- Business Planning
Learn business planning with online courses and programs
What is a business plan.
A business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines the strategic objectives, operational details, and financial forecasts of a business venture. It serves as a roadmap for entrepreneurs, startups, or existing businesses, providing a structured framework to guide decision-making and attract stakeholders.
Business plans can include key elements such as:
Executive summary: A concise overview of the business idea, goals, and market opportunity.
Business description: Detailed information about the company's mission, products or services, target market, and competitive analysis.
Market research: Data and analysis of the industry, market trends, customer demographics, and competition.
Organizational structure: Information on the company's management team, organizational structure, and key personnel.
Operational plan: Details about the business operations, including production processes, suppliers, and distribution channels.
Marketing and sales strategy: Plans for marketing, customer acquisition, and sales tactics.
Financial projections: Forecasts of income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements, along with funding requirements and potential returns on investment.
Browse online business planning courses New
Business planning course curriculum.
Whether you're an aspiring entrepreneur or a seasoned professional, mastering the art of business planning can be critical to setting your business up for success. From understanding markets to developing mission statements, courses in business planning can equip you with the tools needed to transform your ideas into thriving ventures, or elevate your existing business. Consequently, you can study a variety of subjects related to business planning. Some of the topics that you might study in a course can include:
Market analysis: Learn how to conduct market research, analyze market trends, identify target audiences, and assess market opportunities.
Financial planning: Investigate financial aspects as a core component. Learn how to create financial projections, develop budgets, calculate break-even points, and understand income statements and balance sheets.
Business model development: Explore different business models and how they can align with a company's goals and objectives.
Crafting a mission and vision: Learn how to craft a clear and compelling mission and vision statement to articulate a company's purpose and long-term goals.
Strategic planning: Delve into strategic thinking and planning covering topics such as setting goals and objectives, creating action plans, and assessing risks and opportunities.
Business planning courses can also teach you valuable skills including critical thinking, communication, and research skills that you can apply to your professional life. Are you ready to start learning? Sign up for an accelerated boot camp or enroll in a full degree program and start working toward a bachelor's degree or (for more advanced learners) a master’s degree in a relevant subject. You can also explore executive education programs specifically designed for busy professionals.
Explore careers in business planning
A business planning course can open doors to diverse career opportunities in a variety of sectors. Some careers in which a background in business planning can be useful include:
Entrepreneur/small business owner: Business planning skills are crucial for navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship.
Business consultant: Provides expert advice to organizations looking to improve their operations, solve problems, or grow. They often help clients create or refine their business plans.
Strategic planner: Works within organizations to develop and execute long-term strategies. They use business planning skills to set goals, assess market opportunities, and align business activities with strategic objectives.
Investment analyst: Assesses the potential of investment opportunities, including startups and businesses seeking funding. They rely on business plans to evaluate the viability and growth potential of these ventures.
Financial analyst: Analyzes financial data, including budgets and forecasts, to provide insights for decision-making. They often work with businesses to ensure financial plans align with strategic goals.
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Last updated October 2023
How to Write a Business Plan: Step-by-Step Guide + Examples
24 min. read
Updated February 2, 2024
Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated.
In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to write a business plan that’s detailed enough to impress bankers and potential investors, while giving you the tools to start, run, and grow a successful business.
- The basics of business planning
If you’re reading this guide, then you already know why you need a business plan .
You understand that planning helps you:
- Raise money
- Grow strategically
- Keep your business on the right track
As you start to write your plan, it’s useful to zoom out and remember what a business plan is .
At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy: how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.
Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow.
A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals.
After completing your plan, you can use it as a management tool to track your progress toward your goals. Updating and adjusting your forecasts and budgets as you go is one of the most important steps you can take to run a healthier, smarter business.
We’ll dive into how to use your plan later in this article.
There are many different types of plans , but we’ll go over the most common type here, which includes everything you need for an investor-ready plan. However, if you’re just starting out and are looking for something simpler—I recommend starting with a one-page business plan . It’s faster and easier to create.
It’s also the perfect place to start if you’re just figuring out your idea, or need a simple strategic plan to use inside your business.
Dig deeper : How to write a one-page business plan
What’s your biggest business challenge right now?
- What to include in your business plan
The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally just one to two pages. Most people write it last because it’s a summary of the complete business plan.
Ideally, the executive summary can act as a stand-alone document that covers the highlights of your detailed plan.
In fact, it’s common for investors to ask only for the executive summary when evaluating your business. If they like what they see in the executive summary, they’ll often follow up with a request for a complete plan, a pitch presentation , or more in-depth financial forecasts .
Your executive summary should include:
- A summary of the problem you are solving
- A description of your product or service
- An overview of your target market
- A brief description of your team
- A summary of your financials
- Your funding requirements (if you are raising money)
Dig Deeper: How to write an effective executive summary
Products and services description
This is where you describe exactly what you’re selling, and how it solves a problem for your target market. The best way to organize this part of your plan is to start by describing the problem that exists for your customers. After that, you can describe how you plan to solve that problem with your product or service.
This is usually called a problem and solution statement .
To truly showcase the value of your products and services, you need to craft a compelling narrative around your offerings. How will your product or service transform your customers’ lives or jobs? A strong narrative will draw in your readers.
This is also the part of the business plan to discuss any competitive advantages you may have, like specific intellectual property or patents that protect your product. If you have any initial sales, contracts, or other evidence that your product or service is likely to sell, include that information as well. It will show that your idea has traction , which can help convince readers that your plan has a high chance of success.
Your target market is a description of the type of people that you plan to sell to. You might even have multiple target markets, depending on your business.
A market analysis is the part of your plan where you bring together all of the information you know about your target market. Basically, it’s a thorough description of who your customers are and why they need what you’re selling. You’ll also include information about the growth of your market and your industry .
Try to be as specific as possible when you describe your market.
Include information such as age, income level, and location—these are what’s called “demographics.” If you can, also describe your market’s interests and habits as they relate to your business—these are “psychographics.”
Related: Target market examples
Essentially, you want to include any knowledge you have about your customers that is relevant to how your product or service is right for them. With a solid target market, it will be easier to create a sales and marketing plan that will reach your customers. That’s because you know who they are, what they like to do, and the best ways to reach them.
Next, provide any additional information you have about your market.
What is the size of your market ? Is the market growing or shrinking? Ideally, you’ll want to demonstrate that your market is growing over time, and also explain how your business is positioned to take advantage of any expected changes in your industry.
Dig Deeper: Learn how to write a market analysis
Part of defining your business opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage is. To do this effectively, you need to know as much about your competitors as your target customers.
Every business has some form of competition. If you don’t think you have competitors, then explore what alternatives there are in the market for your product or service.
For example: In the early years of cars, their main competition was horses. For social media, the early competition was reading books, watching TV, and talking on the phone.
A good competitive analysis fully lays out the competitive landscape and then explains how your business is different. Maybe your products are better made, or cheaper, or your customer service is superior. Maybe your competitive advantage is your location – a wide variety of factors can ultimately give you an advantage.
Dig Deeper: How to write a competitive analysis for your business plan
Marketing and sales plan
The marketing and sales plan covers how you will position your product or service in the market, the marketing channels and messaging you will use, and your sales tactics.
The best place to start with a marketing plan is with a positioning statement .
This explains how your business fits into the overall market, and how you will explain the advantages of your product or service to customers. You’ll use the information from your competitive analysis to help you with your positioning.
For example: You might position your company as the premium, most expensive but the highest quality option in the market. Or your positioning might focus on being locally owned and that shoppers support the local economy by buying your products.
Once you understand your positioning, you’ll bring this together with the information about your target market to create your marketing strategy .
This is how you plan to communicate your message to potential customers. Depending on who your customers are and how they purchase products like yours, you might use many different strategies, from social media advertising to creating a podcast. Your marketing plan is all about how your customers discover who you are and why they should consider your products and services.
While your marketing plan is about reaching your customers—your sales plan will describe the actual sales process once a customer has decided that they’re interested in what you have to offer.
If your business requires salespeople and a long sales process, describe that in this section. If your customers can “self-serve” and just make purchases quickly on your website, describe that process.
