Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan
By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021
A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice.
Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.
A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:
- Product goals and deadlines for each month
- Monthly financials for the first two years
- Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
- Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years
Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.
While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.
For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .
Business Plan Steps
The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:
- Executive summary
- Description of business
- Market analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Description of organizational management
- Description of product or services
- Marketing plan
- Sales strategy
- Funding details (or request for funding)
- Financial projections
If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.
Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.
Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?
Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.
How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business
In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.
Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:
Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?
There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.
The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans
A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.
In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.
How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step
Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.
Step 1: Executive Summary
The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:
- What is the vision and mission of the company?
- What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?
See our roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.
Step 2: Description of Business
The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:
- What business are we in?
- What does our business do?
Step 3: Market Analysis
In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:
- Who is our customer?
- What does that customer value?
Step 4: Competitive Analysis
In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:
- Who is the competition?
- What do they do best?
- What is our unique value proposition?
Step 5: Description of Organizational Management
In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.
Step 6: Description of Products or Services
In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.
Questions to answer in this section are as follows:
- What is the product or service?
- How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?
Step 7: Marketing Plan
In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:
- Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
- What channels will you use to reach your target market?
- What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
- If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
- How will you measure success?
Step 8: Sales Plan
Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts.
Start by answering the following questions:
- What is the sales strategy?
- What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
- What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
- What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
- What are the metrics of success?
Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)
This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:
- How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
- How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
- What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?
Step 10: Financial Projections
Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years.
While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:
- How and when will the company first generate a profit?
- How will the company maintain profit thereafter?
Business Plan Template
Download Business Plan Template
Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet
This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.
For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy.
If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.
How to Write a Simple Business Plan
A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.
Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .
- Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company.
- Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision.
- Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
- Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
- Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
- Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
- Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
- Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
- Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting.
- Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.
Simple Business Plan Template
Download Simple Business Plan Template
Microsoft Excel | Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Smartsheet
Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.
Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates .
How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup
A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.
While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:
- Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
- List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
- Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
- Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
- Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.).
- Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
- Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
- Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.
Lean Business Plan Template for Startups
Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups
Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF
Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.
See our wide variety of startup business plan templates for more options.
How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan
A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.
In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.
Download free financial templates to support your business plan.
Tips for Writing a Business Plan
Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.
- Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
- Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
- Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
- Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
- Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”
Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.
Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.
“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”
Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”
Resources for Writing a Business Plan
While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.
Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.
How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business
A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships.
Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.
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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step
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1. Write an executive summary
2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. add additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.
A business plan is a document that outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them. A strong, detailed plan will provide a road map for the business’s next three to five years, and you can share it with potential investors, lenders or other important partners.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing your business plan.
» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .
This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services offered, and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.
Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.
» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps
Next up is your company description, which should contain information like:
Your business’s registered name.
Address of your business location .
Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.
Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.
Lastly, it should cover the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.
» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan
The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out exactly what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the long term.
If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain why you have a clear need for the funds, how the financing will help your business grow, and how you plan to achieve your growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity presented and how the loan or investment will grow your company.
For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch the new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.
In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.
You should include the following:
An explanation of how your product or service works.
The pricing model for your product or service.
The typical customers you serve.
Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.
Your sales strategy.
Your distribution strategy.
You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.
Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.
Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.
» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing
If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.
You may also include metrics such as:
Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.
Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.
Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.
This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.
» NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:
The best business checking accounts .
The best business credit cards .
The best accounting software .
This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.
Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.
Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.
List any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere, such as resumes of key employees, licenses, equipment leases, permits, patents, receipts, bank statements, contracts and personal and business credit history. If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.
How Much Do You Need?
Here are some tips to help your business plan stand out:
Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business loan at a local bank, the loan officer likely knows your market pretty well. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of loan approval.
Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors, taking their mind off your business and putting it on the mistakes you made. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.
Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. You can search for a mentor or find a local SCORE chapter for more guidance.
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.
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How to write a business plan in seven simple steps
When written effectively, a business plan can help raise capital, inform decisions, and draw new talent.
Companies of all sizes have one thing in common: They all began as small businesses. Starting small is the corner for those just getting off the ground. Learn about how to make that first hire, deal with all things administrative, and set yourself up for success.
Writing a business plan is often the first step in transforming your business from an idea into something tangible . As you write, your thoughts begin to solidify into strategy, and a path forward starts to emerge. But a business plan is not only the realm of startups; established companies can also benefit from revisiting and rewriting theirs. In any case, the formal documentation can provide the clarity needed to motivate staff , woo investors, or inform future decisions.
No matter your industry or the size of your team, the task of writing a business plan—a document filled with so much detail and documentation—can feel daunting. Don’t let that stop you, however; there are easy steps to getting started.
What is a business plan and why does it matter?
A business plan is a formal document outlining the goals, direction, finances, team, and future planning of your business. It can be geared toward investors, in a bid to raise capital, or used as an internal document to align teams and provide direction. It typically includes extensive market research, competitor analysis, financial documentation, and an overview of your business and marketing strategy. When written effectively, a business plan can help prescribe action and keep business owners on track to meeting business goals.
Who needs a business plan?
A business plan can be particularly helpful during a company’s initial growth and serve as a guiding force amid the uncertainty, distractions, and at-times rapid developments involved in starting a business . For enterprise companies, a business plan should be a living, breathing document that guides decision-making and facilitates intentional growth.
“You should have a game plan for every major commitment you’ll have, from early-stage founder agreements to onboarding legal professionals,” says Colin Keogh, CEO of the Rapid Foundation—a company that brings technology and training to communities in need—and a WeWork Labs mentor in the UK . “You can’t go out on funding rounds or take part in accelerators without any planning.”
How to make a business plan and seven components every plan needs
While there is no set format for writing a business plan, there are several elements that are typically included. Here’s what’s important to consider when writing your business plan.
1. Executive summary
No longer than half a page, the executive summary should briefly introduce your business and describe the purpose of the business plan. Are you writing the plan to attract capital? If so, specify how much money you hope to raise, and how you’re going to repay the loan. If you’re writing the plan to align your team and provide direction, explain at a high level what you hope to achieve with this alignment, as well as the size and state of your existing team.
The executive summary should explain what your business does, and provide an introductory overview of your financial health and major achievements to date.
2. Company description
To properly introduce your company, it’s important to also describe the wider industry. What is the financial worth of your market? Are there market trends that will affect the success of your company? What is the state of the industry and its future potential? Use data to support your claims and be sure to include the full gamut of information—both positive and negative—to provide investors and your employees a complete and accurate portrayal of your company’s milieu.
Go on to describe your company and what it provides your customers. Are you a sole proprietor , LLC, partnership, or corporation? Are you an established company or a budding startup? What does your leadership team look like and how many employees do you have? This section should provide both historical and future context around your business, including its founding story, mission statement , and vision for the future.
It’s essential to showcase your point of difference in your company description, as well as any advantages you may have in terms of expert talent or leading technology. This is typically one of the first pieces of the plan to be written.
3. Market analysis and opportunity
Research is key in completing a business plan and, ideally, more time should be spent on research and analysis than writing the plan itself. Understanding the size, growth, history, future potential, and current risks inherent to the wider market is essential for the success of your business, and these considerations should be described here.
In addition to this, it’s important to include research into the target demographic of your product or service. This might be in the form of fictional customer personas, or a broader overview of the income, location, age, gender, and buying habits of your existing and potential customers.
Though the research should be objective, the analysis in this section is a good place to reiterate your point of difference and the ways you plan to capture the market and surpass your competition.
4. Competitive analysis
Beyond explaining the elements that differentiate you from your competition, it’s important to provide an in-depth analysis of your competitors themselves.
This research should delve into the operations, financials, history, leadership, and distribution channels of your direct and indirect competitors. It should explore the value propositions of these competitors, and explain the ways you can compete with, or exploit, their strengths and weaknesses.
5. Execution plan: operations, development, management
This segment provides details around how you’re going to do the work necessary to fulfill this plan. It should include information about your organizational structure and the everyday operations of your team, contractors, and physical and digital assets.
Consider including your company’s organizational chart, as well as more in-depth information on the leadership team: Who are they? What are their backgrounds? What do they bring to the table? Potentially include the résumés of key people on your team.
For startups, your execution plan should include how long it will take to begin operations, and then how much longer to reach profitability. For established companies, it’s a good idea to outline how long it will take to execute your plan, and the ways in which you will change existing operations.
If applicable, it’s also beneficial to include your strategy for hiring new team members and scaling into different markets.
6. Marketing plan
It’s essential to have a comprehensive marketing plan in place as you scale operations or kick off a new strategy—and this should be shared with your stakeholders and employees. This segment of your business plan should show how you’re going to promote your business, attract customers, and retain existing clients.
Include brand messaging, marketing assets, and the timeline and budget for engaging consumers across different channels. Potentially include a marketing SWOT analysis into your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Evaluate the way your competitors market themselves, and how your target audience responds—or doesn’t respond—to these messages.
7. Financial history and projections
It’s essential to disclose all finances involved in running your company within your business plan. This is so your shareholders properly understand how you’re projected to perform going forward, and the progress you’ve made so far.
You should include your income statement, which outlines annual net profits or losses; a cash flow statement, which shows how much money you need to launch or scale operations; and a balance sheet that shows financial liabilities and assets.
“An income statement is the measure of your financial results for a certain period and the most accurate report of business activities during that time, [whereas a balance sheet] presents your assets, liabilities, and equity,” Amit Perry, a corporate finance expert, explained at a WeWork Labs educational session in Israel.
It’s crucial to understand the terms correctly so you know how to present your finances when you’re speaking to investors. Amit Perry, CEO and founder of Perryllion Ltd.
In addition, if you’re asking for funding, you will need to outline exactly how much money you need as well as where this money will go and how you plan to pay it back.
12 quick tips for writing a business plan
Now that you know what components are traditionally included in a business plan, it’s time to consider how you’ll actually construct the document.
Here are 12 key factors to keep in mind when writing a business plan. These overarching principles will help you write a business plan that serves its purpose (whatever that may be) and becomes an easy reference in the years ahead.
1. Don’t be long-winded
Use clear, concise language and avoid jargon. When business plans are too long-winded, they’re less likely to be used as intended and more likely to be forgotten or glazed over by stakeholders.
2. Show why you care
Let your passion for your business shine through; show employees and investors why you care (and why they should too).
3. Provide supporting documents
Don’t be afraid to have an extensive list of appendices, including the CVs of team members, built-out customer personas, product demonstrations, and examples of internal or external messaging.
4. Reference data
All information regarding the market, your competitors, and your customers should reference authoritative and relevant data points.
5. Research, research, research
The research that goes into your business plan should take you longer than the writing itself. Consider tracking your research as supporting documentation.
