern about it becoming obsolete in the near future.
Clarity rating: 4
The text is clear. There are no difficult terms used and the writing is simple. The text uses a lot of bullet points though, which gets tedious to read for a few pages.
Consistency rating: 5
The text does a good job of maintaining consistency in terms of framework and terminology. The text is organized where it's easy to find the information you want in a quick manner.
Modularity rating: 3
The text has a lot of bullet points and the paragraphs are dense. However, the use of subheading is excellent.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5
The book is organized as if you're writing a business plan from start to finish, which is helpful as a practical guide.
Interface rating: 5
There are no navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, or any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader.
Grammatical Errors rating: 5
The text is free of grammatical errors. The sentence structure is simple with many bullet points, which helps to avoid any grammatical issues.
Cultural Relevance rating: 5
This book was written by a Canadian professor and provides references to Canadian sources. However, the information in this text can be used for U.S. schools.
This book is very short and provides a good, general overview about the process of creating and writing a business plan. It won't help a reader if he/she is confused about a certain part of the business plan. The reader will have to find another source, such as "Preparing Effective Business Plans" by Bruce Barringer, Ph.D. The book provides links to good resources and a finished business plan that the reader can reference. I would recommend the book for undergraduate courses.
Reviewed by Kenneth Lacho, Professor of Management, The University of New Orleans on 6/19/18
1. Text is relevant to Canada. Not the United States 2. Needs to cover resources available to entrepreneur, e.g., federal government agencies, trade associations, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies. 3. Discuss local economy or... read more
1. Text is relevant to Canada. Not the United States 2. Needs to cover resources available to entrepreneur, e.g., federal government agencies, trade associations, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies. 3. Discuss local economy or economic area relevant to this proposed business. 4. Business model ok as a guide. 5. Suggested mission statement to cover: product/business, target customer, geographical area covered. 6. Need detailed promotion plan, e.g., personal selling, advertising, sales promotion, networking publicity, and social media. 7. How do you find the target market? 8. Chapter 6 too much detail on debt and equity financing. 9. Discuss how to find sources of financing, e.g., angels. 10. Expand coverage of bootstring, crowdfunding. 11. Chapter 4 – good checklist. 12. Chapter 3 - overlaps. 13. Chapter 7 – 3 pages of executive summary – double or single spaced typing. Number all tables, graphs. 14. Some references out-of-date, mostly academic. Bring in trade magazines such as Entrepreneur.
Content Accuracy rating: 5
In my opinion, the content is accurate and error free.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 4
The material is relevant to writing a business plan. I wonder if the Porter, SWOT VRIO, etc. material is too high level for students who may not be seniors or have non-business degrees (e.g., liberal arts). Porter has been around for a while and does have longevity. The author has to be more alert to changes in promotion, e.g., social media and sources of financing, e.g., crowdfunding.
Clarity rating: 3
As noted in No. 9, the tone of the writing is too academic, thus making the material difficult to understand. Paragraphs are too long. Need to define: Porter, TOWS Matrix, VRIO, PESTEL. A student less from a senior or a non-business major would not be familiar with these terms.
Consistency rating: 4
The text is internally consistent. The model approach helps keep the process consistent.
Modularity rating: 4
The process of developing a business plan is divided into blocks which are parts of the business plan. Paragraphs tend to be too long in some spots.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4
The topics are presented in a logical step-wise flow. The language style is too academic in parts, paragraphs too long. Leaves out the citations. Provides excellent check lists.
There are no display features which confuse the reader.
Grammatical Errors rating: 4
The text has no grammatical errors. On the other hand, I found the writing to be too academic in nature. Some paragraphs are too long. The material is more like an academic conference paper or journal submission. Academic citations references are not needed. The material is not exciting to read.
The text is culturally neutral. There are no examples which are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
This book best for a graduate class.
Reviewed by Louis Bruneau, Part Time Faculty, Portland Community College on 6/19/18
The text provides appropriate discussion and illustration of all major concepts and useful references to source and resource materials. read more
Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less
The text provides appropriate discussion and illustration of all major concepts and useful references to source and resource materials.
Contents of the book were accurate, although it could have benefited from editing/proofreading; there was no evidence of bias. As to editing/proofreading, a couple of examples: A. “Figure 1 – Business Plan… “ is shown at the top of the page following the diagram vs. the bottom of the page the diagram is on. (There are other problems with what is placed on each page.) B. First paragraph under heading “Essential Initial Research” there is reference to pages 21 to 30 though page numbering is missing from the book. (Page numbers are used in the Table of Contents.)
The book is current in that business planning has been stable for sometime. The references and resources will age in time, but are limited and look easy to update.
Clarity rating: 5
The book is written in a straightforward way, technical terms that needed explanations got them, jargon was avoided and generally it was an easy read.
The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
Modularity rating: 5
The book lends itself to a multi-week course. A chapter could be presented and students could work on that stage of Plan development. It could also be pre-meeting reading for a workshop presentation. Reorganizing the book would be inappropriate.
The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion.
Generally, the book is free of interface problems. The financial tables in the Sample Plan were turned 90° to maintain legibility. One potential problem was with Figure 6 – Business Model Canvas. The print within the cells was too small to read; the author mitigated the problem by presenting the information, following Figure 6, in the type font of the text.
I found no grammatical errors.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way.
I require a business plan in a course I teach; for most of the students the assignment is a course project that they do not intend to pursue in real life. I shared the book with five students that intended to develop an actual start-up business; three of them found it helpful while the other two decided not to do that much work on their plans. If I were planning a start-up, I would use/follow the book.
Reviewed by Todd Johnson, Faculty of Business, North Hennepin Community College on 5/21/18
The text is a thorough overview of all elements of a business plan. read more
Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less
The text is a thorough overview of all elements of a business plan.
The content is accurate and seems to lack bias.
Content seems relevant and useful . It does not help an entrepreneur generate ideas, and is very light on crowdfunding and other novel funding source content. It is more traditional. This can be easily updated in future versions, however. "Social Media" appears once in the book, as does "Crowd Funding".
The book is comprehensive, but perhaps not written in the most lucid, accessible prose. I am not sure any college student could pick this up and just read and learn. It would be best used as a "teach along guide" for students to process with an instructor.
The text seems consistent. The author does a nice job of consistently staying on task and using bullets and brevity.
Here I am not so certain. The table of contents is not a good guide for this book. It does make the book look nicely laid out, but there is a lot of complexity within these sections. I read it uncertain that it was well organized. Yes there are many good bits of information, however it is not as if I could spend time on one swathe of text at a time. I would need to go back and forth throughout the text.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 2
Similar to the above. I did not like the flow and organization of this. An editor would help things be in a more logical order.
Interface rating: 2
The interface is just OK. It is not an attractice interface, as it presents text in a very dense manner. The images and charts are hard to follow.
I did not find any grammatical errors.
Cultural Relevance rating: 4
I a not certain of the origins of Saskatchewan, but I do feel this is a different read. It is more formal and dense than it has to be. This would be a difficult read for my students. I do not feel it is insensitive in any way, or offensive in any way.
I would not adopt this book if given the chance. It is too dense, and not organized very well, even though the information is very good. The density and lack of modularity are barriers to understanding what is obviously very good information.
Reviewed by Mariana Mitova, Lecturer, Bowling Green State University on 2/1/18
Though this textbook has a prescriptive nature, it is quite comprehensive. The author strikes a good balance between presenting concepts in a concise way and providing enough information to explain them. Many every-day examples and live links to... read more
Though this textbook has a prescriptive nature, it is quite comprehensive. The author strikes a good balance between presenting concepts in a concise way and providing enough information to explain them. Many every-day examples and live links to other resources add to the completeness of the textbook.
Content seems accurate.
Since the content is somewhat conceptual, the text will not become obsolete quickly. In addition, the author seems to be updating and editing content often hence the relevance to current developments is on target.
The text is very clear, written in clear and straight-to-the point language.
The organization of content is consistent throughout the entire text.
The textbook is organized by chapters, beginning with overview of the model used and followed by chapters for each concept within the model. Nicely done.
The flow is clear, logical and easy to follow.
Overall, images, links, and text are well organized. Some headlines were misaligned but still easy to follow.
No concerns for grammar.
No concerns for cultural irrelevance.
Reviewed by Darlene Weibye, Cosmetology Instructor, Minnesota State Community and Technical College on 2/1/18
The text is comprehensive and covers the information needed to develop a business plan. The book provides all the means necessary in business planning. read more
The text is comprehensive and covers the information needed to develop a business plan. The book provides all the means necessary in business planning.
The text was accurate, and error-free. I did not find the book to be biased.
The content is up-to-date. I am reviewing the book in 2017, the same year the book was published.
The content was very clear. A business plan sample included operation timelines, start up costs, and all relevant material in starting a business.
The book is very consistent and is well organized.
The book has a table of contents and is broken down into specific chapters. The chapters are not divided into sub topics. I do not feel it is necessary for sub topics because the chapters are brief and to the point.
There is a great flow from chapter to chapter. One topic clearly leads into the next without repeating.
The table of contents has direct links to each chapter. The appearance of the chapters are easy to read and the charts are very beneficial.
Does not appear to have any grammatical errors.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive.
I am incorporating some of the text into the salon business course. Very well written book.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1 – Developing a Business Plan
- Chapter 2 – Essential Initial Research
- Chapter 3 – Business Models
- Chapter 4 – Initial Business Plan Draft
- Chapter 5 – Making the Business Plan Realistic
- Chapter 6 – Making the Plan Appeal to Stakeholders and Desirable to the Entrepreneur
- Chapter 7 – Finishing the Business Plan
- Chapter 8 – Business Plan Pitches
References Appendix A – Business Plan Development Checklist and Project Planner Appendix B – Fashion Importers Inc. Business Plan Business Plan Excel Template
- Submit ancillary resource
About the Book
This textbook and its accompanying spreadsheet templates were designed with and for students wanting a practical and easy-to-follow guide for developing a business plan. It follows a unique format that both explains what to do and demonstrates how to do it.
About the Contributors
Dr. Lee Swanson is an Associate Professor of Management and Marketing at the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan. His research focuses on entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, Aboriginal entrepreneurship, community capacity-building through entrepreneurship, and institutional-stakeholder engagement. Dr. Swanson’s current research is funded through a Social Sciences Humanities Research Council grant and focuses on social and economic capacity building in Northern Saskatchewan and Northern Scandinavia. He is also actively studying Aboriginal community partnerships with resource based companies, entrepreneurship centres at universities, community-based entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions. He teaches upper-year and MBA entrepreneurship classes and conducts seminars on business planning and business development.
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How to Write a Company Overview for a Business Plan
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .
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.
On a similar note...