A good sales plan picks up where your marketing plan leaves off. The marketing plan brings customers in the door and the sales plan is how you close the deal.
Together, these specific plans paint a picture of how you will connect with your target audience, and how you will turn them into paying customers.
Dig deeper: What to include in your sales and marketing plan
The operations section describes the necessary requirements for your business to run smoothly. It’s where you talk about how your business works and what day-to-day operations look like.
Depending on how your business is structured, your operations plan may include elements of the business like:
- Supply chain management
- Manufacturing processes
- Equipment and technology
Some businesses distribute their products and reach their customers through large retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart, Target, and grocery store chains.
These businesses should review how this part of their business works. The plan should discuss the logistics and costs of getting products onto store shelves and any potential hurdles the business may have to overcome.
If your business is much simpler than this, that’s OK. This section of your business plan can be either extremely short or more detailed, depending on the type of business you are building.
For businesses selling services, such as physical therapy or online software, you can use this section to describe the technology you’ll leverage, what goes into your service, and who you will partner with to deliver your services.
Dig Deeper: Learn how to write the operations chapter of your plan
Key milestones and metrics
Although it’s not required to complete your business plan, mapping out key business milestones and the metrics can be incredibly useful for measuring your success.
Good milestones clearly lay out the parameters of the task and set expectations for their execution. You’ll want to include:
- A description of each task
- The proposed due date
- Who is responsible for each task
If you have a budget, you can include projected costs to hit each milestone. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section—just list key milestones you want to hit and when you plan to hit them. This is your overall business roadmap.
Possible milestones might be:
- Website launch date
- Store or office opening date
- First significant sales
- Break even date
- Business licenses and approvals
You should also discuss the key numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common metrics worth tracking include:
- Conversion rates
- Customer acquisition costs
- Profit per customer
- Repeat purchases
It’s perfectly fine to start with just a few metrics and grow the number you are tracking over time. You also may find that some metrics simply aren’t relevant to your business and can narrow down what you’re tracking.
Dig Deeper: How to use milestones in your business plan
Organization and management team
Investors don’t just look for great ideas—they want to find great teams. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire . You should also provide a quick overview of your location and history if you’re already up and running.
Briefly highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member in the company. It’s important to make the case for why yours is the right team to turn an idea into a reality.
Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before?
If you still need to hire key team members, that’s OK. Just note those gaps in this section.
Your company overview should also include a summary of your company’s current business structure . The most common business structures include:
- Sole proprietor
Be sure to provide an overview of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided?
Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.
Dig Deeper: How to write about your company structure and team
Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter.
Entrepreneurs often find this section the most daunting. But, business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast.
A typical financial forecast in a business plan includes the following:
- Sales forecast : An estimate of the sales expected over a given period. You’ll break down your forecast into the key revenue streams that you expect to have.
- Expense budget : Your planned spending such as personnel costs , marketing expenses, and taxes.
- Profit & Loss : Brings together your sales and expenses and helps you calculate planned profits.
- Cash Flow : Shows how cash moves into and out of your business. It can predict how much cash you’ll have on hand at any given point in the future.
- Balance Sheet : A list of the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business.
A strong business plan will include a description of assumptions about the future, and potential risks that could impact the financial plan. Including those will be especially important if you’re writing a business plan to pursue a loan or other investment.
Dig Deeper: How to create financial forecasts and budgets
This is the place for additional data, charts, or other information that supports your plan.
Including an appendix can significantly enhance the credibility of your plan by showing readers that you’ve thoroughly considered the details of your business idea, and are backing your ideas up with solid data.
Just remember that the information in the appendix is meant to be supplementary. Your business plan should stand on its own, even if the reader skips this section.
Dig Deeper : What to include in your business plan appendix
Optional: Business plan cover page
Adding a business plan cover page can make your plan, and by extension your business, seem more professional in the eyes of potential investors, lenders, and partners. It serves as the introduction to your document and provides necessary contact information for stakeholders to reference.
Your cover page should be simple and include:
- Company logo
- Business name
- Value proposition (optional)
- Business plan title
- Completion and/or update date
- Address and contact information
- Confidentiality statement
Just remember, the cover page is optional. If you decide to include it, keep it very simple and only spend a short amount of time putting it together.
Dig Deeper: How to create a business plan cover page
How to use AI to help write your business plan
Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can speed up the business plan writing process and help you think through concepts like market segmentation and competition. These tools are especially useful for taking ideas that you provide and converting them into polished text for your business plan.
The best way to use AI for your business plan is to leverage it as a collaborator , not a replacement for human creative thinking and ingenuity.
AI can come up with lots of ideas and act as a brainstorming partner. It’s up to you to filter through those ideas and figure out which ones are realistic enough to resonate with your customers.
There are pros and cons of using AI to help with your business plan . So, spend some time understanding how it can be most helpful before just outsourcing the job to AI.
Learn more: How to collaborate with AI on your business plan
- Writing tips and strategies
To help streamline the business plan writing process, here are a few tips and key questions to answer to make sure you get the most out of your plan and avoid common mistakes .
Determine why you are writing a business plan
Knowing why you are writing a business plan will determine your approach to your planning project.
For example: If you are writing a business plan for yourself, or just to use inside your own business , you can probably skip the section about your team and organizational structure.
If you’re raising money, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re looking to raise the funds and exactly how you will use them.
Regardless of how you intend to use your business plan , think about why you are writing and what you’re trying to get out of the process before you begin.
Keep things concise
Probably the most important tip is to keep your business plan short and simple. There are no prizes for long business plans . The longer your plan is, the less likely people are to read it.
So focus on trimming things down to the essentials your readers need to know. Skip the extended, wordy descriptions and instead focus on creating a plan that is easy to read —using bullets and short sentences whenever possible.
Have someone review your business plan
Writing a business plan in a vacuum is never a good idea. Sometimes it’s helpful to zoom out and check if your plan makes sense to someone else. You also want to make sure that it’s easy to read and understand.
Don’t wait until your plan is “done” to get a second look. Start sharing your plan early, and find out from readers what questions your plan leaves unanswered. This early review cycle will help you spot shortcomings in your plan and address them quickly, rather than finding out about them right before you present your plan to a lender or investor.
If you need a more detailed review, you may want to explore hiring a professional plan writer to thoroughly examine it.
Use a free business plan template and business plan examples to get started
Knowing what information you need to cover in a business plan sometimes isn’t quite enough. If you’re struggling to get started or need additional guidance, it may be worth using a business plan template.
If you’re looking for a free downloadable business plan template to get you started, download the template used by more than 1 million businesses.
Or, if you just want to see what a completed business plan looks like, check out our library of over 550 free business plan examples .
We even have a growing list of industry business planning guides with tips for what to focus on depending on your business type.
Common pitfalls and how to avoid them
It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re writing your business plan. Some entrepreneurs get sucked into the writing and research process, and don’t focus enough on actually getting their business started.
Here are a few common mistakes and how to avoid them:
Not talking to your customers : This is one of the most common mistakes. It’s easy to assume that your product or service is something that people want. Before you invest too much in your business and too much in the planning process, make sure you talk to your prospective customers and have a good understanding of their needs.
- Overly optimistic sales and profit forecasts: By nature, entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. But it’s good to temper that optimism a little when you’re planning, and make sure your forecasts are grounded in reality.
- Spending too much time planning: Yes, planning is crucial. But you also need to get out and talk to customers, build prototypes of your product and figure out if there’s a market for your idea. Make sure to balance planning with building.
- Not revising the plan: Planning is useful, but nothing ever goes exactly as planned. As you learn more about what’s working and what’s not—revise your plan, your budgets, and your revenue forecast. Doing so will provide a more realistic picture of where your business is going, and what your financial needs will be moving forward.
- Not using the plan to manage your business: A good business plan is a management tool. Don’t just write it and put it on the shelf to collect dust – use it to track your progress and help you reach your goals.
- Presenting your business plan
The planning process forces you to think through every aspect of your business and answer questions that you may not have thought of. That’s the real benefit of writing a business plan – the knowledge you gain about your business that you may not have been able to discover otherwise.
With all of this knowledge, you’re well prepared to convert your business plan into a pitch presentation to present your ideas.