6. Clearly demonstrate your points of difference
At every opportunity, it’s important to drive home the way your product or service differentiates you from your competition and helps solve a problem for your target audience. Don’t shy away from reiterating these differentiating factors throughout the plan.
7. Be objective in your research
As important as it is to showcase your company and the benefits you provide your customers, it’s also important to be objective in the data and research you reference. Showcase the good and the bad when it comes to market research and your financials; you want your shareholders to know you’ve thought through every possible contingency.
8. Know the purpose of your plan
It’s important you understand the purpose of your plan before you begin researching and writing. Be clear about whether you’re writing this plan to attract investment, align teams, or provide direction.
9. Identify your audience
The same way your business plan must have a clearly defined purpose, you must have a clearly defined audience. To whom are you writing? New investors? Current employees? Potential collaborators? Existing shareholders?
10. Avoid jargon
Avoid using industry-specific jargon, unless completely unavoidable, and try making your business plan as easy to understand as possible—for all potential stakeholders.
11. Don’t be afraid to change it
Your business plan should evolve with your company’s growth, which means your business plan document should evolve as well. Revisit and rework your business plan as needed, and remember the most important factor: having a plan in place, even if it changes.
A business plan shouldn’t just be a line on your to-do list; it should be referenced and used as intended going forward. Keep your business plan close, and use it to inform decisions and guide your team in the years ahead.
Creating a business plan is an important step in growing your company
Whether you’re just starting out or running an existing operation, writing an effective business plan can be a key predictor of future success. It can be a foundational document from which you grow and thrive . It can serve as a constant reminder to employees and clients about what you stand for, and the direction in which you’re moving. Or, it can prove to investors that your business, team, and vision are worth their investment.
No matter the size or stage of your business, WeWork can help you fulfill the objectives outlined in your business plan—and WeWork’s coworking spaces can be a hotbed for finding talent and investors, too. The benefits of coworking spaces include intentionally designed lounges, conference rooms, and private offices that foster connection and bolster creativity, while a global network of professionals allows you to expand your reach and meet new collaborators.
Using these steps to write a business plan will put you in good stead to not only create a document that fulfills a purpose but one that also helps to more clearly understand your market, competition, point of difference, and plan for the future.
For more tips on growing teams and building a business, check out all our articles on Ideas by WeWork.
Caitlin Bishop is a writer for WeWork’s Ideas by WeWork , based in New York City. Previously, she was a journalist and editor at Mamamia in Sydney, Australia, and a contributing reporter at Gotham Gazette .
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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 ."
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- 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
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- Series Funding: A, B, and C 18 of 46
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How to Easily Write a Business Plan in 30-Minutes
Posted november 2, 2022 by noah parsons.
Writing a business plan can be intimidating. You know that you need to put a plan together to start a successful business, but you find yourself staring at a blank Word or Google doc wondering what to do next.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re willing to give up your preconceptions that a plan has to be a lengthy document that you spend a lot of time and energy on once and then file away—you’ll discover that there are better (and faster) ways to plan.
Introducing the 30-minute plan
A traditional business plan can take hours, days, or even weeks to put together.
We recommend a simpler process that you can complete in under an hour. Sounds too good to be true? We successfully used this process ourselves to build LivePlan , and it’s a major reason why LivePlan is so successful. With a one-page business plan, we were able to quickly figure out our strategic goals and what it would take to grow the business.
You can do this, even if you’ve never written a business plan before. The key is to focus on creating a business plan that fits on one page. By focusing on a single page, you skip all the formatting, complete sentences, and paragraphs of text that most people skip anyways. Instead, you’ll prioritize outlining your actual business strategy, the business model you’ll use to make money, and the marketing and sales strategies you’ll use to grow.
How to write a business plan in just 11 steps
When putting together your one-page business plan , think in bullet points and short sentences. The goal is to keep each section as short as possible. Here is what you need to include, along with an example of a bike shop business plan I put together in just 27 minutes.
1. Value proposition
This section answers the question, “What does your business do?” Your goal is to communicate the value you are providing to your customers in a way that is as simple and direct as possible. Think of it like this—if you’re at a party and someone asks you what your business does, can you describe it in a single sentence?
Struggling to define your value? Check out this simple formula to create your unique value proposition .
2. Market need
What’s the problem you solve for your customers? Why would they go out shopping for a solution? Why does your business need to exist? Why would they choose you over other alternatives?
If you’re not sure, try talking to your potential customers and ask them what they might like about your products or services.
For your one-page business plan, one or two short sentences will do here. Keep things short and direct.
3. Your solution
Describe your product or service and why it’s better than the alternatives. Essentially, if someone asked you what you sell, what would your answer be? Your solution should be the answer to the market need that you described in the previous section that delivers the value you described in your value proposition.
4. Target market
Describe your ideal customer . Who are they? Be as specific as possible—age, gender, shopping habits, and so on. If you target different types of people, create market segments for each group. If you are targeting different market segments, list each segment and its approximate size.
For example, if you are targeting “young families” in addition to “older parents”, try and figure out how many people are in each group. For your initial plan, you don’t need to get too specific – you can always add more detail later as flesh out your plan.
Every business has competition . Who do your customers buy from if they aren’t going to buy from you? What makes your business and products better than the alternatives that are out there?
6. Funding needs
Nearly every business needs some money to get off the ground. Think about how much money you’ll need and how you plan on using it. Even if you’re starting your business with your own savings or using credit card debt, it’s a good idea to plan on how you will use the funds until you start making sales.
7. Sales channels
These are the places where you will sell your products. If you’re selling online, your online store is a sales channel. If you also have a physical store, that’s another sales channel.
8. Marketing activities
What will you do to market your business ? If you plan on buying advertising, list the types of advertising you plan on doing here. Remember, different target markets might need different types of marketing activities to get your product in front of them.
9. Budget and sales goals
How much is it going to cost to run your business? What sales goals do you need to reach for your business to be a success? Don’t sweat the details to start and just think in broad strokes to get a rough idea of how your business will work financially .
You can start by just listing your primary revenue streams and your major expenses. As you learn more about the details, you can start to add estimates for how much sales you’ll bring in and what your actual expenses will be. Eventually, you’ll expand these broad estimates into a more detailed forecast, but initially just stick to high-level estimates.
What are the major tasks you need to accomplish to get your business up and running? This will help you stay on track and meet your goals. For most businesses, you should focus on the near term and highlight what you want to accomplish in the next few months.
Shorter-term milestones might include signing a lease on an office or designing your first prototype. Other businesses may have very long research and development cycles and should map out key milestones for the next 12-24 months. These businesses might have milestones related to getting regulatory approval or entering clinical trials.
Regardless of the timeframe of your milestones, make sure to assign milestones to people on your team so you have real responsibility and accountability.
Even if you’re starting out with just yourself as the only employee of your business, write a few quick bullets about why you’re the right person to run this business. If you need to hire key people in the future, list those positions as well, even if you don’t know who specifically will fill those positions right now.
This one-page plan looks pretty good—one of its strong points is that it’s built to help you visualize your plan and easily share it with others. While I used LivePlan to put this plan together, you can start by downloading this free Word doc template.
Need additional guidance? Check out this article for more detailed instructions to successfully build your one-page plan .
What to do after completing your simple business plan
Now that you’ve saved all that time writing your business plan, what should you do next?
With an initial plan in place, you’re primed to use a process known as growth planning that helps both startups and existing businesses grow more quickly and nimbly than their competitors.
Here are the initial steps you can take to put your new plan into action and start growth planning:
Test your idea and revise your plan
It’s rare to get a business idea right the first time. Almost every business makes changes to their initial idea to become a successful, growing company. That’s why it’s important to test your idea early and make adjustments before you sink too much money into your business.
There are plenty of ideas in the article linked above, but the core concept of validating your business idea is to go out and talk to potential customers and gather feedback. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a tech company or a cookie business. Get your app design or your cookie samples into potential customers’ hands and hear what they have to say.
Once you have feedback, revise your plan. Your marketing or sales strategy might change, or perhaps you decide to change your overall value proposition. Either way, revise your plan and test again until you have a business model that works.
Expand into a more detailed business plan
The one-page plan is simple and effective, but there may be a time when you need to expand your plan and create a more detailed business plan . Lenders and investors may want to see a more detailed business plan if only to prove that you’ve taken time to think through all the details of getting your business up and running.
Or, maybe you just want to add more details to your plan, and expanding beyond the single page makes sense for you. This may be more robust market research, expanded financial forecasts, or other details that make your plan more useful.
Luckily, by starting with a simple business plan format, you can easily expand on the necessary sections without having to start over. And, the real value in detailed planning is the process that you go through to create the plan.
You’ll be forced to answer questions about your business that you might have been tempted to gloss over or ignore completely if you skip the planning process. If a detailed business plan sounds like it will be a useful tool for you, check out this detailed step-by-step guide , as well as a free template you can download .
Review and revise
Revising your initial business plan isn’t just for new businesses that are just figuring out their path to success. Businesses that are up and running also benefit from regularly going back and revising their plan as things change. Your sales goals might need to be adjusted or you might need to adjust your expense budget. Perhaps you’ll decide to sell to a different kind of customer. Your one-page plan is a great place to document those changes and will help you track your progress toward your goals .
When you update your plan, you’re setting new goals to strive for. You’re also ensuring that your business strategy is documented and ready to share with new business partners, investors, and employees. I’ve found that sharing my company’s plan with employees improves transparency and gives everyone the big picture of what we’re trying to do. It ensures that everyone is moving the company in the same direction.
Download our one-page business plan template
Your simple one-page business plan is your guide to building the business you want and your key to finding success. And, thankfully, it’s so much easier and faster than traditional business planning.
If you want to get started on your plan right away, you can download our free one-page plan template . With that, you will be well on your way to a better business strategy, without all the time and hassle of drafting a lengthy business plan.
If you want to elevate your ability to build a healthy, growing business, you may want to explore the growth planning process and learn how it can help you build a sustainable, profitable business. You should also consider LivePlan.
It’s a product that makes growth planning easy and features step-by-step guidance that ensures you cover everything necessary while reducing the time spent on formatting and presenting. You’ll also gain access to financial forecasting tools that propel you through the process. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results.
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Guide to Creating a Business Plan With Template
Table of contents.
Having a road map helps you reach your journey’s end successfully. Business plans do the same for small businesses. They lay out the milestones you need to reach to build a profitable small business. They are also essential for identifying and overcoming obstacles along the way. Each part of a business plan helps you reach your goals, including the financial aspects, marketing, operations and sales.