550+ Business Plan Examples to Launch Your Business
Need help writing your business plan? Explore over 550 industry-specific business plan examples for inspiration. Go even further with LivePlan , which harnesses AI-assisted writing features and SBA-approved plan examples to get you funded.
Find your business plan example
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Business plan template: There's an easier way to get your business plan done.
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Finish your plan faster with step-by-step guidance, financial wizards, and a proven format.
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Example business plan format
Before you start exploring our library of business plan examples, it's worth taking the time to understand the traditional business plan format . You'll find that the plans in this library and most investor-approved business plans will include the following sections:
The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally only one to two pages. You should also plan to write this section last after you've written your full business plan.
Your executive summary should include a summary of the problem you are solving, a description of your product or service, an overview of your target market, a brief description of your team, a summary of your financials, and your funding requirements (if you are raising money).
Products & services
The products & services chapter of your business plan is where the real meat of your plan lives. It includes information about the problem that you're solving, your solution, and any traction that proves that it truly meets the need you identified.
This is your chance to explain why you're in business and that people care about what you offer. It needs to go beyond a simple product or service description and get to the heart of why your business works and benefits your customers.
Conducting a market analysis ensures that you fully understand the market that you're entering and who you'll be selling to. This section is where you will showcase all of the information about your potential customers. You'll cover your target market as well as information about the growth of your market and your industry. Focus on outlining why the market you're entering is viable and creating a realistic persona for your ideal customer base.
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. Start by identifying who your competitors are or will be during your market research. Then leverage competitive analysis tools like the competitive matrix and positioning map to solidify where your business stands in relation to the competition.
Marketing & sales
The marketing and sales plan section of your business plan details how you plan to reach your target market segments. You'll address how you plan on selling to those target markets, what your pricing plan is, and what types of activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success.
The operations section covers the day-to-day workflows for your business to deliver your product or service. What's included here fully depends on the type of business. Typically you can expect to add details on your business location, sourcing and fulfillment, use of technology, and any partnerships or agreements that are in place.
Milestones & metrics
The milestones section is where you lay out strategic milestones to reach your business goals.
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.
Company & team
Use this section to describe your current team and who you need to hire. If you intend to pursue funding, you'll need to highlight the relevant experience of your team members. Basically, this is where you prove that this is the right team to successfully start and grow the business. You will also need to provide a quick overview of your legal structure and history if you're already up and running.
Your financial plan should include a sales and revenue forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and a balance sheet. You may not have established financials of any kind at this stage. Not to worry, rather than getting all of the details ironed out, focus on making projections and strategic forecasts for your business. You can always update your financial statements as you begin operations and start bringing in actual accounting data.
Now, if you intend to pitch to investors or submit a loan application, you'll also need a "use of funds" report in this section. This outlines how you intend to leverage any funding for your business and how much you're looking to acquire. Like the rest of your financials, this can always be updated later on.
The appendix isn't a required element of your business plan. However, it is a useful place to add any charts, tables, definitions, legal notes, or other critical information that supports your plan. These are often lengthier or out-of-place information that simply didn't work naturally into the structure of your plan. You'll notice that in these business plan examples, the appendix mainly includes extended financial statements.
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. 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 in any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual.
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 format 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.
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.
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.
Growth planning is more than a specific type of business plan. It's 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, forecast, review, and refine based on your 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 more detailed plan thanks to how heavily it's tied to your financials. The overall goal of growth planning isn't to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the growth planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and remain stable through times of crisis.
It's faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.
Download a free sample business plan template
Ready to start writing your own plan but aren't sure where to start? Download our free business plan template that's been updated for 2023.
This simple, modern, investor-approved business plan template is designed to make planning easy. It's a proven format that has helped over 1 million businesses write business plans for bank loans, funding pitches, business expansion, and even business sales. It includes additional instructions for how to write each section and is formatted to be SBA-lender approved. All you need to do is fill in the blanks.
How to use an example business plan to help you write your own
How do you know what elements need to be included in your business plan, especially if you've never written one before? Looking at examples can help you visualize what a full, traditional plan looks like, so you know what you're aiming for before you get started. Here's how to get the most out of a sample business plan.
Choose a business plan example from a similar type of company
You don't need to find an example business plan that's an exact fit for your business. Your business location, target market, and even your particular product or service may not match up exactly with the plans in our gallery. But, you don't need an exact match for it to be helpful. Instead, look for a plan that's related to the type of business you're starting.
For example, if you want to start a vegetarian restaurant, a plan for a steakhouse can be a great match. While the specifics of your actual startup will differ, the elements you'd want to include in your restaurant's business plan are likely to be very similar.
Use a business plan example as a guide
Every startup and small business is unique, so you'll want to avoid copying an example business plan word for word. It just won't be as helpful, since each business is unique. You want your plan to be a useful tool for starting a business —and getting funding if you need it.
One of the key benefits of writing a business plan is simply going through the process. When you sit down to write, you'll naturally think through important pieces, like your startup costs, your target market , and any market analysis or research you'll need to do to be successful.
You'll also look at where you stand among your competition (and everyone has competition), and lay out your goals and the milestones you'll need to meet. Looking at an example business plan's financials section can be helpful because you can see what should be included, but take them with a grain of salt. Don't assume that financial projections for a sample company will fit your own small business.
If you're looking for more resources to help you get started, our business planning guide is a good place to start. You can also download our free business plan template , or get started right away with LivePlan .
Think of business planning as a process, instead of a document
Think about business planning as something you do often , rather than a document you create once and never look at again. If you take the time to write a plan that really fits your own company, it will be a better, more useful tool to grow your business. It should also make it easier to share your vision and strategy so everyone on your team is on the same page.
Adjust your plan regularly to use it as a business management tool
Keep in mind that businesses that use their plan as a management tool to help run their business grow 30 percent faster than those businesses that don't. For that to be true for your company, you'll think of a part of your business planning process as tracking your actual results against your financial forecast on a regular basis.
If things are going well, your plan will help you think about how you can re-invest in your business. If you find that you're not meeting goals, you might need to adjust your budgets or your sales forecast. Either way, tracking your progress compared to your plan can help you adjust quickly when you identify challenges and opportunities—it's one of the most powerful things you can do to grow your business.
Prepare to pitch your business
If you're planning to pitch your business to investors or seek out any funding, you'll need a pitch deck to accompany your business plan. A pitch deck is designed to inform people about your business. You want your pitch deck to be short and easy to follow, so it's best to keep your presentation under 20 slides.
Your pitch deck and pitch presentation are likely some of the first things that an investor will see to learn more about your company. So, you need to be informative and pique their interest. Luckily, just like you can leverage an example business plan template to write your plan, we also have a gallery of over 50 pitch decks for you to reference.
With this gallery, you have the option to view specific industry pitches or get inspired by real-world pitch deck examples. Or for a modern pitch solution that helps you create a business plan and pitch deck side-by-side, you may want to check out LivePlan . It will help you build everything needed for outside investment and to better manage your business.
Get LivePlan in your classroom
Are you an educator looking for real-world business plan examples for your students? With LivePlan, you give your students access to industry-best business plans and help them set goals and track metrics with spreadsheet-free financial forecasts. All of this within a single tool that includes additional instructional resources that work seamlessly alongside your current classroom setup.
With LivePlan, it's not just a classroom project. It's your students planning for their futures. Click here to learn more about business planning for students .
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A Comprehensive Business Plan Template for Small Business
Business Plans Differ, But Have Several Common Elements
Alyssa Gregory is an entrepreneur, writer, and marketer with 20 years of experience in the business world. She is the founder of the Small Business Bonfire, a community for entrepreneurs, and has authored more than 2,500 articles for The Balance and other popular small business websites.
Company description, products or services, market analysis, marketing strategy, management summary, financial analysis, appendices and supporting info.
Business plans are a challenging startup step for many small business owners who are pitching their business ideas to investors or credit institutions for funding. Because of the vastness of information, business plans can be one of the most overwhelming parts of starting a business.
However, it's an important part of starting a business that you should not skip. One survey found that people who created a business plan were twice as likely to successfully grow their business and attract lenders or investors than those who don't.
Business plans come in many shapes and sizes; your goal is to convince individuals to buy into your vision, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach to that. However, there are a few common elements no plan should lack. Follow this business plan outline that walks you through each section of a basic plan in the order they typically appear.
The executive summary is the first section of your small business plan that is typically written last. This section highlights at least one important statement from each of the other sections in your business plan, while also including basic information about your business such as your business name and location, description of your business and its products and/or services, your management team, and the company's mission statement.
The company description section of your business plan is typically the second section, coming after the executive summary. The company description outlines vital details about your company, such as where you are located, how large the company is, what you do, and what you hope to accomplish. This section also describes the vision and direction of the company so potential lenders and partners can develop an accurate impression of who you are.
The products or services section of your business plan should clearly describe what products and/or services you're selling with an emphasis on the value you're providing to your customers or clients. This section will also include pricing information, a comparison to similar products or services in the market, and an outline of future offerings.
The market analysis section of your business plan comes after the products and services section and should provide a detailed overview of the industry you intend to sell your product or service in, including statistics to support your claims. This section also includes information about the industry, target market, and competition.
The marketing strategy section of your business plan builds upon the market analysis section. This section outlines where your business fits into the market and how you will price, promote, and sell your product or service.
The management summary section describes how your business is structured, introduces who is involved, outlines external resources, and explains how the business is managed.
The financial analysis section should contain the details for financing your business now, what will be needed for future growth, and an estimation of your operating expenses and gross revenue.
The appendix includes information that supports your statements, assumptions, and reasoning used in the other sections of your business plan. This may include graphs, charts, statistics, photos, marketing materials, research, and other relevant data.
Bplans. " Why Plan Your Business? Look At This Data ." Accessed Jan. 26, 2020.
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5 Chapter 5 – The Business Plan
Developing your strategy.
As mentioned in Chapter 2 , it is critically important for any business organization to be able to accurately understand and identify what constitutes customer value. To do this, one must have a clear idea of who your customers are or will be. However, simply identifying customer value is insufficient. An organization must be able to provide customer value within several important constraints. One of these constraints deals with the competition—what offerings are available and at what price. Also, what additional services might a company provide? A second critically important constraint is the availability of resources to the business organization. Resources consist of factors such as money, facilities, equipment, operational capability, and personnel.
Here is an example: a restaurant identified its prime customer base as being upscale clientele in the business section of a major city. The restaurant recognized that it has numerous competitors that are interested in providing the same clientele with an upscale dining experience. Our example restaurant might provide a five-course, five-star gourmet meal to its customers. It also provides superlative service. If a comparable restaurant failed to provide a comparable meal than the example restaurant, the example restaurant would have a competitive advantage. If the example restaurant offered these sumptuous meals for a relatively low price in comparison to its competitors, it would initially seem to have even more of an advantage. However, if the price charged is significantly less than the cost of providing the meal, the service in this situation could not be maintained. In fact, the restaurant inevitably would have to go out of business. Providing excellent customer service may be a necessary condition for business survival but, in and of itself, it is not a sufficient condition.