A pitch presentation is a summary of your plan, just hitting the highlights and key points. It’s the best way to present your business plan to investors and team members.
Dig Deeper: Learn what key slides should be included in your pitch deck
Use your business plan to manage your business
One of the biggest benefits of planning is that it gives you a tool to manage your business better. With a revenue forecast, expense budget, and projected cash flow, you know your targets and where you are headed.
And yet, nothing ever goes exactly as planned – it’s the nature of business.
That’s where using your plan as a management tool comes in. The key to leveraging it for your business is to review it periodically and compare your forecasts and projections to your actual results.
Start by setting up a regular time to review the plan – a monthly review is a good starting point. During this review, answer questions like:
- Did you meet your sales goals?
- Is spending following your budget?
- Has anything gone differently than what you expected?
Now that you see whether you’re meeting your goals or are off track, you can make adjustments and set new targets.
Maybe you’re exceeding your sales goals and should set new, more aggressive goals. In that case, maybe you should also explore more spending or hiring more employees.
Or maybe expenses are rising faster than you projected. If that’s the case, you would need to look at where you can cut costs.
A plan, and a method for comparing your plan to your actual results , is the tool you need to steer your business toward success.
Learn More: How to run a regular plan review
Free business plan templates and examples
Kickstart your business plan writing with one of our free business plan templates or recommended tools.
Free business plan template
Download a free SBA-approved business plan template built for small businesses and startups.
One-page plan template
Download a free one-page plan template to write a useful business plan in as little as 30-minutes.
Sample business plan library
Explore over 500 real-world business plan examples from a wide variety of industries.
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How to write a business plan FAQ
What is a business plan?
A document that describes your business , the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy, how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.
What are the benefits of a business plan?
A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investors, and identifies areas for growth.
Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.
What are the 7 steps of a business plan?
The seven steps to writing a business plan include:
- Write a brief executive summary
- Describe your products and services.
- Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis.
- Describe your marketing and sales strategy.
- Outline your organizational structure and management team.
- Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow.
- Add any additional documents to your appendix.
What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?
There are plenty of mistakes that can be made when writing a business plan. However, these are the 5 most common that you should do your best to avoid:
- 1. Not taking the planning process seriously.
- Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information.
- Inconsistent information or simple mistakes.
- Failing to establish a sound business model.
- Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.
What questions should be answered in a business plan?
Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan.
However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan:
- How will your business make money?
- Is there a need for your product or service?
- Who are your customers?
- How are you different from the competition?
- How will you reach your customers?
- How will you measure success?
How long should a business plan be?
The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.
If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan to get all of the necessary information in place.
What are the different types of business plans?
While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.
Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix.
Business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.
One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.
Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.
What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?
A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.
However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.
See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan
Noah is the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. He started his career at Yahoo! and then helped start the user review site Epinions.com. From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.
Table of Contents
- Use AI to help write your plan
- Common planning mistakes
- Manage with your business plan
- Templates and examples
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How to forecast personnel costs
14 Min. Read
8. Know all the ways to use your plan
5 Min. Read
Agritourism business plan
3 Min. Read
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Best Online Business Writing Classes
Business Writing by University of CO is best overall with a self-paced course
Michael Rosenston is a fact-checker and researcher with expertise in business, finance, and insurance. Prior to this role, he interned at two Fortune 500 insurance companies and worked in data science in the advertising industry.
We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .
The best online business writing classes can teach you how to communicate clearly and persuasively with customers, potential business partners, and stakeholders. Whether you’re writing an email, report, presentation, or even an instant chat message, good business writing skills can help you get the results you want and enhance your professionalism.
We reviewed over a dozen online business writing courses based on ratings, cost, ease of use, and curriculum. The best classes will help you communicate more effectively and professionally. Here are our top five picks.
- Best Overall: Business Writing by University of Colorado
- Best for Beginners: Better Business Writing Skills (Udemy)
- Best for Professionals: Tips for Better Business Writing
- Best for Freelancers: Business Communication Skills (Udemy)
- Best for Business Owners: Write Like a Boss (Udemy)
- Our Top Picks
- Business Writing by University of Colorado
- Better Business Writing Skills (Udemy)
- Tips for Better Business Writing
- Business Communication Skills (Udemy)
- Write Like a Boss (Udemy)
- See More (2)
- Compare Classes
Frequently Asked Questions
Methodology, best overall : business writing by university of colorado.
- Focus: 10 principles of business writing
- Cost: Between $39 and $89 per month
- Length: Roughly four weeks, self-paced
Coursera’s Business Writing course, offered by the University of Colorado Boulder, introduces both non-native English speakers and business professionals to the top 10 principles of good business writing. Its flexible deadlines, careful methodology, and high reviews make it our choice as the best overall.
Certificate sharable on LinkedIn
Financial aid available
Free audit limits access to some features and materials
No lifetime access
Business Writing is led by Quentin McAndrew, PhD, of the department of English at the University of Colorado Boulder, who has taught over 100,000 students on the platform. The course consists of 52 videos and 16 quizzes totaling close to 13 hours. Although it is designed to be completed over four weeks, the course is self-paced, allowing students to complete it based on their schedule.
Business Writing introduces students to 10 principles of good business writing and teaches them how to apply them to their daily work. It also offers simple tools for improving your writing and teaches organization, structure, and revision to create clear and powerful writing.
All of Coursera’s Effective Communication: Writing, Design, and Presentation Specialization courses are available for a monthly subscription. Specialization subscriptions at Coursera cost between $39 and $89 per month. Students get a certificate upon completing the course they can print or share on LinkedIn . Coursera also offers a seven-day free trial and financial aid.
Best for Beginners : Better Business Writing Skills (Udemy)
- Focus: Writing copy
- Cost: $109.99
- Length: Over three-hour video, self-paced
Our pick as the best for beginners is Udemy’s Better Business Writing Skills course, which teaches the basics of writing clear, concise, and persuasive copy in an on-demand course with downloadable resources and a money-back guarantee.
Easy-to-use course app
University-accredited certificates not available
No quizzes or assessment tools
Originally a live virtual classroom platform developed in 2010, Udemy offers over 196,000 courses in 75 languages taught by over 68,000 instructors. Its Better Business Writing Skills course is a consistent bestseller and teaches basic English speakers how to write emails, reports, marketing copy, articles, and more in just three and a half hours, making it our top choice for beginners.
Better Business Writing Skills is led by Cicero Award-winning professional speechwriter Mark Morris, who has written for senior politicians and taught his methods to over 60,000 students. The course consists of three and a half hours of on-demand video, 11 articles, and 17 downloadable resources, all easily accessible online or through Udemy’s mobile app.
Better Business Writing Skills teaches you how to write clearly, concisely, and persuasively; tricks for being a productive writer; editing techniques to help you polish your writing; and how to test your work to make sure it’s achieving your goals.
Better Business Writing Skills costs $109.99, including full lifetime access, a certificate of completion at the end of the course, and a money-back guarantee. Because Udemy runs specials all the time, you may be able to purchase the course for a lower price.
Best for Professionals : Tips for Better Business Writing
- Focus: Improving business communications
- Cost: Varies by one-off, monthly, or annually
- Length: Self-paced
LinkedIn Learning’s Tips for Better Business Writing course is best for business professionals, designed to help them improve their writing to deliver clear messages and maintain a professional image.
One-time purchase available
30-day free trial
Access to all LinkedIn Learning courses with subscription
Certificate is from LinkedIn and not an accredited university
Tips for Better Business Writing is taught by Natasha Terk, who has led workshops and webinars on business communication and served as a communication consultant to clients around the world. The course’s focus on real-world exercises designed to help students analyze and improve business communications makes it our top choice as the best for professionals.
Tips for Better Business Writing consists of four modules that provide actionable tips for improving the impact and quality of business writing, including emails, reports, memos, white papers, and more. You’ll also get quizzes and a practice file to help you plan, format, and proofread your business writing. After the course, you’ll get a certificate of completion, which can be printed and shared on your LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn Learning offers access to all course content in the Tips for Better Business Writing course through a 30-day free trial. After that, the cost is $26.99 per month paid annually or $39.99 per month paid monthly. The subscription also gives you access to a library of over 17,000 courses. Alternatively, you can purchase the course for a one-time payment of $24.99, giving you lifetime access as long as you maintain a LinkedIn account.
