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Small Business Trends

How to create a business plan: examples & free template.

Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or launching your very first startup, the guide will give you the insights, tools, and confidence you need to create a solid foundation for your business.

Table of Contents

How to Write a Business Plan

Executive summary.

It’s crucial to include a clear mission statement, a brief description of your primary products or services, an overview of your target market, and key financial projections or achievements.

Our target market includes environmentally conscious consumers and businesses seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. We project a 200% increase in revenue within the first three years of operation.

Overview and Business Objectives

Example: EcoTech’s primary objective is to become a market leader in sustainable technology products within the next five years. Our key objectives include:

Company Description

Example: EcoTech is committed to developing cutting-edge sustainable technology products that benefit both the environment and our customers. Our unique combination of innovative solutions and eco-friendly design sets us apart from the competition. We envision a future where technology and sustainability go hand in hand, leading to a greener planet.

Define Your Target Market

Market analysis.

The Market Analysis section requires thorough research and a keen understanding of the industry. It involves examining the current trends within your industry, understanding the needs and preferences of your customers, and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

Our research indicates a gap in the market for high-quality, innovative eco-friendly technology products that cater to both individual and business clients.

SWOT Analysis

Including a SWOT analysis demonstrates to stakeholders that you have a balanced and realistic understanding of your business in its operational context.

Competitive Analysis

Organization and management team.

Provide an overview of your company’s organizational structure, including key roles and responsibilities. Introduce your management team, highlighting their expertise and experience to demonstrate that your team is capable of executing the business plan successfully.

Products and Services Offered

This section should emphasize the value you provide to customers, demonstrating that your business has a deep understanding of customer needs and is well-positioned to deliver innovative solutions that address those needs and set your company apart from competitors.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

Discuss how these marketing and sales efforts will work together to attract and retain customers, generate leads, and ultimately contribute to achieving your business’s revenue goals.

Logistics and Operations Plan

Inventory control is another crucial aspect, where you explain strategies for inventory management to ensure efficiency and reduce wastage. The section should also describe your production processes, emphasizing scalability and adaptability to meet changing market demands.

We also prioritize efficient distribution through various channels, including online platforms and retail partners, to deliver products to our customers in a timely manner.

Financial Projections Plan

This forward-looking financial plan is crucial for demonstrating that you have a firm grasp of the financial nuances of your business and are prepared to manage its financial health effectively.

Income Statement

Cash flow statement.

A cash flow statement is a crucial part of a financial business plan that shows the inflows and outflows of cash within your business. It helps you monitor your company’s liquidity, ensuring you have enough cash on hand to cover operating expenses, pay debts, and invest in growth opportunities.

SectionDescriptionExample
Executive SummaryBrief overview of the business planOverview of EcoTech and its mission
Overview & ObjectivesOutline of company's goals and strategiesMarket leadership in sustainable technology
Company DescriptionDetailed explanation of the company and its unique selling propositionEcoTech's history, mission, and vision
Target MarketDescription of ideal customers and their needsEnvironmentally conscious consumers and businesses
Market AnalysisExamination of industry trends, customer needs, and competitorsTrends in eco-friendly technology market
SWOT AnalysisEvaluation of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and ThreatsStrengths and weaknesses of EcoTech
Competitive AnalysisIn-depth analysis of competitors and their strategiesAnalysis of GreenTech and EarthSolutions
Organization & ManagementOverview of the company's structure and management teamKey roles and team members at EcoTech
Products & ServicesDescription of offerings and their unique featuresEnergy-efficient lighting solutions, solar chargers
Marketing & SalesOutline of marketing channels and sales strategiesDigital advertising, content marketing, influencer partnerships
Logistics & OperationsDetails about daily operations, supply chain, inventory, and quality controlPartnerships with manufacturers, quality control
Financial ProjectionsForecast of revenue, expenses, and profit for the next 3-5 yearsProjected growth in revenue and net profit
Income StatementSummary of company's revenues and expenses over a specified periodRevenue, Cost of Goods Sold, Gross Profit, Net Income
Cash Flow StatementOverview of cash inflows and outflows within the businessNet Cash from Operating Activities, Investing Activities, Financing Activities

Tips on Writing a Business Plan

4. Focus on your unique selling proposition (USP): Clearly articulate what sets your business apart from the competition. Emphasize your USP throughout your business plan to showcase your company’s value and potential for success.

FREE Business Plan Template

To help you get started on your business plan, we have created a template that includes all the essential components discussed in the “How to Write a Business Plan” section. This easy-to-use template will guide you through each step of the process, ensuring you don’t miss any critical details.

What is a Business Plan?

Why you should write a business plan.

Understanding the importance of a business plan in today’s competitive environment is crucial for entrepreneurs and business owners. Here are five compelling reasons to write a business plan:

What are the Different Types of Business Plans?

Type of Business PlanPurposeKey ComponentsTarget Audience
Startup Business PlanOutlines the company's mission, objectives, target market, competition, marketing strategies, and financial projections.Mission Statement, Company Description, Market Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Organizational Structure, Marketing and Sales Strategy, Financial Projections.Entrepreneurs, Investors
Internal Business PlanServes as a management tool for guiding the company's growth, evaluating its progress, and ensuring that all departments are aligned with the overall vision.Strategies, Milestones, Deadlines, Resource Allocation.Internal Team Members
Strategic Business PlanOutlines long-term goals and the steps to achieve them.SWOT Analysis, Market Research, Competitive Analysis, Long-Term Goals.Executives, Managers, Investors
Feasibility Business PlanAssesses the viability of a business idea.Market Demand, Competition, Financial Projections, Potential Obstacles.Entrepreneurs, Investors
Growth Business PlanFocuses on strategies for scaling up an existing business.Market Analysis, New Product/Service Offerings, Financial Projections.Business Owners, Investors
Operational Business PlanOutlines the company's day-to-day operations.Processes, Procedures, Organizational Structure.Managers, Employees
Lean Business PlanA simplified, agile version of a traditional plan, focusing on key elements.Value Proposition, Customer Segments, Revenue Streams, Cost Structure.Entrepreneurs, Startups
One-Page Business PlanA concise summary of your company's key objectives, strategies, and milestones.Key Objectives, Strategies, Milestones.Entrepreneurs, Investors, Partners
Nonprofit Business PlanOutlines the mission, goals, target audience, fundraising strategies, and budget allocation for nonprofit organizations.Mission Statement, Goals, Target Audience, Fundraising Strategies, Budget.Nonprofit Leaders, Board Members, Donors
Franchise Business PlanFocuses on the franchisor's requirements, as well as the franchisee's goals, strategies, and financial projections.Franchise Agreement, Brand Standards, Marketing Efforts, Operational Procedures, Financial Projections.Franchisors, Franchisees, Investors

Using Business Plan Software

Upmetrics provides a simple and intuitive platform for creating a well-structured business plan. It features customizable templates, financial forecasting tools, and collaboration capabilities, allowing you to work with team members and advisors. Upmetrics also offers a library of resources to guide you through the business planning process.

SoftwareKey FeaturesUser InterfaceAdditional Features
LivePlanOver 500 sample plans, financial forecasting tools, progress tracking against KPIsUser-friendly, visually appealingAllows creation of professional-looking business plans
UpmetricsCustomizable templates, financial forecasting tools, collaboration capabilitiesSimple and intuitiveProvides a resource library for business planning
BizplanDrag-and-drop builder, modular sections, financial forecasting tools, progress trackingSimple, visually engagingDesigned to simplify the business planning process
EnloopIndustry-specific templates, financial forecasting tools, automatic business plan generation, unique performance scoreRobust, user-friendlyOffers a free version, making it accessible for businesses on a budget
Tarkenton GoSmallBizGuided business plan builder, customizable templates, financial projection toolsUser-friendlyOffers CRM tools, legal document templates, and additional resources for small businesses

Business Plan FAQs

What is a good business plan.

A good business plan is a well-researched, clear, and concise document that outlines a company’s goals, strategies, target market, competitive advantages, and financial projections. It should be adaptable to change and provide a roadmap for achieving success.

What are the 3 main purposes of a business plan?

Can i write a business plan by myself, is it possible to create a one-page business plan.

