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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

Rosalie Murphy

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

What is a business plan?

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. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.

Bizee

A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers 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. This should contain basic 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, write a little about 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

business plan format for small business

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

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.

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.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» 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.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate 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.

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.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

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?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. 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. 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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24 of My Favorite Sample Business Plans & Examples For Your Inspiration

Clifford Chi

Published: February 06, 2024

Free Business Plan Template

business plan format for small business

The essential document for starting a business -- custom built for your needs.

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I believe that reading sample business plans is essential when writing your own.

sample business plans and examples

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As you explore business plan examples from real companies and brands, it’s easier for you to learn how to write a good one.

But what does a good business plan look like? And how do you write one that’s both viable and convincing. I’ll walk you through the ideal business plan format along with some examples to help you get started.

Table of Contents

Business Plan Format

Business plan types, sample business plan templates, top business plan examples.

Ask any successful sports coach how they win so many games, and they’ll tell you they have a unique plan for every single game. To me, the same logic applies to business.

If you want to build a thriving company that can pull ahead of the competition, you need to prepare for battle before breaking into a market.

Business plans guide you along the rocky journey of growing a company. And if your business plan is compelling enough, it can also convince investors to give you funding.

With so much at stake, I’m sure you’re wondering where to begin.

business plan format for small business

  • Outline your idea.
  • Pitch to investors.
  • Secure funding.
  • Get to work!

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Fill out the form to get your free template.

First, you’ll want to nail down your formatting. Most business plans include the following sections.

1. Executive Summary

I’d say the executive summary is the most important section of the entire business plan. 

Why? Essentially, it's the overview or introduction, written in a way to grab readers' attention and guide them through the rest of the business plan. This is important, because a business plan can be dozens or hundreds of pages long.

There are two main elements I’d recommend including in your executive summary:

Company Description

This is the perfect space to highlight your company’s mission statement and goals, a brief overview of your history and leadership, and your top accomplishments as a business.

Tell potential investors who you are and why what you do matters. Naturally, they’re going to want to know who they’re getting into business with up front, and this is a great opportunity to showcase your impact.

Need some extra help firming up those business goals? Check out HubSpot Academy’s free course to help you set goals that matter — I’d highly recommend it

Products and Services

To piggyback off of the company description, be sure to incorporate an overview of your offerings. This doesn’t have to be extensive — just another chance to introduce your industry and overall purpose as a business.

In addition to the items above, I recommend including some information about your financial projections and competitive advantage here too.:

Keep in mind you'll cover many of these topics in more detail later on in the business plan. So, keep the executive summary clear and brief, and only include the most important takeaways.

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

This example was created with HubSpot’s business plan template:

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example

This executive summary is so good to me because it tells potential investors a short story while still covering all of the most important details.

Business plans examples: Executive Summary

Image Source

Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

  • Start with a strong introduction of your company, showcase your mission and impact, and outline the products and services you provide.
  • Clearly define a problem, and explain how your product solves that problem, and show why the market needs your business.
  • Be sure to highlight your value proposition, market opportunity, and growth potential.
  • Keep it concise and support ideas with data.
  • Customize your summary to your audience. For example, emphasize finances and return on investment for venture capitalists.

Check out our tips for writing an effective executive summary for more guidance.

2. Market Opportunity

This is where you'll detail the opportunity in the market.

The main question I’d ask myself here is this: Where is the gap in the current industry, and how will my product fill that gap?

More specifically, here’s what I’d include in this section:

  • The size of the market
  • Current or potential market share
  • Trends in the industry and consumer behavior
  • Where the gap is
  • What caused the gap
  • How you intend to fill it

To get a thorough understanding of the market opportunity, you'll want to conduct a TAM, SAM, and SOM analysis and perform market research on your industry.

You may also benefit from creating a SWOT analysis to get some of the insights for this section.

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

I like this example because it uses critical data to underline the size of the potential market and what part of that market this service hopes to capture.

Business plans examples: Market Opportunity

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

  • Focus on demand and potential for growth.
  • Use market research, surveys, and industry trend data to support your market forecast and projections.
  • Add a review of regulation shifts, tech advances, and consumer behavior changes.
  • Refer to reliable sources.
  • Showcase how your business can make the most of this opportunity.

3. Competitive Landscape

Since we’re already speaking of market share, you'll also need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are.

After all, your customers likely have more than one brand to choose from, and you'll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another.

My favorite part of performing a competitive analysis is that it can help you uncover:

  • Industry trends that other brands may not be utilizing
  • Strengths in your competition that may be obstacles to handle
  • Weaknesses in your competition that may help you develop selling points
  • The unique proposition you bring to the market that may resonate with customers

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

I like how the competitive landscape section of this business plan below shows a clear outline of who the top competitors are.

Business plans examples: Competitive Landscape

It also highlights specific industry knowledge and the importance of location, which shows useful experience in this specific industry. 

This can help build trust in your ability to execute your business plan.

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

  • Complete in-depth research, then emphasize your most important findings.
  • Compare your unique selling proposition (USP) to your direct and indirect competitors.
  • Show a clear and realistic plan for product and brand differentiation.
  • Look for specific advantages and barriers in the competitive landscape. Then, highlight how that information could impact your business.
  • Outline growth opportunities from a competitive perspective.
  • Add customer feedback and insights to support your competitive analysis.

4. Target Audience

Use this section to describe who your customer segments are in detail. What is the demographic and psychographic information of your audience?

If your immediate answer is "everyone," you'll need to dig deeper. Here are some questions I’d ask myself here:

  • What demographics will most likely need/buy your product or service?
  • What are the psychographics of this audience? (Desires, triggering events, etc.)
  • Why are your offerings valuable to them?

I’d also recommend building a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be clear on why you're targeting them.

Target Audience Business Plan Example

I like the example below because it uses in-depth research to draw conclusions about audience priorities. It also analyzes how to create the right content for this audience.

Business plans examples: Target Audience

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

  • Include details on the size and growth potential of your target audience.
  • Figure out and refine the pain points for your target audience , then show why your product is a useful solution.
  • Describe your targeted customer acquisition strategy in detail.
  • Share anticipated challenges your business may face in acquiring customers and how you plan to address them.
  • Add case studies, testimonials, and other data to support your target audience ideas.
  • Remember to consider niche audiences and segments of your target audience in your business plan.

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. I’d suggest including information:

  • Your brand positioning vision and how you'll cultivate it
  • The goal targets you aim to achieve
  • The metrics you'll use to measure success
  • The channels and distribution tactics you'll use

I think it’s helpful to have a marketing plan built out in advance to make this part of your business plan easier.

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

This business plan example includes the marketing strategy for the town of Gawler.

In my opinion, it really works because it offers a comprehensive picture of how they plan to use digital marketing to promote the community.

Business plans examples: Marketing Strategy

Tips for Writing Your Marketing Strategy

  • Include a section about how you believe your brand vision will appeal to customers.
  • Add the budget and resources you'll need to put your plan in place.
  • Outline strategies for specific marketing segments.
  • Connect strategies to earlier sections like target audience and competitive analysis.
  • Review how your marketing strategy will scale with the growth of your business.
  • Cover a range of channels and tactics to highlight your ability to adapt your plan in the face of change.

6. Key Features and Benefits

At some point in your business plan, you'll need to review the key features and benefits of your products and/or services.

Laying these out can give readers an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use. It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.

Key Features and Benefits Business Plan Example

In my opinion, the example below does a great job outlining products and services for this business, along with why these qualities will attract the audience.

Business plans examples: Key Features and Benefits

Tips for Writing Your Key Features and Benefits

  • Emphasize why and how your product or service offers value to customers.
  • Use metrics and testimonials to support the ideas in this section.
  • Talk about how your products and services have the potential to scale.
  • Think about including a product roadmap.
  • Focus on customer needs, and how the features and benefits you are sharing meet those needs.
  • Offer proof of concept for your ideas, like case studies or pilot program feedback.
  • Proofread this section carefully, and remove any jargon or complex language.

7. Pricing and Revenue

This is where you'll discuss your cost structure and various revenue streams. Your pricing strategy must be solid enough to turn a profit while staying competitive in the industry. 

For this reason, here’s what I’d might outline in this section:

  • The specific pricing breakdowns per product or service
  • Why your pricing is higher or lower than your competition's
  • (If higher) Why customers would be willing to pay more
  • (If lower) How you're able to offer your products or services at a lower cost
  • When you expect to break even, what margins do you expect, etc?

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

I like how this business plan example begins with an overview of the business revenue model, then shows proposed pricing for key products.

Business plans examples: Pricing and Revenue

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

  • Get specific about your pricing strategy. Specifically, how you connect that strategy to customer needs and product value.
  • If you are asking a premium price, share unique features or innovations that justify that price point.
  • Show how you plan to communicate pricing to customers.
  • Create an overview of every revenue stream for your business and how each stream adds to your business model as a whole.
  • Share plans to develop new revenue streams in the future.
  • Show how and whether pricing will vary by customer segment and how pricing aligns with marketing strategies.
  • Restate your value proposition and explain how it aligns with your revenue model.

8. Financials

To me, this section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to figure out funding strategies, investment opportunities, and more.

 According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:

  • Profit/Loss Statement - This answers the question of whether your business is currently profitable.
  • Cash Flow Statement - This details exactly how much cash is incoming and outgoing to give insight into how much cash a business has on hand.
  • Balance Sheet - This outlines assets, liabilities, and equity, which gives insight into how much a business is worth.

While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details I’d include in this section.

Financials Business Plan Example

This balance sheet is a great example of level of detail you’ll need to include in the financials section of your business plan.

Business plans examples: Financials

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

  • Growth potential is important in this section too. Using your data, create a forecast of financial performance in the next three to five years.
  • Include any data that supports your projections to assure investors of the credibility of your proposal.
  • Add a break-even analysis to show that your business plan is financially practical. This information can also help you pivot quickly as your business grows.
  • Consider adding a section that reviews potential risks and how sensitive your plan is to changes in the market.
  • Triple-check all financial information in your plan for accuracy.
  • Show how any proposed funding needs align with your plans for growth.

As you create your business plan, keep in mind that each of these sections will be formatted differently. Some may be in paragraph format, while others could be charts or graphs.

The formats above apply to most types of business plans. That said, the format and structure of your plan will vary by your goals for that plan. 

So, I’ve added a quick review of different business plan types. For a more detailed overview, check out this post .

1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas.

If you’re planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business.

You can check out this guide for more detailed business plan inspiration .

2. Feasibility Studies

Feasibility business plans focus on that business's product or service. Feasibility plans are sometimes added to startup business plans. They can also be a new business plan for an already thriving organization.

3. Internal Use

You can use internal business plans to share goals, strategies, or performance updates with stakeholders. In my opinion, internal business plans are useful for alignment and building support for ambitious goals.

4. Strategic Initiatives

Another business plan that's often for sharing internally is a strategic business plan. This plan covers long-term business objectives that might not have been included in the startup business plan.

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

When a business is moving forward with an acquisition or repositioning, it may need extra structure and support. These types of business plans expand on a company's acquisition or repositioning strategy.

Growth sometimes just happens as a business continues operations. But more often, a business needs to create a structure with specific targets to meet set goals for expansion. This business plan type can help a business focus on short-term growth goals and align resources with those goals.

Now that you know what's included and how to format a business plan, let's review some of my favorite templates.

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

Download a free, editable one-page business plan template..

The business plan linked above was created here at HubSpot and is perfect for businesses of any size — no matter how many strategies we still have to develop.

Fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline give this one-page business plan a framework for how to build your brand and what tasks to keep track of as you grow.

Then, as the business matures, you can expand on your original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.

Why I Like It

This one-page business plan is a fantastic choice for the new business owner who doesn’t have the time or resources to draft a full-blown business plan. It includes all the essential sections in an accessible, bullet-point-friendly format. That way, you can get the broad strokes down before honing in on the details.

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

We also created a business plan template for entrepreneurs.

The template is designed as a guide and checklist for starting your own business. You’ll learn what to include in each section of your business plan and how to do it.

There’s also a list for you to check off when you finish each section of your business plan.

Strong game plans help coaches win games and help businesses rocket to the top of their industries. So if you dedicate the time and effort required to write a workable and convincing business plan, you’ll boost your chances of success and even dominance in your market.

This business plan kit is essential for the budding entrepreneur who needs a more extensive document to share with investors and other stakeholders.

It not only includes sections for your executive summary, product line, market analysis, marketing plan, and sales plan, but it also offers hands-on guidance for filling out those sections.

3. LiveFlow’s Financial Planning Template with built-in automation

Sample Business Plan: LiveFLow

This free template from LiveFlow aims to make it easy for businesses to create a financial plan and track their progress on a monthly basis.

The P&L Budget versus Actual format allows users to track their revenue, cost of sales, operating expenses, operating profit margin, net profit, and more.

The summary dashboard aggregates all of the data put into the financial plan sheet and will automatically update when changes are made.

Instead of wasting hours manually importing your data to your spreadsheet, LiveFlow can also help you to automatically connect your accounting and banking data directly to your spreadsheet, so your numbers are always up-to-date.

With the dashboard, you can view your runway, cash balance, burn rate, gross margins, and other metrics. Having a simple way to track everything in one place will make it easier to complete the financials section of your business plan.

This is a fantastic template to track performance and alignment internally and to create a dependable process for documenting financial information across the business. It’s highly versatile and beginner-friendly.

It’s especially useful if you don’t have an accountant on the team. (I always recommend you do, but for new businesses, having one might not be possible.)

4. ThoughtCo’s Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: ThoughtCo.

One of the more financially oriented sample business plans in this list, BPlan’s free business plan template dedicates many of its pages to your business’s financial plan and financial statements.

After filling this business plan out, your company will truly understand its financial health and the steps you need to take to maintain or improve it.

I absolutely love this business plan template because of its ease-of-use and hands-on instructions (in addition to its finance-centric components). If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of writing an entire business plan, consider using this template to help you with the process.

6. Harvard Business Review’s "How to Write a Winning Business Plan"

Most sample business plans teach you what to include in your business plan, but this Harvard Business Review article will take your business plan to the next level — it teaches you the why and how behind writing a business plan.

With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of " Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum ", you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service.

You’ll also learn the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.

This business plan guide focuses less on the individual parts of a business plan, and more on the overarching goal of writing one. For that reason, it’s one of my favorites to supplement any template you choose to use. Harvard Business Review’s guide is instrumental for both new and seasoned business owners.

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know writing a business plan is one of the most challenging first steps to starting a business.

Fortunately, with HubSpot's comprehensive guide to starting a business, you'll learn how to map out all the details by understanding what to include in your business plan and why it’s important to include them. The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you.

If you need further guidance on starting a business, HubSpot's guide can teach you how to make your business legal, choose and register your business name, and fund your business. It will also give small business tax information and includes marketing, sales, and service tips.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of starting a business, in addition to writing your business plan, with a high level of exactitude and detail. So if you’re in the midst of starting your business, this is an excellent guide for you.

It also offers other resources you might need, such as market analysis templates.

8. Panda Doc’s Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Panda Doc

PandaDoc’s free business plan template is one of the more detailed and fleshed-out sample business plans on this list. It describes what you should include in each section, so you don't have to come up with everything from scratch.

Once you fill it out, you’ll fully understand your business’ nitty-gritty details and how all of its moving parts should work together to contribute to its success.

This template has two things I love: comprehensiveness and in-depth instructions. Plus, it’s synced with PandaDoc’s e-signature software so that you and other stakeholders can sign it with ease. For that reason, I especially love it for those starting a business with a partner or with a board of directors.

9. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan.

Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need — a traditional or lean start-up plan.

Then, you can review the format for both of those plans and view examples of what they might look like.

We love both of the SBA’s templates because of their versatility. You can choose between two options and use the existing content in the templates to flesh out your own plan. Plus, if needed, you can get a free business counselor to help you along the way.

I’ve compiled some completed business plan samples to help you get an idea of how to customize a plan for your business.

I chose different types of business plan ideas to expand your imagination. Some are extensive, while others are fairly simple.

Let’s take a look.

1. LiveFlow

business plan example: liveflow

One of the major business expenses is marketing. How you handle your marketing reflects your company’s revenue.

I included this business plan to show you how you can ensure your marketing team is aligned with your overall business plan to get results. The plan also shows you how to track even the smallest metrics of your campaigns, like ROI and payback periods instead of just focusing on big metrics like gross and revenue.

Fintech startup, LiveFlow, allows users to sync real-time data from its accounting services, payment platforms, and banks into custom reports. This eliminates the task of pulling reports together manually, saving teams time and helping automate workflows.

"Using this framework over a traditional marketing plan will help you set a profitable marketing strategy taking things like CAC, LTV, Payback period, and P&L into consideration," explains LiveFlow co-founder, Lasse Kalkar .

When it came to including marketing strategy in its business plan, LiveFlow created a separate marketing profit and loss statement (P&L) to track how well the company was doing with its marketing initiatives.

This is a great approach, allowing businesses to focus on where their marketing dollars are making the most impact. Having this information handy will enable you to build out your business plan’s marketing section with confidence. LiveFlow has shared the template here . You can test it for yourself.

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

Sometimes all you need is a solid mission statement and core values to guide you on how to go about everything. You do this by creating a business plan revolving around how to fulfill your statement best.

For example, Patagonia is an eco-friendly company, so their plan discusses how to make the best environmentally friendly products without causing harm.

A good mission statement  should not only resonate with consumers but should also serve as a core value compass for employees as well.

Patagonia has one of the most compelling mission statements I’ve seen:

"Together, let’s prioritise purpose over profit and protect this wondrous planet, our only home."

It reels you in from the start, and the environmentally friendly theme continues throughout the rest of the statement.

This mission goes on to explain that they are out to "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to protect nature."

Their mission statement is compelling and detailed, with each section outlining how they will accomplish their goal.

4. Vesta Home Automation

business plan example: Vesta executive summary

This executive summary for a smart home device startup is part of a business plan created by students at Mount Royal University .

While it lacks some of the sleek visuals of the templates above, its executive summary does a great job of demonstrating how invested they are in the business.

Right away, they mention they’ve invested $200,000 into the company already, which shows investors they have skin in the game and aren’t just looking for someone else to foot the bill.

This is the kind of business plan you need when applying for business funds. It clearly illustrates the expected future of the company and how the business has been coming along over the years.

5. NALB Creative Center

business plan examples: nalb creative center

This fictional business plan for an art supply store includes everything one might need in a business plan: an executive summary, a company summary, a list of services, a market analysis summary, and more.

One of its most notable sections is its market analysis summary, which includes an overview of the population growth in the business’ target geographical area, as well as a breakdown of the types of potential customers they expect to welcome at the store. 

This sort of granular insight is essential for understanding and communicating your business’s growth potential. Plus, it lays a strong foundation for creating relevant and useful buyer personas .

It’s essential to keep this information up-to-date as your market and target buyer changes. For that reason, you should carry out market research as often as possible to ensure that you’re targeting the correct audience and sharing accurate information with your investors.

Due to its comprehensiveness, it’s an excellent example to follow if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store and need to get external funding to start your business .

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

If you’re looking for a SaaS business plan example, look no further than this business plan for a fictional educational software company called Curriculum Companion Suites. 

Like the business plan for the NALB Creative Center, it includes plenty of information for prospective investors and other key stakeholders in the business.

One of the most notable features of this business plan is the executive summary, which includes an overview of the product, market, and mission.

The first two are essential for software companies because the product offering is so often at the forefront of the company’s strategy. Without that information being immediately available to investors and executives, then you risk writing an unfocused business plan.

It’s essential to front-load your company’s mission if it explains your "Why?" and this example does just that. In other words, why do you do what you do, and why should stakeholders care? This is an important section to include if you feel that your mission will drive interest in the business and its offerings.

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

Culina's sample business plan is an excellent example of how to lay out your business plan so that it flows naturally, engages readers, and provides the critical information investors and stakeholders need. 

You can use this template as a guide while you're gathering important information for your own business plan. You'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do since Culina’s plan outlines these details so flawlessly for inspiration.

8. Plum Sample Business Plan

Sample business plan: Plum

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Free Small Business Plan Templates and Examples

By Kate Eby | April 27, 2022

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We’ve compiled the most useful collection of free small business plan templates for entrepreneurs, project managers, development teams, investors, and other stakeholders, as well as a list of useful tips for filling out a small business template.

Included on this page, you’ll find a simple small business template and a one-page small business plan template . You can also download a fill-in-the-blank small business plan template , and a sample small business plan template to get started.

Small Business Plan Template

Small Business Plan Template

Download Small Business Plan Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Google Docs  

Use this small business plan template to identify trends and demographics in the company overview. Highlight how your product or service uniquely benefits consumers in the offerings section, and note your proposed timeline, milestones, and the key performance metrics (KPIs) you will use to measure your success. This template has all the components of a standard business plan, from the executive summary through financing details.

Small Business Plan Sample Template

Small Business Plan Sample Template

Download Small Business Plan Sample Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Google Docs  

Use this small business plan sample template to draft the subsections and headings of the contents of your plan. This template provides editable sample text that shows you how to organize and create a ready-to-be-implemented business plan. This sample template helps remove the guesswork of what to include in a small business plan.

Simple Small Business Plan Template

Simple Small Business Plan Template

Download Simple Small Business Plan Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Use this streamlined, customizable, simple small business plan template to chart revenue, expenses, and net profit or loss forecasts with sample graphics. Order your small business plan with numbered subsections and list them in a table of contents. Supplement the plan with additional information in the appendix for a complete business plan that you can present to investors.

Small Business Plan Chart Template

Small Business Plan Chart Template Powerpoint

Download Small Business Plan Chart Template Microsoft PowerPoint | Google Slides

Use this small business plan chart template to plan and track month-by-month and annual business planning. The flexible color-coded bar chart simplifies tracking and allows you to customize the plan to meet your needs. Add tasks, track owner status, and adjust the timeline to chart your progress with this dynamic, visually rich small business planning tool.