Best for Freelancers : Business Communication Skills (Udemy)
- Focus: Business grammar and writing
- Cost: $119.99
- Length: 16 hours, self-paced
Whereas most business writing courses focus on strategy and style, Udemy’s Business Communication Skills: Business Writing & Grammar course covers business English, grammar, and writing, making it the best for freelancers looking to build professional communication skills.
Certificate is not from an accredited university
The course is taught by Alex Genadinik, a three-time bestselling Amazon author with over 10 years of experience in entrepreneurship and marketing; he's taught over 500,000 students on Udemy.
Business Communication Skills: Business Writing & Grammar begins with teaching students the basics of English grammar they need for professional business communications. This is useful for freelancers who want to learn how to communicate effectively with their clients through email, chat, and phone, how to resolve conflicts, and how to run efficient meetings. The course consists of 16 hours of on-demand video, one article, and 180 downloadable resources.
Business Communication Skills: Business Writing & Grammar costs just $119.99, which includes full lifetime access to the course and a certificate of completion. Udemy also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Best for Business Owners : Write Like a Boss (Udemy)
- Focus: Persuasive written communication
- Cost: $99.99
- Length: 90-minute video, self-paced
Udemy’s bestselling Write Like a Boss: Master Your Business Writing Skills course is designed to help leaders build advanced persuasive writing skills with a three-step writing process, making it the best choice for business owners.
30-day money-back guarantee
It's taught by Elizabeth Goins, a coach and consultant for Fortune 500 executives who’s led nearly 300 group training seminars. The course’s focus on developing advanced written communication skills, emotional intelligence, and persuasion makes it our top choice for business owners.
Write Like a Boss: Master Your Business Writing Skills teaches you how to write emails that get responses, persuade diverse audiences using proven strategies, improve the clarity of your writing, evaluate your writing habits, and more. The course consists of 90 minutes of on-demand video, one article, six downloadable resources, and one practice test, all accessible online or via the Udemy app.
Write Like a Boss: Master Your Business Writing Skills is available for a one-time purchase of $99.99. But Udemy runs regular specials, so the course is often available for less than that. You get full lifetime access to the course and a certificate of completion when you’ve finished it. Udemy offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
In addition to the certificate of completion, the course also provides 2.4 CPE credits for the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).
Although the wide range of online learning platforms has made it easier than ever to find expert business writers teaching their skills, finding the right class for your needs can be tricky. We chose Coursera’s Business Writing, offered by the University of Colorado, because of its affordable pricing options, careful methodology, and high reviews. The flexible scheduling also makes it accessible, regardless of school or work schedule. If you're already experienced and looking to improve your skills, LinkedIn Learning’s Tips for Better Business Writing course is a great choice.
Compare the Best Online Business Writing Classes
Are online writing courses worth it.
Emails, articles, and sales pages are among the most useful business writing content due to their potential to persuade a reader to make a decision that will benefit your business.
Learning how to identify your audience is one of the most valuable skills a good business writing class can teach you. Knowing exactly what your readers care about lets you write directly to them and build trust and valuable relationships that can ultimately prove to be profitable.
What are the four types of business writing?
The four types of business writing are instructional, informational, persuasive, and transactional. Learning how to identify your audience and which style of writing to utilize are some of the most valuable skills a good business writing class can teach you. Knowing exactly what your readers care about lets you write directly to them and build trust and valuable relationships that can ultimately prove to be profitable.
Can I make a living with content writing?
Yes, there are many ways to make a living as a content writer. Business writing classes can help you become a better marketer by identifying the various needs of your audience and tailoring your writing to meet those needs. If you’re a freelancer, for instance, knowing how to write a persuasive email can help you land more clients and professionally resolve conflicts or difficulties.
How much do online business writing classes cost?
In our research, we found that most good online business writing classes cost between $50 to $100+. By comparison, an accredited college course in business writing can be $600 or more.
Many online learning platforms use subscription-based pricing that gives students access to their full catalog of courses as long as they maintain their subscription. This can be a great way to piece together a curriculum of learning and study for a reasonable price.
We looked at over a dozen online business writing courses for this review. At the top of our list were offerings that had high ratings and student enrollment, as those factors are often an indicator of quality.
We also delved into the experience of the instructors. Since being an expert doesn’t automatically mean you can teach what you know, we looked for professionals with extensive experience distilling their knowledge through consulting, writing, presenting, or teaching.
We chose courses that were self-paced and easy to use with little to no technical skills. Flexible learning options allow both busy professionals and students to learn on their own schedules, making them more likely to enroll in and complete a course.
Finally, we considered pricing in our review. With so many good courses available for a reasonable monthly subscription or a one-time payment under $100, we left out some higher-priced courses that didn’t seem to offer more than their more affordable alternatives.
Bongkarn Thanyakij / EyeEm / Getty Images
Online Class: How to Write a Business Plan
- 10 Exams & Assignments
- 3,956 Students have taken this course
- 5 Hours average time
Crafting the Blueprint: Mastering the Art of Business Planning
In the bustling world of entrepreneurship, where dreams are vast and the market ever-evolving, having a structured, articulate, and forward-thinking plan is not just advisable, it's indispensable. Many seasoned CPAs assert that the absence of a well-crafted business plan is the prime pitfall for nascent businesses. A business without a plan is like a ship without a compass; it might sail smoothly initially but can easily get lost or capsized amidst unforeseen challenges.
The adage "failing to plan is planning to fail" holds especially true in business. Entrepreneurs often grapple with seemingly minor hurdles, which, with foresight and planning, might have been mere stepping stones. Without a documented strategy, there's no roadmap to visualize, no north star to guide during tumultuous times.
Creating an impactful business plan is an intricate dance of meticulous research, keen understanding, and effective presentation. It's not just a document, but a reflection of your vision, mission, and the very ethos of what your venture stands for. This course aims to meticulously guide you through every nuance of crafting this vital instrument. You'll gain insights into what investors prioritize in a plan, how to make compelling presentations, and which aspects of your business strategy can significantly sway financial outcomes.
Moreover, this course isn’t just about creating a document; it’s about understanding and internalizing the strategic essence of business. We’ll share invaluable writing techniques that provide your plan the sheen of professionalism without the hefty cost of hiring a specialist.
By the culmination of this course, you'll be armed with a reservoir of knowledge, and more importantly, the confidence to create a business plan that not only informs but also impresses and persuades. Let’s set the stage for your business's success!
Course Modules :
Lesson 1: Plan Your Plan Foundations are paramount. Understand the importance of planning before plunging into the writing process. This lesson sets the tone for the entire course, ensuring clarity of vision and purpose.
Lesson 2: Structure and Sequence Learn the anatomy of a robust business plan. Dive into the optimal sequence that resonates with stakeholders, ensuring each section flows seamlessly into the next.
Lesson 3: Important Details Delve deep into the nitty-gritty. Highlighting vital components, this lesson emphasizes elements that can make or break your business strategy.
Lesson 4: The Executive Summary The front window to your business plan, this section often gets the most eyeballs. Understand the art of creating a concise yet comprehensive executive summary that captivates from the get-go.
Lesson 5: Financials Numbers tell a tale. Unravel the intricacies of showcasing your financial projections, understanding investor metrics, and painting a realistic yet promising financial future.
Lesson 6: Market Research The bedrock of any business strategy. Understand your market landscape, identify trends, and learn to present data that validates your business proposition.
Lesson 7: Competition No business exists in a vacuum. This lesson helps you adeptly analyze your competition, identifying gaps in the market and positioning your business as a front runner.
Lesson 8: Support Documents and Working Your Plan It's not just about creating the plan but living it. Learn the importance of auxiliary documents and the iterative process of refining your strategy as your business evolves.
Your business idea deserves a blueprint that mirrors its potential. Dive into this course and sculpt a business plan that stands as a testament to your vision, dedication, and entrepreneurial spirit. Here's to planning for prosperity!
Before you take this course, you'll want to gather the following information:
1. Executive Summary
- Think sales pitch. This is where investors look to get a pulse for your business, its viability, profitability, and potential for a return on their investment.