So how does one go about balancing the need to provide customer value within the resources available while always maintaining a watchful eye on competitors’ actions? We are going to argue that what is required for that firm is to have a strategy .
The word strategy is derived from the Greek word strategos , which roughly translates into the art of the general, namely a military leader. Generals are responsible for marshaling required resources and organizing the troops and the basic plan of attack. Much in the same way, executives as owners of businesses are expected to have a general idea of the desired outcomes, acquire resources, hire and train personnel, and generate plans to achieve those outcomes. In this sense, all businesses, large and small, have strategies, whether they are clearly written out in formal business plans or reside in the mind of the owner of the business.
There are many different formal definitions of strategy with respect to business. The following is a partial listing of some of the definitions given by key experts in the field:
“A strategy is a pattern of objectives, purposes or goals and the major policies and plans for achieving these goals, stated in such a way as to define what business the company is in or is to be in and the kind of company it is or to be .”  “The determination of the long-run goals and objectives of an enterprise, and the adoption of courses of action and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out these goals .”  “What business strategy is all about, in a word, is competitive advantage .” 
We define the strategy of a business as follows: A firm’s strategy is the path by which it seeks to provide its customers with value, given the competitive environment and within the constraints of the resources available to the firm.
Whatever definition of strategy is used, it is often difficult to separate it from two other terms: strategic planning and strategic management. Both terms are often perceived as being in the domain of large corporations, not necessarily small to midsize businesses. This is somewhat understandable. The origin of strategic planning as a separate discipline occurred over fifty years ago. It was mainly concerned with assisting huge multidivisional or global businesses in coordinating their activities. In the intervening half-century, strategic planning has produced a vast quantity of literature. Mintzberg, Lampel, Ahlstrand, in a highly critical review of the field, identified ten separate schools associated with strategic planning.  With that number of different schools, it is clear that the discipline has not arrived at a common consensus. Strategic planning has been seen as a series of techniques and tools that would enable organizations to achieve their specified goals and objectives. Strategic management was seen as the organizational mechanisms by which you would implement the strategic plan. Some of the models and approaches associated with strategic planning and strategic management became quite complex and would prove to be fairly cumbersome to implement in all but the largest businesses. Further, strategic planning often became a bureaucratic exercise where people filled out forms, attended meetings, and went through the motions to produce a document known as the strategic plan. Sometimes what is missed in this discussion was a key element—strategic thinking. Strategic thinking is the creative analysis of the competitive landscape and a deep understanding of customer value. It should be the driver (see “Strategy Troika”) of the entire process. This concept is often forgotten in large bureaucratic organizations.
Strategic thinkers often break commonly understood principles to reach their goals. This is most clearly seen among military leaders, such as Alexander the Great or Hannibal. Robert E. Lee often violated basic military principles, such as dividing his forces. General Douglas MacArthur shocked the North Koreans with his bold landings behind enemy lines at Inchon. This mental flexibility also exists in great business leaders.
Solomon and Friedman recounted a prime example of true strategic thinking.  Wilson Harrell took a small, closely held, cleaning spray company known as Formula 409 to the point of having national distribution. In 1967, the position that Formula 409 held was threatened by the possible entry of Procter & Gamble into the same spray cleaning market. Procter & Gamble was a huge consumer products producer, noted for its marketing savvy. Procter & Gamble began a program of extensive market research to promote its comparable product they called Cinch. Clearly, the larger firm had a much greater advantage. Harrell knew that Procter & Gamble would perform test market research. He decided to do the unexpected. Rather than directly confront this much larger competitor, he began a program where he reduced advertising expenditures in Denver and stopped promoting his Formula 409. The outcome was that Procter & Gamble had spectacular results, and the company was extremely excited with the potential for Cinch. Procter & Gamble immediately begin a national sales campaign. However, before the company could begin, Harrell introduced a promotion of his own. He took the Formula 409 sixteen-ounce bottle and attached it to a half-gallon size bottle. He then sold both at a significant discount. This quantity of spray cleaner would last the average consumer six to nine months. The market for Procter & Gamble’s Cinch was significantly reduced. Procter & Gamble was confused and confounded by its poor showing after the phenomenal showing in Denver. Confused and uncertain, the company chose to withdraw Cinch from the market. Wilson Harrell’s display of brilliant strategic thinking had bested them. He leveraged his small company’s creative thinking and flexibility against the tremendous resources of an international giant. Through superior strategic thinking, Harrell was able to best Procter & Gamble.
Do You Have a Strategy and What Is It?
We have argued that all businesses have strategies, whether they are explicitly articulated or not. Perry stated that “small business leaders seem to recognize that the ability to formulate and implement an effective strategy has a major influence on the survival and success of small business.” 
The extent to which a strategy should be articulated in a formal manner, such as part of a business plan, is highly dependent on the type of business. One might not expect a formally drafted strategy statement for a nonemployee business funded singularly by the owner. One researcher found that formal plans are rare in businesses with fewer than five employees.  However, you should clearly have that expectation for any other type of small or midsize business.
Any business with employees should have an articulated strategy that can be conveyed to them so that they might better assist in implementing it. Curtis pointed out that in the absence of such communication, “employees make pragmatic short-term decisions that cumulatively form an ad-hoc strategy.”  These ad hoc (realized) strategies may be at odds with the planned (intended) strategies to guide a firm.  However, any business that seeks external funding from bankers, venture capitalists, or “angels” must be able to specify its strategy in a formal business plan.
Clearly specifying your strategy should be seen as an end in itself. Requiring a company to specify its strategy forces that company to think about its core issues, such as the following:
- Who are your customers?
- How are you going to provide value to those customers?
- Who are your current and future competitors?
- What are your resources?
- How are you going to use these resources?
One commentator in a blog put it fairly well, “It never ceases to amaze me how many people will use GPS or Google maps for a trip somewhere but when it comes to starting a business they think that they can do it without any strategy, or without any guiding road-map.” Harry Tucci, comment posted to the following blog: 
Types of Strategies
In 1980, Michael Porter a professor at Harvard Business School published a major work in the field of strategic analysis— Competitive Strategy .  To simplify Porter’s thesis, while competition is beneficial to customers, it is not always beneficial to those who are competing. Competition may involve lowering prices, increasing research and development (R&D), and increasing advertising and other expenses and activities—all of which can lower profit margins. Porter suggested that firms should carefully examine the industry in which they are operating and apply what he calls the five forces model. These five forces are as follows: the power of suppliers, the power of buyers, the threat of substitution, the threat of new entrants, and rivalry within the industry. We do not need to cover these five forces in any great detail, other than to say that once the analysis has been conducted, a firm should look for ways to minimize the dysfunctional consequences of competition. Porter identified four generic strategies that firms may choose to implement to achieve that end. Actually, he initially identified three generic strategies, but one of them can be bifurcated. These four strategies are as follows (see “Generic Strategies”): cost leadership, differentiation, cost focus, and differentiation focus. These four generic strategies can be applied to small businesses. We will examine each strategy and then discuss what is required to successfully implement them.
A cost leadership strategy requires that a firm be in the position of being the lowest cost producer in its competitive environment. By being the lowest-cost producer, a firm has several strategic options open to it. It can sell its product or service at a lower price than its competitors. If price is a major driver of customer value, then the firm with the lowest price should sell more. The low-cost producer also has the option of selling its products or services at prices that are comparable to its competitors. However, this would mean that the firm would have a much higher margin than its competitors.
Obviously, following a cost leadership strategy dictates that the business be good at curtailing costs. Perhaps the clearest example of a firm that employs a cost leadership strategy is Walmart. Walmart’s investment in customer relations and inventory control systems plus its huge size enables it to secure the “best” deals from suppliers and drastically reduce costs. It might appear that cost leadership strategies are most suitable for large firms that can exploit economies of scale. This is not necessarily true. Smaller firms can compete on the basis of cost leadership. They can position themselves in low-cost areas, and they can exploit their lower overhead costs. Family businesses can use family members as employees, or they can use a web presence to market and sell their goods and services. A small family-run luncheonette that purchases used equipment and offers a limited menu of standard breakfast and lunch items while not offering dinner might be good example of a small business that has opted for a cost leadership strategy.
A differentiation strategy involves providing products or services that meet customer value in some unique way. This uniqueness may be derived in several ways. A firm may try to build a particular brand image that differentiates itself from its competitors. Many clothing lines, such as Tommy Hilfiger, opt for this approach. Other firms will try to differentiate themselves on the basis of the services that they provide. Dominoes began to distinguish itself from other pizza firms by emphasizing the speed of its delivery. Differentiation also can be achieved by offering a unique design or features in the product or the service. Apple products are known for their user-friendly design features. A firm may wish to differentiate itself on the basis of the quality of its product or service. Kogi barbecue trucks operating in Los Angeles represent such an approach. They offer high-quality food from mobile food trucks.”  They further facilitate their differentiation by having their truck routes available on their website and on their Twitter account.
Adopting a differentiation strategy requires significantly different capabilities than those that were outlined for cost leadership. Firms that employ a differentiation strategy must have a complete understanding of what constitutes customer value. Further, they must be able to rapidly respond to changing customer needs. Often, a differentiation strategy involves offering these products and services at a premium price. A differentiation strategy may accept lower sales volumes because a firm is charging higher prices and obtaining higher profit margins. A danger in this approach is that customers may no longer place a premium value on the unique features or quality of the product or the service. This leaves the firm that offers a differentiation strategy open to competition from those that adopt a cost leadership strategy.
Focus—Low Cost or Differentiation
Porter identifies the third strategy—focus. He said that focus strategies can be segmented into a cost focus and a differentiation focus .
In a focus strategy, a firm concentrates on one or more segments of the overall market. Focus can also be described as a niche strategy. Focus strategy entails deciding to some extent that we do not want to have everyone as a customer. There are several ways that a firm can adopt a focus perspective:
- Product line. A firm limits its product line to specific items of only one or more product types. California Cart Builder produces only catering trucks and mobile kitchens.
- Customer. A firm concentrates on serving the needs of a particular type of customer. Weight Watchers concentrates on customers who wish to control their weight or lose weight.
- Geographic area. Many small firms, out of necessity, will limit themselves to a particular geographic region. Microbrewers generally serve a limited geographic region.
- Particular distribution channel. Firms may wish to limit themselves with respect to the means by which they sell their products and services. Amazon began and remains a firm that sells only through the Internet.