Yes, a one-page business plan is a condensed version that highlights the most essential elements, including the company’s mission, target market, unique selling proposition, and financial goals.

How long should a business plan be?

What is a business plan outline, what are the 5 most common business plan mistakes, what questions should be asked in a business plan.

A business plan should address questions such as: What problem does the business solve? Who is the specific target market ? What is the unique selling proposition? What are the company’s objectives? How will it achieve those objectives?

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

How is business planning for a nonprofit different.

Simple Business Plan Template for Word, PDF

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  • Ten sections: Company description, Opportunity, Industry Analysis, Target Market, Management Team, Marketing Strategy, Timeline, Financial Plan, Conclusion. Bonus Appendices section, if you want to get fancy
  • Detailed instructions for each section
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Simple business plan template.

Business Plan Template

Executive Summary

Begin with a brief description of your company to give background and context. Tell the reader why you have embarked on this new venture.

Then, move into a description of the opportunity. Explain your project from the broadest to most narrow context. Tell readers what product or service you plan to offer, how it fits into the industry you’ll operate within, who your target customers are, and what you expect from the market in the future. Explain your value proposition, and give an overview of the market.

Briefly describe your management team to help potential investors understand the skills and experience your company brings to the table. Next, move into a description of how your business will operate on a day-to-day basis.

Then, describe how you will promote your new product/service. You don’t need to go into detail here, but you should provide enough information to illustrate the marketing methods you will use and how you will attract new customers.

Describe the cost structure and financial aspects of the business. You’ll need to explain the kind and amount of investment that you need, what you will use the money for, and how you envision your business becoming profitable.

Next, you should move into a description of how you will implement your business plan. How will you roll out your new business? What is the expected timeline?

Finally, close this section with a clear, pithy explanation of your project, why it is needed, and how it will benefit future customers and investors.

HubSpot Tip: Write this section last, after you have written all of the other sections. It should summarize your entire business plan in a page or two (at most).

Company Description

Provide a description of your organization. Include the company’s name, what type of entity it is, who owns it, and note any significant assets.

This is a good place to talk about why you do what you do. What is your company’s mission statement? What are your goals and objectives?

What product or service do you provide? Who are your customers? Do you have a geographic focus? If so, where?

Briefly describe the industry, the opportunities it offers, and the growth it is experiencing.

Note some of your company’s main strengths and briefly explain where you fit into the industry. You will delve more deeply into this later.

HubSpot Tip: Keep this section brief. You will have plenty of time to talk about the details of your company and the business opportunity later in the document.

The Opportunity

Describe the need in the market that your business idea will fill. How did this need arise and why has it not been filled yet?

Explain how you identified the need and how your product/service will meet it.

Describe your products/services here. You can include diagrams or pictures to help illustrate your offering.

You should also include a description of the features and benefits of your product/service to your customer. Consider capturing this in a simple table like the one below.

Product/Service Feature

Benefit to the Customer

HubSpot Tip: Be sure to include your value proposition in this section – describe how your service/product is attractive to customers.

Industry Analysis

In this section, you’ll want to talk about the key environmental trends in your industry. What are the barriers to entry (e.g., high production or marketing costs, tariff barriers, regulatory challenges, extensive training)? How is the industry progressing? What is changing?

Then think about your business’ competitive advantage. Are there other companies providing the same good/service that you will be offering? If so, are customers likely to switch to your product/service? How do you compare with your competitors?

HubSpot Tip: Note the key factors for success in this industry, and show that your company has them.

Target Market Research and Definition

Based on the market research that you previously conducted, provide an explanation of the market in which your business will reside. How big is the market? How fast is it growing? Will your product/service be a major factor in the market?

Define your target customers. Who do you expect to buy your product/service?

You should identify and describe your major competitors in this section, as well.

Identify what defines your product/service in the marketplace. What distinctive competencies or offerings do you offer that other companies do not?

HubSpot Tip: Though you want to mention some competitors, make sure the focus is on your business and how it will serve your target customers.

Management Team & Organization

Your readers will want to know that your team has the skills and qualifications to implement what you have outlined in the business plan. Include brief biographical sketches of your leadership, including the board of directors (if you have one) and any high-level external advisors that your company uses.

Include their educational credentials and a description of the relevant work they have done and accomplishments they have achieved. You can also personalize this section with headshots of your staff to help put faces to the names.

If you have a complicated management structure, consider including an organizational chart like the one shown below. Tailor it to include the names and roles of your leadership team.

HubSpot Tip: You don’t need to include descriptions of every position in the company, just high-level management.

Operations Plan

In this section, describe how you will manage your business and what daily operations will look like. You should cover at least the following topics, and any other relevant information that might be unique to your industry:

• Staffing – How many employees will you have? Where will they be located? What kinds of skills and certifications do they need?

• Infrastructure – What kind of physical space will your company occupy? Describe your business locations. What kinds of technologies will you require?

• Legal Structure – Legal issues are important in every industry. Describe the unique aspects of yours and how you will address them.

• Regulatory – Regulations also play a key role in most businesses. Include a discussion of the regulatory issues faced in your industry and how you will handle them.

• Certifications or Accreditations - Does your company require any special documentation to do business? If so, describe how you’ll attain the required certification or accreditation.

• Product/Service Delivery Process – Describe your business processes. These might include inventory, supply chain, and accounts payable and receivable.

HubSpot Tip: This list is not exhaustive, so be sure to include enough information to help potential investors understand how your business will operate.

Marketing Strategy

Marketing is a crucial to the success of any business. Building on what you described in the Target Market Research and Definition section, define the components of your strategy to market your product/service.

Describe any challenges, including barriers to entering the market. What potential problems do you foresee? How will you address them?

Explain why you have chosen to operate your business in the selected location. Are there cost savings involved in choosing this location? Does it bring you closer to your customer base?

What is your pricing strategy? Explain and provide clear evidence for why the pricing structure you selected will lead customers to buy your products/services and will, at the same time, result in a profit for your business and investors.

Describe your plan for promoting your new business, product, or service. Will you use print, radio, television, or social media? Will you hire a marketing manager?

Be sure to indicate the budget for your marketing strategy and where you will obtain the funding for this important aspect of your business. You may need to employ consultants or an advertising agency – be sure to include these costs.

HubSpot Tip: Consider including a few mockups of your logos, packaging, and even advertisements to give potential investors a preview of your company’s marketing materials.

Implementation Plan And Timeline

Describe the phases in which your business will be rolled out. Indicate which phase you are in currently, and how long it will take to bring your product/service to market.

Consider including a timeline like the one below to illustrate the steps in the process. Customize it with your dates and the specific steps for your business.

HubSpot Tip: While aiming to please potential investors, be sure to set reasonable deadlines that you are able to meet.

Financial Plan

Tell your potential investors the amount of funds you have received thus far and who provided them. How much more funding do you require?

Describe how you will use each part of the funding you are requesting. Investors often feel more comfortable if they know exactly how their money will be used.

Give readers a peek into your company’s projected financial future. Include the following as appendices, but describe them in this section:

• Cash flow projection – An estimate of how much money you expect to flow in and out of your business.

• Capitalization plan – Lists the sources and uses of capital that your business plans to amass.

• Break-even analysis – A determination of what you need to sell in order to cover the costs of doing business.

In addition to the above, you’ll need to include an income statement and balance sheet. Since these could be long and were likely developed in Excel or an accounting software, you should reference them here and include them in an appendix.

You will also want to explain any assumptions that you have made that affect your financial information. Later you will be able to point to these to explain why something may have turned out differently than expected.

HubSpot Tip: This is one of the most important sections of your business proposal. If you are not an expert in finance, be sure to seek assistance from someone who is.

In a few sentences, summarize the main point that you would like the reader to understand about your business. Aim to convince them that they should invest!

Describe the next steps, and give detailed contact information so that they can get in touch with you easily.

HubSpot Tip: This section should incite the reader to act. Make it easy for your potential investors by including in this section all of the information they need to move forward.

Include any supporting documents for the previous sections here. You can reference them in the text and use them to provide additional detail without breaking up the flow of your business plan text.

HubSpot Tip: Some items you could include are: marketing materials, maps of the business location, background research, articles that have been written about the company, and financial documents.