- Think job interview. The executives you will allow to read this summary will be those in banking or merchant relationships from whom you seek favor. Be sure you write this summary so that the reader feels informed, respected, and confident in your abilities and experience.
- All inclusive by main points. Let the reader feel the shortness of your points.
- Remember "summary"; details are in the plan's additional sections.
2. Company Profile
- Company Mission Statement. A one sentence statement that precisely describes your company's purpose; a stated directive.
- Company Vision Statement. The paint in the picture of your company and its direction.
- Legal structure and month and year of company beginnings, also known as the business form; how you registered your company with the local or state authorities when you filed your paperwork.
- Historical context. If you are a new upstart, explain how your company developed and from what historical concept. If you are an established company, you will want to include 1-3 sentences about your founding days, 1-3 sentences about your most recent company accomplishments, all the way back to major accomplishments made 5 years ago.
3. Products and Services Description
- Include products descriptions in a separate section rather than in services descriptions.
- New products or services should be listed as "new" or "upcoming" to conveniently show steady growth.
4. Marketing Plan and Marketing Strategy
Marketing Research should be included here as well. Your research should include primary research information that you or your staff has conducted to determine your own local market information and demographics for your local market.
There should be a stated and outlined Marketing Strategy for getting your products or services direct exposure to the marketplace in which you hope to operate. How are you going to reach your market?
A well written Marketing Plan must include your company's "Plan of Action" for the next 2-3 years at minimum. This portion of your plan should be spelled out in detail and should perhaps include financial or market research statistics.
5. Target Market or Customers
Your Target Market and your customers will be close in demographics, needs, and perceptions. Be prepared to find out all you can about them. Statistics on their needs and personalities will be important in this section.
- What is it about your product or service that makes your customers exclusively attracted to your company?
- How does your company stand out in serving your community of clients?
- How does your product or service appeal to their needs?
What portion of your Target Market will be tempted from your competition? Which segments of your Target Market will become loyal to your company and why?
- You must be able to succinctly state your competition's strengths and weaknesses in this section. Know what they offer that gives them an edge over your company, and if your company has the advantage, then acknowledge it and state why.
- Your competition's range of rates must be stated either in extremes, averages, or both. How does your competition stack up to industry averages; how do you?
- Clearly outline what it is that you offer to the client that gives your company an advantageous edge over your competition. Whenever and wherever possible be ready to exploit the rates, statistics, advertising, client requests, or any other thing to underscore to the business plan reader the clear and distinct advantage your company has over your local competition.
7. Advertising and Promotions
- Outline for the reader what type of Advertising and Promotions your company will need to run to stay in the competitive arena in your local market.
- Offer examples of expense rates necessary to properly Advertise and Promote your products or services.
- State any current discounts or special deals that you expect to keep in place within the next 12 to 24 months.
8. Sales and Distribution
How many sales staff do you currently employ? How many do you expect to have on staff in the next 24 months?
What are your sales projections for the next 24 months? Where are you getting your calculations and how are you making your estimates? What is your company's projected sales growth [usually stated in percentages] over last year?
How are your products and services distributed? Do you have a retail outlet? Are you distributing your products or services over the internet? Using regular mail? Through some industry standard? [Example: books with a network of book stores and distributors].
9. Operations and Operational Plan
How does your company operate on a daily basis? Are you online, on the phone, or in a retail location? Do you depend primarily on advertising, on door to door direct sales, or on phone sales?
What is your Operational Plan and how do you implement it on a daily basis?
Define the variables in your Operational Plan and how you expect them to affect your company's success.
10. Client Account Management and Credit Policies
Explain, in brief, how your company manages Client Accounts, particularly as it relates to money, billing, and collection policies.
What are your company's payment and refund policies? Be sure to have these policies posted in the public arena somewhere close to your client's purchase opportunity. If the client checks out online, make sure you have a Policy Page on your website that clearly informs the customer of these policies. If you are retail only, then make sure your policy is posted near the checkout counter. Either way, you will want to reiterate that policy and tell where it is posted in your operations within the context of this section of your business plan.
11. Accounting and Management - Cash Flow statements & Management structure
How does your company handle its accounting? Do you have a staff accountant? Do you use a monthly service? Do you handle it yourself and then have it quarterly or annually reconciled by a professional CPA? Bankers, investors and foundations are all typical sources that will be interested in this segment of your business plan. Make sure you answer their business accounting questions here so you don't get quietly eliminated without further inquiry or discussion.
Include current Cash Flow statements, at least from the last year. If you have been in business longer, include 2-3 years of quarterly or annual Cash Flow statements. Two or three pages are the maximum size for this section.
How does your management team handle finances? Do they receive monthly P&Ls (Profit and Loss) that they can reconcile and examine for financial leaks or improvements?
12. Financial Planning and Projected Balance Sheet
Take the time and invest the money in a professionally prepared Financial Plan for your company. If you are a sole proprietor, then you will include an abbreviated version of your personal Financial Plan. All other business structures cannot use any portion of their personal financial plan; rather draft a separate Financial Plan for your business and include it here.
From your best calculations, create a set of Projected Balance Sheets for the next 2 years. This helps bankers and other investors determine what your expected return-on-investment will be and how they can estimate the value of your company.
This section can include any number of supporting documents, and should include as many of the following as is reasonably useful for the financial aspect of your business plan. Keep in mind here, if it doesn't help to sell the value and ROI (Return on Investment) of your company, then it doesn't belong here.
Some examples of excellent supporting documents include: preprinted advertising brochures your company distributes [sales pitch], industry or market studies, especially those published by governmental offices, and others.
There may be an occasion to leave out one or more of these segments, but if you do, then be prepared to insert a blank page with a title and a two sentence explanation as to why it is unnecessary to fully develop the missing portion.
- Completely Online
- Printable Lessons
- 6 Months to Complete
- 24/7 Availability
- Start Anytime
- PC & Mac Compatible
- Android & iOS Friendly
- Accredited CEUs
Lesson 1. Plan Your Plan
Lesson 2. Structure and Sequence
Lesson 3. important details, lesson 4. the executive summary, lesson 5. financials, lesson 6. market research, lesson 7. competition, lesson 8. support documents and working your plan, learning outcomes.
- Plan your business writing plan.
- Define structure and sequence in the scope of a business plan.
- Describe the important details of a business writing plan.
- Describe the executive summary.
- Summarize the financials.
- Identify and describe market research
- Analyze the competition.
- Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.
Additional Course Information
- Document Your Lifelong Learning Achievements
- Earn an Official Certificate Documenting Course Hours and CEUs
- Verify Your Certificate with a Unique Serial Number Online
- View and Share Your Certificate Online or Download/Print as PDF
- Display Your Certificate on Your Resume and Promote Your Achievements Using Social Media
Choose Your Subscription Plan
- "It was great, very detailed, straight to the point , and easy to understand." -- Trinesha L.
- "This course was truly helpful and needful in giving the information in the respected areas." -- Mr fred K.
- "What was most helpful was the structure and Content sections. They were very complete." -- Steven C.
- Course Catalog
- Group Discounts
- Gift Certificates
- For Libraries
- CEU Verification
- Medical Terminology
- Accounting Course
- Writing Basics
- QuickBooks Training
- Proofreading Class
- Sensitivity Training
- Excel Certificate
- Teach Online
- Terms of Service
How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)
- 3 years ago
Have you ever wondered how to write a business plan step by step? Mike Andes, told us:
This guide will help you write a business plan to impress investors.
Throughout this process, we’ll get information from Mike Andes, who started Augusta Lawn Care Services when he was 12 and turned it into a franchise with over 90 locations. He has gone on to help others learn how to write business plans and start businesses. He knows a thing or two about writing business plans!
We’ll start by discussing the definition of a business plan. Then we’ll discuss how to come up with the idea, how to do the market research, and then the important elements in the business plan format. Keep reading to start your journey!
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan is simply a road map of what you are trying to achieve with your business and how you will go about achieving it. It should cover all elements of your business including:
- Finding customers
- Plans for developing a team
- Legal structures
- Key milestones you are pursuing
If you aren’t quite ready to create a business plan, consider starting by reading our business startup guide .