Plenty of online business plan templates are available to take some of the pain out of the plan-writing process. You may benefit from simple, easy-to-follow business plan tools so you spend less time writing and more time launching your venture.
What is a business plan?
With most great business ideas , the best way to execute them is to have a plan. A business plan is a written outline that you present to others, such as investors, whom you want to recruit into your venture. It’s your pitch to your investors, sharing with them what the goals of your startup are and how you expect to be profitable.
It also serves as your company’s road map, keeping your business on track and ensuring your operations grow and evolve to meet the goals outlined in your plan. As circumstances change, a business plan can serve as a living document but it should always include the core goals of your business.
Starting a new business comes with challenges. Being prepared for those challenges can decrease their impact on your business greatly. One important step in preparing for the challenges your startup may face is writing a solid business plan.
Writing a business plan helps you understand more clearly what you need to do to reach your goals. The finished business plan also serves as a reminder to you of these goals. It’s a valuable tool that you can refer back to, helping you stay focused and on track.
What is the purpose of a business plan?
Before you write your business plan, it’s important to understand the purpose of creating it in the first place. These are the three main reasons you should have a business plan:
- Establish a business focus: The primary purpose of a business plan is to establish your plans for the future. These plans should include goals or milestones alongside detailed steps of how your company will reach each step. The process of creating a road map to your goals will help you determine your business focus and pursue growth.
- Secure funding: One of the first things private investors , banks or other lenders look for before investing in your business is a well-researched business plan. Investors want to know how you operate your business, what your revenue and expense projections are and, most importantly, how they will receive a return on their investment.
- Attract executives: As your business grows, you’ll likely need to add executives to your team. A business plan helps you attract executive talent and determine whether or not they are a good fit for your company.
There is no one-size-fits-all for securing a loan for your business. Check out our recommendations for the best business loan options .
Your business plan can be written as a document or designed as a slideshow, such as a PowerPoint presentation. It may be beneficial to create both versions. For example, the PowerPoint can be used to pull people in, and the document version that contains more detail can be given to viewers as a follow-up.
What are the types of business plans?
There are two main types of business plans: lean startup and traditional. Traditional business plans are long, detailed plans that expound on both short-term and long-term objectives. In comparison, a lean startup business plan focuses on a high-level summary with a few key metrics in concise detail to quickly share data with investors.
Lean startup business plan
Business model expert Ash Maurya has developed a basic type of business plan called a lean canvas. The model, which was developed in 2010, is still one of the most popular types of business plans emulated today.
A lean canvas comprises nine sections, with each part of the plan containing high-value information and metrics to attract investors. This lean business plan often consists of a single page of information with the following listed:
- Key metrics
- Unique proposition
- Unfair advantage
- Customer segments
- Cost structures
- Revenue streams
Traditional business plan
Traditional plans are lengthy documents, sometimes as long as 30 or 40 pages. A traditional business plan acts as a blueprint of a new business, detailing its progress from the time it launches to several years in the future when the startup is an established business. The following areas are covered in a traditional business plan:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Products and services
- Market analysis
- Management team
- Financial plan
- Operational plan
What is included in a business plan?
1. executive summary .
The executive summary is the most important section of your business plan because it needs to draw your readers into your plan and entice them to continue reading. If your executive summary doesn’t capture the reader’s attention, they won’t read further and their interest in your business won’t be piqued.
Even though the executive summary is the first section of your business plan, you should write it last. When you are ready to write this section, we recommend that you summarize the problem (or market need) you aim to solve, your solution for consumers, an overview of the founders and/or owners and key financial details. Knowing the alternate solutions that currently exist for the problem/market need will highlight to a potential investor how well you know the market. The key to this section is to be brief yet engaging.
2. Company description
This section is an overview of your entire business. Make sure you include basic information, such as when your company was founded, the type of business entity it is ― limited liability company, sole proprietorship, partnership , C corporation or S corporation ― and the state in which it is registered. If you plan to do business in a state other than the one you have registered in, be sure to highlight which states. Provide a summary of your company’s history to give the readers a solid understanding of its foundation. Learn more about articles of incorporation and what you need to know to start a business.
3. Products and services
Next, describe the products and/or services your business provides. Focus on your customers’ perspective ― and needs ― by demonstrating the problem you are trying to solve by providing this product or service. The goal of this section is to prove that your business fills a bona fide market need and will remain viable for the foreseeable future.
4. Market analysis
In this section, clearly define who your target audience is, where you will find customers, how you will reach them and, most importantly, how you will deliver your product or service to them. Provide a deep analysis of your ideal customer and how your business provides a solution for them.
You should also include your competitors in this section and illustrate how your business is uniquely different from the established companies in the industry or market. What are their strengths and weaknesses and how will you differentiate yourself from the pack?
Follow this step-by-step guide on how to conduct a competitor analysis and what details it should include.
You will also need to write a marketing plan based on the context of your business. For example, if you’re a small local business, you’ll want to analyze your competitors who are located nearby. Franchises need to conduct a large-scale analysis, potentially on a national level. Competitor data helps you know the current trends in your target industry and the growth potential. These details also prove to investors that you’re very familiar with the industry.
For this section, the listed target market paints a picture of what your ideal customer looks like. Data to include may be the age range, gender, income levels, location, marital status and geographical regions of target consumers.
A SWOT analysis is a common tool entrepreneurs use to bring all collected data together in a market analysis. “SWOT” stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.” Strengths and weaknesses analyze the advantages and disadvantages unique to your company, while opportunities and threats analyze the current market risks and rewards.
5. Management team
Before anyone invests in your business, they’ll want a complete understanding of the potential investment. This section should illustrate how your business is organized. It should list key members of the management team, the founders/owners, board members, advisors and more.
As you list each individual, provide a summary of their experience and their role within your company. Treat this section as a series of mini resumes and consider adding full-length resumes to the appendix of your business plan.
6. Financial plan
The financial plan should include a detailed overview of your finances. At the very least, you should include cash flow statements and profit and loss projections over the next three to five years. You can also include historical financial data from the past few years, your sales forecast and balance sheet. Consider these items to include:
- Income statement: Investors want detailed information to confirm the viability of your business idea. Expect to provide an income statement for the business plan that includes a complete snapshot of your business. The income statement will list revenue, expenses and profits. Income statements are generated monthly for startups and quarterly for established businesses.
- Cash flow projection: Another element of your financial plan is your projection for cash flow. In this section, you estimate the expected amount of money coming in and going out of your business. There are two benefits to including a cash flow projection. The first is that this forecast demonstrates whether your business is a high-risk or low-risk venture. The second benefit of doing a cash flow projection is that it shows you whether you would benefit most from short-term or long-term financing.
- Analysis of break-even point: Your financial plan should include a break-even analysis. The break-even point is the point at which your company’s sales totals cover all of its expenses. Investors want to see your revenue requirements to assess whether your business is capable of reaching the financial milestones you’ve laid out in your business plan.
Make sure this section is precise and accurate. It’s often best to create this section with a professional accountant. If you’re seeking outside funding for your business , highlight why you’re seeking financing, how you will use that money and when investors can expect a return on investment .
Are you struggling for cash flow? Here are eight cash flow strategies for survival.
If you want to master your financial plan, Jennifer Spaziano, vice president of business development at ACCION, offers these helpful tips:
- Follow generally accepted accounting principles : As a rule, the financial part of your plan should follow the accounting principles set by the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board, especially if you’re creating the plan to obtain a loan or a line of credit.
- Get fluent in spreadsheets: Spreadsheets are the best and most accepted way to present financial information.
- Seek outside assistance: Obtaining advice from your financial planner or accountant can help you put the numbers together and present them properly. If you use an accountant and your financial statements have been audited, state that in the plan.
- Look up templates: If you want to attempt writing the financial section on your own, there are resources.
7. Operational plan
The operational plan section details the physical needs of your business. This section discusses the location of the business , as well as required equipment or critical facilities needed to make your products. Some companies ― depending on their business type ― may also need to detail their inventory needs, including information about suppliers. For manufacturing companies, all processing details are spelled out in the operational plan section.
For startups, you want to divide the operational plan into two distinct phases: the developmental plan and the production plan:
- Developmental plan: The developmental plan details each step in the process of bringing your product or service to market. You want to outline the risks and the protocols you’re taking to demonstrate to investors that you’ve examined all potential liabilities and that your business is well-positioned for success. For instance, if workers (or your products) are exposed to toxic materials during the production process, in your developmental plan, you want to list the safety measures you will follow to minimize the risk of illness and injury to workers and consumers and how you plan to minimize any potential culpability to your business.
- Production plan: The production plan includes the day-to-day operation information, such as your business hours, the work site(s), company assets, equipment pieces, raw materials and any special requirements.
The appendices will contain all the extra information that is not immediately necessary to the business plan but helpful to have. Resumes of the management team usually are provided here as well as long-term financial projections. This section can be as long or short as you want it to be. Most business plans will have something in the appendix, which is referred to in the main section of the business plan.
What are the challenges of writing a business plan?
The challenges of writing a business plan vary. Do you have all the information about your business that you need? Does your industry have strict guidelines that you must adhere to?
Writing a business plan will prompt you to evolve your business idea into a blueprint that you can follow. Challenges will come if you have not fully considered all the aspects of a business idea, such as the location to sell your product or the marketing you will do to help bring in business. Writing a good business plan will have you thinking about the “what if” to your business and allow you to come up with strong answers to address those questions.
However, certain challenges may prove more difficult to answer than others. If you aren’t familiar with certain terminologies or have trouble using spreadsheet processing software, you might have difficulty answering cash flow or financial projections. Especially if you have a new product or service to address a problem in the market, you might have no clear road map on how to market this new product which has never been thought of before.
To help you prepare, we identified 10 of the most common issues you may face:
- Getting started
- Identifying cash flow and financial projections
- Knowing your target market
- Being concise
- Making it interesting
- Establishing workable goals
- Being realistic about business growth
- Proving that your idea is worth the risk
- Finding the right amount of flexibility
- Creating a strategy that you can implement
Crafting a business plan around these 10 challenges can prepare your business ― and anyone who joins it ― for a prosperous future.
How do you overcome the challenges of writing a business plan?
Although you won’t predict everything for your business accurately, you can take preemptive steps to reduce the number of complications that may arise. For example, familiarize yourself with the business plan process by researching business plans and identifying how others executed their plans successfully.
You can use these plans as a basis. However, Rick Cottrell, CEO of Tesseon, recommends taking it one step further: Talk to small business owners and others who have experience.