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7 Business Plan Examples to Inspire Your Own (2024)

Need support creating your business plan? Check out these business plan examples for inspiration.

business plan examples

Any aspiring entrepreneur researching how to start a business will likely be advised to write a business plan. But few resources provide business plan examples to really guide you through writing one of your own.

Here are some real-world and illustrative business plan examples to help you craft your business plan .

7 business plan examples: section by section

The business plan examples in this article follow this template:

  • Executive summary.  An introductory overview of your business.
  • Company description.  A more in-depth and detailed description of your business and why it exists.
  • Market analysis.  Research-based information about the industry and your target market.
  • Products and services.  What you plan to offer in exchange for money.
  • Marketing plan.   The promotional strategy to introduce your business to the world and drive sales.
  • Logistics and operations plan.  Everything that happens in the background to make your business function properly.
  • Financial plan.  A breakdown of your numbers to show what you need to get started as well as to prove viability of profitability.
  • Executive summary

Your  executive summary  is a page that gives a high-level overview of the rest of your business plan. It’s easiest to save this section for last.

In this  free business plan template , the executive summary is four paragraphs and takes a little over half a page:

A four-paragraph long executive summary for a business.

  • Company description

You might repurpose your company description elsewhere, like on your About page, social media profile pages, or other properties that require a boilerplate description of your small business.

Soap brand ORRIS  has a blurb on its About page that could easily be repurposed for the company description section of its business plan.

A company description from the website of soap brand Orris

You can also go more in-depth with your company overview and include the following sections, like in the example for Paw Print Post:

  • Business structure.  This section outlines how you  registered your business —as an  LLC , sole proprietorship, corporation, or other  business type . “Paw Print Post will operate as a sole proprietorship run by the owner, Jane Matthews.”
  • Nature of the business.  “Paw Print Post sells unique, one-of-a-kind digitally printed cards that are customized with a pet’s unique paw prints.”
  • Industry.  “Paw Print Post operates primarily in the pet industry and sells goods that could also be categorized as part of the greeting card industry.”
  • Background information.  “Jane Matthews, the founder of Paw Print Post, has a long history in the pet industry and working with animals, and was recently trained as a graphic designer. She’s combining those two loves to capture a niche in the market: unique greeting cards customized with a pet’s paw prints, without needing to resort to the traditional (and messy) options of casting your pet’s prints in plaster or using pet-safe ink to have them stamp their ‘signature.’”
  • Business objectives.  “Jane will have Paw Print Post ready to launch at the Big Important Pet Expo in Toronto to get the word out among industry players and consumers alike. After two years in business, Jane aims to drive $150,000 in annual revenue from the sale of Paw Print Post’s signature greeting cards and have expanded into two new product categories.”
  • Team.  “Jane Matthews is the sole full-time employee of Paw Print Post but hires contractors as needed to support her workflow and fill gaps in her skill set. Notably, Paw Print Post has a standing contract for five hours a week of virtual assistant support with Virtual Assistants Pro.”

Your  mission statement  may also make an appearance here.  Passionfruit  shares its mission statement on its company website, and it would also work well in its example business plan.

A mission statement example on the website of apparel brand Passionfruit, alongside a picture of woman

  • Market analysis

The market analysis consists of research about supply and demand, your target demographics, industry trends, and the competitive landscape. You might run a SWOT analysis and include that in your business plan. 

Here’s an example  SWOT analysis  for an online tailored-shirt business:

A SWOT analysis table showing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

You’ll also want to do a  competitive analysis  as part of the market research component of your business plan. This will tell you who you’re up against and give you ideas on how to differentiate your brand. A broad competitive analysis might include:

  • Target customers
  • Unique value add  or what sets their products apart
  • Sales pitch
  • Price points  for products
  • Shipping  policy
  • Products and services

This section of your business plan describes your offerings—which products and services do you sell to your customers? Here’s an example for Paw Print Post:

An example products and services section from a business plan

  • Marketing plan

It’s always a good idea to develop a marketing plan  before you launch your business. Your marketing plan shows how you’ll get the word out about your business, and it’s an essential component of your business plan as well.

The Paw Print Post focuses on four Ps: price, product, promotion, and place. However, you can take a different approach with your marketing plan. Maybe you can pull from your existing  marketing strategy , or maybe you break it down by the different marketing channels. Whatever approach you take, your marketing plan should describe how you intend to promote your business and offerings to potential customers.

  • Logistics and operations plan

The Paw Print Post example considered suppliers, production, facilities, equipment, shipping and fulfillment, and inventory.

Financial plan

The financial plan provides a breakdown of sales, revenue, profit, expenses, and other relevant financial metrics related to funding and profiting from your business.

Ecommerce brand  Nature’s Candy’s financial plan  breaks down predicted revenue, expenses, and net profit in graphs.

A sample bar chart showing business expenses by month

It then dives deeper into the financials to include:

  • Funding needs
  • Projected profit-and-loss statement
  • Projected balance sheet
  • Projected cash-flow statement

You can use this financial plan spreadsheet to build your own financial statements, including income statement, balance sheet, and cash-flow statement.

A sample financial plan spreadsheet

Types of business plans, and what to include for each

A one-page business plan is meant to be high level and easy to understand at a glance. You’ll want to include all of the sections, but make sure they’re truncated and summarized:

  • Executive summary: truncated
  • Market analysis: summarized
  • Products and services: summarized
  • Marketing plan: summarized
  • Logistics and operations plan: summarized
  • Financials: summarized

A startup business plan is for a new business. Typically, these plans are developed and shared to secure  outside funding . As such, there’s a bigger focus on the financials, as well as on other sections that determine viability of your business idea—market research, for example.

  • Market analysis: in-depth
  • Financials: in-depth

Your internal business plan is meant to keep your team on the same page and aligned toward the same goal.

A strategic, or growth, business plan is a bigger picture, more-long-term look at your business. As such, the forecasts tend to look further into the future, and growth and revenue goals may be higher. Essentially, you want to use all the sections you would in a normal business plan and build upon each.

  • Market analysis: comprehensive outlook
  • Products and services: for launch and expansion
  • Marketing plan: comprehensive outlook
  • Logistics and operations plan: comprehensive outlook
  • Financials: comprehensive outlook

Feasibility

Your feasibility business plan is sort of a pre-business plan—many refer to it as simply a feasibility study. This plan essentially lays the groundwork and validates that it’s worth the effort to make a full business plan for your idea. As such, it’s mostly centered around research.

Set yourself up for success as a business owner

Building a good business plan serves as a roadmap you can use for your ecommerce business at launch and as you reach each of your business goals. Business plans create accountability for entrepreneurs and synergy among teams, regardless of your  business model .

Kickstart your ecommerce business and set yourself up for success with an intentional business planning process—and with the sample business plans above to guide your own path.

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Business plan examples FAQ

How do i write a simple business plan, what is the best format to write a business plan, what are the 4 key elements of a business plan.

  • Executive summary: A concise overview of the company's mission, goals, target audience, and financial objectives.
  • Business description: A description of the company's purpose, operations, products and services, target markets, and competitive landscape.
  • Market analysis: An analysis of the industry, market trends, potential customers, and competitors.
  • Financial plan: A detailed description of the company's financial forecasts and strategies.

What are the 3 main points of a business plan?

  • Concept: Your concept should explain the purpose of your business and provide an overall summary of what you intend to accomplish.
  • Contents: Your content should include details about the products and services you provide, your target market, and your competition.
  • Cashflow: Your cash flow section should include information about your expected cash inflows and outflows, such as capital investments, operating costs, and revenue projections.

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Free Small Business Plan Templates and Examples

By Kate Eby | April 27, 2022

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

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

Small Business Plan Template

Small Business Plan Template

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

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

Small Business Plan Sample Template

Small Business Plan Sample Template

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

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

Simple Small Business Plan Template

Simple Small Business Plan Template

Download Simple Small Business Plan Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

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

Small Business Plan Chart Template

Small Business Plan Chart Template Powerpoint

Download Small Business Plan Chart Template Microsoft PowerPoint | Google Slides

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

Small Business Plan Outline Template

Small Business Plan Outline Template

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

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

Printable Small Business Plan Template

Printable Small Business Plan Template

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

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

Small Business Startup Plan Template

Small Business Startup Plan Template

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

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

Fill-in-the-Blank Small Business Plan Template

Fill-in-the-Blank Small Business Plan Template

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

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

One Page Small Business Plan Template

One Page Small Business Plan Template

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

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

One Page Small Business Plan Example

One Page Small Business Plan Example

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

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

What Is a Small Business Plan Template?