Firms adopting focus strategies look for distinct groups that may have been overlooked by their competitors. This group needs to be of sufficiently sustainable size to make it an economically defensible option. One might open a specialty restaurant in a particular geographic location—a small town. However, if the demand is not sufficiently large for this particular type of food, then the restaurant will probably fail. Companies that lack the resources to compete on either a national level or an industry-wide level may adopt focus strategies. Focus strategies enable firms to marshal their limited resources to best serve their customers.
As previously stated, focus strategies can be bifurcated into two directions—cost focus or differentiation focus. IKEA sells low-priced furniture to those customers who are willing to assemble the furniture. It cuts its costs by using a warehouse rather than showroom format and not providing home delivery. Michael Dell began his business out of his college dormitory. He took orders from fellow students and custom-built computers to their specifications. This was a cost focus strategy. By building to order, it almost totally eliminated the need for any incoming, work-in-process, or finished goods inventories.
A focus differentiation strategy concentrates on providing a unique product or service to a segment of the market. This strategy may be best represented by many specialty retail outlets. The Body Shop focuses on customers who want natural ingredients in their makeup. Max and Mina is a kosher specialty ice cream store in New York City. It provides a constantly rotating menu of more than 300 exotic flavors, such as Cajun, beer, lox, corn, and pizza. The store has been written up in the New York Times and People magazine. Given its odd flavors, Max and Mina’s was voted the number one ice cream parlor in America in 2004. 
The selection of a generic strategy by a firm should not be seen as something to be done on a whim. Once a strategy is selected, all aspects of the business must be tied to implementing that strategy. As Porter stated, “Effectively implementing any of these generic strategies usually requires total commitment and supporting organizational arrangements.”  The successful implementation of any generic strategy requires that a firm possess particular skills and resources. Further, it must impose particular requirements on its organization (see “Summary of Generic Strategies”).
Even successful generic strategies must recognize that market and economic conditions change along with the needs of consumers. Henry Ford used a cost leadership strategy and was wildly successful until General Motors began to provide different types of automobiles to different customer segments. Likewise, those who follow a differentiation strategy must be cautious that customers may forgo “extras” in a downturn economy in favor of lower costs. This requires businesses to be vigilant, particularly with respect to customer value.
Summary of Generic Strategies
- Any firm, regardless of size, needs to know how it will compete; this is the firm’s strategy.
- Strategy identifies how a firm will provide value to its customers within its operational constraints.
- Strategy can be reduced to four major approaches—cost leadership, differentiation, cost focus, and differentiation focus.
- Once a given strategy is selected, all of a firm’s operations should be geared to implementing that strategy.
- No strategy will be successful forever and therefore needs to be constantly evaluated.
The Necessity for a Business Plan
An intelligent plan is the first step to success. The man who plans knows where he is going, knows what progress he is making and has a pretty good idea of when he will arrive. Planning is the open road to your destination. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you expect to get there? – Basil Walsh
In Chapter 1, we discussed the issue of failure and small businesses. Although research on small business failure has identified many factors, one reason that always appears at the top of any list is the failure to plan. Interestingly, some people argue that planning is not essential for a start-up business, but they are in a distinct minority.  The overwhelming consensus is that a well-developed plan is essential for the survival of any small (or large) business.  Perry found that firms with more than five people benefit from having a well-developed business plan. 
A recent study found that there was a near doubling of successful growth for those businesses that completed business plans compared to those that did not create one. It must be pointed out that this study might be viewed as being biased because the founder of the software company whose main product is a program that builds business plans conducted the study. However, the results were examined by academics from the University of Oregon who validated the overall results. They found that “except in a small number of cases, business planning appeared to be positively correlated with business success as measured by our variables. While our analysis cannot say the completing of a business plan will lead to success, it does indicate that the type of entrepreneur who completes a business plan is also more likely to produce a successful business.” 
Basically, there are two main reasons for developing a comprehensive business plan: (1) a plan will be extraordinarily useful in ensuring the successful operation of your business; and (2) if one is seeking to secure external funds from banks, venture capitalists, or other investors, it is essential that you be able to demonstrate to them that they will be recovering their money and making a profit. Let us examine each reason in detail.
Many small business owners operate under a mistaken belief that the only time that they need to create a business plan is at the birth of the company or when they are attempting to raise additional capital from external sources. They fail to realize that a business plan can be an important element in ensuring day-to-day success.
The initial planning process aids the operational success of a small business by allowing the owner a chance to review, in detail, the viability of the business idea. It forces one to rigorously consider some key questions:
- Is the business strategy feasible?
- What are the chances it will make money?
- Do I have the operational requirements for starting and running a successful business?
- Have I considered a well-thought-out marketing plan that clearly identifies who my customers will be?
- Do I clearly understand what value I will provide to these customers?
- What will be the means of distribution to provide the product or the service to my customers?
- Have I clarified to myself the financial issues associated with starting and operating the business?
- Do I have to reexamine these notions to ensure success?
Possessing an actual written plan enables you to have people outside the organization evaluate your business plan. Using friends, colleagues, partners, or even consultants may provide you with an unbiased evaluation of the assumptions.
It is not enough to create an initial business plan; you should anticipate making the planning process an annual activity. The Prussian military theorist von Moltke once argued that no military plan survives the first engagement with the enemy. Likewise, no company evolves in the same way as outlined in its initial business plan.
Overcoming the Reluctance to Formally Plan
By failing to prepare, you will prepare them to fail . -Benjamin Franklin
Unfortunately, it appears that many small businesses do not make any effort to build even an initial business plan, let alone maintain a planning process as an ongoing operation, even though there is clear evidence that the failure to plan may have serious consequences for the future success of such firms. This unwillingness to plan may be understandable in nonemployee businesses, but it is inexcusable as a business grows in size. Why, therefore, do some businesses fail to begin the planning process?
- We do not need to plan. One of the prime reasons individuals fail to produce a business plan is that they believe that they do not have to plan. This may be attributable to the size of the firm; nonemployee firms that have no intention of seeking outside financing might sincerely believe that they have no need for a formal business plan. Others may believe that they so well understand the business and/or industry that they can survive and prosper without the burdensome process of a business plan. The author of Business Plan for Dummies , Paul Tiffany, once argued that if one feels lucky enough to operate a business successfully without resorting to a business plan, then he or she should forget about starting a business and head straight to Las Vegas.
- I am too busy to plan. Anyone who has ever run a business on his or her own can understand this argument. The day-to-day demands of operating a business may make it seem that there is insufficient time to engage in any ancillary activity or prepare a business plan. Individuals who accept this argument often fail to recognize that the seemingly endless buzz of activities, such as constantly putting out fires, may be the direct result of not having thought about the future and planned for it in the first place.
- Plans do not produce results. Small-business owners (entrepreneurs) are action- and results-oriented individuals. They want to see a tangible outcome for their efforts, and preferably they would like to see the results as soon as possible. The idea of sitting down and producing a large document based on assumptions that may not play out exactly as predicted is viewed as a futile exercise. However, those with broader experience understand that there will be no external funding for growth or the initial creation of the business without the existence of a well-thought-out plan. Although plans may not yield the specified results contained within them, the process of thinking about the plan and building it often yield results that the owner might not initially appreciate.
- We are not familiar with the process of formal planning. This argument might initially appear to have more validity than the others. Developing a comprehensive business plan is a daunting task. It might seem difficult if not impossible for someone with no experience with the concept. Several studies have indicated that small business owners are more likely to engage in the planning process if they have had prior experience with planning models in their prior work experience.  Fortunately, this situation has changed rather significantly in the last decade. As we will illustrate, there are numerous tools that provide significant support for the development of business plans. We will see that software packages greatly facilitate the building of any business plan, including marketing plans and financial plans for small businesses. We also show that the Internet can provide an unbelievably rich source of data and information to assist in the building of these plans.
Although one could understand the reticence of someone new to small business (or in some cases even seasoned entrepreneurs), their arguments fall short with respect to the benefits that will be derived from conducting a structured and comprehensive business planning process.
Plans for Raising Capital
Every business plan should be written with a particular audience in mind. The annual business plan should be written with a management team and for the employees who have to implement the plan. However, one of the prime reasons for writing a business plan is to secure investment funds for the firm. Of course, funding the business could be done by an individual using his or her own personal wealth, personal loans, or extending credit cards. Individuals also can seek investments from family and friends. The focus here will be on three other possible sources of capital—banks, venture capitalists, and angel investors. It is important to understand what they look for in a business plan. Remember that these three groups are investors, so they will be anticipating, at the very least, the ability to recover their initial investment if not earn a significant return.
Bankers, like all businesspeople, are interested in earning a profit; they want to see a return on their investment. However, unlike other investors, bankers are under a legal obligation to ensure that the borrower pledge some form of collateral to secure the loan.  This often means that banks are unwilling to fund a start-up business unless the owner is willing to pledge some form of collateral, such as a second mortgage on his or her home. Many first-time business owners are not in a position to do that; securing money from a bank occurs most frequently for an existing business that is looking to expand or for covering a short-term cash-flow need. Banks may lend to small business owners who are opening a second business provided that they can prove a record of success and profitability.
Banks will require a business plan. It should be understood that bank loan officers will initially focus on the financial components of that client, namely, the income statement, balance sheet, and the cash-flow statement. The bank will examine your projections with respect to known industry standards. Therefore, the business plan should not project a 75 percent profit margin when the industry standard is 15 percent, unless the author of the plan can clearly document why he or she will be earning such a high return.
Some businesses may raise funds with the assistance of a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. These loans are always arranged through a commercial bank. With these loans, the SBA will pledge up to 70 percent of the total value of the loan. This means that the owner still must provide, at the very least, 30 percent of the total collateral. The ability to secure one of these loans is clearly tied to the adequacy of the business plan.
Another possible source of funding is venture capitalists . The first thing that one should realize about venture capitalists is that they are not in it just to make a profit; they want to make returns that are substantially above those to be found in the market. For some, this translates into the ability to secure five to ten times their initial investment and recapture their investment in a relatively short period of time—often less than five years. It has been reported that some venture capitalists are looking for returns in the order of twenty-five times their original investment. 
The financial statement, particularly the profit margin, is obviously important to venture capitalists, but they will also be looking at other factors. The quality of the management team identified in the business plan will be examined. They will be looking at the team’s experience and track record. Other factors needed by venture capitalists may include the projected growth rate of the market, the extent to which the product or the service being offered is unique, the overall size of the market, and the probability of producing a highly successful product or service.
Businesses that are seeking financing from banks know that they must go to loan officers who will review the plan, even though a computerized loan assessment program may make the final decision. With venture capitalists, on the other hand, you often need to have a personal introduction to have your plan considered. You should also anticipate that you will have to make a presentation to venture capitalists. This means that you have to understand your plan and be able to present it in a dynamic fashion.