“The business owner should talk to an accountant, banker and those who deal with these plans on a daily basis and learn how others have done it,” Cottrell said. “They can join startup and investment groups and speak to peers and others who are getting ready to launch a business and gain insights from them. They can seek out capital innovation clubs in their area and get additional expertise.”
If you research how to write a business plan and still don’t feel comfortable writing one, you can always hire a consultant to help you with the process. Guidance is crucial when you don’t know what you don’t know. There are freelancers who will write business plans for you for a small fee which can be a good stepping stone to something more concrete.
“It is simply a time-consuming process that cannot be rushed,” Cottrell added. “Millions of dollars can be at stake and, in many cases, requires a high level of expertise that either needs to be learned or executed in conjunction with an experienced business consultant.”
Should I use free or paid business plan templates?
You have the option of choosing between free and paid business templates. Both come with their own benefits and limitations, so the best one for you will depend on your specific needs and budget. Evaluating the pros and cons of each can help you decide.
The biggest advantage of using a free template is the cost savings it offers to your business. Startups are often strapped for cash, making it a desirable choice for new business owners to access a free template. Although it’s nice to use templates at no cost, there are some drawbacks to free business plan templates ― the biggest one being limited customizability.
“The process of writing a business plan lets you personally find the kinks in your business and work them out,” Attiyya Atkins, founder of A+ Editing, told Business News Daily. “Starting with an online template is a good start, but it needs to be reviewed and targeted to your market. Downloadable business plans may have dated market prices, making the budget inaccurate. If you’re looking to get money from investors, you need a customized business plan with zero errors.”
Janil Jean, head of overseas operations at LogoDesign.net, agreed that free templates offer limited customization, such as the company name and some text. She added that they are often used by a ton of people, so if you use one to secure funds, investors might be tired of seeing that business plan format.
The benefit of paying for business plan templates ― or paying for an expert to review your business plan ― is the accuracy of information and high customization.
“Your audience gets thousands of applications per day. What’s to make your business plan stand out from the crowd when you’re not there in the room when they make the decisions about your enterprise?” Jean said. “Visuals are the best way to impress and get attention. It makes sense to get paid templates that allow you maximum customization through design, images and branding.”
On the contrary, the limitation to using a paid template is the cost. If your startup doesn’t have the funds to pay for a business plan template, it may not be a feasible option.
What is the best business plan software?
If you decide to invest in your business plan, there are several great software programs available. Software takes the legwork out of writing a business plan by simplifying the process and eliminating the need to start from scratch. They often include features like step-by-step wizards, templates, financial projection tools, charts and graphs, third-party application integrations, collaboration tools and video tutorials.
After researching and evaluating dozens of business plan software providers, we narrowed down these four of the best options available:
LivePlan is a cloud-hosted software application that provides many tools to create your business plan, including more than 500 templates, a one-page pitch builder, automatic financial statements, full financial forecasting , industry benchmark data and key performance indicators . Monthly plans start at $10 per month.
Bizplan is cloud-hosted software that features a step-by-step builder to walk you through each section of the business plan. Monthly plans start at $29 per month with annual plans starting at $20.75.
GoSmallBiz is a cloud-based service that offers industry-specific templates, a step-by-step wizard that makes creating a detailed business plan easy and video tutorials. Monthly plans start at $409 per month.
Enloop focuses on financial projections. It provides you with everything you need to demonstrate how financially viable your business can be and walks you through the process of generating financial forecasts. Annual plans start at $11 per month.
Free downloadable business plan template
Business News Daily put together a simple but high-value business plan template to help you create a business plan. The template is completely customizable and can be used to attract investors, secure board members and narrow the scope of your company.
Business plans can be overwhelming to new entrepreneurs, but our template makes it easy to provide all of the details required by financial institutions and private investors. The template has eight main sections, with subsections for each topic. For easy navigation, a table of contents is provided with the template. As you customize each section, you’ll receive tips on how to correctly write the required details.
Here is our free business plan template that you can use to craft a professional business plan quickly and easily.
Planning for your business is the first step of the journey
A business plan is a blueprint for your business idea, which means you will need to add the details to your business plan until you believe it is ready to be acted upon. You may not have all the details to start, but it is important to have enough confidence in starting your business and having a guide to follow as others get involved in your business when you are growing.
Thinking about what problem your business solves, who your suppliers are and what color schemes may be fixed or adjusted over time, but it is important to not only consider those at the beginning but throughout the time you are following your business plan. Once you have your plan in place, you can act on it knowing that you and others can follow that plan. The hardest thing is starting a business plan so start today.
Tejas Vemparala and Sean Peek also contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
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Free business plan template for your new business
- Cecilia Lazzaro Blasbalg
Creating a successful business is about more than launching a business website or hanging a shingle on your front door. It requires a well-crafted plan that keeps you on track, anticipates obstacles and acts as a concrete roadmap for launching or improving your small business.
Business planning allows you to clarify your vision while providing information to both intrigue and reassure potential investors. The process may seem daunting, but creating a business plan isn’t difficult—and templates like the one below can help simplify the process even further.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is used by small business owners and entrepreneurs when starting a new business venture. It’s a strategic document that outlines the goals, objectives and strategies of your new or expanding business, including the company's vision, target market, financial projections and operational plans.
A business plan can attract potential partners, convince investors and banks to help you raise capital, and serve as a resource for future growth. Most importantly, you’ll be able to use your business plan as a roadmap for how to structure, operate and manage your new venture, whether it’s a sole proprietorship, a partnership or something larger.
Who needs a business plan?
Every business owner needs a business plan. They’re an essential tool for any person or entity interested in starting a business . There are many benefits, including:
Defining your business idea
Clarifying the market and competitive landscape
Outlining your marketing strategy
Stating your value proposition
Identifying/anticipating potential risks
Seeking investments from banks and other sources
Setting benchmarks, goals and key performance indicators (KPIs)
A business plan also gives you a way to assess the viability of a business before investing too much time or money into it. While all business involves risk, taking the time to create a plan can help mitigate fallout and avoid potentially costly mistakes.
When creating a business plan, it's important to establish your business goals up front and be prepared to spend time researching the market, performing a competitor analysis and understanding your target market .
Download Wix’s free business plan template
Creating a successful business plan is no easy feat. That’s why we’ve put together a simple, customizable, and free-to-download business plan template that takes the guesswork out of getting started. Use it to create a new business plan or to refresh an existing one.
Lean startup versus traditional business plan formats
In terms of types of business plans , there are two main formats to choose from: traditional and lean.
Traditional business plan format
A traditional business plan includes every detail and component that defines a business and contributes to its success. It's typically a sizable document of about 30 to 50 pages that includes:
Executive summary: The executive summary contains a high-level overview of everything included in the plan. It generally provides a short explanation of your business and its goals (e.g., your elevator pitch ). Many authors like to write this section last after fleshing out the sections below.
Company description: A company description should include essential details like your business name, the names of your founders, your locations and your company’s mission statement . Briefly describe your core services (or products if you’re writing an eCommerce business plan ), but don't go into too much detail since you’ll elaborate on this in the service/product section. Wix offers some helpful mission statement examples if you get stuck. It’s also a good idea to create a vision statement . While your mission statement clarifies your company’s purpose, a vision statement outlines what you want your company to achieve over time.
Market analysis: One of the most extensive sections of the business plan, this section requires that you conduct market research and write your conclusions. Include findings for the following: industry background, a SWOT analysis , barriers/obstacles, target market and your business differentiators.
Organization and management: This is where you outline how your business is structured and who's in charge, including founders, executive team members, board members, employees and key stakeholders. To this end, it can be helpful to create a visual layout (e.g., org chart) to illustrate your company structure.
Service or product line: Create a detailed list of your current and future products and services. If you’re still working on your idea, create a concept statement to describe your idea or product. You should also include a proof of concept (POC), which demonstrates the feasibility of your idea. Wherever applicable, include diagrams, product images and other visual components to illustrate the product life cycle.
Marketing and sales: Detail how your business idea translates into selling and delivering your offerings to potential customers. You can start by outlining your brand identity, which includes the colors and fonts you plan to use, your marketing and advertising strategy, and details about planned consumer touchpoints (like your website, mobile app or physical storefront).
Financial projections and funding requests: Include financial statements, such as a balance sheet, profit-and-loss statement (P&L), cash flow statement and break-even analysis. It's not uncommon for a business plan to include multiple pages of financial projections and information. You’ll also want to mention how much funding you seek and what you plan to do with it. If you’ve already secured funding, provide details about your investments.
Lean startup business plan format
A lean startup business plan—also referred to as a “lean canvas”—is presented as a problem/solution framework that provides a high-level description of your business idea. A lean plan is a single-page document that provides a basic overview of the most essential aspects of your business. It’s a good way to dip a toe into business planning since it doesn't require the same level of detail as a traditional plan. This includes:
Problem: What problem does your product or service solve, or what need does it fulfill?
Solution: How do you intend to solve it?
Unique value proposition (UVP): Why should people use your product or service versus someone else’s?
Unfair advantage: What do you have that other companies don’t?
Customers: Who are your ideal customers?
Channels: How will those customers find you?
Key metrics: How do you define success? How will you track and measure it?
Revenue streams: How will your business make money?
Cost structure: What will you spend money on (fixed and variable costs)?
Tips for filling out your business plan template
The hardest part of a journey is always the first step, or so the saying goes. Filling out your business plan template can be daunting, but the template itself is meant to get you over that crucial first hurdle—getting started. We’ve provided some tips aimed at helping you get the most from our template.
These are best practices—they’re not rules. Do what works for you. The main thing to remember is that these tips can help you move more easily through the planning process, so that you can advance onto the next (exciting) step, which is launching your business.
Consider your goals: What is the purpose of your business? Are you looking to expand, launch a new product line or fund a specific project? Identifying your goals helps you prioritize important information in your business plan.
Fill out what you can: You may already have a vague—or specific—idea of what you want your business to achieve. Go through each section of the template and fill out what you can. We suggest leaving the executive summary blank for now, since it'll be the last thing you write.
Be realistic: Even though this document is meant to serve as a marketing tool for potential investors, don't exaggerate any numbers or make any false promises.
Dig into the research: Nothing's more motivating than getting some intel about your competitors and your market. If you're truly stuck, a little research can help motivate you and provide valuable insight about what direction to take your business. For example, if you plan to start a landscaping business, learn about the specific pricing offered in your area so that you can differentiate your services and potentially offer better options.
Get help from others: Bouncing your ideas off a friend, mentor or advisor is a great way to get feedback and discover approaches or products to incorporate into your plan. Your network can also give you valuable insight about the industry or even about potential customers. Plus, it's nice to be able to talk through the challenges with someone who understands you and your vision.