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (+ Template and Examples)

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Every successful business has one thing in common, a good and well-executed business plan. A business plan is more than a document, it is a complete guide that outlines the goals your business wants to achieve, including its financial goals . It helps you analyze results, make strategic decisions, show your business operations and growth.

If you want to start a business or already have one and need to pitch it to investors for funding, writing a good business plan improves your chances of attracting financiers. As a startup, if you want to secure loans from financial institutions, part of the requirements involve submitting your business plan.

Writing a business plan does not have to be a complicated or time-consuming process. In this article, you will learn the step-by-step process for writing a successful business plan.

You will also learn what you need a business plan for, tips and strategies for writing a convincing business plan, business plan examples and templates that will save you tons of time, and the alternatives to the traditional business plan.

Let’s get started.

What Do You Need A Business Plan For?

Businesses create business plans for different purposes such as to secure funds, monitor business growth, measure your marketing strategies, and measure your business success.

1. Secure Funds

One of the primary reasons for writing a business plan is to secure funds, either from financial institutions/agencies or investors.

For you to effectively acquire funds, your business plan must contain the key elements of your business plan . For example, your business plan should include your growth plans, goals you want to achieve, and milestones you have recorded.

A business plan can also attract new business partners that are willing to contribute financially and intellectually. If you are writing a business plan to a bank, your project must show your traction , that is, the proof that you can pay back any loan borrowed.

Also, if you are writing to an investor, your plan must contain evidence that you can effectively utilize the funds you want them to invest in your business. Here, you are using your business plan to persuade a group or an individual that your business is a source of a good investment.

2. Monitor Business Growth

A business plan can help you track cash flows in your business. It steers your business to greater heights. A business plan capable of tracking business growth should contain:

  • The business goals
  • Methods to achieve the goals
  • Time-frame for attaining those goals

A good business plan should guide you through every step in achieving your goals. It can also track the allocation of assets to every aspect of the business. You can tell when you are spending more than you should on a project.

You can compare a business plan to a written GPS. It helps you manage your business and hints at the right time to expand your business.

3. Measure Business Success

A business plan can help you measure your business success rate. Some small-scale businesses are thriving better than more prominent companies because of their track record of success.

Right from the onset of your business operation, set goals and work towards them. Write a plan to guide you through your procedures. Use your plan to measure how much you have achieved and how much is left to attain.

You can also weigh your success by monitoring the position of your brand relative to competitors. On the other hand, a business plan can also show you why you have not achieved a goal. It can tell if you have elapsed the time frame you set to attain a goal.

4. Document Your Marketing Strategies

You can use a business plan to document your marketing plans. Every business should have an effective marketing plan.

Competition mandates every business owner to go the extraordinary mile to remain relevant in the market. Your business plan should contain your marketing strategies that work. You can measure the success rate of your marketing plans.

In your business plan, your marketing strategy must answer the questions:

  • How do you want to reach your target audience?
  • How do you plan to retain your customers?
  • What is/are your pricing plans?
  • What is your budget for marketing?

Business Plan Infographic

How to Write a Business Plan Step-by-Step

1. create your executive summary.

The executive summary is a snapshot of your business or a high-level overview of your business purposes and plans . Although the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, most people write it last. The length of the executive summary is not more than two pages.

Executive Summary of the business plan

Generally, there are nine sections in a business plan, the executive summary should condense essential ideas from the other eight sections.

A good executive summary should do the following:

  • A Snapshot of Growth Potential. Briefly inform the reader about your company and why it will be successful)
  • Contain your Mission Statement which explains what the main objective or focus of your business is.
  • Product Description and Differentiation. Brief description of your products or services and why it is different from other solutions in the market.
  • The Team. Basic information about your company’s leadership team and employees
  • Business Concept. A solid description of what your business does.
  • Target Market. The customers you plan to sell to.
  • Marketing Strategy. Your plans on reaching and selling to your customers
  • Current Financial State. Brief information about what revenue your business currently generates.
  • Projected Financial State. Brief information about what you foresee your business revenue to be in the future.

The executive summary is the make-or-break section of your business plan. If your summary cannot in less than two pages cannot clearly describe how your business will solve a particular problem of your target audience and make a profit, your business plan is set on a faulty foundation.

Avoid using the executive summary to hype your business, instead, focus on helping the reader understand the what and how of your plan.

View the executive summary as an opportunity to introduce your vision for your company. You know your executive summary is powerful when it can answer these key questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What sector or industry are you in?
  • What are your products and services?
  • What is the future of your industry?
  • Is your company scaleable?
  • Who are the owners and leaders of your company? What are their backgrounds and experience levels?
  • What is the motivation for starting your company?
  • What are the next steps?

Writing the executive summary last although it is the most important section of your business plan is an excellent idea. The reason why is because it is a high-level overview of your business plan. It is the section that determines whether potential investors and lenders will read further or not.

The executive summary can be a stand-alone document that covers everything in your business plan. It is not uncommon for investors to request only the executive summary when evaluating your business. If the information in the executive summary impresses them, they will ask for the complete business plan.

If you are writing your business plan for your planning purposes, you do not need to write the executive summary.

2. Add Your Company Overview

The company overview or description is the next section in your business plan after the executive summary. It describes what your business does.

Adding your company overview can be tricky especially when your business is still in the planning stages. Existing businesses can easily summarize their current operations but may encounter difficulties trying to explain what they plan to become.

Your company overview should contain the following:

  • What products and services you will provide
  • Geographical markets and locations your company have a presence
  • What you need to run your business
  • Who your target audience or customers are
  • Who will service your customers
  • Your company’s purpose, mission, and vision
  • Information about your company’s founders
  • Who the founders are
  • Notable achievements of your company so far

When creating a company overview, you have to focus on three basics: identifying your industry, identifying your customer, and explaining the problem you solve.

If you are stuck when creating your company overview, try to answer some of these questions that pertain to you.

  • Who are you targeting? (The answer is not everyone)
  • What pain point does your product or service solve for your customers that they will be willing to spend money on resolving?
  • How does your product or service overcome that pain point?
  • Where is the location of your business?
  • What products, equipment, and services do you need to run your business?
  • How is your company’s product or service different from your competition in the eyes of your customers?
  • How many employees do you need and what skills do you require them to have?

After answering some or all of these questions, you will get more than enough information you need to write your company overview or description section. When writing this section, describe what your company does for your customers.

It describes what your business does

The company description or overview section contains three elements: mission statement, history, and objectives.

  • Mission Statement

The mission statement refers to the reason why your business or company is existing. It goes beyond what you do or sell, it is about the ‘why’. A good mission statement should be emotional and inspirational.

Your mission statement should follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid). For example, Shopify’s mission statement is “Make commerce better for everyone.”

When describing your company’s history, make it simple and avoid the temptation of tying it to a defensive narrative. Write it in the manner you would a profile. Your company’s history should include the following information:

  • Founding Date
  • Major Milestones
  • Location(s)
  • Flagship Products or Services
  • Number of Employees
  • Executive Leadership Roles

When you fill in this information, you use it to write one or two paragraphs about your company’s history.

Business Objectives

Your business objective must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.) Failure to clearly identify your business objectives does not inspire confidence and makes it hard for your team members to work towards a common purpose.

3. Perform Market and Competitive Analyses to Proof a Big Enough Business Opportunity

The third step in writing a business plan is the market and competitive analysis section. Every business, no matter the size, needs to perform comprehensive market and competitive analyses before it enters into a market.

Performing market and competitive analyses are critical for the success of your business. It helps you avoid entering the right market with the wrong product, or vice versa. Anyone reading your business plans, especially financiers and financial institutions will want to see proof that there is a big enough business opportunity you are targeting.

This section is where you describe the market and industry you want to operate in and show the big opportunities in the market that your business can leverage to make a profit. If you noticed any unique trends when doing your research, show them in this section.