The third type of investor is referred to as angel investors , a term that originally came from those individuals who invested in Broadway shows and films. Many angel investors are themselves successful entrepreneurs. As with venture capitalists, they are looking for returns higher than they can normally find in the market; however, they often expect returns lower than those anticipated by venture capitalist. They may be attracted to business plans because of an innovative concept or the excitement of entering a new type of business. Being successful small business owners, many angel investors will not only provide capital to fund the business but also bring their own expertise and experience to help the business grow. It has been estimated that these angel investors provide between three and ten times as much money as venture capitalists for the development of small businesses. 
Angel investors will pay careful attention to all aspects of the proposed business plan. They expect a comprehensive business plan—one that clearly specifies the future direction of the firm. They also will look at the management team not only for its track record and experience but also their (the angel investor’s) ability to work with this team. Angel investors may take a much more active role in the management of the business, asking for positions on the board of directors, taking an equity position in the firm, demanding quarterly reports, or demanding that the business not take certain actions unless it has the approval of these angel investors. These investors will take a much more hands-on approach to the operations of a firm.
- Planning is a critical and important component of ensuring the success of a small business.
- Some form of formal planning should not only accompany the start-up of a business but also be a regular (annual) activity that guides the future direction of the business.
- Many small business owners are reluctant to formally plan. They can produce many excuses for not planning.
- Businesses may have to raise capital from external sources—bankers, venture capitalists, or angel investors. Each type of investor will expect a business plan. Each type of investor will be more or less interested in different parts of the plan. Business owners should be aware of what parts of the plan each type of investor will focus on.
Building a Plan
Before talking about writing a formal business plan, someone interested in starting a business might want to think about doing some personal planning before drafting the business plan. Some of the questions that he or she might want to answer before drafting a full business plan are as follows:
- Why am I going into this business?
- What skills and resources do I possess that will help make the business a success?
- What passion do I bring to this business?
- What is my risk tolerance?
- Exactly how hard do I intend to work? How many hours per week?
- What impact will the business have on my family life?
What do I really wish from this business?
- Am I interested in financial independence?
- What level of profits will be required to maintain my personal and/or family’s lifestyle?
- Am I interested in independence of action (no boss but myself)?
- Am I interested in personal satisfaction?
- Will my family be working in this business?
- What other employees might I need? 
Having addressed these questions, one will be in a much better position to craft a formal business plan.
Building a solid business plan requires knowing the economic, market, and competitive environments. Such knowledge transcends “gut feelings” and is based on data and evidence. Fortunately, much of the required information is available through library resources, Internet sources, and government agencies and, for a fee, from commercial sources. Comprehensive business plans may draw from all these sources.
Public libraries and those at educational institutions provide a rich resource base that can be used at no cost. Some basic research sources that can be found at libraries are given in this section— be aware that the reference numbers provided may differ from library to library .
- Berinstein, Paula. Business Statistics on the Web: Find Them Fast—At Little or No Cost (Ref HF1016 .B47 2003).
- The Core Business Web: A Guide to Information Resources (Ref HD30.37 .C67 2003).
- Frumkin, Norman. Guide to Economic Indicators , 4th ed. (Ref HC103 .F9 2006). This book explains the meanings and uses of the economic indicators.
- Solie-Johnson, Kris. How to Set Up Your Own Small Business , 2 volumes (Ref HD62.7 .S85 2005). Published by the American Institute of Small Business.
Company and Industry Sources
- North American Industry Classification System, United States (NAICS), 2007 (Ref HF1042 .N6 2007). The NAICS is a numeric industry classification system that replaced the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. An electronic version is available from the US Census Bureau .
- Standard Industrial Classification Manual (Ref HA40 .I6U63 1987). The industry classification system that preceded the NAICS.
- Value Line Investment Survey (Ref HG4751 .V18). Concise company and industry profiles are updated every thirteen weeks.
- Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios (Ref HF5681 .R25A45 2010).
- Business Statistics of the United States (Ref HC101 .A13123 2009). This publication provides recent and historical information about the US economy.
- Economic Indicators (1971–present). The Council of Economic Advisers for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress publishes this monthly periodical; recent years are in electronic format only. Ten years of data are presented. Electronic versions are available in ABI/INFORM and ProQuest from September 1994 to present and Academic OneFile from October 1, 1991.
- Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios (Dun & Bradstreet; Ref HF5681 .R25I532 through Ref HF5681 .I572 [2000–2001 through 2008–2009]).
- Rma Annual Statement Studies (Ref HF5681 .B2R6 2009–2010). This publication provides annual financial data and ratios by industry.
- Statistical Abstract of the United States (Ref HA202 .S72 2010). This is the basic annual source for statistics collected by the government. Electronic version is available at www.census.gov/compendia/statstatab .
- Survey of Current Business (1956–present). The Bureau of Economic Analysis publishes this monthly periodical; recent years are in electronic format only.
At some libraries, you may find access to the following resources online:
- Mergent Webreports. Mergent (formerly Moody’s) corporate manuals are in digitized format. Beginning with the early 1900s, the reports include corporate history, business descriptions, and in-depth financial statements. The collection is searchable by company name, year, or manual type.
- ProQuest Direct is a database of general, trade, and scholarly periodicals, with many articles in full text. Many business journals and other resources are available.
- Standard and Poor’s Netadvantage is a database that includes company and industry information.
In addition to government databases and other free sources, the Internet provides an unbelievably rich storehouse of information that can be incorporated into any business plan. It is not feasible to provide a truly comprehensive list of useful websites; this section provides a highly selective list of government sites and other sites that provide free information.
- US Small Business Administration (SBA) . This is an excellent site to begin researching a business plan. It covers writing a plan, financing a start-up, selecting a location, managing employees, and insurance and legal issues. A follow-up page at http://www.sba.gov provides access to publications, statistics, video tutorials, podcasts, business forms, and chat rooms. Another page— http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-list/2 —provides access to localized resources.
- SCORE Program . The SCORE program is a partner of the SBA. It provides a variety of services to small business owners, ranging from online (and in-person) mentoring, workshops, free computer templates, and advice on a wide range of small business issues.
In developing a business plan, it is necessary to anticipate the future economic environment. The government provides extensive statistics online.
- Consumer Price Index . This index provides information on the direction of prices for industries and geographic areas.
- Producer Price Index . Businesses that provide services or are focused on business-to-business (B2B) operations may find these data more appropriate for estimating future prices.
- National Wage Data . This site provides information on prevailing wages and can be broken down by occupation and location down to the metropolitan area.
- Consumer Expenditures Survey . This database provides information on expenditures and income. It allows for a remarkable level of refinement by occupation, age, or race.
- State and Local Personal Income and Employment . These databases provide a breakdown of personal income by state and metropolitan area.
- GDP by State and Metropolitan Region . This will provide an accurate guide to the overall economic health of a region or a city.
- US Census . This is a huge site with databases on population, income, foreign trade, economic indicators, and business ownership.
There are nongovernment websites, either free or charging a fee, that can provide assistance in building a business plan. A simple Google search for the phrase small business plan yields more than 67 million results. Various sites will either help with writing the plan, offer to write the plan for a fee, produce reports on industries, or assist small businesses by providing a variety of support services. The Internet offers a veritable cornucopia of information and support for those working on their business plans.
Forecasting for the Plan
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. Nils Bohr, Nobel Prize winner
Any business plan is a future-oriented document. Business plans are required to look between three and five years into the future. To produce them and accurately forecast sales, you will need estimates of expenses and other items, such as the required number of employees, interest rates, and general economic conditions. There are many different techniques and tools that can be used to forecast these items. The type of techniques used will be influenced by many factors, such as the following:
- The size of the business. Smaller businesses may have fewer resources to apply a wide variety of forecasting techniques.
- The analytical sophistication of people who will be conducting the forecast. The owner of a home business may have no prior experience with forecasting techniques.
- The type of the organization. A manufacturing concern that sells to a stable and relatively predictable environment that has been in existence for years might be able to employ a variety of standard statistical forecasting techniques; however, a small firm operating in a new or a chaotic environment might have to rely on significantly different techniques.
- Historical records. Does the firm have historical records for sales that can be used to project into the future?
There is no universal set of forecasting techniques that can be used for all types of small and midsize businesses. Forecasting can fall into a fairly comprehensive range of techniques with respect to level of sophistication. Some forecasting can be done on an intuitive basis (e.g., back-of-the-envelope calculations); others can be done with standard computer programs (e.g., Excel) or programs that are specifically dedicated to forecasting in a variety of environments.
A brief review of basic forecasting techniques shows that they can be divided into two broad classes: qualitative forecasting methods and quantitative forecasting methods . Actually, these terms can be somewhat misleading because qualitative forecasting methods do not imply that no numbers will be involved. The two techniques are separated by the following concept: qualitative forecasting methods assume that one either does not have historical data or that one cannot rely on past historical data. A start-up business has no past sales that can be used to project future sales. Likewise, if there is a significant change in the environment, one may feel uncomfortable using past data to project into the future. A restaurant operates in a small town that contains a large automobile factory. After the factory closes, the restaurant owner should anticipate that past sales will no longer be a useful guideline for projecting what sales might be in the next year or two because the owner has lost a number of customers who worked at the factory. Quantitative forecasting, on the other hand, consists of techniques and methods that assume you can use past data to make projections into the future.
“Overview of Forecasting Methods” provides examples of both qualitative forecasting methods and quantitative forecasting methods for sales forecasting. Each method is described, and their strengths and weaknesses are given.
Overview of Forecasting Methods
Forecasting key items such as sales is crucial in developing a good business plan. However, forecasting is a very challenging activity. The further out the forecast, the less likely it will be accurate. Everyone recognizes this fact. Therefore, it is useful to draw on a variety of forecasting techniques to develop your final forecast for the business plan. To do that, you should have a fairly solid understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches. There are many books, websites, and articles that could assist you in understanding these techniques and when they should or should not be used. In addition, one should be open to gathering additional information to assist in building a forecast. Some possible sources of such information would be associations, trade publications, and business groups. Regardless of what technique is used or the data source employed in building a forecast for business plan, one should be prepared to justify why you are employing these forecasting models.
Web Resources for Forecasting
- Three methods of sales forecasting ( sbinfocanada.about.com/od/cashflowmgt/a/salesforecast.htm ). This site provides three simplified approaches to sales forecasting.
- Time-critical decision making for business administration ( home.ubalt.edu/ntsbarsh/stat-data/forecast.htm ). This site has an e-book format with several chapters devoted to analytical forecasting techniques.
Building your first business plan may seem extremely formidable. This may explain why there are so many software packages available to assist in this task. After building your first business plan, that steep learning curve should make subsequent plans for the business or other businesses significantly easier.