Revise and review: Once complete, step back from your plan and let it "cook." In a day or two, review your plan and make sure that everything is current. Have other people review it too, since having another set of eyes can help identify areas that may be lacking detail or need further explanation.
Once you’ve completed your business plan template, it can become a meaningful resource for developing your mission statement, writing business proposals and planning how to move forward with the marketing, distribution and growth of your products and services.
After launch, you can also analyze your value chain to identify key factors that create value for your customers and maximum profitability for you. This can help you develop a more effective business plan that considers the entire value chain, from research and development to sales and customer support.
Business template FAQ
What is the easiest way to write a business plan.
The easiest way to write a business plan is to utilize a template. Templates provide a structured format and guide you through each section, simplifying the process of creating a comprehensive plan.
Is there a template for how to write a business plan?
Yes. Use Wix’s free business plan template and simply fill in the blanks to customize it to your unique needs. Wix’s business plan template includes seven essential sections, such as an executive summary, market analysis, financial projects and more.
What are the 7 essential parts of a business plan?
Organization and management
Service or product line
Marketing and sales
Financial projections and funding requests
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Simple Business Plan Template for Entrepreneurs
Follow This Business Plan Outline to Write Your Own
Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.
Pros and Cons of Using a Business Plan Template
Do i need a simple or detailed business plan, how to use this business plan template, table of contents, section 1: executive summary, section 2: business/industry overview.
- Section 3: Market Analysis and Competition
Section 4: Sales and Marketing Plan
Section 5: ownership and management plan, section 6: operating plan, section 7: financial plan.
- Section 8: Appendices and Exhibits
Ariel Skelley / Getty Images
Think you have a great idea for a business? The best way to find out whether your idea is feasible is to create a business plan .
A solid, well-researched business plan provides a practical overview of your vision. It can be used to ground your ideas into workable actions and to help pitch your idea to financial institutions or potential investors when looking for funding.
The standard business plan consists of a single document divided into several sections for distinct elements, such as a description of the organization, market research, competitive analysis, sales strategies, capital and labor requirements, and financial data. Your plan may include more or fewer sections to best represent your business.
The template presented here will get you well on your way toward your simple business plan.
Generic, not customized
No financial guidance
Additional skills needed
- Ready-made layouts : Templates offer general guidance about what information is needed and how to organize it, so you’re not stuck looking at a blank page when getting started. Especially detailed templates may offer instructions or helpful text prompts along the way.
- Variations : If you know what type of business plan you need—traditional, lean, industry-specific—chances are you can find a specialized template.
- Free downloads : There are many free business plan templates available online, which can be useful for comparing formats and features, or refining your own.
- Generic, not customized : Templates typically contain just the basics, and there will still be a lot of work involved to tailor the template to your business. For instance, you'll have to reformat, refine copy, and populate tables.
- No financial guidance : You’ll need enough industry knowledge to apply financial models to your specific business, and the math skills to generate formulas and calculate figures.
- Additional skills needed : Some degree of tech savvy is required to integrate charts and graphs, merge data from spreadsheets, and keep it all up-to-date.
A corporate business plan for a large organization can be hundreds of pages long. However, for a small business, it's best to keep the plan short and concise, especially if you're submitting it to bankers or investors . Around 35 to 50 pages should be sufficient, and more allowed for extras, such as photos of products, equipment, logos, or business premises or site plans. Your audience will likely prefer solid research and analysis over long, wordy descriptions.
An entrepreneur who creates a business plan is nearly twice as likely to secure financing and grow their business compared with those who do not have a plan.
The business plan template below is divided into sections as described in the table of contents. Each section can be copied into a document of your own; you may need to add or delete sections or make adjustments to fit your specific needs.
Once complete, be sure to format it attractively and get it professionally printed and bound. You want your business plan to convey the best possible impression. Make it engaging, something people will to want to pick up and peruse.
Enter your business information, including the legal name and address. If you already have a business logo, you can add it at the top or bottom of the title page.
- Business Plan for "Business Name"
- Business address
- Website URL
If you're addressing it to a company or individual, include:
- Presented to "Name"
- At "Company"
- Executive Summary................................................Page #
- Business/Industry Overview.................................Page #
- Market Analysis and Competition.........................Page #
- Sales and Marketing Plan.......................................Page #
- Ownership and Management Plan.......................Page #
- Operating Plan..........................................................Page #
- Financial Plan............................................................Page #
- Appendices and Exhibits........................................Page #
The executive summary introduces the plan, but it is written last. It provides a concise and optimistic overview of your business and should capture the reader's attention and create a desire to learn more. The executive summary should be no more than two pages long, with highlights or brief summaries of other sections of the plan.
- Describe your mission —what is the need for your new business? Sell your vision.
- Introduce your company briefly, sticking to vital details such as size, location, management, and ownership.
- Describe your main product(s) and/or service(s).
- Identify the customer base you plan to target and how your business will serve those customers.
- Summarize the competition and how you will get market share. What is your competitive advantage?
- Outline your financial projections for the first few years of operation.
- State your startup financing requirements.
This section provides an overview of the industry and explains in detail what makes your business stand out.
- Describe the overall nature of the industry, including sales and other statistics. Note trends and demographics, as well as economic, cultural, and governmental influences.
- Explain your business and how it fits into the industry.
- Mention the existing competition, which you'll expand upon in the following section.
- Identify what area(s) of the market you will target and what unique, improved, or lower-cost products and/or services you will offer.
Many business plans cover their products/services in a standalone section to add more detail or emphasize unique aspects.
Section 3: Market Analysis and Competition
This section focuses on the competitive factor of your business and justifies it with financial models and statistics. You need to demonstrate that you have thoroughly analyzed the target market, assessed the competition, and concluded that there is enough demand for your products/services to make your business viable.
- Define the target market(s) for your products/services in your geographic locale.
- Explain the need for your products/services.
- Estimate the overall size of the market and the units of your products/services that the target market might buy. Include forecasts of potential repeat-purchase volume and how the market might be affected by economic or demographic changes.
- Estimate the volume and value of your sales in comparison with any existing competitors. Highlight any key strengths over the competition in easily digestible charts and tables.
- Describe any helpful barriers to entry that may protect your business from competition, such as access to capital, technology, regulations, employee skill sets, or location.
You may opt to split the target market description and competitive analysis into two separate sections, if either (or both) portray your business especially favorably.
Here's where you dive into profits, giving detailed strategic view of how you intend to entice customers to buy your products and/or services, including advertising or promotion, pricing, sales, distribution, and post-sales support.
Product or Service Offerings
If your products and/or services don't take up a standalone section earlier in the plan, here is where you can answer the question: What is your unique selling proposition? Describe your products and/or services, how they benefit the customer and what sets them apart from competitor offerings.
How will you price your products/services? Pricing must be low enough to attract customers, yet high enough to cover costs and generate a profit. You can base pricing decisions on a number of financial models, such as markup from cost or value to the buyer, or in comparison with similar products and/or services in the marketplace.
Sales and Distribution
For products, describe how you plan to distribute to the customer. Will you be selling wholesale or retail? What type of packaging will be required? How will products be shipped? If you offer a service, how will it be delivered to the customer? What methods will be used for payment?
Advertising and Promotion
List the various forms of media you will use to get your message to customers (e.g., website, email, social media, or newspapers). Will you use sales promotional methods such as free samples and product demonstrations? What about product launches and trade shows? Don't forget more everyday marketing materials such as business cards, flyers, or brochures. Include an approximate budget.
This section describes the legal structure, ownership, and (if applicable) management and staffing requirements of your business.
- Ownership structure : Describe the legal structure of your company (e.g., corporation, partnership, LLC, or sole proprietorship ). List ownership percentages, if applicable. If the business is a sole proprietorship, this is the only section required.
- Management team : Describe managers and their roles, key employee positions, and how each will be compensated. Include brief résumés.
- External resources and services : List any external professional resources required, such as accountants, lawyers, or consultants.
- Human resources : List the type and number of employees or contractors you will need, and estimate the salary and benefit costs of each.
- Advisory board : Include an advisory board as a supplemental management resource, if applicable.
The operating plan outlines the physical requirements of your business, such as office, warehouse, or retail space; equipment; supplies; or labor. This section will vary greatly by industry; a large manufacturer, for instance, should provide full details about supply chain or specialty equipment, while a therapist's office can get by with a much shorter list.
If your business is a small operation (like a one-person, home-based consulting firm), you might choose to eliminate the operating plan section altogether and include the operating essentials in the business overview.
- Development : Explain what you have done to date to identify possible locations, sources of equipment, supply chains, and other relevant relationships. Describe your production workflow.
- Production : For manufacturing, explain how long it takes to produce a unit and when you'll be ready to start production. Include factors that may affect the time frame of production and how you'll deal with potential problems, such as rush orders.
- Facilities : Describe the physical location of the business. Include geographical or building requirements; square footage estimates (with room for expansion if expected); mortgage or leasing costs; and estimates of maintenance, utilities, and related overhead costs . Include zoning approvals and other permissions that are necessary in order to operate.
- Staffing : Outline expected staffing needs and the main duties of staff members, especially the key employees. Describe how the employees will be sourced and the employment relationship (i.e., contract, full-time, part-time) as well as any training needs and how these will be provided.
- Equipment : Include a list of any specialized equipment needed, along with cost, whether it will be leased or purchased, and sources.
- Supplies : If your business is, for example, manufacturing, retail, or food services, include a description of the materials needed, reliable sources, major suppliers, and how you will manage inventory.
The financial plan is the most important section for lenders or investors. The goal is to demonstrate that your business will grow and be profitable. To do this, you will need to create realistic predictions or forecasts.
To avoid inflated expectations, a prudent financial plan underestimates revenues and overestimates expenses.
- Income statements : The income statement displays projected revenues, expenses, and profit. Do this on a monthly basis for at least the first year for a startup business.
- Cash-flow projections : The cash-flow projection shows your monthly anticipated cash revenues and disbursements for expenses. To be considered a good credit risk, it is important to demonstrate that you can manage your cash flow.
- Balance sheet : The balance sheet is a snapshot summary of the assets, liabilities, and equity of your business at a particular point in time. For a startup, this would be on the day the business opens.
- Breakeven analysis : Including a breakeven analysis will demonstrate to lenders or investors what level of sales you need to achieve to make a profit.
Section 8: Appendices and Exhibits
The appendices and exhibits section contains any detailed information needed to support other sections of the plan.