Small Business Plan Outline Template

Small Business Plan Outline Template

Download Small Business Plan Outline Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Google Docs

Use this small business plan outline template to jumpstart a plan for your small business. This template includes the nine essential elements of a traditional business plan, plus a title page, a table of contents, and an appendix to ensure that your document is complete, comprehensive, and in order. Easily simplify or expand the outline to meet your company’s needs.

Printable Small Business Plan Template

Printable Small Business Plan Template

Download Printable Small Business Plan Template  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Google Docs

This print-friendly small business plan template is ideal for presentations to investors and stakeholders. The customizable template includes all the standard, critical business plan elements, and serves as a guide for writing a complete and comprehensive plan. Easily edit and add content to this printable template, so you can focus on executing the small business plan.

Small Business Startup Plan Template

Small Business Startup Plan Template

Download Small Business Startup Plan Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Google Docs  

Use this small business startup plan template to draft your mission statement and list your keys to business success, in order to persuade investors and inform stakeholders. Customize your startup plan with fillable tables for sales revenue, gross profit margin, and cost of sales projections to secure your business's pricing structure.

Fill-in-the-Blank Small Business Plan Template

Fill-in-the-Blank Small Business Plan Template

Download Fill-in-the-Blank Small Business Plan Template  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

This small business plan template simplifies the process to help you create a comprehensive, organized business plan. Simply enter original content for the executive summary, company overview, and other sections to customize the plan. This fill-in-the-blank small business plan template helps you to maintain organization and removes the guesswork in order to ensure success.

One Page Small Business Plan Template

One Page Small Business Plan Template

Download One Page Small Business Plan Template  Microsoft Excel | Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

This one page small business plan template is ideal for quick, simple presentations. Use this template to summarize your business overview, market analysis, marketing, and sales plan, key objectives and success metrics, and milestones timeline. Complete the fillable sections to educate investors and inform stakeholders.

One Page Small Business Plan Example

One Page Small Business Plan Example

Download One Page Business Plan Example Microsoft Excel | Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

This one page small business plan example prompts you to list your vision, mission, product or service, team member names, roles, and relevant experience to promote your small business. Use the market analysis, marketing, sales plan sections to detail how you aim to sell your product or service. This small business plan features fillable tables for key objectives and success metrics. Plus, you’ll find space for your financial cost structure and revenue sources to show how your business will remain profitable.

What Is a Small Business Plan Template?

A small business plan template is a roadmap for defining your business objectives and detailing the operational, financial, and marketing resources required for success. Use a small business plan template to strategize growth, forecast financial needs, and promote investment. 

A small business plan template organizes and outlines the content needed to achieve goals for growth and profit, including marketing and sales tactics. As opposed to starting from scratch, using a template makes it easy to organize the information and customize the plan to meet your needs. 

A small business plan template includes standard business plan sections, as well as the following sections: 

  • Executive Summary: Summarize the key points in your small business plan in two pages or less to hold your reader's attention and promote buy-in. Write this section last to capitalize on your understanding of the small business plan.
  • Company Overview: Describe the nature of your small business, the industry landscape and trends, demographics, and economic and governmental influences. List your location, product or service, and goals to show what makes your small business unique.
  • Problem and Solution: Identify and explain the problem your product or service will solve and its costs. Propose and describe your solution and its benefits. Conclude this section with a summary of the problem and solution.
  • Target Market: Identify your small business's target market by researching your product and service to determine the most likely demographic. Explain your target market's motivations for buying your product or service.
  • Competition: Note the other competitor product or service offerings, pricing, and company revenues to understand how to outperform your competitors. Detail your small business's competitive advantages, based on research.
  • Product or Service Offerings: Describe your product or service, how it benefits your target market, and what makes it unique. Highlight how your product or service will outsell competitors.
  • Marketing: Detail your marketing plan with objectives and strategy, including goals, costs, and an action plan. A successful marketing plan reduces costs and boosts your product or service sales.
  • Timeline and Metrics: Break down your small business plan into smaller activities. Describe these activities (and the performance metrics you intend to use to track them) and list a completion date for each.
  • Financial Forecasts: Explain how your organization uses past performance and market research to inform your business's economic forecasts. Estimate growth and profits based on your informed assumptions.
  • Financing: List your funding sources and how you intend to use the funds to keep your company on track as it grows. Smart financing at the planning stage prepares your organization for unexpected challenges and helps to mitigate risk.

A small business plan template enables you to complete your business plan quickly and comprehensively, so you can achieve your goals and turn your product or service idea into a profitable reality.

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BUSINESS STRATEGIES

Free business plan template for small businesses

  • Cecilia Lazzaro Blasbalg
  • Dec 7, 2023

Free business plan template for your new business

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.

Ready to launch your business? Create a website today.

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.

Download your free Wix business plan template

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.

essential parts of a business plan

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)?

Benefits of a business plan template

Business plan templates offer numerous benefits for entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners. Here are some key advantages:

1. Save time and effort: Templates provide a pre-defined structure, eliminating the need to start from scratch. This frees up valuable time and effort that can be invested in other crucial aspects of business development.

2. Improve structure: Templates ensure a consistent and organized approach to presenting your business plan. This makes it easier for potential investors, lenders and advisors to understand your vision and evaluate the feasibility of your business. 3. Enhance professionalism: Using a well-designed template demonstrates professionalism and seriousness to external stakeholders. This can significantly impact their perception of your business and increase their confidence in your venture. 4. Guide your thought process: Templates act as a helpful framework, prompting you to consider all the key elements of your business plan and ensuring you haven't overlooked any critical areas. 5. Ensure completeness: Templates often include checklists and prompts to ensure you cover all essential information, minimizing the risk of missing crucial details. 6. Standardize formatting: Templates ensure a consistent and uniform appearance throughout your business plan, contributing to a more polished and professional presentation. 7. Access to expert knowledge: Many templates are developed by experienced business professionals or organizations, incorporating best practices and insights gained from successful ventures. 8. Adaptability and customization: While templates offer a basic structure, they can be easily customized to reflect the unique characteristics and needs of your specific business. 9. Cost-effectiveness: Templates are generally available for free or at a low cost, making them an accessible and budget-friendly option for entrepreneurs. 10. Increased success rate: Studies have shown that businesses with well-developed plans are more likely to succeed. Templates can help you create a comprehensive and persuasive plan, increasing your chances of securing funding and achieving your business goals.

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 plan 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?

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business plan

How to Write a Business Plan in 2023: The Ultimate Guide for Every Entrepreneur

Are you starting a new business or trying to get a loan for your existing venture? If so, you’re going to need to know how to write a business plan. Business plans give entrepreneurs the opportunity to formally analyze and define every aspect of their business idea .

In this post, you’ll learn how to put together a business plan and find the best resources to help you along the way.

business plan format for small business

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business plan format for small business

What is a Business Plan? 

A business plan is a formal document that outlines your business’s goals and how you will achieve those goals. Entrepreneurs who start out with business plans are 16 percent more likely to build successful companies , according to the Harvard Business Review.  Developing a business plan ensures sustainable success, guiding you as you grow your business, legitimizing your venture, and helping you secure funding (among countless other benefits). 

What Are the Main Purposes of a Business Plan?

Most financial institutions and service providers require you to submit a detailed business plan to obtain funding for your business. Online businesses will likely have a low overhead to start, so they may not need funding and therefore may not feel the need to write a business plan. That said, writing a business plan is still a good idea as it can help you secure a drastic increase limit on your credit card as your business grows or open a business account. This varies per bank.

If you’re growing your business, use it to help you raise expansion capital, create a growth strategy, find opportunities, and mitigate risks.Palo Alto software found that companies who make business plans are twice as likely to secure funding . .

→ Click Here to Launch Your Online Business with Shopify

If you’re just starting your business, making a business plan can help you  identify your strengths and weaknesses, communicate your vision to others, and develop accurate forecasts.

business plan format

How to Make a Business Plan: The Prerequisites 

Here are the prerequisites to creating a solid business plan:

  • Establish goals
  • Understand your audience
  • Determine your business plan format
  • Get to writing! 

Establish Goals

There are two key questions to ask here: 

  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business plan?

Approaching your business plan through that lens will help you focus on the end goal throughout the writing process. These also provide metrics to measure success against. 

Before writing your business plan, gather the content and data needed to inform what goes in it. This includes researching your market and industry – spanning everything from customer research to legalities you’ll need to consider. It’s a lot easier to start with the information already in front of you instead of researching each section individually as you go. 

Turn to guides, samples, and small business plan templates to help. Many countries have an official administration or service dedicated to providing information, resources, and tools to help entrepreneurs and store owners plan, launch, manage, and grow their businesses. 

The following will take you to online business plan guides and templates for specific countries.

  • United States Small Business Administration (SBA) – The “write your business plan page” includes traditional and lean startup business plan formats, three downloadable sample business plans, a template, and a step-by-step build a business plan tool.
  • Australian Government – The “business plan template” page includes a downloadable template, guide, and business plan creation app.
  • UK Government Business and Self-Employed – The “write a business plan” page includes links to a downloadable business plan template and resources from trusted UK businesses. .
  • Canada Business Network – The “writing your business plan” page includes a detailed guide to writing your business plan and links to business plan templates from Canadian business development organizations and banks.

These business resource sites also offer a wealth of valuable information for entrepreneurs including local and regional regulations, structuring, tax obligations, funding programs, market research data, and much more. Visit the sites above or do the following Google searches to find official local business resources in your area:

  • your country government business services
  • your state/province government business services
  • your city government business services

Some Chamber of Commerce websites offer resources for business owners, including business plan guides and templates. Check your local chapter to see if they have any.

Banks that offer business funding also often have a resource section for entrepreneurs. Do a Google search to find banks that offer business funding as well as business plan advice to see the business plans that get funding. If your bank doesn’t offer any advice, search for the largest banks in your area:

  • business plan guide bank name
  • business plan samples bank name
  • business plan template bank name

If you’re looking for more sample business plans, Bplans has over 500 free business plan samples organized by business type as well as a business plan template. Their collection includes 116 business plans for retail and online stores. Shopify also offers business plan templates intended to help small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs identify functional areas of a business they may not have considered.

business plan format for small business

Understand Your Audience

Because business plans serve different purposes, you’re not always presenting it to the same audience. It’s important to understand who’s going to be reading your business plan, what you’re trying to convince them to do, and what hesitations they might have. 

That way, you can adapt your business plan accordingly. As such, your audience also determines which type of business plan format you use. Which brings us to our next point…

Which Business Plan Format Should You Use? 

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) presents two business plan formats: 

  • The traditional business plan format is for entrepreneurs who want to create a detailed plan for themselves or for business funding. 
  • The lean startup business plan format, on the other hand, is for business owners that want to create a condensed, single-page business plan.

If the business plan is just for you and internal folks, draft a lean startup business plan or a customized version of the traditional business plan with only the sections you need. If you need it for business funding or other official purposes, choose the formal business plan and thoroughly complete the required sections while paying extra attention to financial projections.

If your business operates outside the U.S., clarify the preferred format with your bank.

How to Create a Business Plan: Questions to Ask Yourself

As you write a business plan, take time to not only analyze your business idea, but yourself as well. Ask the following questions to help you analyze your business idea along the way:

  • Why do I want to start or expand my business?
  • Do my goals (personal and professional) and values align with my business idea?
  • What income do I need to generate for myself?
  • What education, experience, and skills do I bring to my business?

business plan format for small business

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

According to the business plan template created by SCORE, Deluxe, and the SBA , a traditional business plan encompasses the following sections. 

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Products & services
  • Market analysis
  • Marketing & sales
  • Management & organization
  • Funding request
  • Financial projections
  • SWOT analysis

Since not everyone is aware of the key details to include in each section, we’ve listed information you can copy to fill in your business plan outline. Here’s how to build a business plan step by step.  

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is the first part of your business plan, so this is where you need to hook readers in. Every business plan starts this way — even a simple business plan template should kick off with the Executive Summary. Summarize your entire business plan in a single page, highlighting details about your business that will excite potential investors and lenders. 

Explain what your business has to offer, your target market , what separates you from the competition, a little bit about yourself and the core people behind your business, and realistic projections about your business’ success.

While this is the first section of your business plan, write it after you’ve completed the rest of your business plan. It’s a lot easier because you can pull from the sections you’ve already written, and it’s easier to identify the best parts of your business plan to include on the first page.

Company Description

In the Company Description, share 411 about your business. Include basic details like: 

  • Legal structure (sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, etc.)
  • Business and tax ID numbers
  • When the business started
  • Ownership information
  • Number of employees

Your mission statement , philosophy and values, vision, short- and long-term goals, and milestones along with a brief overview of your industry, market, outlook, and competitors should also be in the Company Description.

Pro tip: These are the details you’ll use each time you create a business profile, whether that's on social media, business directories, or other networks. Keep your information consistent to reduce confusion and instill more confidence in potential customers. 

Products & Services

The Products & Services section details what you plan to sell to customers. For a dropshipping business , this section should explain which trending products you’re going to sell, the pain points your products solve for customers, how you’ll price your products compared to your competitors, expected profit margin, and production and delivery details.

Remember to include any unique selling points for specific products or product groupings, such as low overhead, exclusive agreements with vendors, the ability to obtain products that are in short supply / high demand based on your connections, personalized customer service, or other advantages.

For dropshipping businesses selling hundreds or even thousands of products, detail the main categories of products and the number of products you plan to offer within each category. By doing this, it’s easier to visualize your business offerings as a whole to determine if you need more products in one category to fully flesh out your online store.

Market Analysis

The Market Analysis section of your business plan allows you to share the research you have done to learn about your target audience — the potential buyers of your products. People requesting a business plan will want to know that you have a solid understanding of your industry, the competitive landscape, who’s most likely to become your customers. It’s important to demonstrate that  there’s a large enough market for your product to make it profitable and/or to make a strong return on investment .

To complete the Market Analysis component of your business plan, check out the following resources for industry, market, and local economic research:

  • U.S. Embassy websites in most countries have a business section with information for people who want to sell abroad. Business sections include a basic “getting started” guide, links to economic and data reports, trade events, and additional useful business links for a particular region.
  • IBISWorld is a provider of free and paid industry research and procurement research reports for the United States , United Kingdom , Australia , and New Zealand .  
  • Statista offers free and paid statistics and studies from over 18,000 sources including industry reports, country reports, market studies, outlook reports, and consumer market reports.   

Use these websites and others to learn about the projected growth of your industry and your potential profitability. You can also use social media tools like Facebook Audience Insights to estimate the size of your target market on the largest social network

Another way to research your market and products is through Google Trends . This free tool will allow you to see how often people search for the products your business offers over time. Be sure to explain how your business plans to capitalize on increasing and decreasing search trends accordingly.

Marketing & Sales

Knowing your target market is half the battle. In the Marketing & Sales section, share how you plan to reach and sell products to your target market. Outline the marketing and advertising strategies you intend to use to market your product to potential customers – search marketing , social media marketing , email marketing , and influencer marketing methods .

If you’re unsure how to market your business’ products, analyze your competitors for some inspiration. Discovering your competition’s marketing tactics will help you customize your own strategy for building a customer base and ultimately taking your business to the next level. 

Do a Google search for your competitor’s business name to find the websites, social accounts, and content they’ve created to market their products. Look at the ways your competitor uses each online entity to drive new customers to their website and product pages.

Then come up with a plan to convert a similar audience with your marketing and advertising messages. For dropshipping businesses, conversions will typically take place on your website as people purchase your products and/or by phone if you take orders over the phone. 

Management & Organization

In the Management & Organization piece of your business plan, describe the structure of your business. In terms of legal structure and incorporation, most businesses are classified as sole proprietorships (one owner), partnerships (two or more owners), corporations, or S corporations.

Draft a condensed resume for each of the key members of your business. If you’re a solopreneur , include how your past education and work experience will help you run each aspect of your business. If you have one or more partner(s) and employee(s), include their relevant education and experience as well.

Think of this as a great way to evaluate the strengths of each individual running your business. When self-evaluating, you’ll be able to identify the aspects of your business that’ll be easier to manage and which ones to delegate to freelancers, contractors, employees, and third-party services. This also makes it easier to find the best way to utilize their strengths for business growth.

Funding Request

Chances are, you don’t have a funding request for a startup dropshipping business since the appeal to dropshipping is the low upfront investment . If you’re looking for a loan, however, this would be the section where you outline the dollar amount you need, what you plan to invest in, and how you see the return on your investment.

Another way to use this section is to analyze the investment you have or plan to make when starting or growing your business. This should include everything from the computer you use to run your website to the monthly fee for business services.

Financial Projections

In Financial Projections, share your projected revenue and expenses for the first or next five years of your business. The idea here is to demonstrate that the revenue you’re anticipating will easily lead to a return on any investment, whether from your personal finances or a capital lending service.

business plan format for small business

If you’re looking for funding, you’ll need to go into detail with projected income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and capital expenditure budgets. If you aren’t looking for funding, it won’t hurt to create these types of financial projections so you can realistically plan for the future of your business.

The Appendix of your business plan includes any supplemental documents needed throughout the sections of your business plan. These may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Credit histories
  • Product brochures
  • Legal forms
  • Supplier contracts

If you’re submitting your business plan for funding, contact the lender to see what documentation they want included with your funding request.

SWOT Analysis

In addition to the above sections, some business plans also include a SWOT Analysis. This is a one-page summary of your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The strengths and weaknesses you include will be internal, whereas opportunities and threats you include will be external. 

Depending on the revelations of this section, you may or may not want to make a SWOT analysis when submitting your business plan formally unless it is requested.

business plan format for small business

Summary: How to Create a Business Plan

As you can see, creating a business plan for your dropshipping business is a great way to validate your business idea , discover your business’s strengths and weaknesses, and make a blueprint for your business's future.

In summary, here are the sections you will need to write for your business plan, step by step:

  • SWOT analysis (Optional)

If you haven’t already, take the time to create a business plan to launch or grow your business in 2023!

Want to Learn More?

  • How to Start a Dropshipping Business
  • How to Register a Business in the USA
  • How to Launch Your Ecommerce Store in Less Than 30 Minutes Flat
  • 30+ Amazing Startup Business Ideas That’ll Make You Money

business plan format for small business

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Business plan

How to write an effective business plan in 11 steps (with workbook)

February 02, 2023 | 14 minute read

Writing a business plan is a powerful way to position your small business for success as you set out to meet your goals. Research suggests that business founders who write one are 16% more likely to build businesses that are viable than those who don’t, and that entrepreneurs focused on high growth are 7% more likely to have written a business plan. HBR. July 14, 2017. Available online at https://hbr.org/2017/07/research-writing-a-business-plan-makes-your-startup-more-likely-to-succeed" data-footnote="sevenpercent" aria-label="Footnote 1"> Footnote [1] Even better, other research shows that owners who complete business plans are twice as likely to grow their business successfully or obtain capital compared to those who don’t. J Grad Med Educ. 2014 Mar;6(1):15-7. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-13-00081.1. PMID: 24701304; PMCID: PMC3963774. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3963774/" data-footnote="twiceaslikely" aria-label="Footnote 2"> Footnote [2]

The best time to write a business plan is typically after you have vetted and researched your business idea. (See: How to start a business in 15 steps .) If conditions change later, you can rewrite the plan, much like how your GPS reroutes you if there is traffic ahead. When you update your plan regularly, everyone on your team, including outside stakeholders such as investors, will know where you are headed.

What is a business plan?

Typically 15-20 pages long, a business plan is a document that explains what your business does, what you want to achieve in the business and the strategy you plan to use to get there. It details the opportunities you are going after, what resources you will need to achieve your goals and how you will define success.

Why are business plans important?

Business plans help you think through barriers and discover opportunities you may have recognized subconsciously but have not yet articulated. A business plan can also help you to attract potential lenders, investors and partners by providing them with evidence that your business has all of the ingredients necessary for success.

What questions should a business plan answer?

Your business plan should explain how your business will grow and succeed. A great plan will provide detailed answers to questions that a banker or investor will have before putting money into the business, such as:

  • What products/services do you provide?
  • Who is your target customer?
  • What are the benefits of your product and service for customers?
  • How much will you charge?
  • What is the size of the market?
  • What are your marketing plans?
  • How much competition does the business face in penetrating that market?
  • How much experience does the management team have in running businesses like it?
  • How do you plan to measure success?
  • What do you expect the business’s revenue, costs and profit to be for the first few years?
  • How much will it cost to achieve the goals stated in the business plan?
  • What is the long-term growth potential of the business? Is the business scalable?
  • How will you enable investors to reap the rewards of backing the business? Do you plan to sell the business to a bigger company eventually or take it public as your “exit strategy”?

How to write a business plan in 11 steps

This step-by-step outline will make it easier to write an effective business plan, even if you’re managing the day-to-day demands of starting a new business. Creating a table of contents that lists key sections of the plan, with page numbers, will make it easy for readers to flip to the sections that interest them most.

Use our editable workbook to capture notes and organize your thoughts as you review these critical steps. Note: To avoid losing your work, please remember to save this PDF to your desktop before you begin.

1. Executive summary

The executive summary is your opportunity to make a great first impression on investors and bankers. It should be just as engaging as the enthusiastic elevator pitch you might give if you bumped into a potential backer in an elevator.

In three to five paragraphs, you’ll want to explain what your business does, why it will succeed and where it will be in five years. The executive summary should include short descriptions of the following:

  • Business concept: What will your business do?
  • Goals and vision: What do you expect the business to achieve, both financially and for other key stakeholders, such as the community?
  • Product or service: What does your product or service do — and how is it different from those of competitors?
  • Target market: Who do you expect to buy your product or service?
  • Marketing strategy: How will you tell people about your product or service?
  • Current revenue and profits: If your business is pre-revenue, offer sales projections.
  • Projected revenue and profits: Provide a realistic look at the next year, as well as the next three years, ideally.
  • Financial resources needed: How much money do you need to borrow or raise to fund your plan?
  • Management team: Who are the company’s leaders and what relevant experience will they contribute?