In preparing to build a business plan, there are some problem areas or mistakes that you should be on guard to avoid. Some may be technical in nature, while others relate to content issues. For the technical side, first and foremost, one should make sure that there are no misspellings or punctuation errors. The business plan should follow a logical structure. No ideal business plan clearly specifies the exact sections that need to be included nor is there an ideal length. Literature concerning business plans indicates that the appropriate length of the body of a business plan line should be between twenty and forty pages. This does not include appendixes that might provide critical data for the reader.
In developing a lengthy report, sometimes it is easy to fall into clichés or overused expressions. These should be avoided. Consider the visuals in the report. Data should be placed in either clearly mapped-out tables or well-designed graphs. The report should be as professional-looking as possible. Anticipate the audience that will be reading the report and write in a way that easily reaches them; avoid using too much jargon or technical terms.
The content in any business plan centers on two areas: realism and accuracy.
Components of the Plan
There is no idealized structure for a business plan or a definitive number of sections that it must contain. The following subsections discuss the outline of a plan for a business start-up and identify some of the major sections that should be part of the plan.
The cover page provides the reader with information about either the author of the plan or the person to contact concerning the business plan. It should contain all the pertinent information to enable the reader to contact the author, such as the name of the business, the business logo, and the contact person’s address, telephone number, and e-mail address.
The table of contents enables the reader to find the major sections and components of the plan. It should identify the key sections and subsections and on which pages those sections begin. This enables the reader to turn to sections that might be of particular importance.
The executive summary is a section of critical importance and is perhaps the single most important section of the entire business plan. Quite often, it is the first section that a reader will turn to, and sometimes it may be the only section of the business plan that he or she will read. Chronologically, it should probably be the last section written.  The executive summary should provide an accurate overview of the entire document, which cannot be done until the whole document is prepared.
If the executive summary fails to adequately describe the idea behind the business or if it fails to do so in a captivating way, some readers may discard the entire business plan. As one author put it, the purpose of the executive summary is to convince the reader to “read on.”  The executive summary should contain the following pieces of information:
- What is the company’s business?
- Who are its intended customers?
- What will be its legal structure?
- What has been its history (where one exists)?
- What type of funding will be requested?
- What is the amount of that funding?
- What are the capabilities of the key executives?
All this must be done in an interesting and captivating way. The great challenge is that executive summaries should be relatively short—between one and three pages. For many businesspeople, this is the great challenge—being able to compress the required information in an engaging format that has significant size limitations.
Goals. These are broad statements about what you would like to achieve some point in the near future. Your goals might focus on your human resource policies (“We wish to have productive, happy employees”), on what you see as the source of your competitive advantage (“We will be best in service”), or on financial outcomes (“We will produce above average return to our investors.”) Goals are useful, but they can mean anything to anyone. It is therefore necessary to translate the goals into objectives to bring about real meaning so that they can guide the organization. Ideally, objectives should be SMART —specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and have a specific timeline for completion. Here is an example: one organizational goal may be a significant rise in sales and profits. When translating that goal into an objective, you might word the objectives as follows: a 15 percent increase in sales for the next three years followed by a 10 percent increase in sales for the following two years and a 12.5 percent increase in profits in each of the next five years. These objectives are quite specific and measurable. It is up to the decision-maker to determine if they are achievable and realistic. These objectives—sales and profits—clearly specify the time horizon. In developing the plan, owners are often very happy to develop goals because they are open to interpretation, but they will avoid objectives. Goals are sufficiently ambiguous, whereas objectives tie you to particular values that you will have to hit in the future. People may be concerned that they will be weighed on a scale and found wanting for failing to achieved their objectives. However, it is critical that your plan contains both goals and objectives. Objectives allow investors and your employees to clearly see where the firm intends to go. They produce targeted values to aim for and, therefore, are critical for the control of the firm’s operations.
Vision and Mission Statements. To many, there is some degree of confusion concerning the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement. Vision statements articulate the long-term purpose and idealized notion of what a business wishes to become. In the earliest days of Microsoft, when it was a small business, its version of a vision statement was as follows: “A computer on every desk and in every home.” In the early 1980s, this was truly a revolutionary concept. Yet it gave Microsoft’s employees a clear idea (vision) that to bring that vision into being, the software being developed would have to be very “user-friendly” in comparison to the software of that day. Mission statements , which are much more common in small business plans, articulate the fundamental nature of the business. This means identifying the type of business, how it will leverage its competencies, and possibly the values that drive the business. Put simply, a mission statement should address the following questions:
- Who are we? What business are we in?
- Who do we see as our customers?
- How do we provide value for those customers?
Sometimes vision and mission statements are singularly written for external audiences, such as investors or shareholders. They are not written for the audience for whom it would have the greatest meaning—the management team and the employees of the business. Unfortunately, many recognize that both statements can become exercises of stringing together a series of essentially meaningless phrases into something that appears to sound right or professional . You can find software on the web to automatically generate such vacuous and meaningless statements.
Sometimes a firm will write a mission statement that provides customers, investors, and employees with a clear sense of purpose of that company. Zappos has the following as its mission statement: “Our goal is to position Zappos as an online service leader. If we can get customers to associate Zappos as the absolute best in service, then we can expand beyond shoes.”  The mission statement of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream focuses both on defining their product and their values: “To make, distribute and sell the finest quality all-natural ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.” 
Keys to Success . This section identifies those specific elements of your firm that you believe will ensure success. It is important for you to be able to define the competencies that you intend to leverage to ensure success. What makes your product or service unique? What specific set of capabilities do you bring to the competitive scene? These might include the makeup of and the experience of your management team; your operational capabilities (e.g., unique skills in design, manufacturing, or delivery); your marketing skill sets: your financial capabilities (e.g., the ability to control costs); or the personnel that make up the company.
In this section, you want to provide a fairly comprehensive overview of the industry. A thorough understanding of the industry that you will be operating in is essential to understand the possible returns that your company will earn within that industry. Investors want to know if they will recover their initial investment. When will they see a profit? Remember, investors often carefully track industries and are well aware of the strengths and limitations within a particular industry. Investors are looking for industries that can demonstrate growth. They also want to see if the industry is structurally attractive. This might entail conducting Porter’s five forces analysis; however, this is not required in all cases. If there appear to be some issues or problems with industry-level growth, then you might want to be able to identify some segments of the industry where growth is viable.
Products or Services
This section should be an in-depth discussion of what you are offering to customers. It should provide a complete and clear statement of the products or the services that you are offering. It should also discuss the core competencies of your business. You should highlight what is unique, such as a novel product or service concept or the possession of patents. You need to show how your product or service specifically meets particular market needs. You must identify how the product or the service will satisfy specific customers’ needs. If you are dealing with a new product or service, you need to demonstrate what previously unidentified needs it will meet and how it will do so. At its birth, Amazon had to demonstrate that an online bookstore would be preferable to the standard bookstore by offering the customer a much wider selection of books than would be available at an on-site location.
This section could include a discussion of technical issues. If the business is based on a technological innovation—such as a new type of software or an invention—then it is necessary to provide an adequate discussion of the specific nature of the technology. One should take care to always remember the audience for whom you are writing the plan. Do not make this portion too technical in nature. This section also might discuss the future direction of the product or service—namely, where will you be taking (changing) the product or the service after the end of the current planning horizon? This may require a discussion of future investment requirements or the required time to develop new products and services. This section may also include a discussion of pricing the product or the service, although a more detailed discussion of the issue of pricing might be found in the marketing plan section. If you plan to include the issue of pricing here, you should discuss how the pricing of the product or the service was determined. The more detailed you are in this description, the more realistic it will appear to the readers of the business plan. You may wish to discuss relationships that you have with vendors that might have an impact on reducing cost and therefore an impact on price. It is important to discuss how your pricing scheme will compare with competitors. Will it be higher than average or below the average price? How does the pricing fit in with the overall strategy of the firm?
This section must have a high degree of honesty. Investors will know much about the industry and its limitations. You need to identify any areas that might be possible sources of problems, such as government regulations, issues with new product development, securing distribution channels, and informing the market of your existence. Further, it is important to identify the current competitors in the industry and possible future competitors.
An introductory marketing course always introduces the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion. The marketing section of the business plan might provide more in-depth coverage of how the product or the service better meets customer value than that of competitors. It should identify your target customers and include coverage of who your competitors are and what they provide. The comparison between your firm and its competitors should highlight differences and point to why you are providing superior value. Pricing issues, if not covered in the previous section, could be discussed or discussed in more detail.
The issue of location, particularly in retail, should be covered in detail. Perhaps one of the most important elements of the marketing plan section is to specify how you intend to attract customers, inform them of the benefits of using your product or service, and retain customers. Initially, customers are attracted through advertising. This section should delineate the advertising plan. What media will be used—flyers, newspapers, magazines, radio, television, web presence, direct marketing, and/or social media campaigns? This section should cover any promotional campaigns that might be used.
The Management Team
Physical resources are not the only determinant of business success. The human resources available to a firm will play a critical role in determining its success. Readers of your business plan and potential investors should have a clear sense of the management team that will be running a business. They should know the team with respect to the team’s knowledge of the business, their experience and capabilities, and their drive to succeed. Arthur Rock, a venture capitalist, was once quoted as saying, “I invest in people, not the idea.” 
This section of the business plan has several elements. It should contain an organizational chart that will delineate the responsibilities and the chain of command for the business. It should specify who will occupy each major position of the business. You might want to explain who is doing what job and why. For every member of the management team, you should have a complete résumé. This should include educational background (both formal and informal) and past work experience, including the jobs they have held, responsibilities, and accomplishments. You might want to include some other biographical data such as age, although that is not required.
If you plan to use specific advisers or consultants, you should mention the names and backgrounds of these people in this section of the plan. You should also specify why these people are being used.
An additional element of your discussion of the management team will be the intended compensation schemes. You should specify the intended salaries for the management team while also including issues of their benefits and bonuses or any stock position that they may take in the company. This section should also identify any gaps in the management team and how you intend to fill these positions.
Depending on the nature of the business, you might wish to include in this section the personnel (employees) that will be required. You should identify the number of people that are currently working for the firm or that will have to be hired; you should also identify the skills that they need to possess. Further discussion should include the pay that will be provided: whether they will be paid a flat salary or paid hourly, if and when you intend to use overtime, and what benefits you intend to provide. In addition, you should discuss any training requirements or training programs that you will have to implement.
The financial statements section of the business plan should be broken down into three key subsections: the income statement, the balance sheet, and the cash-flow statement. Before proceeding with these sections, we discuss the assumptions used to build these sections. The opening section of the financial statements section should also include, in summary format, projections of sales, the sales growth rate, key expenses and their growth rates, net income across the forecasting horizon, and assets and liabilities. 