Get a Business Idea
Before you can write a business plan, you have to have a business idea. You may see a problem that needs to be solved and have an idea how to solve it, or you might start by evaluating your interests and skills.
Mike told us, “The three things I suggest asking yourself when thinking about starting a business are:
- What am I good at?
- What would I enjoy doing?
- What can I get paid for?”
If all three of these questions don’t lead to at least one common answer, it will probably be a much harder road to success. Either there is not much market for it, you won’t be good at it, or you won’t enjoy doing it.
As Mike told us, “There’s enough stress starting and running a business that if you don’t like it or aren’t good at it, it’s hard to succeed.”
If you’d like to hear more about Mike’s approach to starting a business, check out our YouTube video
Conduct Market Analysis
Market analysis is focused on establishing if there is a target market for your products and services, how large the target market is, and identifying the demographics of people or businesses that would be interested in the product or service. The goal here is to establish how much money your business concept can make.
Product and Service Demand
A search engine is your best friend when trying to figure out if there is demand for your products and services. Personally, I love using presearch.org because it lets you directly search on a ton of different platforms including Google, Youtube, Twitter, and more. Check out the screenshot for the full list of search options.
With quick web searches, you can find out how many competitors you have, look through their reviews, and see if there are common complaints about the competitors. Bad reviews are a great place to find opportunities to offer better products or services.
If there are no similar products or services, you may have stumbled upon something new, or there may just be no demand for it. To find out, go talk to your most honest friend about the idea and see what they think. If they tell you it’s dumb or stare at you vacantly, there’s probably no market for it.
You can also conduct a survey through social media to get public opinion on your idea. Using Facebook Business Manager , you could get a feel for who would be interested in your product or service.
I ran a quick test of how many people between 18-65 you could reach in the U.S. during a week. It returned an estimated 700-2,000 for the total number of leads, which is enough to do a fairly accurate statistical analysis.
Identify Demographics of Target Market
Depending on what type of business you want to run, your target market will be different. The narrower the demographic, the fewer potential customers you’ll have. If you did a survey, you’ll be able to use that data to help define your target audience. Some considerations you’ll want to consider are:
- Other Interests
- Marital Status
- Do they have kids?
Once you have this information, it can help you narrow down your options for location and help define your marketing further. One resource that Mike recommended using is the Census Bureau’s Quick Facts Map . He told us,
“It helps you quickly evaluate what the best areas are for your business to be located.”
How to Write a Business Plan
Now that you’ve developed your idea a little and established there is a market for it, you can begin writing a business plan. Getting started is easier with the business plan template we created for you to download. I strongly recommend using it as it is updated to make it easier to create an action plan.
Each of the following should be a section of your business plan:
- Business Plan Cover Page
- Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Company Description
- Description of Products and Services
- Competitor Data
- Competitive Analysis
- Marketing Expenses Strategy
- Distribution Channel Assessment
- Operational Plan
- Management and Organizational Strategy
- Financial Statements and/or Financial Projections
We’ll look into each of these. Don’t forget to download our free business plan template (mentioned just above) so you can follow along as we go.
How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page
The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions.
A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:
- Professionally designed logo
- Company name
- Mission or Vision Statement
- Contact Info
Basically, think of a cover page for your business plan like a giant business card. It is meant to capture people’s attention but be quickly processed.
How to Write a Business Plan Step 2. Create a Table of Contents
Most people are busy enough that they don’t have a lot of time. Providing a table of contents makes it easy for them to find the pages of your plan that are meaningful to them.
A table of contents will be immediately after the cover page, but you can include it after the executive summary. Including the table of contents immediately after the executive summary will help investors know what section of your business plan they want to review more thoroughly.
Check out Canva’s article about creating a table of contents . It has a ton of great information about creating easy access to each section of your business plan. Just remember that you’ll want to use different strategies for digital and hard copy business plans.
How to Write a Business Plan Step 3. Write an Executive Summary
An executive summary is where your business plan should catch the readers interest. It doesn’t need to be long, but should be quick and easy to read.
Mike told us,
How long should an executive summary bein an informal business plan?
For casual use, an executive summary should be similar to an elevator pitch, no more than 150-160 words, just enough to get them interested and wanting more. Indeed has a great article on elevator pitches . This can also be used for the content of emails to get readers’ attention.
It consists of three basic parts:
- An introduction to you and your business.
- What your business is about.
- A call to action
Example of an informal executive summary
One of the best elevator pitches I’ve used is:
So far that pitch has achieved a 100% success rate in getting partnerships for the business.
What should I include in an executive summary for investors?
Investors are going to need a more detailed executive summary if you want to secure financing or sell equity. The executive summary should be a brief overview of your entire business plan and include:
- Introduction of yourself and company.
- An origin story (Recognition of a problem and how you came to solution)
- An introduction to your products or services.
- Your unique value proposition. Make sure to include intellectual property.
- Where you are in the business life cycle
- Request and why you need it.
Successful business plan examples
The owner of Urbanity told us he spent 2 months writing a 75-page business plan and received a $250,000 loan from the bank when he was 23. Make your business plan as detailed as possible when looking for financing. We’ve provided a template to help you prepare the portions of a business plan that banks expect.
Here’s the interview with the owner of Urbanity:
When to write an executive summary?
Even though the summary is near the beginning of a business plan, you should write it after you complete the rest of a business plan. You can’t talk about revenue, profits, and expected expenditures if you haven’t done the market research and created a financial plan.
What mistakes do people make when writing an executive summary?
Business owners commonly go into too much detail about the following items in an executive summary:
- Marketing and sales processes
- Financial statements
- Organizational structure
- Market analysis
These are things that people will want to know later, but they don’t hook the reader. They won’t spark interest in your small business, but they’ll close the deal.
How to Write a Business Plan Step 4. Company Description
Every business plan should include a company description. A great business plan will include the following elements while describing the company:
- Mission statement
- Philosophy and vision
- Company goals
- Legal structure
Let’s take a look at what each section includes in a good business plan.
A mission statement is a brief explanation of why you started the company and what the company’s main focus is. It should be no more than one or two sentences. Check out HubSpot’s article 27 Inspiring Mission Statement for a great read on informative and inspiring mission and vision statements.
Company Philosophy and Vision
The company philosophy is what drives your company. You’ll normally hear them called core values. These are the building blocks that make your company different. You want to communicate your values to customers, business owners, and investors as often as possible to build a company culture, but make sure to back them up.
What makes your company different?
Each company is different. Your new business should rise above the standard company lines of honesty, integrity, fun, innovation, and community when communicating your business values. The standard answers are corporate jargon and lack authenticity.
Examples of core values
One of my clients decided to add a core values page to their website. As a tech company they emphasized the values:
- Prioritize communication.
- Never stop learning.
- Be transparent.
- Start small and grow incrementally.
These values communicate how the owner and the rest of the company operate. They also show a value proposition and competitive advantage because they specifically focus on delivering business value from the start. These values also genuinely show what the company is about and customers recognize the sincerity. Indeed has a great blog about how to identify your core values .
What is a vision statement?
A vision statement communicate the long lasting change a business pursues. The vision helps investors and customers understand what your company is trying to accomplish. The vision statement goes beyond a mission statement to provide something meaningful to the community, customer’s lives, or even the world.
Example vision statements
The Alzheimer’s Association is a great example of a vision statement:
A world without Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia.
It clearly tells how they want to change the world. A world without Alzheimers might be unachievable, but that means they always have room for improvement.
You have to measure success against goals for a business plan to be meaningful. A business plan helps guide a company similar to how your GPS provides a road map to your favorite travel destination. A goal to make as much money as possible is not inspirational and sounds greedy.
Sure, business owners want to increase their profits and improve customer service, but they need to present an overview of what they consider success. The goals should help everyone prioritize their work.
How far in advance should a business plan?
Business planning should be done at least one year in advance, but many banks and investors prefer three to five year business plans. Longer plans show investors that the management team understands the market and knows the business is operating in a constantly shifting market. In addition, a plan helps businesses to adjust to changes because they have already considered how to handle them.