2. Business overview

Here is where you provide a brief history of the business and describe the product(s) or service(s) it offers. Make sure you describe the problem you are attempting to solve, for whom you will solve it (your customers) and how you will solve it. Be sure to describe your business model (such as direct-to-consumer sales through an online store) so readers can envision how you will make sales. Also mention your business structure (such as a sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership or corporation) and why it is advantageous for the business. And be sure to provide context on the state of your industry and where your business will fit into it.

3. Business goals and vision

Explain what you hope to achieve in the business (your vision), as well as its mission and value proposition. Most founders judge success by the size to which they grow the business, using measures such as revenue or number of employees. Your goals may not be solely financial. You may also wish to provide jobs or solve a societal problem. If that’s the case, mention those goals as well.

If you are seeking outside funding, explain why you need the money, how you will put it to work to grow the business and how you expect to achieve the goals you have set for the business. Also explain your exit strategy—that is, how you will enable investors to cash out, whether that means selling the business or taking it public.

4. Management and organization

Many investors say they bet on the team behind a business more than the business idea, trusting that talented and experienced people will be capable of bringing sound business concepts to life. With that in mind, make sure to provide short bios of the key members of your management team (including yourself) that emphasize the relevant experience each individual brings, along with their special talents and industry recognition. Many business plans include headshots of the management team with the bios.

Also describe more about how your organization will be structured. Your company may be a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation in one or more states.

If you will need to hire people for specific roles, this is the place to mention those plans. And if you will rely on outside consultants for certain roles — such as an outsourced CFO — be sure to make a note of it here. Outside backers want to know if you’ve anticipated the staffing you need.

5. Service or product line

A business will only succeed if it sells something people want or need to buy. As you describe the products or services you will offer, make sure to explain what benefits they will provide to your target customers, how they will differ from competing offerings and what the buying cycle will likely be, so it is clear that you can actually sell what you are offering. If you have plans to protect your intellectual property through a copyright or patent filing, be sure to mention that. Also explain any research and development work that is underway, to show investors the potential for additional revenue streams.

6. Market/industry analysis

Anyone interested in providing financial backing to your business will want to know how big your company can potentially grow, so they have an idea of what kind of returns they can expect. In this section, you’ll be able to convey that by explaining to whom you will be selling and how much opportunity there is to reach them. Key details to include are market size; a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis ; a competitive analysis; and customer segmentation. Make it clear how you developed any projections you’ve made by citing interviews or research.

Also describe the current state of the industry. Where is there room for improvement? Are most companies using antiquated processes and technology? If your business is a local one, what is the market in your area like? Do most of the restaurants where you plan to open your café serve mediocre food? What will you do better?

In this section, also list competitors, including their names, websites and social media handles. Describe each source of competition and how your business will address it.

7. Sales and marketing

Explain how you will spread the word to potential customers about what you sell. Will you be using paid online search advertising, social media promotions, traditional direct mail, print advertising in local publications, sponsorship of a local radio or TV show, your own YouTube content or some other method entirely? List all of the methods you will use.

Make sure readers know exactly what the path to a sale will be and why that approach will resonate with customers in your ideal target markets, as well as existing customer segments. If you have already begun using the methods you’ve outlined, include data on the results so readers know whether they have been effective.

8. Financials

In a new business, you may not have any past financial data or financial statements to include, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to share. Preparing a budget and financial plan will help show investors or bankers that you have developed a clear understanding of the financial aspects of running your business. (The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has prepared a budget template you can use; SCORE , a nonprofit organization that partners with the SBA, offers a financial planning template to help you look ahead.) For an existing business, you will want to include income statements, profit and loss statements, cash flow statements and balance sheets, ideally going back three years.

Make a list of the specific steps you plan to take to achieve the financial results you have outlined. The steps are generally the most detailed for the first year, given that you may need to revise your plan later as you gather feedback from the marketplace.

Include interactive spreadsheets that contain a detailed financial analysis showing how much it costs your business to produce the goods and services you provide, the profits you will generate, any planned investments and the taxes you will pay. See our Startup costs calculator to get started.

9. Financial projections

Creating a detailed sales forecast can help you get outside backers excited about supporting you. A sales forecast is typically a table or simple line graph that shows the projected sales of the company over time, usually for the next 12 months and as much as five years into the future. If you haven’t yet launched the company, turn to your market research to develop estimates. For more information, see “ How to create a sales forecast for your small business .”

10. Funding request

If you are seeking outside financing such as a loan or equity investment, your potential backers will want to know how much money you need and how you will spend it. Describe the amount you are trying to raise, how you arrived at that number and what type of funding you are seeking (such as debt, equity or a combination of both). If you are contributing some of your own funds, it is worth noting this, as it shows that you have “skin in the game.”

11. Appendix

This should include any information and supporting documents that will help investors and bankers gain a greater understanding of the potential of your business. Depending on your industry, you might include local permits, licenses, deeds and other legal documents; professional certifications and licenses; media clips; information on patents and other intellectual property; key customer contracts and purchase orders; and other relevant documents.

Some business owners find it helpful to develop a list of key concepts, such as the names of the company’s products and industry terms. This can be helpful if you do business in an industry that may not be familiar to the readers of the business plan.

Tips for creating an effective business plan

Use clear, simple language. It’ll be easier to win people over if your plan is easy to read. Steer clear of industry jargon, and if you must use any phrases the average adult won’t know, be sure to define them.

Emphasize what makes your business unique. Investors and bankers want to know how you will solve a problem or gap in the marketplace differently from anyone else. Make sure you’re conveying your differentiating factors.

Nail the details. An ideal business plan will be detailed and accurate. Make sure that any financial projections you make are realistic and grounded in solid market research. (If you need help in making your calculations, you can get free advice at SCORE.) Seasoned bankers and investors will quickly spot numbers that are overly optimistic.

Take time to polish it. Your final version of the plan should be neat and professional, with an attractive layout and copy that has been carefully proofread.

Include professional photos. High-quality shots of your product or place of business can help make it clear why your business stands out.

Updating an existing business plan

Some business owners in rapidly growing businesses update their business plan quarterly. Others do so every six months or every year. When you update your plan make sure you consider these three things:

1. Are your goals still current? As you’ve tested your concept, your goals may have changed. The plan should reflect this.

2. Have you revised any strategies in response to feedback from the marketplace? You may have found that your offerings resonated with a different customer segment than you expected or that your advertising plan didn’t work and you need to try a different approach. Given that investors will want to see a marketing and advertising plan that works, keeping this section current will ensure you are always ready to meet with one who shows interest.

3. Have your staffing needs changed? If you set ambitious goals, you may need help from team members or outside consultants you did not anticipate when you first started the business. Take stock now so you can plan accordingly.

Final thoughts

Most business owners don’t follow their business plans exactly. But writing one will get you off to a much better start than simply opening your doors and hoping for the best, and it will be easier to analyze any aspects of your business that aren’t working later so you can course-correct. Ultimately, it may be one of the best investments you can make in the future of your business.

Business plan FAQs

The biggest mistake you can make when writing a business plan is creating one before the idea has been properly researched and tested. Not every idea is meant to become a business. Other common mistakes include:

  • Not describing your management team in a way that is appealing to investors. Simply cutting and pasting someone’s professional bio into the management section won’t do the trick. You’ll want to highlight the credentials of each team member in a way that is relevant to this business.
  • Failing to include financial projections — or including overly optimistic ones. Investors look at a lot of business plans and can tell quickly whether your numbers are accurate or pie in the sky. Have a good small business accountant review your numbers to make sure they are realistic.
  • Lack of a clear exit strategy for investors. Investors will want to “cash out” eventually and will want to know how they can go about doing that.
  • Slapdash presentation. Make sure to fact-check any industry statistics you cite, and that any charts, graphs or images are carefully prepared and easy to read.

There are a variety of styles of business plans styles. Here are three major types:

Traditional business plan. This is a formal document for pitching to investors based on the outline in this article. If your business is a complicated one, the plan may exceed the typical length and stretch to as many as 50 pages.

One-page business plan. This is a simplified version of a formal business plan, designed to fit on one page. Typically, each section will be described in bullet points or in a chart format, rather than in the narrative style of an executive summary. It can be helpful as a summary document to give to investors — or for internal use. Another variation on the one-page theme is the “ business model canvas .”

Lean plan. This methodology for creating a business plan is ideal for a business that is evolving quickly. It is designed in a way that makes it easy to update on a regular basis. Lean business plans are usually about one page long. The SBA has provided an example of what this type of plan includes on its website.

Many elements of a business plan for a nonprofit are similar to those of a for-profit business. However, because the goal of a nonprofit is achieving its mission — rather than turning a profit—the business plan should emphasize its specific goals on that front and how it will achieve them. Many nonprofits set key performance indicators (KPIs) — numbers that they track to show they are “moving the needle” on their goals.

Nonprofits will generally emphasize their fundraising strategies in their business plans, rather than sales strategies. The funds they raise are the lifeblood of the programs they run.

A strategic plan is different from the type of business plan you’ve read about here in that it emphasizes the long-term goals of the business and how your business will achieve them over the long run. A strong business plan can function as both a business plan and a strategic plan.

A marketing plan is different from a business plan in that it is focused on four main areas of the business: product (what you are selling and how you will differentiate it), price (how much your products or services will cost and why), promotion (how you will get your ideal customer to notice and buy what you are selling) and place (where you will sell your products). A thorough business plan may cover these topics, doing double duty as both a business plan and a marketing plan.

The Small Business Community is now Small Business Resources .

How to Write a Business Plan in 2023 [Examples Included]

business plan format for small business

Table of contents

So you have come up with a business idea that will turn your company into a Forbes 500 enterprise? Sounds great!

However, you are going to need much more than an idea. You will need to do some comprehensive research, create operational standpoints, describe your product, define your goals, and pave out a road map for future growth.

In other words, you are going to need a business plan.

A business plan is a document that precisely explains how you are going to make your startup a success. Without it, your chances of attracting funding and investments significantly decrease.

Do you want to learn how to create a winning business plan that will take your company to the next level? We created a guide that will help you do just that.

Let’s dive in.

What Is a Business Plan?

Why and when do you need a business plan, types of business plans (what to include in each).

  • How Do You Write a Business Plan?

Best Practices for Writing a Winning Business Plan

Business plan examples.

  • Monitor the Performance of Your Business with Databox

marketing_overview_hubspot_ga_dashboard_databox

A business plan is a comprehensive document that defines how a business will achieve its goals. It is essentially a road map for growth that includes operational standpoints from all the key departments such as marketing, financial, HR, and others.

Startups use business plans to describe who they are, what they plan to do, and how they plan to achieve it. This is an extremely valuable document for attracting investors.

However, they are valuable for the company members as well. A good business plan keeps executive teams on the same page regarding the strategies they should implement to achieve their set objectives.

Related : Reporting to Investors: 6 Best Practices to Help Increase Funding

While business plans are especially useful for startups, each business should include them. In the best-case scenario, this plan will be updated from time to time and reviewed whether the goals of the company have been met.

The main things that investors want to check out in the business plan are:

  • Product-market fit – Have you researched the market demand for your products and services?
  • Team efficiency – Does your startup have devoted professionals that will work on achieving your goals?
  • Scalability – How probable is growth in sales volumes without proportional growth or fixed costs?

An organized business plan is essentially a blueprint of your goals and it showcases your abilities as an entrepreneur.

Related : Business Report: What is it & How to Write a Great One? (With Examples)

If you want to persuade venture capitalists and banking institutions to invest in your startup, you won’t be able to do it without a solid business plan.

A business plan is helpful in two ways – it allows you to focus on the specific goals you set for the future and it provides external parties with evidence that you have done your research in advance.

But don’t just take our word for it – here are some of the things that researchers from Bplans found out when they were analyzing the benefits of business plans with the University of Oregon.

  • Companies that use business plans have recorded a 30% faster growth compared to those that didn’t use them.
  • Getting investments and loans is twice as likely to happen with the help of business plans.
  • There is a 129% increased chance for entrepreneurs to go past the ‘startup’ phase through business plans.

You should create a business plan before you decide to quit your regular job. It can help you realize whether you are ready or not.

Also, creating a business plan is helpful when:

  • You want to attract investments or funding from external parties
  • You want to find a new partner or co-founder
  • You want to attract talented professionals to join your startup
  • You need to change things up due to the slow growth

While creating a business plan is an important step, you first have to know how to differentiate all the different types. This will help you choose the one that is most suitable for your business.

Here are the most common types of business plans and what you should include in each.

One-Pager Business Plan

Startup business plan, internal business plan, strategic business plan, feasibility business plan.

The one-pager is a business plan that only includes the most important aspects of your business. It is essentially a simplified version of a traditional business plan.

When creating the one-pager business plan, your primary focus should be on making it easily understandable.

Since this business plan is rather short, you should avoid using lengthy paragraphs. Each section should be around 1-2 sentences long.

The things you should include in a one-pager business plan are:

  • The problem – Describe a certain problem your customers have and support the claim with relevant data.
  • The solution – How your products/services can solve the issue.
  • Business model – Your plan on how to make money. Include production costs, selling costs, and the price of the product.
  • Target market – Describe your ideal customer persona. Start with a broad audience and narrow it down by using TAM, SAM, and SOM models. This lets investors in on your thought process. To understand these models better, check out, for example, the importance of proper TAM evaluation for B2B startups .
  • Competitive advantage – How are you different from your competitors?
  • Management team – Include your business’s management structure.
  • Financial summary – This part should revolve around the most significant financial metrics (profit, loss, cash flow, balance sheet, and sales forecast).
  • Required funding – Define how much money you need to make your project a success.

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Our Marketing Overview Dashboard includes data from Google Analytics 4 and HubSpot Marketing with key performance metrics like:

  • Sessions . The number of sessions can tell you how many times people are returning to your website. Obviously, the higher the better.
  • New Contacts from Sessions . How well is your campaign driving new contacts and customers?
  • Marketing Performance KPIs . Tracking the number of MQLs, SQLs, New Contacts and similar will help you identify how your marketing efforts contribute to sales.
  • Email Performance . Measure the success of your email campaigns from HubSpot. Keep an eye on your most important email marketing metrics such as number of sent emails, number of opened emails, open rate, email click-through rate, and more.
  • Blog Posts and Landing Pages . How many people have viewed your blog recently? How well are your landing pages performing?

Now you can benefit from the experience of our Google Analytics and HubSpot Marketing experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template that contains all the essential metrics for monitoring your leads. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in marketing reports, and best of all, it’s free!

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You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.

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Step 1: Get the template 

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Related : Check out our comprehensive guide on writing a marketing plan report .

New businesses use startup business plans to outline their launching ideas and strategies to attract funding and investment opportunities. When creating startup business plans, you should primarily focus on the financial aspect and provide evidence that supports it (e.g. market research).

These are some of the main things that should be included:

  • Vision statement – Explain your vision for the company and include the overall business goals you will try to achieve.
  • Executive summary – A quick overview of what your company is about and what will make it successful. Make sure to include your products/services, basic leadership information, employees, and location.
  • Company description – A detailed overview of your company. Talk about the problems you will solve and be specific about customers, organizations, and growth plans. This is the place where you should state your business’s main advantages.
  • Market Analysis – Show investors that you have a good understanding of your industry and target market by providing a detailed market analysis. Try to point out certain trends, themes, or patterns that support your objective.
  • Organization and management – This section explains the structure and the management hierarchy. Also, describe the legal structure of your business.
  • Service or product line – Go into detail about the products and services you are going to sell. Explain the benefits they bring and share your intellectual property plans.
  • Marketing and sales – Talk about your marketing strategy and describe how you plan to attract new customers.
  • Financial projections – This section should be about convincing your readers why the business will be a financial success. Create a prospective financial outlook for the next few years and it includes forecasts.

An internal business plan is a document that specifically focuses on the activities within your company. While external business plans focus on attracting investors, internal business plans keep your team aligned on achieving goals.

Related : Internal vs. External Reporting: What Are the Differences?

This business plan can differentiate based on how specific you want it to be. For example, you can focus on a specific part of the business (e.g. financial department) or on the overall goals of the whole company.

Nonetheless, here are some things that should universally be included in all internal business plans:

  • Mission statement – Focus on the practical, day-to-day activities that your employees can undertake to achieve overall objectives.
  • Objectives – Provide specific goals that you want your company to achieve. Make the objectives clear and explain in which way they can be reached. Focus more on short-term objectives and set reasonable deadlines.
  • Strategies – Talk about the general activities that will help your team reach the set objectives. Provide research that will describe how these strategies will be useful in the long term.
  • Action plans – These plans revolve around particular activities from your strategy. For example, you could include a new product that you want to create or a more efficient marketing plan.
  • Sustainability – This refers to the general probability of achieving the goals you set in the internal report. Sometimes, plans may seem overly ambitious and you are going to have to make amends with certain things.

A strategic business plan is the best way to gain a comprehensive outlook of your business. In this document, forecasts are examined even further and growth goals tend to be higher.

By creating a strategic business plan, you will have an easier time aligning your key stakeholders around the company’s priorities.

Here is a quick overview of what a strategic business plan should include:

  • Executive summary – Since strategic business plans are generally lengthy, not all executives will have time to go through it. This is why you should include a quick overview of the plan through an executive summary, you can also create an executive summary template to make the step easily repeatable.
  • Vision statement – Describe what you wish to achieve in the long term.
  • Company overview – This refers to past achievements, current products/services, recent sales performances, and important KPIs.
  • Core values – This section should provide an explanation of what drives the business to do what it does.
  • Strategic analysis of internal and external environments – Talk about the current organizational structure, mission statements, and department challenges.
  • Strategic objectives – Go into detail about the short-term objectives your team should reach in a specific period. Make sure the objectives are clear and understandable.
  • Overall goals – This section should include operational goals, marketing goals, and financial goals.

A feasibility business plan is also known as a feasibility study. It essentially provides a foundation for what would be a full and comprehensive business plan. The primary focus of a feasibility plan is research.

The things you should include in a feasibility plan are:

  • Product demand – Is there a high demand for your product? Would customers be interested in buying it?
  • Market conditions – Determine the customer persona that would be interested in buying your products. Include demographic factors.
  • Pricing – Compare your desired price with the current pricing of similar products. Which price would make your service profitable?
  • Risks – Determine the risks of launching this new business.
  • Success profitability – Is there a good way to overcome the risks and make your company profitable?

How Do You Write a Business Plan Report?

As we explained in the previous heading, there are a few different types of business plan. Depending on the audience you are referring to, the language you use in the plan should be adjusted accordingly.

Nonetheless, there are certain key elements that should be included in all business plans, the only thing that will vary is how detailed the sections will be.

Include these elements in your business plan.

Executive summary

Company description, market opportunity and analysis, competitive landscape, target audience, describe your product or service, develop a marketing and sales strategy, develop a logistics and operations plan, financial projections, explain your funding request, compile an appendix for official documents.

An executive summary is a quick overview of the document as a whole that allows investors and key stakeholders to quickly understand all the pain points from the report.

It is the best way to layout all the vital information about your business to bank officials and key stakeholders who don’t have the time to go through the whole business plan.

If you summarize the sections well, the potential investors will jump into the sections they are most interested in to acquire more details.

You should write the executive summary last since you will then have a better idea of what should be included.

A good executive summary answers these questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you sell?
  • How profitable is it?
  • How much money do you need?

This section of the business plan aims to introduce your company as a whole. The things you include in the company description can vary depending on if you are only starting a business or you already have a developed company.

The elements included in this section are:

  • Structure and ownership – Talk about who the key shareholders in your company are and provide a full list of names. Also, mention details such as where the company is registered and what the legal structure looks like. In most countries, this is a legal requirement for AML regulations.
  • History – This segment is if you already have an existing company. Use this section to show your credibility. Include company milestones, past difficulties, and a precise date for how long your company has been operating.
  • Objectives – Describe the overall objectives of your company and how you plan to reach them.

Market analysis refers to creating your ideal customer persona and explaining why they would be interested in buying your products.

Market opportunities are the gaps that you found in the current industries and creating a way for your product to fill those gaps.

The most important step in this section is to create a target market (persona) through demographic factors such as location, income, gender, education, age, profession, and hobbies.

Make sure that your target market isn’t too broad since it can put off potential investors.

A good idea is to also include a detailed analysis of your competitors – talk about their products, strengths, and weaknesses.

Related : 12 Best Tools Marketers Use for Market Research

Although you may include a competitive analysis in the market analysis section, this segment should provide a more detailed overview.

Identify other companies that sell similar products to yours and create a list of their advantages and disadvantages. Learning about your competitors may seem overwhelming, but it’s an indispensable part of a good business plan.

Include a comparison landscape as well that defines the things that set you apart from the competitors. Describe the strengths of your product and show which problems it could solve.

Related : How to Do an SEO Competitive Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide

Use the target audience section to fully describe the details of your ideal customer persona. Include both demographic and psychographic factors.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the demographic characteristics of the people who will buy my product?
  • What are their desires?
  • What makes my product valuable to them?

Make sure to answer all of these questions to get in the mindset of your customers.

If you need more details on how to identify your target audience , check our full expert guide.

When talking about your products and services, be as precise as possible. Mention your target audience and the marketing channels you use for targeting this audience.

This section should reveal the benefits, life cycle, and production process of your products/services. Also, it is a good idea to include some pictures of your products if possible.

When describing your products, you should highlight:

  • Unique features
  • Intellectual property rights
  • What makes the product beneficial

Marketing is the blood flow to your business’s body. Without a good marketing and sales strategy, the chances of your product succeeding are very slim.

It’s always best to already have a marketing plan in place before launching your business. By identifying the best marketing channels, you will show your investors that you researched this topic in detail.