As previously discussed, bankers—and to lesser extent venture capitalists—will be primarily concerned with this section of the business plan. It is vital that this section—whether you are an existing business seeking more funding or a start-up—have realistic financial projections. The business plan should contain clear statements of the underlying assumptions that were used to make these financial projections. The clearer the statements and the more realistic the assumptions behind these statements, then the greater the confidence the reader will have in these projections. Few businesspeople have a thorough understanding of these financial statements; therefore, it is advisable that someone with an accounting or a financial background review these statements before they are included in the report. We will have a much more in-depth discussion of these statements in Chapter 9 .
The future planning horizon for financial projections is normally between three and five years. The duration that you will use will depend on the amount of capital that the business is seeking to raise, the type of industry the business is in, and the forecasting issues associated with making projections. Also, the detail required in these financial statements will be directly tied to the type and size of the business.
The income statement examines the overall profitability of a firm over a particular period of time. As such, it is also known as a profit-and-loss statement. It identifies all sources of revenues generated and expenses incurred by the business. For the business plan, one should generate annual plans for the first three to five years. Some suggest that the planner develop more “granulated” income statements for the first two years. By granulated, we mean that the first year income statement should be broken down on a monthly basis, while the second year should be broken down on a quarterly basis.
Some of the key terms (they will be reviewed in much greater detail in Chapter 10 ) found in the income statement are as follows:
- Income. All revenues and additional incomes produced by the business during the designated period.
- Cost of goods sold. Costs associated with producing products, such as raw materials and costs associated directly with production.
- Gross profit margin. Income minus the cost of goods sold.
- Operating expenses. Costs in doing business, such as expenses associated with selling the product or the service, plus general administration expenses.
- Depreciation. This is a special form of expense that may be included in operating expenses. Long-term assets—those whose useful life is longer than one year—decline in value over time. Depreciation takes this fact into consideration. There are several ways in which this declining value can be determined. It is a noncash expenditure expense.
- Total expenses. The cost of goods sold plus operating expenses and depreciation.
- Net profit before interest and taxes. This is the gross profit minus operating expenses; another way of stating net profit is income minus total expenses.
- Interest. The required payment on all debt for the period.
- Taxes. Federal, state, and local tax payments for the firm.
- Net profit. This is the net profit after interest and taxes. This is the term that many will look at to determine the potential success of business operations.
The balance sheet examines the assets and liabilities and owner’s equity of the business at some particular point in time. It is divided into two sections—the credit component (the assets of the business) and the debit component (liabilities and equity). These two components must equal each other. The business plan should have annual balance sheet for the three- or five-year planning horizon. The elements of the credit component are as follows:
- Current assets. These are the assets that will be held for less than one year, including cash, marketable securities, accounts receivable, notes receivable, inventory, and prepaid expenses.
- Fixed assets. These assets are not going to be turned into cash within the next year; these include plants, equipment, and land. It may also include intangible assets, such as patents, franchises, copyrights, and goodwill.
- Total assets. This is the sum of current assets and fixed assets.
Liabilities consist of the following:
- Current liabilities. These are debts that are to be paid within the year, such as lines of credit, accounts payable, other items payable (including taxes, wages, and rents), short-term loans, dividends payable, and current portion of long-term debt.
- Long-term liabilities. These are debts payable over a period greater than one year, such as notes payable, long-term debt, pension fund liability, and long-term lease obligations.
- Total liabilities. This is the sum of current liabilities and long-term liabilities.
- Owner’s equity. This represents the value of the shareholders’ ownership in the business. It is sometimes referred to as net worth. It may be composed of items such as preferred stock, common stock, and retained earnings.
From a practical and survival standpoint, the cash-flow statement may be the most important component of the financial statements. The cash-flow statement maps out where cash is flowing into the firm and where it flows out. It recognizes that there may be a significant difference between profits and cash flow. It will indicate if a business can generate enough cash to continue operations, whether it has sufficient cash for new investments, and whether it can pay its obligations. Businesspeople soon realize that profits are nice, but cash is king.
Cash flows can be divided into three areas of analysis: cash flow from operations, cash flow from investing, and cash flow from financing. Cash flow from operations examines the cash inflows from revenues and interest and dividends from investments held by the business. It then identifies the cash outflows for paying suppliers, employees, taxes, and other expenses. Cash flow from investing examines the impact of selling or acquiring current and fixed assets. Cash flow from financing examines the impact on the cash position from the changes in the number of shares and changes in the short- and long-term debt position of the firm. Given the critical importance of cash flow to the survival of the small business, it will be covered in much more detail in Chapter 10 .
Depending on the nature of the business and the amount of funding that is being sought, the plan might include more materials. For an existing business, you may wish to include past tax statements and/or personal financial statements. If the business is a franchise, you should include all legal contracts and documents. The same should be done for any leasing, licensing, or rent agreements. This section should be seen as a catchall incorporating any materials that would support the plan. One does not want to be in the position of being asked by readers of the plan—“Where are these documents?”
The financial section of the business plan should include summaries of the three key financial elements. The details behind the financial statements should be included as an appendix along with clear statements concerning the assumptions that were used to build them. The appendixes may also include different scenarios that were considered in building the plan, such as alternative market growth assumptions or alternative competitive environments. Demonstrating that the author(s) considered “what-if” situations tells potential investors that the business is prepared to handle changing conditions. It should include items such as logos, diagrams, ads, and organizational charts.
Change is constant. – Benjamin Disraeli
Business plans are analyses of the future; they can err on the side of either optimistic projections or conservative projections. From the standpoint of the potential investor, it is always better to err on the side of conservatism. Regardless of either bias, business plans are generally built on the basis of expected futures and past experience. Unfortunately, the future does not always emerge in a clearly predicated manner. One can have a dramatic change that can have significant impact on the business. Often such changes occur in the external environment and are beyond the control of the business management team. These external changes can occur within the technical environment; it can be based on changes in customer needs, changes with respect to the suppliers, changes in the economic environment—at the local, national, or global level. Dramatic change can also occur within the organization itself—the death of the owner or members of the management team. 
One way for an organization to deal with significant changes is a process known as scenario planning . The real origins of scenario planning can be traced back to the early nineteenth century activity known as Kreigsspiel—war gaming—a system for training officers developed by the Prussian command. This process of looking at future wars was adopted by many militaries in the later nineteenth century. In the 1950s, a more formal format was used at the RAND Institute for examining possible future changes in the military and geopolitical environments. The early 1980s saw it applied to industrial settings. Royal Dutch Shell examined the question of what would happen if there were a significant drop in the price of oil. This was after two oil crises that pushed the price of oil up significantly. The notion that oil prices would drop was considered to be an extremely unlikely event, but it did occur. Royal Dutch Shell was one of the few oil companies that did not suffer because its scenario analyses enabled them to be ready to deal with that situation. 
What could be the possible use of scenario planning for small businesses? There are several areas in which small businesses should apply scenario planning to be better prepared for future disruptions.
Identify Significant Changes That Might Impact the Business
Consider major shifts in the customer’s notion of value. As mentioned in Chapter 2 , the firm should always be examining what constitutes value in the eyes of the consumer and how that might shift. Henry Ford’s model T car was a global success because customers initially valued a reliable vehicle at a low price. Ford Motor Company continued to meet the customer’s notion of value by constantly driving down the unit cost. However, by the mid-1920s, customers’ notion of value included not only price but also issues such as styling and improved technologies. General Motors was able to recognize that there were changes in the customer’s value notion and provided them with a range of vehicles. Ford failed to recognize that change and suffered a significant drop in sales.
Shifts in the economic environment. The recent recession clearly indicates that economies can suffer significant shifts in a short period of time. These shifts can have dramatic impact on all business operations. Small-business owners have seen significant tightening of bank credit and changes with respect to the requirements for using credit cards. One could easily imagine the critical importance for small businesses to consider the impacts that would follow significant changes in interest rates. Southwest Airlines, in anticipation of possible fluctuations in oil prices, used futures contracts to deal with dramatic shifts in the price of oil. When oil prices rose significantly, they were in a much better position than their competitors.
The entrance of new competitors. Small businesses should always be ready to consider the impact of facing new competitors and new types of competition. Consider the case of small local retail outlets when a Walmart superstore opens in the area.
Consideration of Disasters
The best way to deal with any potential disaster is not while it is occurring or after it has happened but before it occurs. Small businesses should anticipate what they will do in the case of physical disasters, such as fire, earthquakes, or floods. Other disasters might involve the bankruptcy or loss of a major supplier or a major customer. A restaurant or a food market should have a contingency plan in the case of a power failure that might lead to food spoilage. Such a business might also want to conduct a scenario planning exercise to see what its responses would be in the case of a customer complaining of food poisoning. Other disaster scenarios that should be considered by small businesses include the impact and ramifications of having the computer system crash; having the service for the website crash; or having the website hacked, with the possible loss of customer information.
Almost all businesses, large and small, must be prepared to seize new opportunities. This may mean that they have to consider the impact of technological change on the business or how technology can offer them new business opportunities. The technology of stereo lithography, a process by which three-dimensional objects are built layer by layer, has been available for more than a decade. Bespoke Innovations saw the potential for using this technology. Bespoke Innovations can develop, in a short period of time, custom artificial legs for a price of $5,000–$6,000 and with features that are not found in $60,000 prostheses. 
Scenario planning should be a periodic exercise, but it should be conducted no more than once a year. The actual frequency might be dependent on the perceived rate of change for the industry or the presence of storm clouds on the horizon. Scenario planning has several distinct activities, which may be as follows:
- Pick one area that might occur in the future that would have significant impact on the business. What if the national joblessness rate remains at over 9 percent for the next three to five years? What if a major customer decides to buy from a competitor or that customer is in financial trouble? What if there are changes in the national defense budget? A luncheonette in New London, Connecticut, where Electric Boat builds nuclear submarines, wants to consider the impact of changes in the defense budget. A decrease in the budget for building nuclear submarines would reduce the number of subs made in New London, which might lead to layoffs at Electric Boat and fewer customers for the luncheonette.
- Identify factors that might impact that issue. This sometimes is referred to as a PEST analysis, where the P stands for political issues, E stands for economic issues, S stands for sociocultural issues, and T stands for technology issues. Each factor would be analyzed to see how it might impact the scenario. In our previous luncheonette example, the restaurant might want to consider an upcoming election to see how each party would support defense appropriations, and it might look at the overall economy to determine whether a downturn in the economy might lead to a cut in defense appropriations. It is unlikely that sociocultural issues would impact defense appropriations. Technology issues, whether a breakthrough in some design by the United States or by some other country, might determine the number and location of submarines built in the United States.
- Rank the relative importance of the previous factors. Not all factors under consideration can be considered equally important. It is critical in a scenario planning exercise to see which factors are most important so that decision-makers can focus on the ramifications of those factors in the analysis.