Possible Appendix or Exhibit items include:
- Credit histories for the business owners
- Detailed market research and analysis of competitors
- Résumés of the owners and key employees
- Diagrams and/or research about your products and/or services
- Site, building, or office plans
- Copies of mortgage documents or equipment leases (or quotes)
- Marketing brochures and other materials
- References from business colleagues
- Links to your business website
- Any other material that may impress potential lenders or investors
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U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write your business plan ." Accessed April 28, 2021.
U.S. Small Business Administration. " SBA Recommended Business Plans and Length ." Accessed April 28, 2021.
Bplans. " Why Plan Your Business? Look at This Data ." Accessed April 28, 2021.
Marketing MO. " Pricing Strategy ." Accessed April 28, 2021.
Incorporate.com. " Write a Business Plan, a Step-by-Step Guide ." Accessed April 29, 2021.
Startup Nation. " The Five Costs You're Most Likely to Underestimate in Your Business Plan ." Accessed April 28, 2021.
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10 Simple Tips to Write a Successful Business Plan In the new book "Write Your Own Business Plan," business expert Eric Butow takes the anxiety and confusion out of planning and offers an easy-to-follow roadmap to success.
By Entrepreneur Staff • Sep 26, 2023
"The absolute biggest business plan mistake you can make is to not plan at all." So writes Noah Parsons in his helpful blog post 17 Key Business Plan Mistakes to Avoid in 2023 . But how does one pull together all of the necessary components of a cohesive plan? It can feel overwhelming.
Eric Butow, CEO of online marketing ROI improvement firm Butow Communications Group, has teamed up with Entrepreneur Media to update the second edition of our best-selling book Write Your Business Plan to provide you with a simple, step-by-step process for creating a successful business plan. In the following excerpt, he gives ten tips to gather all of the critical information you will need to succeed.
1. Know your competition.
You need to name them and point out what makes you different from (and better than) each of them. But do not disparage your competition.
2. Know your audience.
You may need several versions of your business plan. For example, you may need one for bankers or venture capitalists, one for individual investors, and one for companies that may want to do a joint venture with you rather than fund you.
3. Have proof to back up every claim you make.
If you expect to be the leader in your field in six months, you have to say why you think that is. If you say your product will take the market by storm, you have to support this statement with facts. If you say your management team is fully qualified to make the business a success, be sure staff resumes demonstrate their experience.
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4. Be conservative in all financial estimates and projections.
If you feel certain you'll capture 50 percent of the market in the first year, you can say why you think so and hint at what those numbers may be. But make your financial projections more conservative. For example, a 10 percent market share is much more credible.
5. Be realistic with time and resources available.
If you're working with a big company before you buy a business, you may think things will happen faster than they will once you have to buy the supplies, write the checks, and answer the phones yourself. Being overly optimistic with time and resources is a common error entrepreneurs make. Being realistic is important because it lends credibility to your presentation. Always assume things will take 20 percent longer than you anticipated. Therefore, twenty weeks is now twenty-four weeks.
6. Be logical.
Think like a banker and write what they would want to see.
7. Have a strong management team.
Make sure it has good credentials and expertise. Your team members don't have to have worked in the field. However, you need to draw parallels between what they've done and the skills needed to make your venture succeed. Don't have all the skills you need? Consider adding an advisory board of people skilled in your field and include their resumes.
Write Your Own Business Plan is available now at Entrepreneur Bookstore | Barnes & Noble | Amazon
8. Document why your idea will work.
Have others done something similar that was successful? Have you made a prototype? Include all the variables that can have an impact on the result or outcome of your idea. Show why some of the variables don't apply to your situation or explain how you intend to overcome them or make them better.
9. Describe your facilities and location for performing the work.
That includes equipment you use to create your products and/or services. If you'll need to expand, discuss when, where, and why.
10. Discuss payout options for the investors.
Some investors want a hands-on role. Some want to put associates on your board of directors. Some don't want to be involved in day-to-day activities at all. All investors want to know when they can get their money back and at what rate of return. Most want out within three to five years. Provide a brief description of options for investors, or at least mention that you're ready to discuss options with any serious prospect.
To dig deeper, buy Write Your Own Business Plan and get 1 month of free access to business planning software Liveplan Premium.
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How to write a business plan? A comprehensive guide
Launching a new business in the dynamic business ecosystem of Asia requires more than just a great idea – a business plan is in order.
So you’ve decided to start a new business. This is a time of great excitement — and you really need to get your ducks in a row in order to have the best chance for success. Enter your startup business plan, but where to begin if you’re writing a business plan for the first time? Many new business owners feel trepidation when even thinking about writing a business plan, probably because many have never written one.
Having a business plan will keep you accountable, focused and growth-oriented.
Your plan doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out document filled with statistics and profit expectations. And your business plan will evolve when you start to gravitate toward or prioritize certain goals over others.
A comprehensive business plan is fundamental to charting a clear path to success. This blueprint serves as a roadmap, guiding entrepreneurs, and small business owners in establishing their startups, securing funding, and achieving their business goals.
In this article:
What is a business plan?
Why do you need a business plan, your 5-step business plan checklist.
- Create an executive summary
- Describe your company
- Introduce team members
- State your company goals
- Detail values and a mission statement
- List products or services
- Do market research
- Create a marketing and sales plan
- Create a financial projection
- Add an appendix
- The 5 “Ws” of writing your first business plan
- Business plan format
Tips for writing a small business plan
- Business plan FAQ
A business plan is a document that you use to strategize for your business’ future. The business plan includes an overview of your business, its goals and your marketing strategy. The document will also include financial forecasting.
Need help deciding on a business to start? Check out this list of small business ideas that are easy to launch on a low budget. You might also consider other online business ideas that require minimal upfront investments.
A business plan serves multiple purposes. You need a business plan to outline your business idea and goals, define your value proposition and the strategy to achieve them. Your business plan is also your first opportunity to create something tangible from your ideas, providing a detailed plan for your company’s future. It gives a clear picture of your business model, financial projections, and market analysis. By putting ideas on paper, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to properly think through your plan and vet its likely effectiveness for business success.
In face, studies have shown that a business plan creates a 30% greater chance of growth .
Outside of your personal reasons for writing a business plan, you will need this document if you need to convince funders or investors that your business is legitimate and likely to return a profit. You would be expected to provide investors with a well-thought-out business plan demonstrating market awareness and financial planning. Moreover, it allows you to document your marketing strategy, competitive analysis, and sales strategies.
1. Validate your idea
For startups, this is important! Your idea must first be checked, tested, and backed with data that proves your service or product is something that people will pay for.
As a quick and easy checklist, ask yourself these questions:
- Does my service or product solve a problem?
- Have people already tried my product or service?
- Do they like it?
- Are they willing to pay for it? How much?
- Have I collected a list of potential customers who signed up for the product or service?
Answering yes to these questions may at least instil some confidence that your company or business will succeed. For more ideas and information, check out this step-by-step post on how to validate a business idea .
2. Estimate your monthly expenses
Part of planning your business is to determine your monthly cost of running it. For example:
- How much will it cost to pay for licenses?
- How much have you or will you invest into the business assets?
- Will you need to hire workers or suppliers? If so, what are these costs likely to be?
It pays to keep tabs on these things, especially if you’re going on your own as a business owner(s). Knowing how much it will cost to operate your business monthly will allow you to find out:
- How long can your business survive without any revenue?
- How much you’ll have to earn to sustain your business from then on?
The projected cost to operate your business with your current funds is typically called a burn rate . This should give you a target to focus on in your early months, preparing you for the worst (in case it does happen).
Editor’s note: Get annual cost estimates for a business website, domain and email from a GoDaddy Guide on Facebook Messenger now.
3. Write a simple operation plan
Now that you’ve validated your start-up idea and have an idea how much your business will cost, the next step in our business plan checklist is to ask yourself what your day-to-day activities will be like.
An operations plan is where you codify the daily activities that will focus, accelerate, and maintain your business.
A business operations plan stems from your start-up idea.
For example, let’s say you are in a web hosting business. Then your “strategy” can look like this:
- Set up new servers
- Gain paying customers
- Support those customers
- Acquire new servers as needed
- Maintain servers and optimize performance
Your day-to-day activities should be in support of the strategy:
- Purchase and co-locate physical servers
- Purchase / subscribe cloud services
- Build a main web portal
- Build and maintain a customer web portal
- Maintain customer support teams
- Put up new advertisements
- Have sales teams process inbound and outbound calls
These items will make up your business’ daily operations and will also help determine what kind of roles you need to hire for.
This may affect your burn rate mentioned in #2. Go back there, adjust, and balance both your burn rate and your operations plan. This should at least keep your business steady in times of rough weather.
4. Figure out how you will get paid
Figuring out how will you get paid sounds like a no-brainer in starting a business. However, many business owners tend to leave this as an afterthought, with the mentality of “if I build it, they will come”.
But that’s not how it works. Once you have your product or service, figuring out how to enable and receive payments from your happy customers is paramount.
Making the payments experience as easy as possible improves the customer experience, making it more likely you’ll get referrals. Customer word-of-mouth is a powerful way to increase your sales.
Editor’s note: Do-it-yourself tools like GoDaddy’s Online Store take care of this part for you. Get paid online for products, services or even collect donations on your website via Square, Stripe or PayPal.
5. Do you know your customer?
The final step in our business plan checklist is to identify your likely customer through research. Knowing who your target market is, or your buyer persona , will help you anticipate their wants and needs, thereby focusing your marketing and support efforts.
While you should be able to pinpoint who is likely to buy the product or service you are validating, remember your customers can evolve over time, as does your product.
Constantly monitoring your customers will help you keep your edge on the market. If your product or service is like everything else on the market, what differentiates you? This will be your “X” factor and will set your business apart in the sea of similar products and services.
A good example to think about is “Why do people prefer Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL) products instead of Starbucks, where they are the same coffee and coffee shop?” A good hint is that: CBTL knows who their customers are, and they are able to cater their business service, products, design, and experience to that specific customer.
6. Have a disaster recovery plan
Making a plan for what to do if disaster strikes is called a Disaster Recovery plan. These plans can guide you, your management, and your staff in times of duress.
At times of stress and failure, we all tend to freeze up. Having a written playbook helps in these situations. Examples of DR events include:
- Fires (especially if the business is making firecrackers)
- A security, data, or server failure (for businesses in the Information Technology industry)
- Negative news coverage that affects sales
- An accident that incapacitates top-level management (for most companies)
A prime example is that companies do not allow its C-level employees (such as the CEO, COO, and CTO) on the same flight, as the succession plan for replacing any one of those are their fellow C-level managers. This is part of Disaster Recovery, though a more proactive rather than a reactive approach.
Having a plan to recover your business is essential for you to survive. Making it and attaching it to your business plan is essential and should give you and your senior management peace of mind.