Some of the things you should include are:

  • Reach – Explain why a specific channel will be able to reach your target market
  • Cost – Is the marketing strategy going to be cost-effective? How much money do you plan on spending on the strategy?
  • Competition – Are your competitors already using this channel? If so, what will make your product stand out?
  • Implementation – Who will be taking care of the implementation process? Is it a marketing expert? Which suppliers did you reach out to?

Related : 14 Reasons Sales And Marketing Alignment Is Crucial for Skyrocketing Company Growth

This section should explain the details of how exactly your company is going to operate.

These are the things you should include:

  • Personnel plan – Define how many people you plan to employ and their roles. Also, if you plan on increasing your staff, you should explain what would be the cause of that.
  • Key assets – This refers to assets that will be crucial for your company’s operation.
  • Suppliers – Mention who your suppliers will be and what kind of relationship you have with them. Your investors will be interested in this part of the section since they want to be reassured that you are cooperating with respectable counterparties.

The financial projections section is one of the most important parts of your business plan. It includes a detailed overview of expected sales, revenue, profit, expenses, and all the other important financial metrics .

You should show your investors that your business will be profitable, stable, and that it has huge potential for cash generation.

Monthly numbers for the first year are crucial since this will be the most critical year of your company.

At the very least, you should provide:

  • Funding needs
  • Profit-and-loss statement forecast
  • Balance sheet forecast
  • Cash-flow statement forecast

Related : How to Write a Great Financial Report? Tips and Best Practices

When providing the funding request, be realistic. Explain why you need that exact amount of money and where it will be allocated.

Also, create both a best-case and worst-case scenario. New companies don’t have a history of generating profits which is why you will probably have to sell equity in the early years to raise enough capital.

This will be the final section of your business plan. Include any material or piece of information that investors can use to analyze the data in your report. 

Things that could be helpful are:

  • Local permits
  • Legal documents
  • Certifications that boost credibility
  • Intellectual properties or patents
  • Purchase orders and customer contracts

After reading the previous heading, you should have a clear idea of how to write a compelling business plan.

But, just to be sure, we prepared some additional information that can be very helpful.

Here are some of the best practices you should implement in your business plan according to the most successful companies.

Keep it brief

Make it understandable, be meticulous about money, design is important.

Generally, business plans will be around 10-20 pages long. Your main focus should be to cover the essentials that we talked about, but you don’t want to overdo it by including unnecessary and overwhelming information.

In business plan, less is more.

Create a good organizational outline of your sections. This will allow investors to easily navigate to the parts they are most interested in reading.

Avoid using jargon – everyone should be able to easily understand your business plan without having to Google certain terms. 

Make a list of all the expenses your business incurs. Financial information should be maximally precise since it will directly impact the investor’s decision to fund your business idea.

After you wrap up your business plan, take a day off and read it again. Fix any typos or grammatical errors that you overlooked the first time.

Make sure to use a professional layout, printing, and branding of your business plan. This is an important first impression for the readers of the document.

Now you know what a business plan is, how you can write it, and some of the best practices you can use to make it even better.

But, if you are still having certain difficulties coming up with a great business plan, here are a few examples that may be helpful.

HubSpot’s One-Page Business Plan

Bplan’s free business plan template, small business administration free business plan template.

This One-Page Business Plan was created by HubSpot and it can be a great way to start off your business plan journey on the right foot.

You already have fields such as Implementation Timeline, Required Funding, and Company Description created so you will just need to provide your specific information.

HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

This free business plan template highlights the financial points of the startup. If your primary focus will be your business’ financial plan and financial statements, you can use this template to save up some time.

It can also be useful for making sure everyone in your company understands the current financial health and what they can do to improve it.

BPlan’s Free Business Plan Template

If you need additional inspiration to kick start your own business plan, you can check out this free template by small business administration .

You just have to decide which type of plan you want to create and then review the format of how it should look like.

Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

Monitor and Report on the Performance of Your Business with Databox

Tracking your company’s performance is an indispensable part of quality decision-making. It is crucial that you know how your business strategy is performing and whether it needs to be optimized in certain areas.

However, doing this manually will undoubtedly take a hefty amount of your valuable time. You will have to log into all of the different tools, copy-paste the data into your reports, and then analyze it. And this isn’t a one-time thing – you have to do it at least once a month.

Luckily, Databox can lend a helping hand.

By using customizable dashboards from Databox, you will be able to connect data from all your different tools into one comprehensive report. Not only that, but you can also visualize the most important metrics to make your presentation to shareholders immensely more impactful.

Did you spend a lot of time cutting and pasting? Say ‘no more’ to that. You will be able to use that time to better analyze your business performances and monitor any significant changes that occur.

Leave the grueling business reporting process in the past and sign up for a free trial with Databox.

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Go to homepage business.govt.nz business.govt.nz

Business.govt.nz, in association with, how to write a business plan.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula to write a business plan. But there are some key things to consider. Check out our free templates — one for start-ups and a quick-focus template for growing businesses.

Tips for preparing a business plan

  • Be clear and focused about what you want to achieve – this will help align your team so you’re all working toward the same thing.
  • Choose the type of business plan that works for you – you may like to have a document, or a business canvas might work better.
  • Keep it short, simple and easy to understand.
  • Keep your goals realistic and relevant to what is going on in the economy and in your industry.
  • Use Stats NZ’s Data for Business website to find useful business tools and statistics.
  • Contact Stats NZ to get useful business data.
  • Get out and speak with your customers to gain understanding of how your product works for them and whether it’s something they would pay for.
  • Do a SWOT analysis to determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  • Ask your advisor or mentor to review your plan and give you feedback and suggested improvements.

Data for Business (external link) — Stats NZ

Call Stats NZ toll-free on 0508 525 525

Use this free template to help you write a great plan for launching your new business.

A business plan helps you set goals for your business, and plan how you’re going to reach them. When you’re starting out it’s a good idea to do a full and thorough business plan.

Quick-focus business plan

Quick-focus planning to make sure you work on the right things for your growing business - every day.

It’s important to take time to reflect on your business strategies and plan. It doesn’t have to be a difficult or time-consuming task.

Implementing your business plan

  • Keep your business plan as a living document – don’t leave it to gather dust on a shelf.
  • Make sure it’s easily accessible and top-of-mind for you and your team.
  • Reflect your goals in the day-to-day operations of your business.
  • Outline the most practical and cost-effective way to achieve each goal – make a note of any extra resources you’ll need.
  • Make it clear these goals are the top priority for the business.

SWOT your business, and your competition

A SWOT analysis is a great way to assess what your business does well, and where you’ll need to improve. It can also help you identify ways you can exploit opportunities, and to identify and prepare for potential threats to your business success.

Strengths and weaknesses are typically inside your business — what are you good at, what are you not so good at — while opportunities and threats are external factors.

It can be as simple as drawing a large square, and dividing it into four quadrants – one for each element of the SWOT analysis.

Think about what you, your team, and your business are good at – all the attributes that will help you achieve your goals, for example, what you (and your team) do well, any unique skills or expert knowledge, what you/your business do better than your competitors, good processes and systems, and where your business is most profitable.

Think about the things that could stop you from achieving your objectives. This might include what costs you time and/or money, the areas you or your company need to improve in, what resources you lack, which parts of the business aren’t profitable, poor brand awareness, disorganised processes, or a poor online presence. Think about what you can do to minimise your weaknesses.

Opportunities

Think about the external conditions that will help you achieve your goals. How can you do more for your existing customers, or reach new markets? Are there related products and services that could provide opportunities for your business, and how could you use technology to enhance your business?

Consider the external conditions that could damage your business's performance – things like what’s going on in your industry, and in the economy, the obstacles you face, the strengths of your biggest competitors, and things your competitors are doing that you're not. Think about how you could try to minimise or manage the threats.

Repeat the exercise for your competition too – it’ll help you identify areas where you can beat them, to fine-tune your niche market, and make sure you’re prepared to address the challenge they pose.

Refine and review

Craig Jackson has dabbled in business planning before. But when he set up his ice pop business Dr Feelgood, he decided to work with a mentor.

“She was instrumental to pushing us to a very healthy product. Our first business plan was 47 pages long. It came down to four pages, which distilled down what we were doing and how we look at it,” says Jackson.

“It’s really important to ask ‘do people want your product’ and then ‘are there enough of them to buy it’? Our market validation was me going around gas stations, cafes, dairies and looking in freezers and talking to freezer managers and talking to our friends.”

Jackson regularly reviews progress against his business plan. “We’ve hit all our targets, but have learnt a lot in the first six months of operating. Places I thought we’d really sell, we don’t, and places I thought we’d never go is where we’re going.”

Review your business plan

  • Check how you’re tracking to reach key milestones in your business plan every month, and celebrate when these have been reached.
  • Stay on top of industry trends and stay connected with your customers – this will help you keep ahead of any changes needed in your business.
  • Update your business plan with any changes affecting your business or industry.

Tips on when business planning is right for your business

Tips on types of advice you’ll need

Common mistakes

Not being able to clearly articulate your business and the value it offers to customers.

Making assumptions about your customers rather than speaking with them.

Not reviewing and monitoring your business plan.

Setting unrealistic or uninformed targets.

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How to Write a Business Plan [Complete Guide]

Last Updated on – Aug 8, 2023 @ 3:22 pm

Preparing to write your business plan? You’re already one step ahead of other entrepreneurs who don’t see its value.

A well-thought-out and well-written plan for starting and running your business helps you focus on what you need to do to make your business idea work. It can also boost your chance of getting investments and loans to finance your business .

Did you know that half of small businesses fail in their first four years? Planning is such a crucial step to reducing the risks of managing an enterprise. Turn your business idea from something abstract and uncertain into a successful venture. It starts with drafting a good business plan.

Here’s your definitive guide to writing a business plan that speaks for itself.

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a written document that details what a business is, what direction it will take, and how you’ll get it there.

Practically speaking, the business plan evaluates your business’ viability. As the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) puts it , the document allows entrepreneurs to find out whether or not their business idea will bring in more money than how much it costs to start and run it.

More than just a document, the business plan helps business owners to figure out the key aspects of an enterprise, including the following:

  • Business goals and strategies to meet them
  • Competitive edge and how to leverage it
  • Potential problems and how to solve them
  • Funding required to start the business
  • Equipment, facilities, and manpower needed for operations

Who Needs a Business Plan and What Is It Used For?

Every aspiring entrepreneur who will spend a great amount of money, time, and energy to earn a profit needs a business plan.

Business planning is a crucial part of starting an entrepreneurial journey, no matter how small or big a business is. Never skip this step—as they say, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Here are some examples of business types that benefit much from business planning:

Founders of startup businesses seek funds to begin their new venture. Business plans help them persuade investors and lenders to provide the funding they need.

For startups, a business plan explains the nature of the new venture, how it will achieve its goals, and why the founders are the best people to lead the company. The startup business plan should also specify the capital needed to jumpstart the new business.

Related: Fast-Growing Startups in the Philippines

Existing Businesses

Not only do startups gain advantage from a business plan—existing enterprises need it, too.

But business plans for growing businesses serve a different purpose. Usually, a business plan helps a middle-stage business raise funds for additional facilities, equipment, manpower, and others needed for expansion. This document also defines strategies for growth and allocates resources based on strategic priorities.

Growing businesses also use business plans to communicate their vision to various stakeholders such as customers, business partners, potential investors and lenders, employees, and suppliers.

For such needs, a business plan for existing businesses lays out the goals, strategies, metrics to evaluate success, responsibilities, and resource allocation.

Social Enterprises

Social enterprises may not be as profit-driven as other business types, but that doesn’t mean they need business planning any less.

A social enterprise needs to prepare a business plan to achieve its social objectives and keep empowering the communities it’s supporting. This document is what government agencies and donor agencies require and evaluate when approving grants for funding a social project .

A social enterprise business plan determines the social issue that a business idea will solve, its beneficiaries, products or services, target market, and sales projections, among many others.

Non-Profit Organizations/NGOs

Like social enterprises, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can also use business plans to source funds for their campaigns and projects.

A nonprofit business plan discusses the problems an NGO is trying to solve through a certain project, as well as how it will do that and how much resources are needed.

It also helps the organization and its board members to prepare for risks by making projections on how likely the activities will push through and how the current sources of funds will continue to yield a certain level of revenue. Most importantly, the business plan defines the Plan B if the original plan ends up failing.

Business Plan Format and Its Components

How does a business plan exactly look like? There’s no recommended universal format for business plans. Ideally, yours is customized according to the nature of your business and what you’re going to use the plan for.

However, all business plans have sections in common. Here’s a quick walkthrough of the six components that make up a business plan.

1. Executive Summary

Like an abstract of a college thesis or a foreword of a book, the executive summary is meant to provide a brief overview of the document. It presents the highlights of a business plan in a page or two.

The executive summary the first thing that readers see, so keep it short yet engaging and compelling enough to make them want to view more details in your plan.

2. Company Profile

The company profile is your chance to introduce yourself and your business to people outside your company. It’s also called the company summary, company information, business description, and business profile.

This section quickly answers the five Ws and one H of your business: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Think of it as your business calling card. Being the shortest section of the business plan, the company profile provides a quick overview of the business—who the owner and founder is, management team, business goals, business address, product or service, and what makes it unique.

3. Operations Plan

The operations plan explains how you’ll run your business, focusing on the different aspects of manufacturing your product. This section includes the following information, among many others:

  • Type of business (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation , or non-profit)
  • How the product is made or the service completed
  • Necessary materials, equipment, and facilities to manufacture the product or complete the service
  • Any subcontractors needed
  • Quality control system

4. Organizational Plan

Your people should play a major role in your business plan, just as how they’re important to your business success . The organizational plan includes a chart that shows how your company is structured according to key departments or functions such as administration, production/manufacturing, marketing, and finance. This organizational chart not only presents the levels of authority in a company but also clarifies who is responsible for which people and function.

Aside from the organizational chart, the organizational plan also includes these details:

  • Number of employees to hire
  • Responsibilities of each job role
  • Qualifications of workers who will perform each role
  • Salaries and benefits per job assignment

5. Marketing Plan

The marketing plan and the succeeding chapters are the heart and soul of your business plan, explaining the things that will make your business work. This section details how you plan to promote your product or service in the market.

Specifically, the marketing plan covers the following:

  • How the product or service will work and how it will benefit customers
  • Target market and its profile
  • Strategies for packaging, advertising, public relations, and distribution
  • Competitive advantage

6. Financial Plan

A critical section in your business plan, the financial plan helps you assess how much money you’ll need to start or grow your enterprise and identify your funding sources to get your business off the ground and sustain its operations. This is where you’ll provide financial estimates that cover at least one year of running your business.

Investors and lenders specifically look for these financial details in business plans:

  • How much you’re going to borrow, what you’ll use the loan for, and how you’ll pay it back
  • How much profit you’re expecting to make (through an income statement and balance sheet)
  • How you can finance your business operations (through a cash flow statement)
  • Whether to keep the business going or close it down to cut losses (through a break-even analysis)

Related: How to Write a Business Proposal

Should You Use a Business Plan Template?

Business plan templates identify what information to put into each section and how it should be structured.

They provide instructions to guide entrepreneurs through the process. This way, nothing is missed out while writing the plan.

Thus, using a business plan template is a great idea, especially if this is your first time to prepare a plan for starting or growing your enterprise.

Helpful as it as may be, a business plan template doesn’t make business planning 100% effortless. While it provides the outline that makes writing the plan easy and quick, you still need to do your homework.

For example, a template won’t compute the financial projections for you—it’s a task you have to complete either on your own or with the help of a professional.

So before you use a business plan template, manage your expectations first and be prepared to do a lot of math!

8 Free Business Plan Templates

Yes, you read it right—you can download free online business plan templates. Some of these templates are designed for a specific niche, while others offer sample business plans for a wide range of business categories and industries.

Start off by choosing any of these free templates that suit your business planning needs.

1. Business Plan Format by the DTI

DTI has a wealth of useful information for micro, small, and medium businesses in the Philippines. Of course, it’s free to access since it comes from the government.

On the DTI website, simply look for the Business Planning section and download the business plan format in a PDF file. This document not only lists down all the information to be included in every section of a business plan, but it also provides guide questions per section—making business planning easier for first-timers.

If you want a more detailed discussion of what should go into each component of your business plan plus sample scenarios, check the DTI’s Negosyo Center e-book that fleshes out things for small business owners.

2. Simple Business Plan Template by The Balance Small Business 

The Balance is an online resource for small business owners. It has a free business plan template that’s simple and easy to understand for beginners, with instructions on how to use it. Broken down into sections, the simple business plan template tells you what to include in each component of the plan.

Simply copy the free template and paste it into a word document or spreadsheet. From there, you can start drafting your business plan with the template as a guide.

3. Free Sample Business Plans by Bplans

This website features a collection of over 500 free business plan samples for various industries, including restaurants, e-commerce, real estate, services, nonprofit, and manufacturing.

Under each category are links to many sample business plans for specific types of business. Each sample comes with a plan outline, too. For example, under the Services category, you’ll find sample plans for businesses like auto repair shops, advertising agencies, catering companies, health spas, photography studios, and more.

4. Business Plan Samples by LivePlan

More than 500 free sample business plans are available at the LivePlan website, so you’re likely to find one that suits your business best. The samples allow users to know how other businesses structured and worded each component of their business plans. You can copy and paste the sections into your own plan.

To download a full business plan sample, you’ll have to sign up by submitting your name and email address through the website.

5. Business Plan Templates by PandaDoc

PandaDoc offers free business plan templates for NGOs, startups, restaurants, cafes, bakeries, hotels, and salons. These documents can be downloaded in PDF format.

But if you want a customizable template, you can download the PandaDoc template for a 14-day free trial. This template allows you to edit the document, choose a theme that matches your branding, and add pictures and videos.

The website also has free templates for executive summaries and business letters.

6. The One-Page Business Plan by The $100 Startup

If your business has a simple concept, then a one-page business plan template is ideal to use. This downloadable PDF file is a very simple outline made up of a few sections with questions that you have to answer in just a short sentence or two.

7. Business Plans by Microsoft

Microsoft provides a broad selection of templates for its users, including business plan templates in Word, business plan presentations in PowerPoint, and business plan checklists in Excel.

  • Sample business plan template (Word) – Provides the steps in writing a complete business plan
  • Business plan presentation template (PowerPoint) – Consists of slides for different sections of a business plan that highlight the key points for viewers
  • Business plan checklist template (Excel) – Enumerates the important things to do when writing a business plan, using the Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat (SWOT) analysis framework

The advantage of using a template from Microsoft is having a professional-looking document, slideshow presentation, or spreadsheet. No need to do the formatting by yourself because the template is already formatted. All you have to do is enter the necessary information into the template to complete your business plan.

8. Social Business Plan Guidelines by the Ateneo de Manila

This free business plan format for social entrepreneurs comes from the Ateneo de Manila University’s John Gokongwei School of Management. In a glimpse, it provides the basic information you need to plan a social enterprise.

It also has more detailed business plan guidelines you can refer to. Simply click the link to the word document at the bottommost part of the page.

Related: 11 Best MBA Programs & Schools in the Philippines

How to Write a Business Plan

An outstanding business plan covers everything your stakeholders need to know about your business. So don’t just wing it—put a lot of thought into this critical document.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of drafting a business plan, whether you’ll use a template or not.

1. Brainstorm about your business idea

You may have a very promising business idea, but it won’t fly unless you develop it into a clear-cut concept.

Brainstorm with your team about everything you can think of about starting and running the business. Then list them all down.

Be as creative as possible. No need to be too critical at this point.

While brainstorming, aim to answer these key questions:

  • Why do you want to start the business? What has inspired you to go for it?
  • What product or service do you plan to sell?
  • Who will be your target customers? What are their problems that you’re hoping to solve through your product or service? How will you promote your offerings to them?
  • What will be your business branding ? How will you position your brand in the industry?
  • What is your competitive advantage? What makes your business unique?
  • Where do you see your business within a year?

2. Validate your business idea

Research on the specifics of your business idea—paying special attention to your product or service, target market, and competitors.

According to entrepreneurship experts, it’s best to spend twice as much time on this step as spending the time to the actual drafting of the business plan.

Here are some ways to validate your business idea:

  • Read studies and research to find information and trends about your industry .
  • Conduct market research to gather insights from industry leaders, potential customers, and suppliers . You can do this through surveys, focus group discussions, and one-on-one interviews with your stakeholders.
  • Collect data about your competitors , especially the product or service they offer and how they reach their customers. Consider buying from them or visiting their store to get a feel of their products and customer experience.

Gather all relevant information and analyze your findings to assess whether the business idea is feasible or not. You may need to tweak your business idea based on your evaluation of its feasibility.

3. Define the purpose of your business plan

It’s extremely difficult to carry out anything if you aren’t sure about why you’re doing it in the first place. Without a clear purpose, you’re like driving a car without knowing where you’re headed to.

When it comes to writing your business plan, you should have its purpose in mind from the get-go. It can be one or more of the following:

  • Create a roadmap to provide the directions the business must take to achieve your goals and overcome challenges. This is ideal for bootstrapping or self-funding startups.
  • Seek investments and loans to finance a business. If this is your purpose for making a business plan, it should be compelling enough to attract investors and lenders.
  • Set your targets, budget, timelines, and milestones. When you put them all in writing, it’s so much easier to evaluate and measure your business’ actual performance versus your goals.
  • Communicate your vision and strategic priorities with the management team. With this purpose, your business plan must establish specific goals for your managers so that they have something to commit to, you can track progress, and get them to follow through on their commitments. Also, having a business plan for this purpose ensures that everybody involved in running your business is on the same page.
  • Minimize risks. Running a business in itself involves a lot of risks, and it gets riskier with a poorly researched business idea. A business plan can help entrepreneurs mitigate them by organizing activities and preparing for contingencies.