Market analysis alone is not enough, you have to add competitive analysis to strengthen this section. There are already businesses in the industry or market, how do you plan to take a share of the market from them?

You have to clearly illustrate the competitive landscape in your business plan. Are there areas your competitors are doing well? Are there areas where they are not doing so well? Show it.

Make it clear in this section why you are moving into the industry and what weaknesses are present there that you plan to explain. How are your competitors going to react to your market entry? How do you plan to get customers? Do you plan on taking your competitors' competitors, tap into other sources for customers, or both?

Illustrate the competitive landscape as well. What are your competitors doing well and not so well?

Answering these questions and thoughts will aid your market and competitive analysis of the opportunities in your space. Depending on how sophisticated your industry is, or the expectations of your financiers, you may need to carry out a more comprehensive market and competitive analysis to prove that big business opportunity.

Instead of looking at the market and competitive analyses as one entity, separating them will make the research even more comprehensive.

Market Analysis

Market analysis, boarding speaking, refers to research a business carried out on its industry, market, and competitors. It helps businesses gain a good understanding of their target market and the outlook of their industry. Before starting a company, it is vital to carry out market research to find out if the market is viable.

Market Analysis for Online Business

The market analysis section is a key part of the business plan. It is the section where you identify who your best clients or customers are. You cannot omit this section, without it your business plan is incomplete.

A good market analysis will tell your readers how you fit into the existing market and what makes you stand out. This section requires in-depth research, it will probably be the most time-consuming part of the business plan to write.

  • Market Research

To create a compelling market analysis that will win over investors and financial institutions, you have to carry out thorough market research . Your market research should be targeted at your primary target market for your products or services. Here is what you want to find out about your target market.

  • Your target market’s needs or pain points
  • The existing solutions for their pain points
  • Geographic Location
  • Demographics

The purpose of carrying out a marketing analysis is to get all the information you need to show that you have a solid and thorough understanding of your target audience.

Only after you have fully understood the people you plan to sell your products or services to, can you evaluate correctly if your target market will be interested in your products or services.

You can easily convince interested parties to invest in your business if you can show them you thoroughly understand the market and show them that there is a market for your products or services.

How to Quantify Your Target Market

One of the goals of your marketing research is to understand who your ideal customers are and their purchasing power. To quantify your target market, you have to determine the following:

  • Your Potential Customers: They are the people you plan to target. For example, if you sell accounting software for small businesses , then anyone who runs an enterprise or large business is unlikely to be your customers. Also, individuals who do not have a business will most likely not be interested in your product.
  • Total Households: If you are selling household products such as heating and air conditioning systems, determining the number of total households is more important than finding out the total population in the area you want to sell to. The logic is simple, people buy the product but it is the household that uses it.
  • Median Income: You need to know the median income of your target market. If you target a market that cannot afford to buy your products and services, your business will not last long.
  • Income by Demographics: If your potential customers belong to a certain age group or gender, determining income levels by demographics is necessary. For example, if you sell men's clothes, your target audience is men.

What Does a Good Market Analysis Entail?

Your business does not exist on its own, it can only flourish within an industry and alongside competitors. Market analysis takes into consideration your industry, target market, and competitors. Understanding these three entities will drastically improve your company’s chances of success.

Market Analysis Steps

You can view your market analysis as an examination of the market you want to break into and an education on the emerging trends and themes in that market. Good market analyses include the following:

  • Industry Description. You find out about the history of your industry, the current and future market size, and who the largest players/companies are in your industry.
  • Overview of Target Market. You research your target market and its characteristics. Who are you targeting? Note, it cannot be everyone, it has to be a specific group. You also have to find out all information possible about your customers that can help you understand how and why they make buying decisions.
  • Size of Target Market: You need to know the size of your target market, how frequently they buy, and the expected quantity they buy so you do not risk overproducing and having lots of bad inventory. Researching the size of your target market will help you determine if it is big enough for sustained business or not.
  • Growth Potential: Before picking a target market, you want to be sure there are lots of potential for future growth. You want to avoid going for an industry that is declining slowly or rapidly with almost zero growth potential.
  • Market Share Potential: Does your business stand a good chance of taking a good share of the market?
  • Market Pricing and Promotional Strategies: Your market analysis should give you an idea of the price point you can expect to charge for your products and services. Researching your target market will also give you ideas of pricing strategies you can implement to break into the market or to enjoy maximum profits.
  • Potential Barriers to Entry: One of the biggest benefits of conducting market analysis is that it shows you every potential barrier to entry your business will likely encounter. It is a good idea to discuss potential barriers to entry such as changing technology. It informs readers of your business plan that you understand the market.
  • Research on Competitors: You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and how you can exploit them for the benefit of your business. Find patterns and trends among your competitors that make them successful, discover what works and what doesn’t, and see what you can do better.

The market analysis section is not just for talking about your target market, industry, and competitors. You also have to explain how your company can fill the hole you have identified in the market.

Here are some questions you can answer that can help you position your product or service in a positive light to your readers.

  • Is your product or service of superior quality?
  • What additional features do you offer that your competitors do not offer?
  • Are you targeting a ‘new’ market?

Basically, your market analysis should include an analysis of what already exists in the market and an explanation of how your company fits into the market.

Competitive Analysis

In the competitive analysis section, y ou have to understand who your direct and indirect competitions are, and how successful they are in the marketplace. It is the section where you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, the advantage(s) they possess in the market and show the unique features or qualities that make you different from your competitors.

Four Steps to Create a Competitive Marketing Analysis

Many businesses do market analysis and competitive analysis together. However, to fully understand what the competitive analysis entails, it is essential to separate it from the market analysis.

Competitive analysis for your business can also include analysis on how to overcome barriers to entry in your target market.

The primary goal of conducting a competitive analysis is to distinguish your business from your competitors. A strong competitive analysis is essential if you want to convince potential funding sources to invest in your business. You have to show potential investors and lenders that your business has what it takes to compete in the marketplace successfully.

Competitive analysis will s how you what the strengths of your competition are and what they are doing to maintain that advantage.

When doing your competitive research, you first have to identify your competitor and then get all the information you can about them. The idea of spending time to identify your competitor and learn everything about them may seem daunting but it is well worth it.

Find answers to the following questions after you have identified who your competitors are.

  • What are your successful competitors doing?
  • Why is what they are doing working?
  • Can your business do it better?
  • What are the weaknesses of your successful competitors?
  • What are they not doing well?
  • Can your business turn its weaknesses into strengths?
  • How good is your competitors’ customer service?
  • Where do your competitors invest in advertising?
  • What sales and pricing strategies are they using?
  • What marketing strategies are they using?
  • What kind of press coverage do they get?
  • What are their customers saying about your competitors (both the positive and negative)?

If your competitors have a website, it is a good idea to visit their websites for more competitors’ research. Check their “About Us” page for more information.

How to Perform Competitive Analysis

If you are presenting your business plan to investors, you need to clearly distinguish yourself from your competitors. Investors can easily tell when you have not properly researched your competitors.

Take time to think about what unique qualities or features set you apart from your competitors. If you do not have any direct competition offering your product to the market, it does not mean you leave out the competitor analysis section blank. Instead research on other companies that are providing a similar product, or whose product is solving the problem your product solves.

The next step is to create a table listing the top competitors you want to include in your business plan. Ensure you list your business as the last and on the right. What you just created is known as the competitor analysis table.

Direct vs Indirect Competition

You cannot know if your product or service will be a fit for your target market if you have not understood your business and the competitive landscape.

There is no market you want to target where you will not encounter competition, even if your product is innovative. Including competitive analysis in your business plan is essential.

If you are entering an established market, you need to explain how you plan to differentiate your products from the available options in the market. Also, include a list of few companies that you view as your direct competitors The competition you face in an established market is your direct competition.

In situations where you are entering a market with no direct competition, it does not mean there is no competition there. Consider your indirect competition that offers substitutes for the products or services you offer.

For example, if you sell an innovative SaaS product, let us say a project management software , a company offering time management software is your indirect competition.

There is an easy way to find out who your indirect competitors are in the absence of no direct competitors. You simply have to research how your potential customers are solving the problems that your product or service seeks to solve. That is your direct competition.