- Develop scenarios. Having identified the relative importance of the factors, the next stage would be to develop a limited number of possible scenarios (no more than two or three). Each scenario would map out possible outcomes for each key factor. Based on these values, the group conducting the scenario planning exercise would develop insights into this possible future world.
- How do the scenarios impact your business? For each future scenario, the team should examine how that possible future state would impact the operation of the business. Continuing with the luncheonette example, the owner might see that a particular political party would be elected in the next election and the economy will still be in the doldrums. Together, this might indicate a cut in the naval building budget. This will translate into a reduced number of submarines built in New London and a reduction in employment at Electric Boat. The luncheonette’s sales will obviously drop off. Now the owner must consider what it might do in that situation.
Scenario planning offers the opportunity for small business owners to examine the future on a long-term basis. It should force them to look at external environments and conditions that can have a dramatic impact on the survival of their firm. It broadens their thinking and creates an environment of increased flexibility. It enables a business to respond to those sudden shocks that might destroy other firms.
Business plans can be built using a combination of word-processing and spreadsheet programs by those who are adept at using them. However, the entire process of constructing a comprehensive business plan can be greatly simplified by using a dedicated business plan software package. These packages are designed to produce reports that have all the required sections for a business plan, they greatly facilitate the creation of the financial statements with charts, and they often allow for the inclusion of materials from other programs. Most of them are fairly reasonably priced from $50 to $150.
There are many such packages on the market, and they range from those designed for novices to those that can generate annual plans by easily incorporating data from external sources, such as the accounting programs of a business. When evaluating competing programs, there are some primary and secondary factors that should be considered.  The primary factors are as follows:
- Ease of building the report. The various sections of the report should be clearly identified, and the authors should be able to work on each section independent of their sequence within the report. Text and data entry should be simple and allow for easy corrections or revisions.
- Financial statements. The software should facilitate building the income statement, the balance sheet, and the cash-flow statement. For multiyear projections, the software should support the forecasting process.
- Import from other programs. The software should be able to incorporate data from a variety of programs, such as Word and Excel. Ideally, it should be able to import data from a variety of accounting programs.
- Support services. The software company should bundle a variety of support services, including clear instructions, tutorials, and access to Internet or call-number support. Many packages provide sample business plans for different industries.
The secondary factors are as follows:
- Access to research support. Some software packages include access to business publications and databases to aid with market research.
- Export options. These packages allow for the report or parts of the report to be exported to different formats—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, or PDF.
- Ancillary analysis tools. Some packages either directly include or offer additional programs for market planning, budgeting, or valuation.
The following is a partial listing of companies that have business planning software:
- Business Plan Pro . This company provides business planning software with sample plans for a wide number of industries plus options for acquiring industry data at national, state, or local levels. The company also has programs for marketing planning and legal issues advice.
- Business Plan Software . This company offers a number of products, including business planning software, a strategic planning program, financial projection and cash-flow forecasting programs, and marketing planning software.
- Plan Magic . This company offers a suite of planning products ranging from particular industries to financial and marketing planning software.
- The business planning for a start-up business should consider if the owner(s) is/are ready to accept the challenges of operating a business.
- Comprehensive business plans will require information about the industry, competitors, and customers. Owners or the writers of the business plan should be aware of where they can obtain this information.
- Forecasting is critical to the success of any business. There are many different approaches to forecasting: some are simple extrapolations of trends, while others can be computationally complex. The business should use a forecasting system that is not only accurate but also makes the users feel comfortable.
- Although business plans come in different “sizes and shapes,” they should have some key sections: executive summary, mission statement, industry analysis, marketing plan, description of the management team, and financial projections.
- Some businesses should make it a practice of conducting scenario analyses. This is a process of examining possible future events and what should be the response of the business.
- The complexity and difficulty of building a comprehensive business plan can be significantly reduced by using one of the available business-planning software packages.
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The path by which a firm seeks to provide its customers with value, given the competitive environment and within the constraints of the resources available to the firm.
A firm is in the position of being the lowest cost producer in its competitive environment.
A firm provides products or services that meet customer value in some unique way.
A firm seeks to provide value through low cost for a subset of the market given the competitive environment and within the constraints of the resources available to the firm.
A firm concentrates on providing a unique product or service to a segment of the market.
Individuals who provide money for start-up businesses or additional capital for a business to grow. They invest to make not only a profit but also returns that are substantially above those found in the market.
Individuals who initially invested in Broadway shows and films. As with venture capitalists, they are looking for returns higher than they can normally find in the market; however, they often are expecting returns lower than those anticipated by the venture capitalist.
Methods that assume that one does not have historical data or cannot rely on past historical data.
Methods that consist of techniques that assume you can use past data to make projections of the future.
The introduction to the business plan that describes the company’s business, the intended customers, the legal structure, the type and amount of funding that will requested, and the capabilities of the key executives.
A document that articulates the long-term purpose and idealized notion of what the business wishes to become.
A document that articulates the fundamental nature of the business. It should address what business the company is in, the company’s potential customers, and how customer value will be provided.
A report that provides an examination of the overall profitability of a firm over a particular period of time.
A report that examines the assets, liabilities, and owner’s equity of the business at some particular point in time.
A document that maps out where cash is flowing into a firm and where it flows out. It recognizes that there may be a significant difference between profits and cash flow.
A process that examines the impact and possible responses to events that may be unlikely but that would have significant impact on a business.
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From Idea to Enterprise
Chapter 7: The Business Plan
How are ventures actually formed and what is the role of the business plan?
Entrepreneurs respond to attractive opportunities by forming new ventures. In this chapter, we consider the five-step process for establishing a new enterprise. One particularly noteworthy step in the process is the development of a story and business plan. The story is a compelling synopsis of why this venture is needed at this moment of time and how it can achieve success. We then detail the task of writing a business plan, which is a significant and challenging effort for entrepreneurs.
To see these talks in their entirety or to access related materials, go to Stanford Entrepreneurship Corner
Business Plans that Work - Timmons, Zacharakis, & Spinelli Plans That Work arms entrepreneurs and small business owners with an easy-to-follow template for writing persuasive business plans, along with proven models that can be used to analyze potential business opportunities from initial idea to viable venture. This value-packed book will show both entrepreneurs and current business owners how to:
- Determine what to include in each plan, why, and for whom
- Recognize and avoid common pitfalls in the process
- Use the renowned "Timmons Model" to analyze potential business opportunities
How to Write a Great Business Plan A great business plan is one that focuses on a series of questions which relate to the four critical factors critical to the success of every new venture: the people, the opportunity, the context, and the possibilities for both risk and reward. This is a condensed version of Sahlman's longer article in book 'The Entrepreneurial Venture'
Frank Moyes - Colorado Leeds School of Business Professor Frank Moyes has a number of useful business plans templates and references available on his web site. There also many complete business plans from a breadth of different industries that can be leveraged as additional examples or case readings.
Financial Modeling for Startup Companies
Peter Kent of Insight Business Tools provides a slide deck on how and why financial models can help entrepreneurs in the business planning process.
- Table of Contents
- Part I: Venture Opportunity, Concept, and Strategy
- Ch 6: Risk and Return
- Ch 7: The Business Plan
- Ch 8: Types of Ventures
- Ch 9: Knowledge, Learning, and Design
- Ch 10: Legal Formation and Intellectual Property
- Part III: Detailed Functional Planning for the Venture
- Part IV: Financing and Building the Venture
- Chapter Video Clips
- Sample Syllabi
- Authors Blog
- Entrepreneurship Blogs
- Schools Using this Textbook
- Entrepreneurship Corner
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Office-sharing company WeWork filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New Jersey federal court Monday, just years after being valued at $47 billion.
The bankruptcy filing is limited to the company's locations in the U.S. and Canada and is part of what WeWork is calling a "comprehensive reorganization" of the business to "best position the company for future success."
“Now is the time for us to pull the future forward by aggressively addressing our legacy leases and dramatically improving our balance sheet,” said WeWork CEO David Tolley in a news release .
The company said it has the support of its key financial stakeholders and has entered into a restructuring support agreement, with holders representing about 92% of its secured notes to "drastically reduce the company's existing funded debt and expedite the restructuring process."
Part of this restructuring plan includes the company reducing its number of office leases.
"As part of today's filing, WeWork is requesting the ability to reject the leases of certain locations, which are largely non-operational and all affected members have received advanced notice," the company said in the statement.
What is WeWork?
WeWork, founded in 2010 by Adam Neumann, provides office spaces that are available to lease.
The story of the company and the ex-CEO was made infamous last year when Apple TV released a series about Neumann's marriage and WeWork called " WeCrashed. "
Review: Jared Leto gets to go as wild as he wants in WeWork drama 'WeCrashed'
The company attempted to go public in 2019, when it was worth nearly $50 billion, but nearly went bankrupt just six weeks later. Neumann stepped down as CEO shortly thereafter.
Sandeep Mathrani took over as CEO in February 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic added to the company's troubles. WeWork went public in October 2021 through a merger.
WeWork's stock price (WE) fell below a dollar, closing Friday at 84 cents before being halted in Monday trading.
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WeWork plans to file for bankruptcy over massive debt pile and losses
Co-working firm, once valued at $47bn, struggled to recover from founder Adam Neumann’s exit and shift to remote work
WeWork plans to file for bankruptcy as early as next week, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday, as the SoftBank Group-backed company struggles with a massive debt pile and hefty losses.
Shares of the flexible workspace provider fell 32% in extended trading after the Wall Street Journal first reported the news. They have fallen roughly 96% this year. The company never seemed to recover from the scandal of its founder’s ouster and the remote work revolution of the pandemic.
New York-based WeWork is considering filing a chapter 11 petition in New Jersey, the WSJ reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
WeWork declined to comment.
Earlier on Tuesday, WeWork said it had entered into an agreement with creditors for temporary postponement of payments for some of its debt, with the grace period nearing an end.
The company had net longterm debt of $2.9bn as of June end and more than $13bn in longterm leases, at a time when rising borrowing costs are hurting the commercial real estate sector.
WeWork’s filing for bankruptcy would mark a stunning reversal of fortune for the company, privately valued at $47bn in 2019. It remained a black spot on the balance sheet of investor SoftBank, which sunk billions into the company.
The company has been in turmoil ever since its plans to go public in 2019 imploded following investors’ skepticism over its business model of taking longterm leases and renting them for the short term, worries over its hefty losses and remote work.
WeWork’s woes did not abate in subsequent years. It finally managed to go public in 2021 at a much-reduced valuation. Its major backer, Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, invested tens of billions to prop up the startup, but the company has continued to lose money.
WeWork raised “substantial doubt” about its ability to continue operations in August, with numerous top executives, including CEO Sandeep Mathrani, departing this year.