4. Create an outline for the executive summary

The first section of any business plan is the executive summary. You don’t have to draft it yet at this point, but it helps to write an outline for it before you proceed with the rest of the sections.

In a sentence or two, describe these key aspects of your business:

  • Product or service
  • Target market
  • Competitors
  • Unique value proposition (how you set your business apart from the competition)
  • Management team
  • Short-term and long-term business goals
  • Possible sources of revenue

5. Describe your business

The next step is to write your company profile. Get your readers to become familiar with your business and realize why they should be interested in it.

If you have no idea what specifically goes into this crucial business plan section, you can check the company profiles of businesses in your industry. Usually, you can find them on their websites at the About Us or About the Company page. Take note of the information included and how they’re written.

Here are the must-haves of a great company profile:

  • Brief history of the company
  • Mission and vision
  • Product or service lineup
  • Target market and audience
  • How the business will address the customers’ pain points
  • What makes the business unique

6. Provide details about your operations and organizational structure

Anyone who will read your business plan needs to know what they should expect when they deal with you. They need to see a solid plan for your operations and the people who make up your team. So give your operations plan and organizational plan a careful thought.

For your operations plan, choose carefully the right legal structure for your business. Will you be a sole proprietor? Or will you partner with someone or form a corporation? Your choice will have an impact not only on your business operations but also on the taxes you’ll pay and your personal liability .  

As for the organizational plan, it’s where you put your organizational chart that shows a glimpse of the hierarchy within your organization. You can easily create this chart in Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.

Also introduce the people who comprise your management team—their relevant experience, qualifications, and expertise . The organizational plan must also include information of the support personnel, as well as who reports to whom and who manages whom.

If you’ll be outsourcing some of your business functions, add them to your organizational plan, too. These may include consultants , accountants , lawyers , logistics specialists, and IT specialists. This way, you’re showing that you’re planning to fill in any expertise and skill gaps in your in-house team.

Also Read: Business Process Outsourcing to the Philippines [Complete Guide]

7. Compose your marketing plan

Make this section of your business plan as comprehensive and detailed as possible. You’d want to prove that you’ll take a strategic and aggressive approach to reach your target customers and promote your brand and product or service to them.

Divide your marketing plan into five subsections: objectives, product/service description, target market profile, competition profile, and promotional activities.

A. Objectives

Zero in on the what and the why of your marketing activities. Under the marketing objectives section, list down all your goals and the strategies you’ll implement to meet them.

Your marketing goals can be any of the following:

  • Raise brand awareness
  • Introduce a new product or service
  • Regain or get more customers for an existing product or service
  • Secure long-term contracts with your ideal clients
  • Increase sales in a certain market, product, or price point
  • Improve product manufacturing or product/service delivery
  • Increase prices without affecting sales

B. Product/Service Description

Describe each product or service you’ll offer, including its features and benefits. You can use storytelling , images, charts, tables, or any visual element that best illustrates how each item will work to the benefit of your target customers.

C. Target Market Profile

Present as much relevant data as you can about your potential customers. Make sure to include the following:

  • Demographic profile: age range, gender, income level, education, interests, etc.
  • Buying behaviors
  • Factors that influence their buying decisions: purchasing power, personal preferences, economic conditions, marketing campaigns, social factors (such as peer pressure and social media influencers ), cultural factors, etc.

D. Competition Profile

Your marketing plan must focus not only on your own business but also those of your competitors. List down the similar products or services that they offer to your target customers.

Also, provide an assessment of your competitors’ performance. Which areas are they doing well? How can you improve on their strengths and weaknesses? How can your business stand out? Is it your more competitive pricing? Better customer service? Superior product quality?

To come up with a good competition profile, take the time to research about your competitors. When interviewing your target customers, ask them about the brands they use or businesses they deal with.

You can also do an online search of your competitors. For example, if you’ll run a pet supplies store in Pasig, search for “pet stores Pasig” on Google. The search engine results page may show you the different stores that sell the same products as the ones you plan to offer. Read customer reviews online to get deeper insights on how these businesses serve their clients.

Consider doing a “secret shopping” in your competitor’s store. This way, you can experience firsthand how they treat their customers and how they market and sell their products or services. You might even be able to get information about their product lineup and pricing.

E. Promotional Activities

The last subsection of your marketing plan must discuss how you’ll promote your brand and products or services and connect with customers. Also, be ready to allocate budget for each marketing activity you identify in your plan.

Create a list of marketing activities you plan to implement. Will you reach your audience through SEO (organic online search), paid advertising, and/or social media? Or will you go the traditional route through print and TV advertising or joining expos, exhibits, and trade shows? The right choice depends on the nature of your business and the type of audience you’re trying to reach.

8. Develop your financial plan

The financial plan is the section where you’ll crunch the numbers. Unless you’re really good at math, it’s best to hire an accountant or business consultant who will work with you to develop a foolproof financial plan.

Put simply, a financial plan explains how a business will spend money and make more money. It also estimates the amount of time it will take for the business to earn a profit.

Here are the specifics of a good financial plan:

  • Total capital requirement
  • Business financing plan and any loan requirement
  • Collateral to put up for a business loan
  • Schedule for loan repayment
  • Financial statements : cash flow statement, income statement/profit and loss statement, and balance sheet
  • Break-even analysis
  • Return on investment (ROI)
  • Financial analysis

Ultimately, these financial projections answer the question, “Is your business financially feasible?”

9. Back up your business plan with supporting documents

Books and theses have an appendix section at the end that provides additional resources. Your business plan should have one, too. This final section consists of documents, surveys, studies, charts, tables, images, and other elements that provide supporting data.

Depending on the information you’ve presented in the other sections of the plan, your appendix may include these things:

  • Market research data and findings
  • Resumes of the management team
  • Relevant financial documents
  • Lease agreements
  • Bank statements
  • Licenses and permits

10. Review and refine your business plan

Your business plan is almost done at this point. Now all you have to do is go over the document once more to ensure you’ve covered everything and nothing crucial is left out.

Check your final draft and be sure it has the following:

  • Sound business idea – If you’ve done Step 2 properly (validating business idea), you can be confident that you have a sound business idea.
  • Comprehensive and in-depth look into your business in a professional format
  • Thorough understanding of your target customers , their behaviors, interests, and needs
  • Competent management team – The people who make up your team must possess the skills and expertise that complement yours.
  • Business focus or specialization

Aside from yourself, ask a business partner, proofreader, and accountant or financial expert to review your business plan and spot any errors and inconsistencies. You’d want to make sure that it looks professional and is accurate.

11. Write the executive summary

Lastly, get back to the outline you created in Step 4 and write it based on your final draft. Make sure to craft an engaging executive summary that hooks people into reading the rest of the plan.

6 Actionable Tips on Writing a Business Plan

Anyone can write a business plan—but it takes more than great writing skills to create an exceptional one.

Here are some tips to help you prepare an effective business plan that goes beyond the ordinary.

1. Write with your audience in mind

When drafting your business plan, you’re writing not for yourself but for people who will play key roles in starting and running your enterprise. This is why it’s important that you know whom you’re writing for and keep them in mind while preparing your business plan.

If you think you can’t create a plan that caters to all your audience groups, consider having different versions of the document. For example, you can come up with a business plan for investors, another for lenders, one for employees, and so on. But keep the data consistent across all versions.

To write a business plan that suits a particular audience, you have to use the right language, highlight the parts that interest them, and adjust the format accordingly.

A. Use the Right Language

One of the most important rules in business writing: use the language that your target audience easily understands. If you’re writing for engineers, finance people, or lawyers, your language can be technical—meaning you can use jargons and terminologies familiar to them.

However, if you’re writing for investors who barely have technical knowledge, tweak your language in simple terms that are easy to grasp and appreciate.

Likewise, if you’re writing a business plan to communicate internally with managers and employees your company’s direction and strategies, it’s best to use more casual language than you would when writing for high-level, external stakeholders.

B. Appeal to Your Audience’s Interests

It also helps to understand what interests your audience because they will influence how you’ll write your business plan.

Your management team, for instance, will be interested in knowing your business goals and strategies so that they can help you steer the company in the right direction.

Investors and lenders look at the business plan differently—they’ll be more interested in your financial statements to determine your financial health, like if your business is worth investing in or has the ability to pay back a loan.

C. Adopt a Suitable Business Plan Format

There’s no one-size-fits-all format for business plans because it depends mainly on your audience, aside from the nature of your business.

Let’s say you’ll set up a restaurant, and you’re drafting a business plan to apply for a business loan. To convince lenders that your business is viable, details such as your restaurant’s location and possible renovations are crucial.

Meanwhile, if you’re writing the plan for potential big-time investors, you’ll take a different approach. A good restaurant business plan focuses on the business aspects that will lead to growth and profitability (Remember that investors are interested in how they’ll make money from partnering with you).

2. Keep it concise

How long should a business plan be? According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , it depends on various factors such as the specific audience it’s written for and the nature of a business. The SBA cites surveys that found the ideal length to be at least 25 to 100 pages.

Sounds a lot? If you have a simple business idea and you’re writing a business plan for busy people who don’t have time to pore over hundreds of pages, then one page up to 20 pages should be fine.

However, you may need to provide more explanation (which will take up more pages in your business plan) if you’re planning to build a new kind of business, and a risky one at that.

The size of your business also affects the length of your business plan. Business plans for small businesses need not exceed 30 pages. Corporate business plans are expected to be longer.

What matters more than length is how concise your business plan is. Meaning, it provides all the necessary information—including solid research and analysis—using the fewest words possible. No place for wordiness here!

3. Document everything related to your business

Support your claims in the business plan with solid facts and proof. Investors, for instance, need an assurance that they won’t lose their investment when they trust you with their money. This is where documenting your business thoroughly plays a crucial role.

What kinds of documentation can you include in your business plan?

  • Industry forecast or projections
  • Licensing agreements
  • Location strategy
  • Prototype of your product or service
  • Survey and FGD results
  • Resumes of your management team

4. Show your passion and dedication to your business

Although business plans have straightforward, matter-of-fact content, you can still establish an emotional connection with your readers through your plan. After all, your readers are humans with feelings and motivations.

No need to be dramatic about it—you can show your passion and dedication while still sounding professional in your business plan. Write about the mistakes you’ve had (like a failed business in the past), what you’ve learned from the experience, the values you hold, and the problems of your customers you want to solve through your product or service.

5. Know your competition and how you’ll stand out

Your business won’t be the single player in your industry. Other businesses in the same niche have started way ahead of you, and some new ones will also compete for business in the future.

Write your business plan in such a way that you know your competitors so well. Identify all of them and what makes your business unique compared with the rest without belittling them.

6. Be realistic and conservative in all your estimates

In any aspect of your business, it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver than the other way around. This also holds true when writing a business plan. You wouldn’t want to set unrealistic expectations that will lead to disappointments and worse, losses, when you fail to deliver on your promise.

There’s no place for too much optimism in your business plan. Your budget allocation, timelines, capital requirements, sales and revenue targets, and financial projections must be reasonable, realistic, and conservative. These will lend credibility to your business plan and yourself as an entrepreneur. Because there are a lot of factors beyond your control, always assume that things will get completed longer and cost more ( consider inflation over time! ).

This is where your research prior to writing the draft comes extremely helpful. You have something solid and factual to benchmark against. For example, if your analysis based on the facts you’ve gathered indicates that you’ll be able to get 40% share off the market in your first year of operations, consider making your estimates a bit more conservative and attainable.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Business Valuation in the Philippines

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Business Plan

Now, let’s explore the mistakes entrepreneurs often commit when writing a business plan. Listing them all down here to let you know what to avoid.

1. Prioritizing Form Over Substance

Spend most of your time and energy on building solid research and facts rather than obsessing about which font type or background color will look best for your document.

2. Overthinking

Many entrepreneurs take too long to complete their business plans because they worry too much about it. Don’t get intimidated by business planning—you don’t have to be an expert or a degree holder in business management or business administration to be able to write an outstanding business plan. Overthinking will just lead to analysis paralysis and get nothing done.

As long as you know your business well and are passionate about it, then writing a business plan won’t be as difficult as you think, especially if you’re using a template.

3. Submitting the Document Without Proofreading It

If your business plan is filled with typos and grammatical errors, readers will get distracted even if you’re presenting substantial information. It may also give your audience an impression that you’re careless—and who wants to deal with a person who isn’t professional and careful enough?

Even if it costs you money, pay a professional proofreader to check your work and correct any errors so that the message you wanted to convey through your business plan will get across.

4. Making Empty Claims

Any statement that isn’t sufficiently supported by solid research or documentation has to go. For example, if you want to claim to be the top player in your industry but you don’t have any evidence to back it up, rethink about including it in your business plan.

5. Writing an Overly Long and Wordy Plan

Make sure that everything you put into your business plan is relevant and serves your purpose. Otherwise, remove unnecessary statements that just add fluff to the document.

Also, don’t waste your readers’ time by using too many words—including highfalutin ones. Remember, your goal is to make your audience understand your business, not to impress them with beautiful or complex prose.

6. Using Too Many Superlatives

Even if you really feel that your business, business idea, or projection is incredible, amazing, the best, great, fantastic, or one of a kind, avoid using these superlatives because they aren’t appropriate for formal documents like a business plan.

7. Doing the Financial Projections on Your Own

Unless you’re an accountant yourself, it’s best that you get a professional to do the job for you. It will save you time and the headache of dealing with numbers and formatting your financial plan properly.

8. Overestimating Your Projections

The business plan is not a place to make impossible promises—while they look good on paper, you might run into trouble fulfilling them. To avoid this mistake, always do your research. Find out how other businesses do it and what the typical timeframes and financial projections are before you come up with your estimates.

9. Long-Term Business Planning

As much as possible, limit your projections to only a year. A lot of things can happen and make your business different from how you initially planned it. Stick with your short-term or one-year targets and estimates, then just tweak your business plan as time goes by.

10. Including Unfounded Rumors About Your Competitors

Not only do rumors make your business plan look unprofessional, but they also distract your readers from your intended message, which is to highlight what makes your business different from the competition. Avoid including details based only on hearsay. Everything in your plan must be backed up by solid, quantifiable facts.

Key Takeaway

A business plan is more than just a document that you prepare once and will never look at again. Rather, it’s a strategic tool that you should use from time to time to guide your business operations, get the buy-in of your stakeholders, and grow your business over time.

Once you’re done with writing your business plan, make the most of it for your business. Use it and modify it as often as needed!

Ready and confident to start writing your business plan? Share your thoughts and questions below!

Other Useful Business Resources from Grit PH:

  • How to Sell a Business in the Philippines

business plan format for small business

About Venus Zoleta

Venus Zoleta is an experienced writer and editor, specializing in personal finance and digital marketing.

She has been a regular columnist for some of the biggest business & finance publications in the Philippines, such as MoneyMax.ph and Filipiknow.net.

Hoping to retire early, she started investing and bought a home in her early 20s. This crazy cat mom eats ramen like there's no tomorrow.

Education: University of the Philippines (B.A. Journalism) Focus: Personal Finance, Personal Development, and Entrepreneurship

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Hello Ms. Venus, Rise Against Hunger Philippines, N.G.O. , branching out into a new high ways… and i am newly hired as a social enterprise development officer… whose main tasks to launch a product line; an up-cycled tarpaulin bags.. manufactured by a group of community women (skills training’s, coordinated by life coached; aiming w-holistic transformation and sustainability program.. . with such a big tasks, i need a step by step guides, and if possible a coach for i cannot do it alone… thank you, henry reandino chua

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How to start a small business at home in 2024

Blair Travers

Sierra Campbell

Sierra Campbell

“Verified by an expert” means that this article has been thoroughly reviewed and evaluated for accuracy.

Published 8:07 a.m. UTC Feb. 16, 2024

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Starting a small business at home can help you turn your passions, skills or ideas into financial prosperity. There are some unique perks and challenges to consider when deciding to start a home-based business. 

You’ll also want to have a solid plan and follow some key steps to get your business off on the right foot. It’s helpful to know where you can find ideas, answers to your questions and other resources you need to run an at-home business successfully.

Should you start a business at home?

There are many factors to consider when deciding to start a small business at home. On the one hand, it’s important to make sure there is demand for your business. On the other hand, you want to be able to handle the amount of business you receive. Gauging things like demand, profit margins and the ability to scale your business early on can help you avoid trouble down the road.

Across the country, at-home businesses make up a large portion of small businesses. C.E. “Tee” Rowe is the president and CEO of America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), which provides free or low-cost support for small businesses in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. “Here at America’s SBDC, we have seen an uptick in home-based businesses that started during the pandemic but continues to date,” said Rowe. 

Pros of a home business

Here are some key benefits to starting a business at home:

  • Increased flexibility: Set your own hours, freeing you up for other commitments as needed.
  • Less commuting: Save time and money by skipping the drive to work.
  • Comfortable work environment: Design your workspace how you want it. After all, it is your home.
  • Money-saving perks: Pay lower startup costs compared to larger businesses by avoiding costs like renting retail or office space. Take advantage of tax breaks for at-home businesses.
  • Reduce risk: Protect yourself by limiting your liability and avoiding the cost and risk of maintaining commercial space.
  • Rewards for your hard work: Work hard for your business, and your business reaps the benefits instead of some other employer.

Cons of a home business

These are some of the disadvantages of starting a business at home:

  • Limited space: You give up part of your home, and even then, you may still need more space for your business.
  • Distracting work environment: Crying babies, barking dogs and loud neighbors can all be distracting when running a business at home.
  • Professional boundaries: Some people may feel awkward about meeting to discuss business at your home or a public location.
  • Increased mental health risks: Running a home business can feel isolating for some. A lack of social interaction, time outside, work-life balance or effective time management can also threaten mental health.
  • Growth restrictive: If your home-based business scales too rapidly, you may outgrow your workspace quickly. In this situation, success creates a problem for home businesses to solve.
  • Increased costs: Whether you’re paying new employee salaries or wages or forking over more money for higher utility bills, you may feel the financial squeeze.

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7 steps to start a home business

After considering the pros and cons, does the idea of taking the reins and starting a home business appeal to you? You’re not alone. 

“When we work with individuals seeking to start a home-based business, it is frequently based on a desire to control their own circumstance and success, which are great reasons, but it always needs to be thought out carefully,” Rowe explained.

Planning is key. From creating a business plan and determining your business structure to securing funding and setting your marketing strategy, there’s a lot to think through. Follow the steps below to get on the right track to starting a small business at home.

1. Find your niche

Plenty of successful at-home businesses arise from emotion: a passion to do what you love, a frustration with the status quo or excitement to seize on a timely opportunity.

If you’re struggling to find your niche, ask yourself:

  • What do you love to do that others may find challenging?
  • What is a need that no business currently has the right solution for?
  • What are you good at? What do people ask for your help with?
  • What high-demand skills or services do you have to offer?

2. Draft a business plan

Having a business plan is essential for running your business effectively. As Rowe pointed out, “Every business needs a solid, comprehensive plan to guide them to success. That plan needs to focus on skills, finance, revenue and marketing.”

A business plan outlines the direction of the business — its goals, strategies, structure, ways of measuring success and plans for dealing with things like change and risk. Simply put, it’s the roadmap to success for your business.

When creating your business plan, include key sections such as an executive summary, a business description, market analysis and financial projections. For more on what to cover, check out this step-by-step guide to drafting a business plan .

3. Select a business structure

According to the IRS, the most common business structures are sole proprietorships, partnerships , corporations and limited liability companies (LLC) . Each business structure comes with its own set of operational, legal, financial and tax considerations. 

A sole proprietorship is a business owned and operated by a single individual, while a partnership is jointly owned by two or more individuals who share responsibilities. 

In contrast, corporations — like C corporations and S corporations — are independent legal entities. C corporations limit shareholder liability but are highly complex. S corporations feature pass-through taxation, distributing income (and losses) to shareholders.

While sole proprietorship is a common structure for just starting out, LLC is another popular option for at-home businesses. It combines elements of a corporation and a partnership, offering limited liability to its members and the flexibility of pass-through taxation. Members of an LLC can choose to be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, C corporation or S corporation.

4. Register your business and get an EIN

After you choose a business structure, you’ll need to register your business with state and federal governments. Select a business name , pay fees and provide required documents, which vary by state.

After getting registered with your state, you can then apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Once you’re approved, you’ll receive this unique nine-digit number that is essential for all sorts of business purposes, from filing your taxes to hiring employees. 

Not all businesses need an EIN, such as sole proprietors and single-member LLCs with no employees.

5. Get any required licenses and permits

Depending on your industry and federal, state and local requirements, you may also need to obtain licenses and permits for your business. 

Here are some examples of licenses and permits you may need, depending on your business:

  • Occupational, professional or trade licenses.
  • Online business permits.
  • Sales tax permits.
  • Health department permits.
  • Safety permits.
  • Home-based child care licenses.
  • Zoning, signage, environmental and other permits to operate an at-home business, as required by local government, HOA or deed restrictions.

6. Obtain funding for your business

Many owners fund their businesses using their own savings. Self-funding is a viable choice if you can get up and running without much money, can come up with the needed funding from your own accounts or can ask for help from family or friends. 

You can also apply for a business loan . Banks will likely want to see a rock-solid business plan, strong financial projections, good personal and/or business credit history and any collateral you’ll use for your loan. If you are a good candidate for lending, make sure that shows in your application so that you can get the best funding and terms for your business.

If you don’t have much personal or business credit history, it may be easier to get a business credit card . This gives you benefits like payment flexibility, credit card rewards and essential early or emergency spending power. It will also help your business establish or strengthen its credit so you can get favorable terms on future loans and other credit.

7. Launch and market your business

You’ve planned out your business, defined its structure and gotten your business registered, licensed, permitted and even paid for. Now it’s showtime. For many who seek to start a small business at home, the launch is the most exciting part of the journey. You are now ready to conduct business.