How to write a business plan?
If you’re ready to get stuck in and write your business plan, the next steps will greatly help. You want to be thorough at every step, especially if you’re sharing the plan with potential stakeholders. But remember, this is your business; your plan will be unique to you. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write each section of your business plan:
1. Create an executive summary
Your executive summary is essentially your first impression to investors. This is a brief snapshot of your business plan.
In a few sentences, it needs to grab attention and explain what you/your business does. It wants to grab the reader’s attention, so they’re compelled to read on. Your executive summary should include your mission statement, a summary of your product or service, company description, and basic information about your company’s leadership team, employees, location, and legal structure, such as whether it’s a sole proprietorship or a nonprofit.
2. Company description: Describe your company
Your business plan will include a description of your company and provide more details about your business. Think about your elevator pitch and write your company description into your plan. Be very clear here, think about what you do, who you do it for (target audience, customer segments), and exactly what problem you are solving.
You’re likely not the first person to create a company solving a particular problem for your audience, so try and detail what it is that makes your company stand out (competitive advantage).
3. Organization and management: introduce team members
Here, you’ll detail your business’s organizational structure. Include resumes of key team members and stakeholders, and clarify the ownership structure. If you have any particularly credible or expert team members, be sure to introduce them within your business plan. Write a short bio with key credentials and how they contribute to your new business.
4. State your company goals
Every business needs goals, and deciding exactly what yours are might not be so obvious. Yes, your company needs to make a profit, but the goals need to be broken down into more measurable and actionable steps.
Start with desired business goals. Then decide what you need to achieve to make each goal a success. For example, for your company to meet your projected revenue goal, then what do you need to achieve? What marketing goals does the business need to meet to satisfy business goals?
5. Detail values and a mission statement
Of course, your business is here to make money and provide the lifestyle that you want. When writing a business plan, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the data and the money, but your why is the lifeblood of your business.
Take some time to create a page that digs into the meaningful element of your business. What larger problem are you trying to solve? What values will you hold the business to? How will you create a truly meaningful layer within your business?
This section should be very useful for you as a business owner since this is what will keep you going. But, it can also be used to help onboard a team later and better understand your connection with your audience.
6. List products or services
When you write your business plan, you must include your products or services. Detail your products or services, the benefits they provide, and any intellectual property associated with them.
Within this section, write:
- What the product or service is
- How it helps your audience
- How it stands out in the marketplace
For product-based businesses, include:
- A brief introduction to costs (you’ll expand on this later)
- Where products are sourced
- Quantity of products owned
7. Do market research and analysis
Every business must conduct market research to identify your target market. You need to think about the local market and if you’re starting an online business, you must consider the digital market. You may have different competitors in each marketplace.
It’s crucial that you can develop comprehensive market research that shows a deep understanding of competitors and your place amongst them.
Your market research will help you determine if your business venture is justified and also act as support to your proposition which is especially useful when pitching to investors.
The market research section will help you see where the gaps are between your business and competitors, and it will form the beginning of your sales and marketing plan as you strategize to close the gap on leading competitors. This section should include a competitive analysis, showing how your business stands out from competitors, and an overview of your industry’s outlook.
8. Create a marketing and sales plan
Explain your marketing plan, sales plan, and how you’ll attract and retain customers. Your marketing and sales plan will generally be built from your competitor research. You can use competitive data to get a feel for what’s working. However, it’s important to remember that your brand and its audience are unique.
Also, when it comes to marketing, you are better off doing less better than trying to do more poorly, so you must factor in your budgets.
Your marketing plan should be in support of the business goals outlined previously, and have a clear goal and strategy to help achieve it. As a business owner, you are not necessarily expected to know the ins and outs of marketing, so if you need support here, you can get it. You may need to reach out to your marketing team or other professionals who can help you decipher what the business needs to succeed.
9. Create a financial projection and indicate your funding request:
When it comes down to it, finances determine a successful business from an unsuccessful one. If you’re seeking funds, outline your current funding requirements, future funding needs over the next five years, how the funds will be used, and the type of funding you’re seeking (debt or equity).
If you’re seeking investment, your financial forecast is everything. The one thing that investors need to know very clearly is the financial estimations and performance of your business over time. This section should convince investors that your business is stable and will be profitable. Include income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and financial statements. If you’re a startup, provide a sales forecast and loss statements.
In your projection, plan for:
- Expenses including wages
- Pricing of products and/or services
- Contingency for unexpected finances
Related: Check out our detailed guides and discover what is the average cost to start a business . and how you can prepare financial projection for your business plan .
10. Add an appendix
It’s not enough to simply write a business plan; every claim you make needs to be well-documented and supported. So, include an appendix.
This section is optional and used for any additional information, like product pictures, marketing materials, or more detailed studies. Your appendix is a compilation of supporting documentation and/or evidence. Items that might be included in the appendix include:
- Resumes of key team members
- Documentation supporting your market research and analysis. If your plan summarizes findings, include the marketing research and data here.
- Legal documents, such as incorporation papers, patents, or trademarks
- Marketing materials, such as brochures or flyers
- Customer testimonials or case studies. New businesses might not have this, but if you have conducted research or focus groups, you can include findings here.
- Product prototypes or lab tests if you have them
- Any other relevant supporting documentation that was referenced in the main body of the plan.
Types of business plan format
There are three types of business plans, traditional, lean, and nonprofit. Whilst this article focuses primarily on the most common business plan format, the traditional plan, it helps to know what might be involved in other formats.
The traditional format provides a detailed business overview and is useful for presenting to investors or lenders. In a traditional plan, you will likely write more than you would in a lean plan. Some businesses might opt for a traditional plan and then create a lean version for specific functions.
The lean business plan format is, as you would expect, a leaner (simplified) version of a traditional business plan. The lean business plan format includes the most critical aspects of the business. If you’re writing a lean business plan and you want to pitch to investors, then you must include key sections like market analysis, revenue forecasts, etc.
The nonprofit business plan is similar to the traditional business plan, but naturally, it differs as it includes items that are required to run a nonprofit organization. For example, if you were writing a nonprofit business plan, you would likely include all elements of the traditional plan, plus fundraising and development, governance, and financials.
You may also have research from the local area you’re serving to help with that market analysis section. Your aim will be to prove that there’s a public need for your nonprofit.
There are also business plan templates for you to use.
Now, let’s talk about how you can determine the basic questions your plan should answer so you can put pen to paper.
The 5 W’s for writing your first business plan
As you write your first business plan, here is a set of questions designed to help you think through the basics of your business.
Photo: Hanson Lu on Unsplash
We can assume that one of your primary business goals is to get people to buy what you’re selling.
Whether you’re selling a product or a service, on the other side of that transaction is a person who is going to hand you money.
But who is that person? Have you identified your ideal client or target market? Think about who your target customers are. Jot down some notes with all the information you have that can help identify who they are. Gender, income, location, habits — you get the idea.
If you don’t know what types of customers you want, you’ll have a hard time finding them.
Whether your goal is acquiring more clients and creating a team of employees under you, or working freelance until you save enough money to start developing courses, put it on paper.
Track your business activities and fees as your customer base grows
Now add a timeline to keep yourself on track. As you gain new clients, keep this timeline in mind and see if any distractions are preventing you from reaching your goals. Then use that new information to update your business plan.
Maybe you want to work with small startups who need your advice. If you work fast, you might prefer operating on a project rate instead of an hourly rate.
Define what a perfect client means to you and keep this in mind when you’re developing your income stream for your plan.
You might also want to write down ideas for how you’ll attract these clients (other than your website). Will you go out and hit the pavement? Or will you use social networking sites to find new customers? How about advertising, and where?
Then, add these details to the section that outlines the marketing agenda you will use to attract new business.
Going through this process when developing your business plan will also help when you’re looking for clients.
Here is where you determine specifically what it is you are offering the market.
You want to be able to state in a clear and compelling way why your product or service is the solution the market needs and the benefits your product will provide.
Imagine you are at a party and you’re introduced to someone new. After exchanging names, you’ll likely be asked, “What do you do?” Do you have a good answer? That’s known as your elevator pitch — short, sweet and concise, so that anyone can understand.
That’s a much better answer, don’t you agree? I’ve stated exactly who it is I serve, what service I offer, and how I go about it.
Determining income after the “what”
Once you determine your “what,” you’ll need to know how much money you can make.
Most of us would love to earn an unlimited amount of money, however, for our business plan we need to nail down some financial projections. The general rule of thumb is, if you want to earn just as much as you did before starting your own business, take your previous salary and add 25 percent to it to create what is called an “accrual goal.”
This buffer takes unexpected cyclical downturns into account so you’re not left scrounging for money when, for example, a big customer suddenly goes elsewhere. So, let’s say you made $40,000 a year. That’s your salary goal. Adding 25 percent to that would make a total of $50,000 a year, which is your accrual goal.
Now if you break that goal down into manageable targets, you need to earn $12,500 every quarter, or about $4,200 every month to meet that accrual goal.
If you’re just working to put food on the table every week, you might be surprised by how far your actual revenue is from your accrual salary.
Don’t let this just be a pipe dream — make it happen by adding realistic income projections to your business plan.
I know from experience that the “fun” part of starting a business is the creative process of refining your idea and day-dreaming about the possibilities.
The hard part is when you have to work through the drudgery of filling out paperwork, researching vendors and doing those hundreds of little tasks you don’t want to do but need to do to get your business idea out of your head and into reality. Your business plan, for example.
That stuff can take the wind out of your sails and bring you to a dead halt.
How do you get past it? By setting realistic target and launch dates.
After launching, you can continue to refine and look to the next target date.
Put follow-up dates on your calendar to review how things are going and make any necessary adjustments.
Deciding where you’ll sell your products or services is pretty easy. There are two places you can sell: online and offline.
For both of those places, you have the additional options of selling: on your own property or someone else’s.
For example, you could sell from your own website (online, on your property) or you could sell on Etsy (online, on someone else’s property). Or you might sell from both.
The “where” is extremely important to think through for your expense calculations.
How and where you will offer your products or services will trigger a whole series of new decisions.
You’ll want to compare monthly fees, determine whether you need a credit card processor, estimate costs for your own website, and figure out who you need to talk to about business permits.
Owning and operating a business takes serious commitment.
There will be days you’re exhausted, days you’re frustrated, and days you’re stressed to the max. What makes you want to get out of bed on those mornings and go to work? That’s your “why.”
For example, are you running your freelance business like a serious business, or more like work you’re just doing for extra cash on the side?
There is nothing wrong with the latter, but that’s the mark of a hobbyist, not a business owner.
Successful businesses start out with a business plan.