Example of great business goals
My all time-favorite long-term company goals are included in Tesla’s Master Plan, Part Deux . These goals were written in 2016 and drive the company’s decisions through 2026. They are the reason that investors are so forgiving when Elon Musk continually fails to meet his quarterly and annual goals.
If the progress aligns with the business plan investors are likely to continue to believe in the company. Just make sure the goals are reasonable or you’ll be discredited (unless you’re Elon Musk).
You did target market research before creating a business plan. Now it’s time to add it to the plan so others understand what your ideal customer looks like. As a new business owner, you may not be considered an expert in your field yet, so document everything. Make sure the references you use are from respectable sources.
Use information from the specific lender when you are applying for lending. Most lenders provide industry research reports and using their data can strengthen the position of your business plan.
A small business plan should include a section on the external environment. Understanding the industry is crucial because we don’t plan a business in a vacuum. Make sure to research the industry trends, competitors, and forecasts. I personally prefer IBIS World for my business research. Make sure to answer questions like:
- What is the industry outlook long-term and short-term?
- How will your business take advantage of projected industry changes and trends?
- What might happen to your competitors and how will your business successfully compete?
Some helpful resources to help you establish more about your industry are:
- Trade Associations
- Federal Reserve
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
There are five basic types of legal structures that most people will utilize:
- Sole proprietorships
- Limited Liability Companies (LLC)
Each business structure has their pros and cons. An LLC is the most common legal structure due to its protection of personal assets and ease of setting up. Make sure to specify how ownership is divided and what roles each owner plays when you have more than one business owner.
You’ll have to decide which structure is best for you, but we’ve gathered information on each to make it easier.
A sole proprietorship is the easiest legal structure to set up but doesn’t protect the owner’s personal assets from legal issues. That means if something goes wrong, you could lose both your company and your home.
To start a sole proprietorship, fill out a special tax form called a Schedule C . Sole proprietors can also join the American Independent Business Alliance .
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
An LLC is the most common business structure used in the United States because an LLC protects the owner’s personal assets. It’s similar to partnerships and corporations, but can be a single-member LLC in most states. An LLC requires a document called an operating agreement.
Each state has different requirements. Here’s a link to find your state’s requirements . Delaware and Nevada are common states to file an LLC because they are really business-friendly. Here’s a blog on the top 10 states to get an LLC.
Partnerships are typically for legal firms. If you choose to use a partnership choose a Limited Liability Partnership. Alternatively, you can just use an LLC.
Corporations are typically for massive organizations. Corporations have taxes on both corporate and income tax so unless you plan on selling stock, you are better off considering an LLC with S-Corp status . Investopedia has good information corporations here .
There are several opportunities to purchase successful franchises. TopFranchise.com has a list of companies in a variety of industries that offer franchise opportunities. This makes it where an entrepreneur can benefit from the reputation of an established business that has already worked out many of the kinks of starting from scratch.
How to Write a Business Plan Step 5. Products and Services
This section of the business plan should focus on what you sell, how you source it, and how you sell it. You should include:
- Unique features that differentiate your business products from competitors
- Intellectual property
- Your supply chain
- Cost and pricing structure
Questions to answer about your products and services
Mike gave us a list of the most important questions to answer about your product and services:
- How will you be selling the product? (in person, ecommerce, wholesale, direct to consumer)?
- How do you let them know they need a product?
- How do you communicate the message?
- How will you do transactions?
- How much will you be selling it for?
- How many do you think you’ll sell and why?
Make sure to use the worksheet on our business plan template .
How to Write a Business Plan Step 6. Sales and Marketing Plan
The marketing and sales plan is focused on the strategy to bring awareness to your company and guides how you will get the product to the consumer. It should contain the following sections:
SWOT Analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Not only do you want to identify them, but you also want to document how the business plans to deal with them.
Business owners need to do a thorough job documenting how their service or product stacks up against the competition.
If proper research isn’t done, investors will be able to tell that the owner hasn’t researched the competition and is less likely to believe that the team can protect its service from threats by the more well-established competition. This is one of the most common parts of a presentation that trips up business owners presenting on Shark Tank .
Examples of strengths and weaknesses could be things like the lack of cash flow, intellectual property ownership, high costs of suppliers, and customers’ expectations on shipping times.
Opportunities could be ways to capitalize on your strengths or improve your weaknesses, but may also be gaps in the industry. This includes:
- Adding offerings that fit with your current small business
- Increase sales to current customers
- Reducing costs through bulk ordering
- Finding ways to reduce inventory
- And other areas you can improve
Threats will normally come from outside of the company but could also be things like losing a key member of the team. Threats normally come from competition, regulations, taxes, and unforeseen events.
The management team should use the SWOT analysis to guide other areas of business planning, but it absolutely has to be done before a business owner starts marketing.
Include Competitor Data in Your Business Plan
When you plan a business, taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is key to navigating the field. Providing an overview of your competition and where they are headed shows that you are invested in understanding the industry.
For smaller businesses, you’ll want to search both the company and the owners names to see what they are working on. For publicly held corporations, you can find their quarterly and annual reports on the SEC website .
What another business plans to do can impact your business. Make sure to include things that might make it attractive for bigger companies to outsource to a small business.
The marketing and sales part of business plans should be focused on how you are going to make potential customers aware of your business and then sell to them.
If you haven’t already included it, Mike recommends:
“They’ll want to know about Demographics, ages, and wealth of your target market.”
Make sure to include the Total addressable market . The term refers to the value if you captured 100% of the market.
You’ll explain what formats of advertising you’ll be using. Some possibilities are:
- Online: Facebook and Google are the big names to work with here.
- Print : Print can be used to reach broad groups or targeted markets. Check out this for tips .
- Radio : iHeartMedia is one of the best ways to advertise on the radio
- Cable television : High priced, hard to measure ROI, but here’s an explanation of the process
- Billboards: Attracting customers with billboards can be beneficial in high traffic areas.
You’ll want to define how you’ll be using each including frequency, duration, and cost. If you have the materials already created, including pictures or links to the marketing to show creative assets.
Mike told us “Most businesses are marketing digitally now due to Covid, but that’s not always the right answer.”
Make sure the marketing strategy will help team members or external marketing agencies stay within the brand guidelines .
This section of a business plan should be focused on pricing. There are a ton of pricing strategies that may work for different business plans. Which one will work for you depends on what kind of a business you run.
Some common pricing strategies are:
- Value-based pricing – Commonly used with home buying and selling or other products that are status symbols.
- Skimming pricing – Commonly seen in video game consoles, price starts off high to recoup expenses quickly, then reduces over time.
- Competition-based pricing – Pricing based on competitors’ pricing is commonly seen at gas stations.
- Freemium services – Commonly used for software, where there is a free plan, then purchase options for more functionality.
HubSpot has a great calculator and blog on pricing strategies.
Beyond explaining what strategy your business plans to use, you should include references for how you came to this pricing strategy and how it will impact your cash flow.
This part of a business plan is focused on how the product or service is going to go through the supply chain. These may include multiple divisions or multiple companies. Make sure to include any parts of the workflow that are automated so investors can see where cost savings are expected and when.
Supply Chain Examples
For instance, lawn care companies would need to cover aspects such as:
- Suppliers for lawn care equipment and tools
- Any chemicals or treatments needed
- Repair parts for sprinkler systems
- Vehicles to transport equipment and employees
- Insurance to protect the company vehicles and people.
Examples of Supply Chains
These are fairly flat supply chains compared to something like a clothing designer where the clothes would go through multiple vendors. A clothing company might have the following supply chain:
- Raw materials
- Shipping of raw materials
- Converting of raw materials to thread
- Shipping thread to produce garments
- Garment producer
- Shipping to company
- Company storage
- Shipping to retail stores
There have been advances such as print on demand that eliminate many of these steps. If you are designing completely custom clothing, all of this would need to be planned to keep from having business disruptions.
The main thing to include in the business plan is the list of suppliers, the path the supply chain follows, the time from order to the customer’s home, and the costs associated with each step of the process.
According to BizPlanReview , a business plan without this information is likely to get rejected because they have failed to research the key elements necessary to make sales to the customer.