It’s also important to get others excited about your small business — and keep them engaged. Here are some of the most common marketing strategies for small home-based businesses:

  • Social media marketing: Reach potential customers on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and X (formerly Twitter) by sharing engaging content and updates.
  • Business website: More than just a place to sell your products or services online, your business website should help users find what they want to meet their needs. It should also help achieve business objectives by offering features like payment services or e-commerce functionality .
  • Advertising: Platforms such as search engines and social media can help you reach your target audience.
  • Content marketing: Write blog posts, produce videos or create helpful graphics to explain what your business offers and to establish trust and authority.
  • Email marketing: To keep business coming back, build an email list to communicate using promotions, newsletters and updates.
  • Word of mouth: In the early stages, many small home-based businesses rely on word of mouth. You can also ask for customer reviews on platforms like Google and Yelp.

Weigh the costs and benefits when deciding on your marketing plan, so you choose what’s best for your business.

Top home business ideas

Check out these home business ideas to find the right fit for you:

  • Retail: Sell products you make — including crafts and customized gifts — or resell products you get for less than what you pay for them.
  • Case-based services: Open up an in-home daycare, provide home-based care for adults or even take care of pets by offering pet sitting and mobile grooming.
  • Events: Plan weddings and events. Create the perfect look as a makeup artist or stylist. Play music in a band or take your place on the 1s and 2s as a DJ.
  • Art and creative services: Capture the moment as a photographer, or maybe you’d rather bring your vision to life as an artist. More of a words person? Write, edit or translate content. 
  • Education: Teach the next generation how to do math, play an instrument or learn a new language. Provide adults with specialized training in arts and crafts, life coaching or test preparation.
  • Health and wellness: Become a personal trainer to get people in the best shape of their lives or a mental health counselor to help them find their inner peace.
  • Home and real estate: Transform homes by organizing, decorating or even staging. Produce virtual home tours for real estate agents, or become a realtor yourself.

Resources to start a business

For more resources and guidance on how to start a small business at home, check out these guides and articles:

  • Follow our step-by-step guide on how to start a business from the ground up.
  • Learn how to start an LLC if that’s your chosen business structure.
  • Discover how to start a business with no money so funding doesn’t hold you back.
  • Skip the overhead that comes with brick-and-mortar stores and find out how to start an online business .
  • Explore options to accept payments online and start making money in your sleep.
  • Find the cheapest payroll services to pay your employees and contractors.
  • Build a successful business by attracting loyal, repeat customers. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

The cost of starting a business at home varies widely and depends on several factors. Some businesses, including sole proprietorships, can get away with paying little to no money to start their business. Other home-based businesses, including those with manufacturing or inventory expenses, could have considerably higher startup costs.

Yes, you can use your home address to register a business. However, you’ll want to make sure that usage does not go against local laws, HOA bylaws or property covenants. It’s also a good idea to check with your mortgage and homeowners insurance companies to make sure that running a business out of your home does not introduce unforeseen headaches.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy . The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Blair Travers

Blair Travers is a business writer and content strategist with over a decade of experience breaking down complex problems to help businesses move forward with confidence. He brings a wide range of technology, banking and retail expertise. Blair enjoys helping businesses figure out complex processes and make choices that are right for them. His work has been published in U.S. News & World Report and Carfax.

Sierra Campbell is a small business editor for USA Today Blueprint. She specializes in writing, editing and fact-checking content centered around helping businesses. She has worked as a digital content and show producer for several local TV stations, an editor for U.S. News & World Report and a freelance writer and editor for many companies. Sierra prides herself in delivering accurate and up-to-date information to readers. Her expertise includes credit card processing companies, e-commerce platforms, payroll software, accounting software and virtual private networks (VPNs). She also owns Editing by Sierra, where she offers editing services to writers of all backgrounds, including self-published and traditionally published authors.

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

Business Eric Rosenberg

Business Terms Glossary

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68 min. read

Updated February 23, 2024

To start and run a business , you often need to understand business terms that may not be well-defined in a standard dictionary.

Our glossary of business terms provides definitions for common terminology and acronyms in business plans , accounting, finance, funding , and other aspects of small business.

Accounts Payable (AP)

Accounts payable (AP) are bills to be paid as part of the normal course of business.

This is a standard accounting term, one of the most common liabilities, which normally appears in the balance sheet listing of liabilities. Businesses receive goods or services from a vendor, receive an invoice, and until that invoice is paid the amount is recorded as part of “accounts payable.”

Accounts Receivable (AR)

Accounts receivables are debts owed to your company, usually from sales on credit. Accounts receivable is business asset, the sum of the money owed to you by customers who haven’t paid.

The standard procedure in business-to-business sales is that when goods or services are delivered the come with an invoice, which is to be paid later. Business customers expect to be invoiced and to pay later. The money involved goes onto the seller’s books as accounts receivable, and onto the buyer’s books as accounts payable.

Accrual-Based Accounting

Accrual-based accounting is standard business accounting, which assumes there will be accounts payable (Bills to be paid as part of the normal course of business) and/or sales on credit (sales made on account; shipments against invoices to be paid later), as opposed to cash basis only.

For example, most businesses have regular bills such as rent, utilities, and often inventory purchase which are not paid for at the exact moment of purchase, but are invoiced. Most businesses will also not be able to collect on all of their sales immediately in cash, but must bill the purchaser or wait for payment on at least some percentage of their sales (the exact percentage varies by industry).

Accumulated Depreciation

Total accumulated depreciation reduces the formal accounting value (called book value) of assets. Each month’s accumulated balance is the same as last month’s balance plus this month’s depreciation.

An acid test is a business’s short-term assets minus accounts receivable and inventory, divided by short-term liabilities.

This tests a company’s ability to meet its immediate cash requirements. It is one of the more common business ratios used by financial analysts.

What’s your biggest business challenge right now?

Acquisition costs.

Acquisition costs are the incremental costs involved in obtaining a new customer.

Adaptive Firm

An adaptive firm is an organization that can respond to and address changes in their market, their environment, and/or their industry to better position themselves for survival and profitability.

To be adaptive, it’s smart to look at your business critically—and a tool like a SWOT analysis can be helpful here.

Adventure Capital

Adventure capital is capital needed in the earliest stages of the venture’s creation before the product or service is available to be provided.

Advertising Opportunity

A product or service may generate additional revenue through advertising if there is benefit from creating additional awareness, communicating differentiating attributes, hidden qualities, or benefits. Optimizing the opportunity may involve leveraging strong emotional buying motives and potential benefits.

An agent is a business entity that negotiates, purchases, and/or sells, but does not take title to the goods.

Asset Turnover

Asset turnover is sales divided by total assets . Important for comparison over time and to other companies of the same industry. This is a standard business ratio.

Assets are property that a business owns, including cash and receivables, inventory, and so on.

Assets are any possessions that have value in an exchange. The more formal definition is the entire property of a person, association, corporation, or estate applicable or subject to the payment of debts. What most people understand as business assets are cash and investments, accounts receivable, inventory, office equipment, plant and equipment, and so on.

Assets can be long-term or short-term, and the distinction between these two categories might be whether they last three years, five years, 10 years, or whatever; normally the accountants decide for each company and what’s important is consistency. The government also has a say in defining assets, because it has to do with tax treatment; when you buy a piece of equipment, if you call that purchase an expense then you can deduct it from taxable income.

If you call it an asset you can’t deduct it, but you can list it on your financial statement among the assets. The tax code controls how businesses decide to categorize spendings into assets or expenses.

Back End (Websites)

Back end and front end describe website program interfaces relative to the user.

The front end of your website is how it looks and how a user interacts with it: the graphic design and HTML portion—some people call this the user interface or UI.

In contrast, the back end handles the dynamic parts of the site, that your website visitors generally don’t see or interact with such as a newsletter, an administration page, a registration database, a contact page or more complicated web applications.

Your back end interfaces with your UI and makes your website work.

Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is one of three essential parts that form the bedrock of a company’s financial statements: cash flow, balance sheet, and income statement.

The balance sheet is a snapshot of your company’s assets, liabilities, and owner’s equity at a specific point in time. It shows what a company owns (assets), what it owes (liabilities), and how much owners and shareholders have invested (equity).

A balance sheet always has to balance: Assets = Liabilities + Equity

For more, read our article here on Bplans that gives an overview of what a balance sheet is .

A benchmark is a standard or guideline used to compare some aspect of a business to some objective or external standard measure.

For example, when a banker compares a business’ profitability to standard financial ratios for that type of business, the process is sometimes referred to as “benchmarking.”

Industry benchmarks can tell you whether you are matching the profit margins of your peers, keeping too much inventory on hand, or getting paid faster or slower than others.

For more on small business financials, see The Key Elements of the Financial Plan .

Your company’s brand includes your business name, logo, sign, symbol, design, or a combination of all used to differentiate your goods or services from competitors.

Brand Equity

Brand equity is the added value a brand name identity brings to a product or service beyond the functional benefits provided. For example, Apple benefits from the fact that its brand name is a household name in smartphones and computers. Apple built a brand that seems fundamentally different from all other computers and smartphones.

Brand Extension Strategy

Brand extension strategy is the practice of using a current brand name to enter a new or different product class. An example of this is the ride-sharing company Uber’s foray into scooters and bike share.

Brand Recognition

Brand recognition refers to a customer’s ability to identify a brand based on its name, logo, colors, or other aspects of a marketing campaign.

Break-Even Analysis

A break-even analysis is used to assess the expected profitability of a company or a single product. It helps you determine at what point revenues and expenditures are equal.

Break-even is usually expressed in terms of the number of units you’ll need to sell or how much revenue you’ll need to generate.

The break-even analysis uses three assumptions to determine a break-even point: fixed costs, variable costs, and unit price. Fixed costs and variable costs are both included in this glossary, and unit price is the average revenue per unit of sales.

The formula for the break-even point in sales amount is: = fixed costs/(1-(Unit Variable Cost/Unit Price)).

The break-even analysis is often confused with the payback period (also in this glossary), because many people interpret breaking even as paying back the initial investment.

However, this is not what the break-even analysis actually does. Despite the common and more general use of the term “break even,” the financial analysis has an exact definition as explained above.

One important disadvantage of the break-even analysis is that it requires estimating a single per-unit variable cost, and a single per-unit price or revenue, for the entire business. That is a hard concept to estimate in a normal business that has a variety of products or services to sell.

Another problem that comes up with break-even is its preference for talking about sales and variable cost of sales in units. Many businesses, especially service businesses, don’t think of sales in units, but rather as sales in money. In those cases, the break-even analysis should think of the dollar as the unit, and state variable costs per unit as variable costs per dollar of sales.

Break-Even Point

The break-even point is the output of a standard break-even analysis. The unit sales volumes or actual sales amounts a company needs to equal its running expense rate and not lose or make money in a given month.

The formula for the break-even point in sales amount is: = Regular running costs/(1-(Unit Variable Cost/Unit Price)).

This should not be confused with the recovering initial investment through the regular operation of a business. That concept, often confused with break-even, is called the payback period.

For more detail on the subject, read: What Is Break Even Analysis?

A broker is an intermediary that serves as a go-between for the buyer or seller.

Check out our latest articles on law and taxes for more information on the legal side of setting up and managing your business.

Bundling is the practice of marketing two or more product or service items in a single package with one price.

Burden Rate

Burden rate refers to personnel burden, the sum of employer costs over and above salaries (including employer taxes, benefits, and so on).

Business Mission

A business mission is, also called a mission statement, is a brief description of an organization’s purpose with reference to its customers, products or services, markets, philosophy, and technology.

For more on your business mission, see How to Write a Mission Statement With 10 Examples

Business Plan

A business plan is a strategic roadmap for any new or growing business or startup venture. Formal business plans are generally required by bank lenders, angel investors, and venture capitalists if you’re seeking funding to grow your company. 

A business plan captures the opportunity see for your company: it describes your product or service and your business model, the target market you’ll serve. 

It also includes details on how you’ll execute your plan: how you’ll price and market your solution, and your financial projections.

Check out our full guide covering the basics of business plans .

Buy-Sell Agreement

A buy-sell agreement is an agreement designed to address situations in which one or more of the entrepreneurs want to sell their interest in the venture.

For more on exiting your business, check out our article on selling your business .

C Corporation (C Corp)

The C corporation is the classic legal entity of the vast majority of successful companies in the United States.

Most lawyers would agree that the C corporation is the structure that provides the best shielding from personal liability for owners, and provides the best non-tax benefits. This is a separate legal entity, different from its owners, which pays its own taxes.

Most lawyers would also probably agree that for a company that has ambitions of raising major investment capital and eventually going public, the C corporation is the standard legal entity.

Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR)

Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is the rate of return that would be required for an investment to grow from its beginning balance to its ending balance if you reinvest profits every year.

The standard formula for compound average growth rate is: (last number/first number)^(1/periods)-1

Cannibalization

Cannibalization is the undesirable tradeoff where sales of a new product or service decrease sales from existing products or services and minimize or detract from the total revenue.

Capital Assets

Capital assets are long-term assets, also known as fixed assets.

These terms are interchangeable. Assets are generally divided into short-term and long-term assets, the distinction depending on how long they last.

Usually, the difference between short-term and long term is a matter of accounting and financial policy. Five years is probably the most frequent division point, meaning that assets that depreciate over more than five years are long-term assets. Ten years and three years are also common.

Capital Expenditure

Spending on capital assets (also called plant and equipment, fixed assets, or long-term assets).

Capital Input

Capital input can also be called investment, or new investment. It is new money being invested in the business, not as loans or repayment of loans, but as money invested in ownership.

This is also money at risk. It will grow in value if the business prospers, and decline in value if the business declines. This is closely related to the concept of paid-in capital, on the balance sheet table. 

Paid-in capital is the amount of money actually invested in the business as money, checks written by investors. Paid-in capital increases only when there is new investment. It is different from retained earnings.

Cash normally means bills and coins, as in paying in cash.

However, the term is used in a business plan to represent the bank balance, or checking account balance.

For more on cash, check out our article on forecasting cash flow .

Cash basis means an accounting system that doesn’t use the standard accrual accounting. 

It records only cash receipts and cash spending, without assuming sales on credit (sales made on account; shipments against invoices to be paid later) or accounts payable (bills to be paid as part of the normal course of business).

ash flow measures how much money is moving into and out of your business during a specific period of time.

Businesses bring in money through sales, returns on investments, and from loans and investments—that’s cash flowing into the business.

And businesses spend money on supplies and services, as well as utilities, taxes, loan payments, and other bills—that’s cash flowing out.

Cash flow is measured by comparing how much money flows into a business during a certain period of time compared to how much money flows out of that business during that same period. Usually, cash flow is measured over the course of a month or a quarter.

Cash Flow Budget

A cash flow budget is a budget that provides an overview of cash inflows and outflows during a specified period of time.

This is often called the cash flow, or the cash budget. Just as cash flow is one of the most critical elements of business, the cash flow projection or table is one of the most critical elements of a business plan.

Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement is one of the three main financial statements (along with the income statement and balance sheet) that shows the financial position and health of a business.

The cash flow statement shows actual cash inflows and outflows of a business over a specified period of time, usually a month or a quarter. The statement then compares cash received to cash spending to determine if a business is cash flow negative or positive.

Cash sales are sales made in cash, with credit cards, or by check. The opposite of sales on credit (sales made on account; shipments against invoices to be paid later).

Cash Spending

Cash spending is money a business spends when it pays obligations immediately instead of letting them wait for a few days first.

Central Driving Forces Model

The central driving forces model is an entrepreneurial-based model that considers the positives and negatives of three areas of the venture; founder(s), opportunities, and resources. 

The model then evaluates these areas regarding the “fits and gaps” that indicate correlating strengths or weaknesses for the venture. The CDF model also considers industry and market information in the overall analysis.

Channel Conflicts

Channel conflicts refer to a situation where one or more channel members believe another channel member is engaged in behavior that is preventing it from achieving its goals. Channel conflict most often relates to pricing issues.

Channels of Distribution

Channels of distribution are the system where customers are provided access to an organization’s products or services.

Click-Through Rate

Click-through rate is a way of measuring the success of an online advertising campaign.

A click-through rate (CTR) is obtained by dividing the number of users who clicked on an ad on a webpage by the number of times the ad was delivered (impressions).

For example, if your banner ad was delivered 100 times (impressions delivered) and 1 person clicked on it (clicks recorded), then the resulting CTR would be 1%.

Co-Branding

Co-branding is the pairing of two manufacturer’s brand names on a single product or service.

Cost of Goods Sold

The cost of goods sold is traditionally the costs of materials and production of the goods a business sells.

For a manufacturing company this is materials, labor, and factory overhead. For a retail shop it would be what it pays to buy the goods that it sells to its customers.

For service businesses, that don’t sell goods, the same concept is normally called “cost of sales,” which shouldn’t be confused with “sales and marketing expenses.” The cost of sales in this case is directly analogous to cost of goods sold. 

For a consulting company, for example, the cost of sales would be the compensation paid to the consultants plus costs of research, photocopying, and production of reports and presentations.

In standard accounting, costs of sales or costs of goods sold are subtracted from sales to calculate gross margin. 

These costs are distinguished from operating expenses, because gross profit is gross margin less operating expenses. Costs are not expenses.

Collection Period (Days)

A collection period is the average number of days between delivering an invoice and receiving the money.

The formula is: =(Accounts_receivable_balance*360)/(Sales_on_credit*12)

In business, a commission is the compensation paid to the person or entity based on the sale of a product; commonly calculated on a percentage basis.

The most frequent commission formula is gross margin multiplied by the commission percentage.

Commission Percent

A commission percent is an assumed percentage used to calculate commission expense as the product of commission percent multiplied by sales, gross margin, or related sales items.

Community Interest Company (CIC)

A CIC is a new type of limited company in the United Kingdom, designed for social enterprises that want to use their profits and assets for the public good.

CICs will be easy to set up, with all the flexibility and certainty of the company form, but with some special features to ensure they are working for the benefit of the community. This is achieved by a “community interest test” and “asset lock”, which ensure that the CIC is established for community purposes and the assets and profits are dedicated to these purposes.

Registration of a company as a CIC has to be approved by the regulator who also has a continuing monitoring and enforcement role.

Competitive Advantage

A competitive advantage is strategic development where customers will choose a firm’s product or service over its competitors based on significantly more favorable perceptions or offerings.

Competitive Analysis

Competitive analysis means assessing and analyzing the comparative strengths and weaknesses of competitors; may include their current and potential product and service development and marketing strategies.

Competitive Entry Wedges

Competitive entry wedges are strategic competitive advantages and justification for entering an established market or activity that provides recognizable and known value.

The four competitive entry wedges include:

  • New product or service
  • Parallel competition
  • Franchise entry

Completed Store Transactions

Completed store transactions refer to a conversion value measuring the number of purchases made on the website.

Concentrated Target Marketing

Concentrated target marketing is a process that occurs when a single target market segment is pursued.

Contribution

Contribution can have different meanings in different context.

When the contribution is applied to a product or product line, it means the difference between total sales revenue and total variable costs, or, on a per-unit basis, the difference between unit selling and the unit variable cost. It may be expressed in percentage terms (contribution margin) or dollar terms (contribution per unit).

Contribution Margin

Contribution is frequently expressed as contribution margin for a whole company or across a group or product line, in which case it can be taken as gross margin less sales and marketing expenses.

Conversion Rate

A conversion rate is the percentage of unique website visitors who take a desired action upon visiting the website.

The desired action may be submitting a sales lead, making a purchase, viewing a key page of the site, downloading a file, or some other measurable action.

Core Marketing Strategy

Core marketing strategy is a statement that communicates the predominant reason to buy to a specific target market.

Corporation

Corporations are either the standard C corporation, or the small business S corporation.

The C corporation is the classic legal entity of most successful companies in the United States. The S corporation is used for family companies and smaller ownership groups.

The clearest distinction from C is that the S corporation’s profits or losses go straight through to the S corporation’s owners, without being taxed separately first. 

In practical terms, this means that the corporation’s owners can take their profits home without first paying the corporation’s separate tax on profits. Profits are taxed once for the S owner, and twice for the C owner. The C corporation doesn’t send its profits home to its owners as much as the S corporation because it usually has different goals and objectives. It often wants to grow and go public, or it already is public.

In most states, an S corporation is owned by a limited number (25 is a common maximum) of private owners, and corporations can’t hold stock in S corporations, just individuals. Corporations can switch from C to S and back again, but not often. The IRS has strict rules for when and how those switches are made. 

You’ll almost always want to have your CPA and, in some cases, your attorney guide you through the legal requirements for switching.

Corridor Principal

The corridor principle is the principle where an entrepreneurial venture may find that it has significantly changed its focus from the initial concept of the venture as it has continually responded and adapted to its market and the desire to optimize profitability potential.

Cost of Sales

Cost of sales refers to the costs associated with producing the sales.

In a standard manufacturing or distribution company, this is the same as the cost of the goods sold. In a services company, this is more likely to be personnel costs for people delivering the service or subcontracting costs.

This term is commonly used interchangeably with “cost of goods sold,” particularly for a manufacturing, retail, distribution, or other product-based company. In these cases, it is traditionally the costs of materials and production of the goods a business sells.

For a manufacturing company, this is materials, labor, and factory overhead. 

For a retail shop, it would be what it pays to buy the goods that it sells to its customers. 

For service businesses that don’t sell goods, the concept is normally called “cost of sales,” which shouldn’t be confused with “sales and marketing expenses.” The cost of sales, in this case, is directly analogous to cost of goods sold.

In standard accounting, costs of sales or costs of goods sold are subtracted from sales to calculate gross margin. These costs are distinguished from operating expenses, because gross profit is gross margin less operating expenses. Costs are not expenses.

For more on costs of goods sold, see our article on the LivePlan blog: What Are Direct Costs?