Whether you’re a freelance developer, copywriter or just selling widgets, you know how to create a product that clients are willing to pay for. But that doesn’t guarantee that your business will be profitable.
Setting your vision with your “why”
Your why is that overarching factor that drives what you do.
It might be directly related to your products or services. Or maybe your products and services are just the means to an end.
“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” ~Simon Sinek
That quote is from Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why” and the premise is that customers are attracted to WHY we do what we do, not WHAT we do.
TOMS shoes is a perfect example of this. Their “what” is selling shoes. Their “why” is to improve lives by helping people in need . That’s compelling and attractive.
Customers give them business because they believe in what they’re doing. When you know your why, you can attract customers that understand and believe in your why, too. If you’re using your website to pitch your product, you should already have an “about” page to describe your business to your potential customers.
Essentially, this is the vision you want customers to have of your products, services and skills. This is your why.
You need to answer some questions about your business and your “why” in order to set your vision. For example:
- Do you want to keep a few clients and have free time to develop online courses?
- Do you want to work nights and home-school your kids?
- How long before you expand your offerings? Is there an end goal?
The answers to these types of questions will guide you in creating your first business plan.
Before you start writing your small business plan, read through these tips that might not be so obvious.
Use a business plan template.
Business plans are not new, so why not start with a tried and tested template? There’s plenty of space to turn the template into something unique that feels like yours. Using a template avoids overwhelm and provides structure. Check out this free business plan template you can download and customize in a cinch. A free business plan template can help to ensure you include all necessary information and maintain a professional structure.
Write for yourself, not just investors.
Your business plan is yours . Writing your business plan is your chance to organize your thoughts and get your ideas on paper. Upon completion, you should feel satisfied with your robust roadmap to success. Of course, consider your audience and investors and give them everything they need, but don’t forget to satisfy your own intent. Remember the business plan formats; you can always start with a traditional plan for you, then provide the investors with the lean version.
Demonstrate what makes you unique.
You’re likely joining a busy marketplace, and you want to go in ready to disrupt and stand out. Clearly articulate what sets your business apart from the competition, and explain why customers should choose your products or services.
Use concrete data and examples.
Your business plan is no longer your place to dream. Writing your plan takes dreams and helps you turn them into something tangible and achievable. Within the business plan, you should be able to support your ideas with concrete data and real-world examples. You need to prove to yourself – and investors – that this business is viable.
Be realistic in your projections.
As above, writing your business plan is about creating something achievable, You must be realistic with your projections. Whilst being optimistic is exciting — and you can still be optimistic — you must be realistic in your plan. Your financial information, market analysis, and sales forecast should be realistic. Unrealistic projections can lead to disappointment and mistrust from stakeholders.
Realistic projects are better for you mentally, too. If you’re more likely to achieve your goals, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed. Plus, goals that are not realistic will heap pressure on you and your team, and that’s the last thing a new business needs.
Keep it concise & use understandable language.
Your business plan should be clear and concise. Overly long or complicated plans can deter potential investors. Avoid jargon and use plain, understandable language to explain your business idea and plans.
Review and revise.
Regularly review and update your business plan to reflect your business’s current situation and future goals.
Editor’s Note: A business plan is just one part of the journey of starting a new business, for the entire step by step process check out our guide on how to start an online business .
Writing a business plan FAQ
Here are your most asked questions, answered.
How do I write a simple business plan?
You will write a simple business plan if you keep focused and aim to be thorough but concise. Aim to cover all important aspects and don’t over-plan. Focus on shorter time frames and be realistic about what can be done. Rely on research and data to help shape the plan.
Can I write a business plan myself?
Yes, you can write a business plan yourself. Business owners often write their business plans. That said, if your plan covers areas of business where you’re not so strong, you might need support. For example, you may seek professional help for certain sections, like the financial projections.
How long should a business plan be?
Your business plan will be as long as it needs to be, but the aim here is to create something thorough but concise. As a guide, aim for around 15 to 20 pages. However, the length can vary depending on the complexity of the business and the purpose of the plan.
How long should it take to write a business plan?
Writing your business plan will probably take a few days, but you’ll need to do a lot of research behind the scenes. You also need to step away from the plan, return and edit it to ensure it is accurate and void of errors. A business plan should take three months from beginning to end.
What if my business doesn’t go according to the plan?
It’s normal for businesses to deviate from their initial plans. Regularly review and adjust your business plan as necessary.
How often should I update my business plan?
It’s a good practice to update your business plan annually or whenever significant changes occur in your business or the market.
Writing a business plan is an essential step for any entrepreneur or small business owner. It not only helps you validate your business idea but also allows you to identify potential challenges and opportunities. Remember, a well-crafted business plan serves as a roadmap, guiding your business towards its goals and milestones. Happy planning!
Editor’s Note: This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by Carrie Dils, Judith Kallos and Alex Neri .
How to Write Your Business Plan Cover Page + Template
6 min. read
Updated November 20, 2023
The cover page is likely the last thing you’ll consider when writing a business plan .
While it’s not the most vital part of your business plan, a well-formatted cover page can be a nice touch when pitching to investors , banks , or business partners.
In this article, we’ll cover what to include and how to format your cover page so you can assemble an impressive page in just a few minutes.
- What is a business plan cover page?
The business plan cover page – or title page – is the introduction to your business plan document. It should be simple and straightforward—only providing logistical information about your business for stakeholders to reference.
Unlike your executive summary , a summarized version of your business plan, the cover page is strictly meant to provide contact information and set the tone for what they are about to read. The quality, formatting, and readability can all impact a stakeholder’s expectations for your plan and business.
- Why do you need a cover page for a business plan?
To be clear, the cover page is not a required section of your business plan.
It’s a largely decorative addition meant to grab the attention of a stakeholder. It should introduce you, your business, and the planning document and make it easy for the reader to find your contact information.
If you’re writing a business plan purely for internal purposes , you probably don’t need to spend time on a cover page.
But if you pitch to investors , apply for a loan , or approach a potential partner—a cover page can be a nice touch that makes you (and your business) look more professional.
- What to include in your business plan cover page
It’s best to keep your cover page simple. The page should only include:
- Company logo
- Business name
- Value proposition (optional)
- Business plan title
- Completion and/or update date
- Address and contact information
- Confidentiality statement
- How to create your business plan cover page
Creating a cover page shouldn’t take too long. Gather all the information listed above, and then fine-tune the formatting. Here’s how we recommend you organize the information:
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1. Start with your logo
Including your logo should help your business be more memorable. Just be sure it’s memorable for the right reasons.
That means adding a reasonably sized, high-resolution image at the top of your cover page. Just don’t make it so large that it takes attention away from other information on the page.
2. Add your business name
You want readers to connect your business name to your logo. So, add some space (2-3 lines) and drop your name front and center. Consider using a large and bold font option to ensure it’s easy to read and immediately noticeable.
3. Include your value proposition (optional)
While optional, including your value proposition can be useful if it effectively describes your business purpose.
4. Craft a title
Now you need to describe the document’s purpose. Don’t overthink it – start by adding “Business Plan” to the center of the page. Keep the bold font, but apply a slightly smaller font size than with your business name.
From there, you can apply a title that frames the type of business plan you’re creating: “ One-page ,” “ 5-year ,” “Merger,” “ Growth plan ,” etc.
Expanding the title is optional and should only be done if you believe it will benefit the reader.
5. Add the completion date
Including the completion date shows how fresh and up-to-date your plan is. Ideally, you’re revisiting your plan regularly (especially the financial projections in your plan). So the date should be relatively recent.
This information alone can show how focused and dedicated you are to running a successful business.
As far as formatting is concerned, keep it simple. Include the month, day, and year – either numerically (9/15/2023) or spelled out (September 15, 2023).
6. List your contact information
This is the true purpose of your cover page. The last thing you want is for an investor or lender to love your pitch only to have to scrounge around for your email or phone number.
Add a header that states “Contact Information” centered near the bottom of the page. Then, on separate lines, add your name (or other points of contact for your business), email address, phone number, business website, and physical address.
Tip: If you’re sending your plan digitally, add links to your email address and website so they can reach you quickly.
7. Include a confidentiality statement
The confidentiality statement is meant to help legally protect your information and ensure that no one shares or copies portions of your business plan.
You can include a simple “Confidential” watermark near the top of the page or write a more thorough statement to sit at the bottom.
Here’s an example:
“This document contains confidential and proprietary information created by [your business]. It is exclusively designed for informational purposes and should not be disclosed, shared, or copied without the consent of [your business].”
Don’t worry too much about emphasizing this information. It can sit as smaller text in the footer of your cover page.
- Tips to make your cover page memorable
Adding the information should be quick. Now, spend some time on these best practices to get your business plan title page ready to share.
Apply consistent formatting
Inconsistent formatting looks unprofessional and can make a document more difficult to read. So check that your character and line spacing, font choices, and text alignment are consistent to ensure they are identical.
You should also print out the document (as a Word Document and PDF) to check if the format changes.
Use your brand color scheme
Adding your brand colors to text, borders, and other design elements can strengthen the presence of your brand identity in your business plan. It also better connects non-visual elements to your logo.
Just don’t force adding color to your plan. If it takes away from the text or takes too much time to get right, it’s best to avoid it.
Check your cover page from top to bottom for spelling errors and mistakes (you should do this for your entire business plan). If possible, have someone else proofread it to ensure you didn’t miss anything.
- Business plan cover page examples
To help you visualize your cover page design, here is an example from our free business plan template :
We recommend you avoid creating an overly designed business plan. However, if you believe a more visual cover page will grab your reader’s attention—check out these other examples.
- Spend more time on the rest of your business plan
We’ve already emphasized that you shouldn’t spend too much time creating a business plan cover page. While it can be a nice addition, it’s often quickly skipped over and only referenced again if the reader needs your contact information.
And it’s unnecessary altogether if you’re not planning to share your plan with anyone. If that’s the case, focus your time and effort on writing the rest of your business plan.
Check out our full plan writing guide for step-by-step walkthroughs for every section.
You can also download a free business plan template (that includes a cover page) to ensure you cover everything about your business.
See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan
Kody Wirth is a content writer and SEO specialist for Palo Alto Software—the creator's of Bplans and LivePlan. He has 3+ years experience covering small business topics and runs a part-time content writing service in his spare time.
Table of Contents
10 Min. Read
How to Write a Mobile App Business Plan + Free Template
8 Min. Read
How to Format a Business Plan in 8 Simple Steps
6 Min. Read
11 Common Business Plan Mistakes to Avoid in 2023
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Don't Make These 4 Mistakes in Your Executive Summary
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