Factors that Differentiate Your Business from the Competition

There are three main factors that any business can use to differentiate itself from its competition. They are cost leadership, product differentiation, and market segmentation.

1. Cost Leadership

A strategy you can impose to maximize your profits and gain an edge over your competitors. It involves offering lower prices than what the majority of your competitors are offering.

A common practice among businesses looking to enter into a market where there are dominant players is to use free trials or pricing to attract as many customers as possible to their offer.

2. Product Differentiation

Your product or service should have a unique selling proposition (USP) that your competitors do not have or do not stress in their marketing.

Part of the marketing strategy should involve making your products unique and different from your competitors. It does not have to be different from your competitors, it can be the addition to a feature or benefit that your competitors do not currently have.

3. Market Segmentation

As a new business seeking to break into an industry, you will gain more success from focusing on a specific niche or target market, and not the whole industry.

If your competitors are focused on a general need or target market, you can differentiate yourself from them by having a small and hyper-targeted audience. For example, if your competitors are selling men’s clothes in their online stores , you can sell hoodies for men.

4. Define Your Business and Management Structure

The next step in your business plan is your business and management structure. It is the section where you describe the legal structure of your business and the team running it.

Your business is only as good as the management team that runs it, while the management team can only strive when there is a proper business and management structure in place.

If your company is a sole proprietor or a limited liability company (LLC), a general or limited partnership, or a C or an S corporation, state it clearly in this section.

Use an organizational chart to show the management structure in your business. Clearly show who is in charge of what area in your company. It is where you show how each key manager or team leader’s unique experience can contribute immensely to the success of your company. You can also opt to add the resumes and CVs of the key players in your company.

The business and management structure section should show who the owner is, and other owners of the businesses (if the business has other owners). For businesses or companies with multiple owners, include the percent ownership of the various owners and clearly show the extent of each others’ involvement in the company.

Investors want to know who is behind the company and the team running it to determine if it has the right management to achieve its set goals.

Management Team

The management team section is where you show that you have the right team in place to successfully execute the business operations and ideas. Take time to create the management structure for your business. Think about all the important roles and responsibilities that you need managers for to grow your business.

Include brief bios of each key team member and ensure you highlight only the relevant information that is needed. If your team members have background industry experience or have held top positions for other companies and achieved success while filling that role, highlight it in this section.

Create Management Team For Business Plan

A common mistake that many startups make is assigning C-level titles such as (CMO and CEO) to everyone on their team. It is unrealistic for a small business to have those titles. While it may look good on paper for the ego of your team members, it can prevent investors from investing in your business.

Instead of building an unrealistic management structure that does not fit your business reality, it is best to allow business titles to grow as the business grows. Starting everyone at the top leaves no room for future change or growth, which is bad for productivity.

Your management team does not have to be complete before you start writing your business plan. You can have a complete business plan even when there are managerial positions that are empty and need filling.

If you have management gaps in your team, simply show the gaps and indicate you are searching for the right candidates for the role(s). Investors do not expect you to have a full management team when you are just starting your business.

Key Questions to Answer When Structuring Your Management Team

  • Who are the key leaders?
  • What experiences, skills, and educational backgrounds do you expect your key leaders to have?
  • Do your key leaders have industry experience?
  • What positions will they fill and what duties will they perform in those positions?
  • What level of authority do the key leaders have and what are their responsibilities?
  • What is the salary for the various management positions that will attract the ideal candidates?

Additional Tips for Writing the Management Structure Section

1. Avoid Adding ‘Ghost’ Names to Your Management Team

There is always that temptation to include a ‘ghost’ name to your management team to attract and influence investors to invest in your business. Although the presence of these celebrity management team members may attract the attention of investors, it can cause your business to lose any credibility if you get found out.

Seasoned investors will investigate further the members of your management team before committing fully to your business If they find out that the celebrity name used does not play any actual role in your business, they will not invest and may write you off as dishonest.

2. Focus on Credentials But Pay Extra Attention to the Roles

Investors want to know the experience that your key team members have to determine if they can successfully reach the company’s growth and financial goals.

While it is an excellent boost for your key management team to have the right credentials, you also want to pay extra attention to the roles they will play in your company.

Organizational Chart

Organizational chart Infographic

Adding an organizational chart in this section of your business plan is not necessary, you can do it in your business plan’s appendix.

If you are exploring funding options, it is not uncommon to get asked for your organizational chart. The function of an organizational chart goes beyond raising money, you can also use it as a useful planning tool for your business.

An organizational chart can help you identify how best to structure your management team for maximum productivity and point you towards key roles you need to fill in the future.

You can use the organizational chart to show your company’s internal management structure such as the roles and responsibilities of your management team, and relationships that exist between them.

5. Describe Your Product and Service Offering

In your business plan, you have to describe what you sell or the service you plan to offer. It is the next step after defining your business and management structure. The products and services section is where you sell the benefits of your business.

Here you have to explain how your product or service will benefit your customers and describe your product lifecycle. It is also the section where you write down your plans for intellectual property like patent filings and copyrighting.

The research and development that you are undertaking for your product or service need to be explained in detail in this section. However, do not get too technical, sell the general idea and its benefits.

If you have any diagrams or intricate designs of your product or service, do not include them in the products and services section. Instead, leave them for the addendum page. Also, if you are leaving out diagrams or designs for the addendum, ensure you add this phrase “For more detail, visit the addendum Page #.”

Your product and service section in your business plan should include the following:

  • A detailed explanation that clearly shows how your product or service works.
  • The pricing model for your product or service.
  • Your business’ sales and distribution strategy.
  • The ideal customers that want your product or service.
  • The benefits of your products and services.
  • Reason(s) why your product or service is a better alternative to what your competitors are currently offering in the market.
  • Plans for filling the orders you receive
  • If you have current or pending patents, copyrights, and trademarks for your product or service, you can also discuss them in this section.

What to Focus On When Describing the Benefits, Lifecycle, and Production Process of Your Products or Services

In the products and services section, you have to distill the benefits, lifecycle, and production process of your products and services.

When describing the benefits of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Unique features
  • Translating the unique features into benefits
  • The emotional, psychological, and practical payoffs to attract customers
  • Intellectual property rights or any patents

When describing the product life cycle of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Upsells, cross-sells, and down-sells
  • Time between purchases
  • Plans for research and development.

When describing the production process for your products or services, you need to think about the following:

  • The creation of new or existing products and services.
  • The sources for the raw materials or components you need for production.
  • Assembling the products
  • Maintaining quality control
  • Supply-chain logistics (receiving the raw materials and delivering the finished products)
  • The day-to-day management of the production processes, bookkeeping, and inventory.

Tips for Writing the Products or Services Section of Your Business Plan

1. Avoid Technical Descriptions and Industry Buzzwords

The products and services section of your business plan should clearly describe the products and services that your company provides. However, it is not a section to include technical jargons that anyone outside your industry will not understand.

A good practice is to remove highly detailed or technical descriptions in favor of simple terms. Industry buzzwords are not necessary, if there are simpler terms you can use, then use them. If you plan to use your business plan to source funds, making the product or service section so technical will do you no favors.

2. Describe How Your Products or Services Differ from Your Competitors

When potential investors look at your business plan, they want to know how the products and services you are offering differ from that of your competition. Differentiating your products or services from your competition in a way that makes your solution more attractive is critical.

If you are going the innovative path and there is no market currently for your product or service, you need to describe in this section why the market needs your product or service.

For example, overnight delivery was a niche business that only a few companies were participating in. Federal Express (FedEx) had to show in its business plan that there was a large opportunity for that service and they justified why the market needed that service.

3. Long or Short Products or Services Section

Should your products or services section be short? Does the long products or services section attract more investors?

There are no straightforward answers to these questions. Whether your products or services section should be long or relatively short depends on the nature of your business.

If your business is product-focused, then automatically you need to use more space to describe the details of your products. However, if the product your business sells is a commodity item that relies on competitive pricing or other pricing strategies, you do not have to use up so much space to provide significant details about the product.

Likewise, if you are selling a commodity that is available in numerous outlets, then you do not have to spend time on writing a long products or services section.