Cross Elasticity of Demand

Cross elasticity of demand is the change in the quantity demanded of one product or service, impacting the change in demand for another product or service.

Current Assets

Current assets are the same as short-term assets.

Current Debt

Current debt refers to short-term debt and short-term liabilities.

Current Liabilities

Current liabilities refer to short-term debt and short-term liabilities.

Doing Business As (DBA)

DBA stands for “doing business as ,” which is a company name, also commonly called a “fictitious business name.”

When a sole proprietor operates a company using any name except his or her own given name, then the DBA or fictitious business name registration establishes the legal ownership to satisfy banks, local authorities, and customers.

So when you start the Acme Restaurant, unless you are named Acme, you need your DBA to open a bank account in that name, pay employees, and do business.

You can usually obtain this registration through the county government, and the cost is no more than a small registration fee plus a required newspaper ad, for a total of less than $100 in most states.

Debt and Equity

Debt and equity is the sum of liabilities and capital. This should always be equal to total assets.

Depreciation

Depreciation is an accounting and tax concept used to estimate the loss of value of assets over time. For example, cars depreciate with use.

Differentiated Target Marketing

Differentiated target marketing is a process that occurs when an organization simultaneously pursues several different market segments, usually with a different strategy for each.

Differentiation

Differentiation is an approach to create a competitive advantage based on obtaining a significant value difference that customers will appreciate and be willing to pay for, and which ideally will increase their loyalty as a result.

Direct Cost of Sales

Direct cost of sales is a shortcut for cost of goods sold: traditionally, the costs of materials and production of the goods a business sells, or the costs of fulfilling a service for a service business.

Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail marketing is a form of direct marketing that involves sending information through a mail process, physical or electronic, to potential customers.

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing refers to any method of distribution that gives the customer access to an organization’s products and services without intermediaries; also, any communication from the producer that communicates with a target market to generate a revenue producing response.

A directory is a computer term related to the operating system on IBM and compatible computers. Disk storage space is divided into directories.

Distinctive Competency

A distinctive competency is an organization’s strengths or qualities including skills, technologies, or resources that distinguish it from competitors to provide superior and unique customer value and, hopefully, is difficult to imitate.

Diversification

Diversification is a product-market strategy that involves the development or acquisition of offerings new to the organization and/or the introduction of those offerings to the target markets not previously served by the organization.

Dividends refers to money distributed to the owners of a business as profits.

Dual Distribution

Dual distribution is the practice of simultaneously distributing products or services through two or more marketing channels that may or may not compete for similar buyers.

Early Adopters

Early adopters are one type of adopter in Everett Rogers’ diffusion of innovations framework that describes buyers that follow “innovators” rather than be the first to purchase.

Early Majority

An early majority is one type of adopter in Everett Rogers’ diffusion of innovations framework that describes those interested in new technology that wait to purchase until these innovations are proven to perform to the expected standard.

Also called income or profits, earnings are the famous “bottom line”: sales less costs of sales and expenses.

Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT)

EBIT refers to earnings before interest and taxes.

Earnings Before Interest Taxes Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA)

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (or EBITDA) is equal to the gross margin (the difference between total sales revenue and total direct cost of sales) minus total operating expenses (tax-deductible expenses incurred in conducting normal business operations, such as wages and salaries, rent, and so on), plus any depreciation (The loss of value of assets over time) and amortization.

This is similar to earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT). The difference between the two is that EBIT subtracts all expenses, including depreciation, as an expense, and EBITDA subtracts all expenses except depreciation and amortization.

Economies of Scale

Economies of scale refers to the benefit that larger production volumes allow fixed costs to be spread over more units lowering the average unit costs and offering a competitive price and margin advantage.

Producing in large volume often generates economies of scale. The per-unit cost of something goes down with volume because vendors charge less per unit for larger orders, and often production techniques and facilities cost less per unit as volume increases. Fixed costs are spread over larger volume.

Effective Demand

Effective demand is when prospective buyers have the willingness and ability to purchase an organization’s offerings.

Effective Tax Rate

The effective tax rate is a comparison of final tax payments compared to actual profits. Usually the effective tax rate is somewhat less than the nominal tax rate because of deductions, credits, etc.

Entrepreneur in Heat (EIH)

The term “entrepreneur in heat” describes an entrepreneur that continues to develop new products and services beyond what the venture can support and inadvertently may diminish the focus and effectiveness of the activities supporting the venture’s primary revenue streams.

Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur is someone who starts a new business venture; someone who recognizes and pursues opportunities others may not see as clearly, and finds the resources necessary to accomplish his or her goals.

Equity is business ownership—capital. Equity can be calculated as the difference between assets and liabilities.

Equity Financing

Equity financing refers to the sales of some portion of ownership in a venture to gain additional capital for startup.

Evaluating Ideas and Opportunities

Evaluating ideas and opportunities is the process of considering ideas versus opportunities, and then screening those opportunities using objective criteria as well as personal criteria.

Everett Rogers

Everett Rogers is an author who studied and published work on the diffusion of innovation.

Exclusive Distribution

Exclusive distribution is a distribution strategy whereby a producer sells its products or services in only one retail outlet in a specific geographical area.

For the purposes of business accounting, expenses are deductible against taxable income. Common expenses are rent, salaries, advertising, travel, and so on.

Questions arise because some businesses have trouble distinguishing between expenses and purchase of assets, especially with development expenses. When your business purchases office equipment, if you call that an expense then you can deduct that amount from taxable income, so it reduces taxes.

Experience Curve

The experience curve is a visual representation, often based on a function of time, from exposure to a process that offers greater information and results in enhanced efficiency and operations advantage.

Features, Advantages, and Benefits (FAB)

A FAB analysis explores the features, advantages, and benefits of a product or service offering.

Marketing plans need to understand these concepts in order to develop effective marketing programs. People often confuse features and benefits; for example, in an automobile, air bags are a feature that produces the benefit of greater safety. 

Advantages fall in between, and features become advantages that offer benefits to the end user.

Failure Rule, Common Causes

Entrepreneurial ventures most often fail due to one or more of these four issues:

  • Inadequate sales (39%)
  • Competitive weaknesses (21%)
  • Excessive operating expenses (11%)
  • Uncollected receivables (9%)

Failure Rule, Exceptions to the Rule

Entrepreneurial ventures most often fail due to one (or more) of the following common issues: inadequate sales, competitive weaknesses, excessive operating expenses, and uncollected receivables.

Exceptions to the failure rule include:

  • High potential ventures
  • Threshold concept
  • Promise of growth
  • Venture capital backing

Fatal 2% Rule

The concept of the fatal 2% rule is that if a venture can just get “2%” of total market share it will be successful.

This percentage can be unattainable based on the approach, limited resources, and/or structure of the industry.

Fighting Brand Strategy

A fighting brand strategy is adding a new brand to confront competitive brands in an established product category.

First Mover

The first mover is a company that attempts to gain an unchallengeable, privileged market position by being the first to establish itself in a given market.

First Mover Advantage

Key first mover advantages include:

  • Reputation effect
  • Experience curve
  • Customer commitment and loyalty

First Mover Disadvantage

These factors can turn first-mover advantages into weaknesses. They include:

  • Resolution of technological uncertainty
  • Resolution of strategic uncertainty
  • Free-rider effect—others duplicate based on the leader’s success
  • Complementary assets to exploit core technological expertise

Fiscal Year

The fiscal year is a standard accounting practice allows the accounting year to begin in any month. Fiscal years are numbered according to the year in which they end. 

For example, a fiscal year ending in February of 2025 is Fiscal 2025, even though most of the year takes place in 2024.

Five Forces Model

Porter’s model considers these forces as they impact an industry and the overall competitive climate:

  • Risk of entry by potential competitors
  • Bargaining power of suppliers
  • Bargaining power of buyers
  • Threat of substitute products
  • Rivalry among established firms

Running costs that take time to wind down: usually rent, overhead, some salaries. Technically, fixed costs are those that the business would continue to pay even if it went bankrupt.

In practice, fixed costs are usually considered the running costs. These are static expenses that do not fluctuate with output volume and become progressively smaller per unit of output as volume increases.

Fixed costs are an important assumption for developing a break-even analysis. The standard break-even formula estimates a break-even point of sales based on per-unit price or revenue, per-unit variable costs, and fixed costs.

Fixed Liabilities

Fixed liabilities are debts—money that must be paid. Usually, debt on terms of longer than five years are fixed liabilities. Also called long-term liabilities.

Fixed liabilities, in contrast to floating liabilities, are secured by assets with a stable value, such as a building or a piece of equipment.

Floating Liabilities

Floating liabilities are debts—money that must be paid. Floating liabilities, in contrast to fixed liabilities, are secured by assets with a constantly changing value, such as a company’s accounts receivable (debtors). These are usually short-term loans.

Focus Group

A focus group refers to small groups of people, usually between nine and 12 in number, representing target audiences, that are brought together to discuss a topic that will offer insight for product development and/or marketing efforts.

Frequency Marketing

Frequency marketing refers to activities that encourage repeat purchasing through a formal program enrollment process to develop loyalty and commitment from the customer base. Frequency marketing is also referred to as loyalty programs.

Front End (Websites)

Front end and back end describe program interfaces relative to the user.

The front end, here, is the appearance of your website. It is the graphic design and HTML portion—some people call this the user interface or UI.

In contrast, the portion of the application you or your developers work with is the back end. The back end handles the dynamic parts of the site, such as a newsletter, an administration page, a registration database, a contact page, or more complicated web applications. Your back end interfaces with your UI and makes your website work.

Full-Cost Price Strategies

Full-cost price strategies are costs that consider variable cost and fixed cost (total cost) in the pricing of a product or service.

Future Value Projections

Future value projections refer to the process of projecting the future value of a venture and/or an investment in the venture. It typically considers an expected rate of return, inflation, and the period of time to assess future value.

Goodwill is when a company purchases another company for more than the value of its assets—which is quite common—the difference is recorded as an asset named “goodwill.”

This is not a general term for the value of a brand, for example, but a very specific accounting term.

For example, if one business buys another business for $1 million then it needs to show the $1 million spent as an asset. If there are only $500 thousand in real assets, the accounting result should be $500,000 in real assets purchased and another $500,000 in “goodwill.”

Gross Margin

Gross margin is the difference between total sales revenue and total cost of goods sold (also called total cost of sales). This can also be expressed on a per unit basis, as the difference between unit selling price and unit cost of goods sold. Gross margin can be expressed in dollar or percentage terms.

Gross Margin Percent

The gross margin percent is the gross margin divided by sales, displayed as a percentage. Acceptable levels depend on the nature of the business. There are providers who can deliver standard gross margins for different types of industries based on SIC (Standard Industry Classification) codes that categorize industries.

Guerrilla Marketing

The term guerrilla marketing comes from Conrad Levinson’s book Guerrilla Marketing, which refers to marketing via events and stimulated media coverage rather than paid advertisements.

Harvesting is most often referring to selling a business or product line, as when a company sells a product line or division or a family sells a business.

  • Impressions

An impression occurs each time an advertisement is seen by a potential customer. For example, in online marketing, an impression happens when an advertisement such as a banner ad loads on a user’s screen, whether for the first time, when returning to a page, or when the ad cycles through dynamically.

Income Statement

Also called profit and loss statement, an income statement is a financial statement that shows sales, cost of sales, gross margin, operating expenses, and profits or losses.

Gross margin is sales less cost of sales, and profit (or loss) is gross margin less operating expenses and taxes. The result is profit if it’s positive, loss if it’s negative.

Initial Public Offering (IPO)

An IPO is a corporation’s initial effort to raise capital through the sale of securities on the public stock market.

Innovation (Evolutionary or Revolutionary)

Innovation refers to the determination if an innovation is a “new and improved” concept taken to the next level (evolutionary), or the rare innovation that revolutionizes a technology or concept to the product or services.

Innovators refers to one type of adopter in Everett Rogers’ diffusion of innovations framework describing the first group to purchase a new product or service.

Integrated Marketing Communications

Integrated marketing communications is the practice of blending different elements of the communication mix in mutually reinforcing ways.

Intensive Distribution

Intensive distribution is a distribution strategy whereby a producer attempts to sell its products or services in as many retail outlets as possible within a geographical area without exclusivity.

Interest Expense

Interest expense is interest paid on debts, and interest expense is deducted from profits as expenses. Interest expense is either long-term or short-term interest.

Intraprenuership

Intrapreneurship refers to entrepreneurial-based activities within a corporation that receive organizational support and resource commitments for an innovative new business experience within the organization itself.

Inventory refers to goods in stock, either finished goods or materials used to manufacture goods.

Inventory Turnover

Inventory turnover is the total cost of sales divided by inventory. Usually calculated using the average inventory over an accounting period, not an ending-inventory value.

Inventory Turns

Also known as inventory turnover, inventory turns are the total cost of sales divided by inventory. Usually calculated using the average inventory over an accounting period, not an ending-inventory value.

A jobber is an intermediary that buys from producers to sell to retailers and offers various services with that function.

Labor, in this context, refers to the labor costs associated with making goods to be sold. This labor is part of the cost of sales, part of the manufacturing and assembly. The row heading refers to fulfillment costs as well, for service companies.

Laggards are one type of adopter in Everett Rogers’ diffusion of innovations framework describing the risk-averse group that follows the late majority that is generally not interested in new technology and are the last customers to buy.

Leveraged Buy Out (LBO)

A leveraged buy-out is a type of purchase of a business that relies heavily on the venture’s cash receipts with expectations of positive cash flow continuing based on historical or other performance indicators.

Liabilities

Liabilities are debts or money that must be paid. Usually, debt on terms of less than five years is called short-term liabilities, and debt for longer than five years is called long-term liabilities.

A life cycle is a model depicting the sales volume cycle of a single product, brand, service, or a class of products or services over time described in terms of the four phases of introduction, growth, maturity and decline.

Limited (Public) Company (AUS)

A public limited company is one where the right to transfer shares and the number of members is not limited. In addition, the company may invite the public to subscribe for its shares and, to deposit money with the company.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

The LLC form is different for different states, with some real advantages in some states that aren’t relevant in others.

An LLC is usually a lot like an S corporation, a combination of some limitation on legal liability and some favorable tax treatment for profits and transfer of assets. This is a newer form of legal entity, and often harder to establish than a corporation.

Why would you establish an LLC instead of a corporation? That’s a tough legal question, not one we can answer here. In general, the LLC has to be missing two of the four characteristics of a corporation (limited liability, centralized management, continuity of life, and free transferability of ownership interest). 

Still, with the advisability and advantages varying from state to state, here again, this is a question to take to a good local attorney with small business experience.

Limited Liability Partnership

A limited liability partnership is a form of business organization combining elements of partnerships and corporations, in which both managing and non-managing partners are protected from liability to some degree, and have a different tax liability than in a corporation. 

Although this form of business is available in the U.S., the U.K., and Japan, legal details of forming and operating such a company vary from one country to another, and by state within the U.S.

Long-Term Assets

Long-term assets are assets like plant and equipment that are depreciated over terms of more than five years, and are likely to last that long, too.

Long-Term Interest Rate

A long-term interest rate is the interest rate charged on long-term debt.

Long-Term Liabilities

Long-term liabilities are the same as long-term loans. Most companies call a debt long-term when it is on terms of five years or more.

Loss is an accounting concept, the exact opposite of profit, normally the bottom line of the income statement, which is also called profit or loss statement. 

Start with sales, subtract all costs of sales and all expenses, and that produces profit before tax. Subtract tax to get net profit. If the end result is negative, then instead of profit it is called loss.

Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are activities designed to encourage repeat purchasing through a formal program enrollment process and the distribution of benefits. Loyalty programs may also be referred to as frequency marketing.

Manufacturer’s Agent

A manufacturer’s agent is an agent who typically operates on an extended contractual basis, often sells in an exclusive territory, offers non-competing but related lines of goods, and has defined authority regarding prices and terms of sale.

A market refers to prospective buyers, individuals, or organizations, willing and able to purchase the organization’s potential offering.

Market Development Funds

Market development funds refer to the monetary resources a company invests to assist channel members increase volume sales of their products or services.

Market Development Strategy

A market development strategy is a product-market strategy whereby an organization introduces its offerings to markets other than those it is currently serving. In global marketing, this strategy can be implemented through exportation licensing, joint ventures, or direct investment.

Market Evolution

Market evolution refers to changes in primary demand for a product class and changes in technology.

Market Penetration Strategy

Market penetration is the amount that your business is able to sell a product or service to customers compared to the estimated total available market (TAM). 

This is a measurement that can help you define the serviceable available market (SAM), which is the portion you estimate that you can acquire. 

Additionally, it can serve as a baseline for developing a strategy to increase your service obtainable market (SOM), or the subset of customers that you can realistically acquire.

Market Plan

Often found within the business plan, the market plan provides details regarding the overall marketing strategy, pricing, sales tactics, service and warranty policies, advertising, promotion, and distribution plans for the venture.

Market Redefinition

Market redefinition refers to changes in the offering demanded by buyers or promoted by competitors to enhance its perception and associated sales.

Market Sales Potential

Market sales potential is the maximum level of sales that might be available to all organizations serving a defined market in a specific period.

Market Segmentation

Market segmentation is the categorization of potential buyers into groups based on common characteristics such as age, gender, income, and geography or other attributes relating to purchase or consumption behavior.

Market Share

Market share is the total sales of an organization divided by the sales of the market they serve.

Marketing refers to the set of planned activities designed to positively influence the perceptions and purchase choices of individuals and organizations.

Check out our guide on the different ways to market your business .

Marketing Audit

A marketing audit is a comprehensive and systematic examination of a company’s marketing environment, objectives, strategies, and activities with a view of identifying and understanding problem areas and opportunities and recommending a plan of action.

Marketing Mix

Marketing mix refers to the activities controllable by the organization. It includes the product, service, or idea offered, the manner in which the offering will be communicated to customers, the method for distributing or delivering the offering, and the price to be charged.

Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a written document containing descriptions and guidelines for an organization’s or a product’s marketing strategies, tactics, and programs for offering their products and services over the defined planning period, often one year.

Marketing Cost Analysis

Marketing cost analysis refers to assigning or allocating costs to a specified marketing activity or entity in a manner that accurately captures the financial contribution of activities or entities to the organization.

Materials are included in the cost of sales. These are materials involved in the assembly or manufacture of goods for sale.

Materials Included in Cost of Sales

These are materials involved in the assembly or manufacture of goods for sale.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is a statement that captures an organization’s purpose, customer orientation, and business philosophy.

Moving Weighted Average

Moving weighted average is a statistical method to forecast the future based on past results. It is a subset of time series analysis.

Multiple Channel System

A multiple-channel system is a channel of distribution that uses a combination of direct and indirect channels where the channel members serve different segments.

Net Cash Flow

Net cash flow is the projected change in cash position, an increase or decrease in cash balance.

Net Present Value (NPV)

Net present value is a method of discounting future income streams using an expected rate of return to evaluate the current value of expected earnings. It calculates future value in today’s dollars. NPV may be used to determine the current value of a business being offered for sale or capitalized.

Net profit is the operating income less taxes and interest. The same as earnings, or net income.

Net Profit Margin Before Taxes

Net profit margin before taxes is the remainder after cost of goods sold, other variable costs revenue, or simply, total revenue minus total cost. Net profit margin can be expressed in actual monetary values or percentage terms.

Net worth is the same as assets minus liabilities, and the same as total equity; other short-term assets. These might be securities, business equipment, and so on.

New Visitors

In online marketing, a new visitor is a website visitor who has not made any previous visits to the site or page in question.

New Brand Strategy

New brand strategy is the development of a new brand and often a new offering for a product class that has not been previously served by the organization.

Newsletter Subscriptions

In online marketing, newsletter subscription is a conversion value measuring the number of users who voluntarily include themselves in your database and are willing to accept unsolicited emails from you.

Not Invented Here (NIH)

Not invented here is a negative response to innovations and inventions from sources outside the venture’s own research and development activities.

Obligations Incurred

Obligations incurred are business costs or expenses that need to be paid, but wait for a time as accounts payable (in other words, bills to be paid as part of the normal course of business) instead of being paid immediately.

An offering is the total benefits or satisfaction provided to target markets by an organization. An offering consists of a tangible product or service plus related services such as installation, repair, warranties or guarantees, packaging, technical support, field support, and other services.

Offering Mix or Portfolio

An offering mix is an organization’s offerings, including all products and services.

On-costs are labor costs in addition to salaries and wages; that is, payroll tax, workers’ compensation, and other liability insurance, subsidized services to employees, training costs, and so on.

Operating Expenses

Operating expenses are expenses incurred in conducting normal business operations. Operating expenses may include wages, salaries, administrative and research and development costs, but excludes interest, depreciation, and taxes.

Operating Leverage

Operating leverage is the extent to which fixed costs and variable costs are used in the production and marketing of products and services.

Operations Control

Operations control is assessing how well an organization performs marketing activities as it seeks to achieve planned outcomes.

Opportunity Analysis

Opportunity analysis identifies and explores revenue enhancement or expense reduction situations to better position the organization to realize increased profitability, efficiencies, market potential, or other desirable objectives.

Opportunity Cost

Opportunity cost refers to the resource use options given up due to pursuing one activity among several possibilities. Potential benefits foregone as a result of choosing an alternative course of action.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)

An original equipment manufacturer is the process that is facilitated through licensing or other financial arrangements where the initial producer of a product or service agrees to allow another entity to include, remanufacture, or label products or services under their name and sell through their distribution channels.

It typically results in a “higher volume, lower margin” relationship for the original producer. It offers access to a broader range of products and services the buyer can offer their consumers at more attractive costs.

Other Short-Term Liabilities

Other short-term liabilities are short-term debts that don’t cause interest expenses. For example, they might be loans from founders or accrued taxes (taxes owed, already incurred, but not yet paid).

Outsourcing

Outsourcing is purchasing an item or a service from an outside vendor to replace the performance of the task with an organization’s internal operations.