How to Write a Business Plan Step 7. Company Organization and Operational Plan
This part of the business plan is focused on how the business model will function while serving customers. The business plan should provide an overview of how the team will manage the following aspects:
- Legal environment
Let’s look at each for some insight.
Production has already been discussed in previous sections so I won’t go into it much. When writing a business plan for investors, try to avoid repetition as it creates a more simple business plan.
If the organizational plan will be used by the team as an overview of how to perform the best services for the customer, then redundancy makes more sense as it communicates what is important to the business.
Quality control policies help to keep the team focused on how to verify that the company adheres to the business plan and meets or exceeds customer expectations.
Quality control can be anything from a standard that says “all labels on shirts can be no more than 1/16″ off center” to a defined checklist of steps that should be performed and filled out for every customer.
There are a variety of organizations that help define quality control including:
- International Organization for Standardization – Quality standards for energy, technology, food, production environments, and cybersecurity
- AICPA – Standard defined for accounting.
- The Joint Commission – Healthcare
- ASHRAE – HVAC best practices
You can find lists of the organizations that contribute most to the government regulation of industries on Open Secrets . Research what the leaders in your field are doing. Follow their example and implement it in your quality control plan.
For location, you should use information from the market research to establish where the location will be. Make sure to include the following in the location documentation.
- The size of your location
- The type of building (retail, industrial, commercial, etc.)
- Zoning restrictions – Urban Wire has a good map on how zoning works in each state
- Accessibility – Does it meet ADA requirements?
- Costs including rent, maintenance, utilities, insurance and any buildout or remodeling costs
- Utilities – b.e.f. has a good energy calculator .
The legal requirement section is focused on defining how to meet the legal requirements for your industry. A good business plan should include all of the following:
- Any licenses and/or permits that are needed and whether you’ve obtained them
- Any trademarks, copyrights, or patents that you have or are in the process of applying for
- The insurance coverage your business requires and how much it costs
- Any environmental, health, or workplace regulations affecting your business
- Any special regulations affecting your industry
- Bonding requirements, if applicable
Your local SBA office can help you establish requirements in your area. I strongly recommend using them. They are a great resource.
Your business plan should include a plan for company organization and hiring. While you may be the only person with the company right now, down the road you’ll need more people. Make sure to consider and document the answers to the following questions:
- What is the current leadership structure and what will it look like in the future?
- What types of employees will you have? Are there any licensing or educational requirements?
- How many employees will you need?
- Will you ever hire freelancers or independent contractors?
- What is each position’s job description?
- What is the pay structure (hourly, salaried, base plus commission, etc.)?
- How do you plan to find qualified employees and contractors?
One of the most crucial parts of a business plan is the organizational chart. This simply shows the positions the company will need, who is in charge of them and the relationship of each of them. It will look similar to this:
Our small business plan template has a much more in-depth organizational chart you can edit to include when you include the organizational chart in your business plan.
How to Write a Business Plan Step 8. Financial Statements
No business plan is complete without financial statements or financial projections. The business plan format will be different based on whether you are writing a business plan to expand a business or a startup business plan. Let’s dig deeper into each.
Provide All Financial Income from an Existing Business
An existing business should use their past financial documents including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement to find trends to estimate the next 3-5 years.
You can create easy trendlines in excel to predict future revenue, profit and loss, cash flow, and other changes in year-over-year performance. This will show your expected performance assuming business continues as normal.
If you are seeking an investment, then the business is probably not going to continue as normal. Depending on the financial plan and the purpose of getting financing, adjustments may be needed to the following:
- Higher Revenue if expanding business
- Lower Cost of Goods Sold if purchasing inventory with bulk discounts
- Adding interest if utilizing financing (not equity deal)
- Changes in expenses
- Addition of financing information to the cash flow statement
- Changes in Earnings per Share on the balance sheet
Financial modeling is a challenging subject, but there are plenty of low-cost courses on the subject. If you need help planning your business financial documentation take some time to watch some of them.
Make it a point to document how you calculated all the changes to the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement in your business plan so that key team members or investors can verify your research.
Financial Projections For A Startup Business Plan
Unlike an existing business, a startup doesn’t have previous success to model its future performance. In this scenario, you need to focus on how to make a business plan realistic through the use of industry research and averages.
Mike gave the following advice in his interview:
Financial Forecasting Mistakes
One of the things a lot of inexperienced people use is the argument, “If I get one percent of the market, it is worth $100 million.” If you use this, investors are likely to file the document under bad business plan examples.
Let’s use custom t-shirts as an example.
Credence Research estimated in 2018 there were 11,334,800,000 custom t-shirts sold for a total of $206.12 Billion, with a 6% compound annual growth rate.
With that data, you can calculate that the industry will grow to $270 Billion in 2023 and that the average shirt sold creates $18.18 in revenue.
Combine that with an IBIS World estimate of 11,094 custom screen printers and that means even if you become an average seller, you’ll get .009% of the market.
Here’s a table for easier viewing of that information.
The point here is to make sure your business proposal examples make sense.
You’ll need to know industry averages such as cost of customer acquisition, revenue per customer, the average cost of goods sold, and admin costs to be able to create accurate estimates.
Our simple business plan templates walk you through most of these processes. If you follow them you’ll have a good idea of how to write a business proposal.
How to Write a Business Plan Step 9. Business Plan Example of Funding Requests
What is a business plan without a plan on how to obtain funding?
The Small Business Administration has an example for a pizza restaurant that theoretically needed nearly $20k to make it through their first month.
In our video, How to Start a $500K/Year T-Shirt Business (Pt. 1 ), Sanford Booth told us he needed about $200,000 to start his franchise and broke even after 4 months.
Freshbooks estimates it takes on average 2-3 years for a business to be profitable, which means the fictitious pizza company from the SBA could need up to $330k to make it through that time and still pay their bills for their home and pizza shop.
Not every business needs that much to start, but realistically it’s a good idea to assume that you need a fairly large cushion.
Ways to get funding for a small business
There are a variety of ways to cover this. the most common are:
- Bootstrapping – Using your savings without external funding.
- Taking out debt – loans, credit cards
- Equity, Seed Funding – Ownership of a percentage of the company in exchange for current funds
- Crowdsourcing – Promising a good for funding to create the product
Keep reading for more tips on how to write a business plan.
How funding will be used
When asking for business financing make sure to include:
- How much to get started?
- What is the minimum viable product and how soon can you make money?
- How will the money be spent?
Mike emphasized two aspects that should be included in every plan,
How to Write a Business Plan Resources
Here are some links to a business plan sample and business plan outline.
- Sample plan
It’s also helpful to follow some of the leading influencers in the business plan writing community. Here’s a list:
- Wise Plans – Shares a lot of information on starting businesses and is a business plan writing company.
- Optimus Business Plans – Another business plan writing company.
- Venture Capital – A venture capital thread that can help give you ideas.
How to Write a Business Plan: What’s Next?
We hope this guide about how to write a simple business plan step by step has been helpful. We’ve covered:
- The definition of a business plan
- Coming up with a business idea
- Performing market research
- The critical components of a business plan
- An example business plan
In addition, we provided you with a simple business plan template to assist you in the process of writing your startup business plan. The startup business plan template also includes a business model template that will be the key to your success.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our business hub .
Have you written a business plan before? How did it impact your ability to achieve your goals?
Brandon Boushy lives to improve people’s lives by helping them become successful entrepreneurs. His journey started nearly 30 years ago. He consistently excelled at everything he did, but preferred to make the rules rather than follow him. His exploration of self and knowledge has helped him to get an engineering degree, MBA, and countless certifications. When freelancing and rideshare came onto the scene, he recognized the opportunity to play by his own rules. Since 2017, he has helped businesses across all industries achieve more with his research, writing, and marketing strategies. Since 2021, he has been the Lead Writer for UpFlip where he has published over 170 articles on small business success.
- September 27, 2023
How to Start a Business: The Ultimate Guide (2024)
- August 3, 2022
Free Business Plan Template (With Examples)
- May 3, 2022
How to Get a Business License (In 3 Steps)
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2 thoughts on “How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)”
My Name is PRETTY NGOMANE. A south African female. Aspiring to do farming. And finding a home away from home for the differently abled persons in their daily needs.
nice work https://binarychemist.com/
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