The key to the success of your business is most likely the effectiveness of your marketing strategies compared to your competitors. Use more space to address that section.

If you are creating a new product or service that the market does not know about, your products or services section can be lengthy. The reason why is because you need to explain everything about the product or service such as the nature of the product, its use case, and values.

A short products or services section for an innovative product or service will not give the readers enough information to properly evaluate your business.

4. Describe Your Relationships with Vendors or Suppliers

Your business will rely on vendors or suppliers to supply raw materials or the components needed to make your products. In your products and services section, describe your relationships with your vendors and suppliers fully.

Avoid the mistake of relying on only one supplier or vendor. If that supplier or vendor fails to supply or goes out of business, you can easily face supply problems and struggle to meet your demands. Plan to set up multiple vendor or supplier relationships for better business stability.

5. Your Primary Goal Is to Convince Your Readers

The primary goal of your business plan is to convince your readers that your business is viable and to create a guide for your business to follow. It applies to the products and services section.

When drafting this section, think like the reader. See your reader as someone who has no idea about your products and services. You are using the products and services section to provide the needed information to help your reader understand your products and services. As a result, you have to be clear and to the point.

While you want to educate your readers about your products or services, you also do not want to bore them with lots of technical details. Show your products and services and not your fancy choice of words.

Your products and services section should provide the answer to the “what” question for your business. You and your management team may run the business, but it is your products and services that are the lifeblood of the business.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing your Products and Services Section

Answering these questions can help you write your products and services section quickly and in a way that will appeal to your readers.

  • Are your products existing on the market or are they still in the development stage?
  • What is your timeline for adding new products and services to the market?
  • What are the positives that make your products and services different from your competitors?
  • Do your products and services have any competitive advantage that your competitors’ products and services do not currently have?
  • Do your products or services have any competitive disadvantages that you need to overcome to compete with your competitors? If your answer is yes, state how you plan to overcome them,
  • How much does it cost to produce your products or services? How much do you plan to sell it for?
  • What is the price for your products and services compared to your competitors? Is pricing an issue?
  • What are your operating costs and will it be low enough for you to compete with your competitors and still take home a reasonable profit margin?
  • What is your plan for acquiring your products? Are you involved in the production of your products or services?
  • Are you the manufacturer and produce all the components you need to create your products? Do you assemble your products by using components supplied by other manufacturers? Do you purchase your products directly from suppliers or wholesalers?
  • Do you have a steady supply of products that you need to start your business? (If your business is yet to kick-off)
  • How do you plan to distribute your products or services to the market?

You can also hint at the marketing or promotion plans you have for your products or services such as how you plan to build awareness or retain customers. The next section is where you can go fully into details about your business’s marketing and sales plan.

6. Show and Explain Your Marketing and Sales Plan

Providing great products and services is wonderful, but it means nothing if you do not have a marketing and sales plan to inform your customers about them. Your marketing and sales plan is critical to the success of your business.

The sales and marketing section is where you show and offer a detailed explanation of your marketing and sales plan and how you plan to execute it. It covers your pricing plan, proposed advertising and promotion activities, activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success, and the benefits of your products and services.

There are several ways you can approach your marketing and sales strategy. Ideally, your marketing and sales strategy has to fit the unique needs of your business.

In this section, you describe how the plans your business has for attracting and retaining customers, and the exact process for making a sale happen. It is essential to thoroughly describe your complete marketing and sales plans because you are still going to reference this section when you are making financial projections for your business.

Outline Your Business’ Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

The sales and marketing section is where you outline your business’s unique selling proposition (USP). When you are developing your unique selling proposition, think about the strongest reasons why people should buy from you over your competition. That reason(s) is most likely a good fit to serve as your unique selling proposition (USP).

Target Market and Target Audience

Plans on how to get your products or services to your target market and how to get your target audience to buy them go into this section. You also highlight the strengths of your business here, particularly what sets them apart from your competition.

Target Market Vs Target Audience

Before you start writing your marketing and sales plan, you need to have properly defined your target audience and fleshed out your buyer persona. If you do not first understand the individual you are marketing to, your marketing and sales plan will lack any substance and easily fall.

Creating a Smart Marketing and Sales Plan

Marketing your products and services is an investment that requires you to spend money. Like any other investment, you have to generate a good return on investment (ROI) to justify using that marketing and sales plan. Good marketing and sales plans bring in high sales and profits to your company.

Avoid spending money on unproductive marketing channels. Do your research and find out the best marketing and sales plan that works best for your company.

Your marketing and sales plan can be broken into different parts: your positioning statement, pricing, promotion, packaging, advertising, public relations, content marketing, social media, and strategic alliances.

Your Positioning Statement

Your positioning statement is the first part of your marketing and sales plan. It refers to the way you present your company to your customers.

Are you the premium solution, the low-price solution, or are you the intermediary between the two extremes in the market? What do you offer that your competitors do not that can give you leverage in the market?

Before you start writing your positioning statement, you need to spend some time evaluating the current market conditions. Here are some questions that can help you to evaluate the market

  • What are the unique features or benefits that you offer that your competitors lack?
  • What are your customers’ primary needs and wants?
  • Why should a customer choose you over your competition? How do you plan to differentiate yourself from the competition?
  • How does your company’s solution compare with other solutions in the market?

After answering these questions, then you can start writing your positioning statement. Your positioning statement does not have to be in-depth or too long.

All you need to explain with your positioning statement are two focus areas. The first is the position of your company within the competitive landscape. The other focus area is the core value proposition that sets your company apart from other alternatives that your ideal customer might consider.

Here is a simple template you can use to develop a positioning statement.

For [description of target market] who [need of target market], [product or service] [how it meets the need]. Unlike [top competition], it [most essential distinguishing feature].

For example, let’s create the positioning statement for fictional accounting software and QuickBooks alternative , TBooks.

“For small business owners who need accounting services, TBooks is an accounting software that helps small businesses handle their small business bookkeeping basics quickly and easily. Unlike Wave, TBooks gives small businesses access to live sessions with top accountants.”

You can edit this positioning statement sample and fill it with your business details.

After writing your positioning statement, the next step is the pricing of your offerings. The overall positioning strategy you set in your positioning statement will often determine how you price your products or services.

Pricing is a powerful tool that sends a strong message to your customers. Failure to get your pricing strategy right can make or mar your business. If you are targeting a low-income audience, setting a premium price can result in low sales.

You can use pricing to communicate your positioning to your customers. For example, if you are offering a product at a premium price, you are sending a message to your customers that the product belongs to the premium category.

Basic Rules to Follow When Pricing Your Offering

Setting a price for your offering involves more than just putting a price tag on it. Deciding on the right pricing for your offering requires following some basic rules. They include covering your costs, primary and secondary profit center pricing, and matching the market rate.

  • Covering Your Costs: The price you set for your products or service should be more than it costs you to produce and deliver them. Every business has the same goal, to make a profit. Depending on the strategy you want to use, there are exceptions to this rule. However, the vast majority of businesses follow this rule.
  • Primary and Secondary Profit Center Pricing: When a company sets its price above the cost of production, it is making that product its primary profit center. A company can also decide not to make its initial price its primary profit center by selling below or at even with its production cost. It rather depends on the support product or even maintenance that is associated with the initial purchase to make its profit. The initial price thus became its secondary profit center.
  • Matching the Market Rate: A good rule to follow when pricing your products or services is to match your pricing with consumer demand and expectations. If you price your products or services beyond the price your customer perceives as the ideal price range, you may end up with no customers. Pricing your products too low below what your customer perceives as the ideal price range may lead to them undervaluing your offering.

Pricing Strategy

Your pricing strategy influences the price of your offering. There are several pricing strategies available for you to choose from when examining the right pricing strategy for your business. They include cost-plus pricing, market-based pricing, value pricing, and more.