In online marketing, a request for a file whose type is defined as a page in log analysis. This is generally what people mean when they talk about webpage hits, but is a more accurate way of tracking this metric because of the way log analysis works.

A single pageview (one visitor looking at one page) may generate multiple hits in log analysis, as all the resources required to view the page (images, .js, and .css files) are also requested from the web server.

Paid-In Capital

Paid-in capital is real money paid into the company as investments. This is not to be confused with the par value of stock, or market value of stock. This is actual money to the company as equity investments by owners.

Partnership

Partnerships are hard to describe because they change so much. State laws govern them, but the Uniform Partnership Act has become the law in most states. That act, however, mostly sets the specific partnership agreement as the real legal core of the partnership, so the legal details can vary widely.

Usually, the income or loss from partnerships passes through to the partners without any partnership tax. The agreements can define different levels of risk, which is why you’ll read about some partnerships with general and limited partners, with different levels of risk for each. The agreement should also define what happens if a partner withdraws, buy and sell arrangements for partners, and liquidation arrangements if that becomes necessary.

If you think a partnership might work for your business, do this right. Find an attorney with experience in partnerships, and check for references of present and past clients. This is a complicated area, and a mistake in the agreement will cause a lot of problems.

Payables is short for account payables—bills to be paid as part of the normal course of business. This is a standard accounting term, one of the most common liabilities, which normally appears in the balance sheet listing of liabilities.

Businesses receive goods or services from a supplier, receive an invoice, and until that invoice is paid the amount is recorded as part of “accounts payable.”

Payback Period

A payback period is the number of years an organization requires to recapture an initial investment. This may apply to an entire business operation or an individual project.

Payment Days

Payment days are the average number of days that pass between receiving an invoice and paying it.

It is not a simple estimate; it is calculated with a financial formula: =(Accounts_payable_balance*360)/(Total entries to accounts payable*12)

Payment Delay

Payment delay is the number of days on average a business waits between receiving a bill and paying a bill. Also called payment days.

Payroll refers to wages, salaries, or employee compensation.

Payroll Burden

Payroll burden includes payroll taxes and benefits. It is calculated using a percentage assumption that is applied to payroll.

For example, if payroll is $1,000 and the burden rate is 10 percent, the burden is an extra $100. Acceptable payroll burden rates vary by market, industry, and company.

Penetration Pricing Strategy

Penetration pricing strategy refers to setting a relatively low initial price for a new product or service.

Perceived Risk

Perceived risk is the extent to which a customer or client is uncertain about the consequences of an action, often relating to purchase decisions.

Perceptual Map

A perceptual map is a two or three-dimensional illustration of a customer’s perceptions of competing products comparing select attributes based on market research.

Personal Selling

Personal selling is the use of face-to-face communication between the seller and buyer.

PEST analysis

PEST is a popular framework for situation analysis, looking at political, economic, and social trends. Analyzing these factors can help generate marketing ideas, product ideas, and so on.

Plant and Equipment

Plant and equipment is the same as long-term, fixed, or capital assets. These are generally assets that are depreciated over terms of more than five years, and are likely to last that long, too.

Point of Purchase Advertising (POP)

Point of purchase advertising is a retail in-store presentation that displays product and communicates information to retail consumers at the place of purchase.

A portfolio is the complete array of an organization’s offerings including all products and services. Also called an offering mix.

Positioning

Positioning refers to orchestrating an organization’s offering and image to occupy a unique and valued place in the customer’s mind relative to competitive offerings. A product or service can be positioned on the basis of an attribute or benefit, use or application, user, class, price, or quality.

Premiums refers to a product-oriented promotion that offers some free or reduced-price item contingent on the purchase of advertised or featured merchandise or service.

Price Elasticity of Demand

Price elasticity of demand is the change in demand relative to a change in price for a product or service.

Privately Owned

A company whose shares are not publicly traded on a stock market. Such companies usually have less restrictive reporting requirements than publicly traded companies. A company that is not owned by the government (state-owned).

Pro Forma Income Statement

A pro forma income statement is a projected income statement. Pro forma in this context means projected. An income statement is the same as a profit and loss statement, a financial statement that shows sales, cost of sales, gross margin, operating expenses, and profits.

Pro Forma Statements

The term “pro forma” in front of any financial statement primarily serves to label that version of the statement as not adhering to the strict “generally accepted accounting principles” (GAAP) standards that all publicly-traded companies must use to produce their financial statements.

Major corporations use pro forma statements to illustrate projected numbers, like in the case of a merger or acquisition, or to emphasize certain current figures.

GAAP standards don’t apply to small businesses, so you don’t really need to worry about distinguishing your financial statements as “pro forma” or not—everyone you show them to expects that they’re not GAAP-compliant. But if you want to be technically correct in your terminology, go ahead and call your financial statements “pro forma.”

Product Definition

A product definition is a stage in a new product development process in which concepts are translated into actual products for additional testing based on interactions with customers. 

Product Development

Product development refers to expenses incurred in the development of new products (salaries, laboratory equipment, test equipment, prototypes, research and development, and so on).

Product Development Strategy

A product development strategy is a product-market strategy whereby an organization creates new offerings for existing markets innovation, product augmentation, or product line extensions.

Product Life Cycle (PLC)

Product life cycle refers to the phases of the sales projections or history of a product or service category over time used to assist with marketing mix decisions and strategic options available.

The four stages of the product life cycle include introduction, growth, maturity, and decline, and typically follow a predictable pattern based on sales volume over a period of time.

Product Line

A product line is a group of closely related products with similar attributes or target markets.

Product Line Pricing

Product line pricing refers to the setting of prices for all items in a product line involving the lowest-priced product price, the highest-priced product, and price differentials for all other products in the line.

Profit is an accounting concept, normally the bottom line of the income statement, which is also called profit or loss statement. Start with sales, subtract all costs of sales and all expenses, and that produces profit before tax. Subtract tax to get net profit.

Profit Before Interest and Taxes

Profit before interest and taxes is also called EBIT, for Earnings Before Interest and Taxes. It is gross margin minus operating expenses.

Profit or Loss

Also called profit and loss statement, a profit or loss statement is an income statement is a financial statement that shows sales, cost of sales, gross margin, operating expenses, and profits or losses. 

Proprietary (Private) Limited Company

A Proprietary Limited Company (often abbreviated as “Pty Ltd”) is a private company, in which the right to transfer shares is restricted and the number of members is limited to no more than fifty.

In addition, the company is prohibited from inviting the public to subscribe for its shares and, from inviting the public to deposit money with the company.

Public Relations

Public relations refers to communications often in the form of news distributed in a non-personal form which may include newspaper, magazine, radio, television, internet, or other form of media for which the sponsoring organization does not pay a fee.

Publicly Traded

Publicly traded means a company owned by shareholders who are members of the general public and trade shares publicly, as on the stock market.

Pull Communication Strategy

A pull communication strategy creates interest among potential buyers, who demand the offering from intermediaries, ultimately “pulling” the offering through the channel.

Push Communication Strategy

A push communication strategy is the practice of “pushing” an offering through a marketing channel in a sequential fashion, with each channel focusing on a distinct target market.

The principal emphasis is on personal selling and trade promotions directed toward wholesalers and retailers. 

Questionable Costs

Questionable costs are costs that may be considered as variable or as fixed costs, depending on the specifics of the situation.

Receivables

Short for account receivables, this refers to debts owed to your company, usually from sales on credit. Accounts receivable is a business asset, the sum of the money owed to you by customers who haven’t paid.

The standard procedure in business-to-business sales is that when goods or services are delivered, they come with an invoice, which is to be paid later. Business customers expect to be invoiced and to pay later. The money involved goes onto the seller’s books as accounts receivable and the buyer’s books as accounts payable.

Receivables Turnover

Receivables turnover refers to sales on credit for an accounting period divided by the average accounts receivables balance.

Regional Marketing

Regional marketing is the practice of using different marketing mixes to accommodate unique preferences and competitive conditions in different geographical areas.

Relevant Cost

Relevant cost refers to expenditures that are expected to occur in the future as a result of some marketing action and differ among other potential marketing alternatives.

Repositioning

Repositioning is the process of strategically changing the perceptions surrounding a product or service.

Resource Requirements (Websites)

Your resource requirements are the personnel, time, space, and equipment necessary to create and maintain your website. Remember that a website is never done—it will always require resources, some of which will be used to create new content periodically.

Retained Earnings

Retained earnings are earnings (or losses) that have been reinvested into the company, not paid out as dividends to the owners. When retained earnings are negative, the company has accumulated losses.

Return on Assets

Return on assets is your net profits divided by total assets. It is a measure of profitability.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Return on investment, or ROI is your net profits divided by net worth or total equity. It’s another measure of profitability.

Return on Sales

Return on sales is net profits divided by sales. It’s another measure of profitability.

Return Visitors

In online marketing, a website visitor who has made at least one previous visit to the site or page in question is considered a return visitor.

Rich-Gumpert Evaluation System

The Rich-Gumpert evaluation system is a method of analysis that associates a numeric value between 1 and 4 regarding the spectrums of product development and the entrepreneur and management team.

S Corporation (S Corp)

The C corporation is the classic legal entity of the vast majority of successful companies in the United States. Most lawyers would agree that the C corporation is the structure that provides the best shielding from personal liability for owners, and provides the best non-tax benefits to owers. This is a separate legal entity, different from its owners, which pays its own taxes.

Most lawyers would also probably agree that for a company that has ambitions of raising major investment capital and eventually going public, the C corporation is the standard form of legal entity. The S corporation is used for family companies and smaller ownership groups. The clearest distinction from C is that the S corporation’s profits or losses go straight through to the S corporation’s owners, without being taxed separately first.

In practical terms, this means that the owners of the corporation can take their profits home without first paying the corporation’s separate tax on profits, so those profits are taxed once for the S owner, and twice for the C owner. In practical terms the C corporation doesn’t send its profits home to its owners as much as the S corporation does, because it usually has different goals and objectives. It often wants to grow and go public, or it already is public. In most states an S corporation is owned by a limited number (25 is a common maximum) of private owners, and corporations can’t hold stock in S corporations, just individuals.

Corporations can switch from C to S and back again, but not often. The IRS has strict rules for when and how those switches are made. You’ll almost always want to have your CPA and in some cases your attorney guide you through the legal requirements for switching.

Sales Break Even

Sales break-even is the sales volume at which costs are exactly equal to sales.

The exact formula is =Fixed_costs/(1-(Unit_Variable_Cost/Unit_Price))

Sales Forecast

A sales forecast is the level of sales a single organization expects to achieve based on a chosen marketing strategy and assumed competitive environment.

Sales on Credit

Sales on credit are sales made on account; shipments against invoices to be paid later.

Scrambled Merchandising

Scrambled merchandising is the practice by wholesalers and retailers that carry an increasingly wider assortment of merchandise.

Seed Capital

Seed capital is investment contributed at a very early stage of a new venture, usually in relatively small amounts. It comes even before what they call “first round” venture capital.

How much is that “relatively small amount?” Some high-end high-tech ventures in the heart of Silicon Valley call an investment of $500K seed capital, and other ventures that called $35K investment seed capital, and the following $300K investment the first round. It depends on the point of view.

Selective Distribution

Selective distribution is a strategy where a producer sells its products or services in a few exclusively chosen retail outlets in a specific geographical area.

Selling Approaches

Selling approaches are potential selling resources based on the sales value and the distribution of the product.

Senior Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE)

SCORE is a no-cost consulting and resources service offered through the Small Business Administration.

Shareholders

Shareholders are individuals or companies that legally own one or more shares of stock in a company.

Short-term is normally used to distinguish between short-term and long-term, when referring to assets or liabilities. Definitions vary because different companies and accountants handle this in different ways.

Accounts payable is always a short-term liability, and cash, accounts receivable and inventory are always short-term assets. Most companies call any debt of less than five-year terms short-term debt. Assets that depreciate over more than five years (e.g., plant and equipment) are usually long-term assets.

Short-Term Assets

Short-term assets are cash, securities, bank accounts, accounts receivable, inventory, business equipment, assets that last less than five years or are depreciated over terms of less than five years. Also called current assets.

Short-Term Notes

Short-term notes are the same as short-term loans. These are debts with terms of five years or less.

Short-Term Liabilities

Short-term liabilities are debts with terms of five years or less. These are also called current liabilities, short-term loans, or short-term (current) debts. These may also include short-term debts that don’t cause interest expenses.

For example, they might be loans from founders or accrued taxes (taxes owed, already incurred, but not yet paid).

Simple Linear Regression

Simple linear regression is a linear correlation that offers a straight-line projection based on the variables considered.

Situation Analysis

A situation analysis is the assessment of operations to determine the reasons for the gap between what was or is expected, and what has happened or will happen.

Skimming Pricing Strategy

Skimming pricing strategy refers to setting a relatively high initial price for a new product or service when there is a strong price-perceived quality relationship that targets early adopters who are price insensitive. The price may be lowered over time.

Slotting Allowances

Slotting allowances are payments to store chains for acquiring and maintaining shelf space.

Small Business Investment Council (SBIC)

The SBIC is a division of the Small Business Administration that offers “venture capital-like” resources to higher-risk businesses seeking capital.

Sole Proprietorship

The simplest business structure is the sole proprietorship. Simply put, your business is a sole proprietorship if you don’t create a separate legal entity for it.

This is true whether you operate it in your own name, or under a trade name. If it isn’t your own name, then you register a company name as a “Fictitious business name,” also called a DBA (“Doing Business As”).

Depending on your state, you can usually obtain this through the county government, and the cost is no more than a small registration fee plus a required newspaper ad, for a total of less than $100 in most states.

Sole Trader

A sole trader is the easiest and quickest form of corporation for a small, privately-owned business. Your Memorandum and Articles of Association are usually fairly straightforward to obtain, and your taxes will be lower than those of a public company.

However, the owner of a sole trader is personally liable for all of its actions and debts, and may not be entitled to benefits, like unemployment payments, that would accrue to those running public companies.

Starting Date

Starting date refers to the starting date for the entire business plan.

Goods on hand, either finished goods or materials to be used to manufacture goods. Also called inventory.

Stock can also refer to privately held or publicly traded shares or securities representing an investment in, or partial ownership of, a business. Public trading of such stock occurs on the stock market.

Stock Market

The stock market is the organized trading of stocks, bonds, or other securities, or the place where such trading occurs.

Stock Turnover

Stock turnover is the total cost of sales divided by inventory (materials or goods on hand). Usually calculated using the average inventory over an accounting period, not an ending-inventory value. Also called inventory turnover.

Strategic Control

Strategic control is the practice of assessing the direction of the organization as evidenced by its implicit or explicit goals, objectives, strategies, and capacity to perform in the context of changing environmental and competitive actions.

Strategic Marketing Management

Strategic marketing management is the planned process of defining the organization’s business, mission, and goals; identifying and framing organizational opportunities; formulating product-market strategies, budgeting marketing, financial, and production resources; developing reformulation.

Success Factors

Primary success factors include considerations regarding:

  • The choice of business based on the status of the market
  • Education and experience
  • People and collaboration
  • Creativity and innovation versus business skills and networks
  • Incubation potential
  • Leveraging available resources
  • Management practices

Success Requirements

Success requirements are the basic tasks that must be performed by an organization in a market or industry to compete successfully.

Sunk cost refers to past expenditures for a given activity that are typically irrelevant in whole or in part to future decisions. The “sunk cost fallacy” is an attempt to recoup spent dollars by spending still more dollars in the future.

Surplus or Deficit

Surplus or deficit is a term used by nonprofits. It’s also called profit and loss statement or an income statement in for-profit plans.

An income statement is a financial statement that shows funding, cost of funding, gross surplus, operating expenses, and surplus or deficit. Gross surplus is funding less cost of funding, and surplus (or deficit) is gross surplus less operating expenses and taxes. The result is surplus if it is positive, a deficit if it is negative.

Switching Costs

Switching costs are the costs incurred in changing from one provider of a product or service to another. Switching costs may be tangible or intangible costs incurred due to the change of this source.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a formal framework of identifying and framing organizational growth opportunities. SWOT is an acronym for an organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats.

Systematic Innovation

Systematic innovation is innovation resulting from an intentional and organized process to evaluate opportunities to introduce change, based on a definition provided by Peter Drucker. The sources of innovation may be internal or external to the enterprise.

Tactics are a collection of tools, activities and business decisions required to implement a strategy.

Target Market

A target market is a defined segment of the market that is the strategic focus of a business or a marketing plan. Normally the members of this segment possess common characteristics and a relative high propensity to purchase a particular product or service. 

Because of this, the member of this segment represent the greatest potential for sales volume and frequency. The target market is often defined in terms of geographic, demographic, and psychographic characteristics.

Target Marketing

Target marketing is the process of marketing to a specific market segment or multiple segments. Differentiated target marketing occurs when an organization simultaneously pursues several different market segments, usually with a different strategy for each. 

Concentrated target marketing occurs when a single market segment is pursued.

Tax Rate Percent

Tax rate percent is an assumed percentage applied against pre-tax income to determine taxes.

Taxes Incurred

Taxes incurred are taxes that are owed but not yet paid.

Telemarketing

Telemarketing is a form of direct marketing that uses the telephone to reach potential customers.

Trade Margin

Trade margin is the difference between unit sales price and unit cost and each level of a marketing channel usually expressed in percentage terms.

Trading Down

Trading down is the process of reducing the number of features or quality of an offering to realize a lower purchase price.

Trading up is the practice of improving an offering by adding new features and higher quality materials or adding products or services to increase the purchase price.

In broad, general terms, traffic is the number of visitors and visits a website receives.

Types of Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs may be categorized into eleven areas, including:

  • Solo self-employed individuals
  • Team builders
  • Independent innovators
  • Pattern multipliers
  • Economy of scale exploiters
  • Capital aggregators
  • Buy-sell artists
  • Conglomerates
  • Speculators
  • Apparent value manipulators

User Interface (UI)

User interface is the graphic design and appearance of a website, its function as seen and used by the person on the user end, at the website in a browser.

The UI of a website is ultimately how it lets users know what it has to offer them. If it lacks an easy navigation scheme users get lost, and never find the information on a site.

Unique User Sessions

In online marketing, unique user sessions is a website metric tracking the number of uniquely identified clients generating requests on the web server (log analysis) or viewing pages (page tagging). A visitor can make multiple visits.

Unit Variable Cost

Unit variable cost is the specific labor and materials associated with a single unit of goods sold. Does not include general overhead.

Units Break-Even

Units break-even refers to the unit sales volume at which the fixed and variable costs are exactly equal to sales. 

The formula is UBE=Fixed_costs/(Unit_Price-Unit_Variable_Cost)

Unpaid Expenses

Unpaid expenses are money owed to vendors for expenses incurred, but not yet paid. In bookkeeping and accounting, this is called accounts payable. A simple example would be the advertising expense from advertising that has already run but not yet been paid for by the advertiser.

User Benefits

User benefits refer to understanding and appreciating the base reason an individual purchases a product or service that may not directly correlate with the feature or function of the good or service. These benefits may be intangible.

User Registrations

In online marketing, user registrations is a conversion value measuring the number of website visitors who voluntarily include themselves in your database in order to access the content you provide on your website.

Used as a noun, valuation is what a business is worth, as in, “this company’s valuation is $10 million.”

This would mean that a company is valued at $10 million, or worth $10 million. The term is used most often for discussions of sale or purchase of a company; it’s valuation is the price of a share times the number of shares outstanding, and the price of a share is the total valuation divided by the number of shares outstanding.

Value is the ratio of perceived benefits compared to price for a product or service.

Variable Cost

Variable costs are costs that fluctuate in direct proportion to the volume of units produced. The best and most obvious example are physical costs of goods sold, direct costs, such as materials, products purchased for resale, production costs and overhead, etc.

The concept of variable cost is an important component of risk in a company. Generally, variable costs are less risky than fixed costs, because variable costs are not incurred unless there are sales and production. See also break-even analysis, fixed costs, and contribution.

For more on this, check out What Is Break-Even Analysis?

Variance is a calculation of the difference between plan and actual results, used by analysts to manage and track the impact of planning and budgeting.

Venture Capitalists (VC)

Venture capitalists are thought of in two ways, first, some people think of any wealthy individual who invests in young companies as a venture capitalist. Second, among the more informed investors, analysts, and entrepreneurs, a venture capitalist is a manager of a mainstream venture capital fund.

Venture Capital

Venture capital nowadays is used two ways. First, people often take venture capital as any investment capital obtained through private investment or public investment funds directed to high-risk and high-potential enterprises. 

Second, within the more informed and sophisticated business circles, venture capital is defined more narrowly as investment money coming from the mainstream venture capital firms, a few hundred major firms, different from investment money from other private investors, angels, etc.

A website (or site) is a virtual location, identified and located by a URL (uniform resource locator), an address that can lead you to a file on any connected machine anywhere in the world.

Website Metrics

In online marketing, website metrics metrics are measurement tools used to evaluate how effectively a website is marketing a business.

These can include:

  • Unique user sessions
  • New visitors
  • Return visitors
  • Click-through rate
  • Conversion rate

Website Traffic

In broad, general terms, website traffic is the number of visitors and visits a website receives. This traffic can be measured by a variety of website metrics.

A wholesaler is a channel member that purchases from the producer and supplies to the retailer and primarily performs the function of physical distribution and amassing inventory for rapid delivery.

Working Capital

The accessible resources needed to support the day-to-day operations of an organization.

Working capital is commonly in the form of cash and current (short-term) assets, including accounts receivable, prepaid expenses, accounts payable for goods and services, and current unpaid income taxes.

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    2. Validate your business idea. Research on the specifics of your business idea—paying special attention to your product or service, target market, and competitors. According to entrepreneurship experts, it's best to spend twice as much time on this step as spending the time to the actual drafting of the business plan.

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