Pricing strategy influences the price of offering

  • Cost-plus Pricing: This strategy is one of the simplest and oldest pricing strategies. Here you consider the cost of producing a unit of your product and then add a profit to it to arrive at your market price. It is an effective pricing strategy for manufacturers because it helps them cover their initial costs. Another name for the cost-plus pricing strategy is the markup pricing strategy.
  • Market-based Pricing: This pricing strategy analyses the market including competitors’ pricing and then sets a price based on what the market is expecting. With this pricing strategy, you can either set your price at the low-end or high-end of the market.
  • Value Pricing: This pricing strategy involves setting a price based on the value you are providing to your customer. When adopting a value-based pricing strategy, you have to set a price that your customers are willing to pay. Service-based businesses such as small business insurance providers , luxury goods sellers, and the fashion industry use this pricing strategy.

After carefully sorting out your positioning statement and pricing, the next item to look at is your promotional strategy. Your promotional strategy explains how you plan on communicating with your customers and prospects.

As a business, you must measure all your costs, including the cost of your promotions. You also want to measure how much sales your promotions bring for your business to determine its usefulness. Promotional strategies or programs that do not lead to profit need to be removed.

There are different types of promotional strategies you can adopt for your business, they include advertising, public relations, and content marketing.

Advertising

Your business plan should include your advertising plan which can be found in the marketing and sales plan section. You need to include an overview of your advertising plans such as the areas you plan to spend money on to advertise your business and offers.

Ensure that you make it clear in this section if your business will be advertising online or using the more traditional offline media, or the combination of both online and offline media. You can also include the advertising medium you want to use to raise awareness about your business and offers.

Some common online advertising mediums you can use include social media ads, landing pages, sales pages, SEO, Pay-Per-Click, emails, Google Ads, and others. Some common traditional and offline advertising mediums include word of mouth, radios, direct mail, televisions, flyers, billboards, posters, and others.

A key component of your advertising strategy is how you plan to measure the effectiveness and success of your advertising campaign. There is no point in sticking with an advertising plan or medium that does not produce results for your business in the long run.

Public Relations

A great way to reach your customers is to get the media to cover your business or product. Publicity, especially good ones, should be a part of your marketing and sales plan. In this section, show your plans for getting prominent reviews of your product from reputable publications and sources.

Your business needs that exposure to grow. If public relations is a crucial part of your promotional strategy, provide details about your public relations plan here.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a popular promotional strategy used by businesses to inform and attract their customers. It is about teaching and educating your prospects on various topics of interest in your niche, it does not just involve informing them about the benefits and features of the products and services you have,

The Benefits of Content Marketing

Businesses publish content usually for free where they provide useful information, tips, and advice so that their target market can be made aware of the importance of their products and services. Content marketing strategies seek to nurture prospects into buyers over time by simply providing value.

Your company can create a blog where it will be publishing content for its target market. You will need to use the best website builder such as Wix and Squarespace and the best web hosting services such as Bluehost, Hostinger, and other Bluehost alternatives to create a functional blog or website.

If content marketing is a crucial part of your promotional strategy (as it should be), detail your plans under promotions.

Including high-quality images of the packaging of your product in your business plan is a lovely idea. You can add the images of the packaging of that product in the marketing and sales plan section. If you are not selling a product, then you do not need to include any worry about the physical packaging of your product.

When organizing the packaging section of your business plan, you can answer the following questions to make maximum use of this section.

  • Is your choice of packaging consistent with your positioning strategy?
  • What key value proposition does your packaging communicate? (It should reflect the key value proposition of your business)
  • How does your packaging compare to that of your competitors?

Social Media

Your 21st-century business needs to have a good social media presence. Not having one is leaving out opportunities for growth and reaching out to your prospect.

You do not have to join the thousands of social media platforms out there. What you need to do is join the ones that your customers are active on and be active there.

Most popular social media platforms

Businesses use social media to provide information about their products such as promotions, discounts, the benefits of their products, and content on their blogs.

Social media is also a platform for engaging with your customers and getting feedback about your products or services. Make no mistake, more and more of your prospects are using social media channels to find more information about companies.

You need to consider the social media channels you want to prioritize your business (prioritize the ones your customers are active in) and your branding plans in this section.

Choosing the right social media platform

Strategic Alliances

If your company plans to work closely with other companies as part of your sales and marketing plan, include it in this section. Prove details about those partnerships in your business plan if you have already established them.

Strategic alliances can be beneficial for all parties involved including your company. Working closely with another company in the form of a partnership can provide access to a different target market segment for your company.

The company you are partnering with may also gain access to your target market or simply offer a new product or service (that of your company) to its customers.

Mutually beneficial partnerships can cover the weaknesses of one company with the strength of another. You should consider strategic alliances with companies that sell complimentary products to yours. For example, if you provide printers, you can partner with a company that produces ink since the customers that buy printers from you will also need inks for printing.

Steps Involved in Creating a Marketing and Sales Plan

1. Focus on Your Target Market

Identify who your customers are, the market you want to target. Then determine the best ways to get your products or services to your potential customers.

2. Evaluate Your Competition

One of the goals of having a marketing plan is to distinguish yourself from your competition. You cannot stand out from them without first knowing them in and out.

You can know your competitors by gathering information about their products, pricing, service, and advertising campaigns.

These questions can help you know your competition.

  • What makes your competition successful?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • What are customers saying about your competition?

3. Consider Your Brand

Customers' perception of your brand has a strong impact on your sales. Your marketing and sales plan should seek to bolster the image of your brand. Before you start marketing your business, think about the message you want to pass across about your business and your products and services.

4. Focus on Benefits

The majority of your customers do not view your product in terms of features, what they want to know is the benefits and solutions your product offers. Think about the problems your product solves and the benefits it delivers, and use it to create the right sales and marketing message.

Your marketing plan should focus on what you want your customer to get instead of what you provide. Identify those benefits in your marketing and sales plan.

5. Focus on Differentiation

Your marketing and sales plan should look for a unique angle they can take that differentiates your business from the competition, even if the products offered are similar. Some good areas of differentiation you can use are your benefits, pricing, and features.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing Your Marketing and Sales Plan

  • What is your company’s budget for sales and marketing campaigns?
  • What key metrics will you use to determine if your marketing plans are successful?
  • What are your alternatives if your initial marketing efforts do not succeed?
  • Who are the sales representatives you need to promote your products or services?
  • What are the marketing and sales channels you plan to use? How do you plan to get your products in front of your ideal customers?
  • Where will you sell your products?

You may want to include samples of marketing materials you plan to use such as print ads, website descriptions, and social media ads. While it is not compulsory to include these samples, it can help you better communicate your marketing and sales plan and objectives.

The purpose of the marketing and sales section is to answer this question “How will you reach your customers?” If you cannot convincingly provide an answer to this question, you need to rework your marketing and sales section.

7. Clearly Show Your Funding Request

If you are writing your business plan to ask for funding from investors or financial institutions, the funding request section is where you will outline your funding requirements. The funding request section should answer the question ‘How much money will your business need in the near future (3 to 5 years)?’

A good funding request section will clearly outline and explain the amount of funding your business needs over the next five years. You need to know the amount of money your business needs to make an accurate funding request.

Also, when writing your funding request, provide details of how the funds will be used over the period. Specify if you want to use the funds to buy raw materials or machinery, pay salaries, pay for advertisements, and cover specific bills such as rent and electricity.

In addition to explaining what you want to use the funds requested for, you need to clearly state the projected return on investment (ROI) . Investors and creditors want to know if your business can generate profit for them if they put funds into it.

Ensure you do not inflate the figures and stay as realistic as possible. Investors and financial institutions you are seeking funds from will do their research before investing money in your business.

If you are not sure of an exact number to request from, you can use some range of numbers as rough estimates. Add a best-case scenario and a work-case scenario to your funding request. Also, include a description of your strategic future financial plans such as selling your business or paying off debts.

Funding Request: Debt or Equity?

When making your funding request, specify the type of funding you want. Do you want debt or equity? Draw out the terms that will be applicable for the funding, and the length of time the funding request will cover.

Case for Equity

If your new business has not yet started generating profits, you are most likely preparing to sell equity in your business to raise capital at the early stage. Equity here refers to ownership. In this case, you are selling a portion of your company to raise capital.

Although this method of raising capital for your business does not put your business in debt, keep in mind that an equity owner may expect to play a key role in company decisions even if he does not hold a major stake in the company.

Most equity sales for startups are usually private transactions . If you are making a funding request by offering equity in exchange for funding, let the investor know that they will be paid a dividend (a share of the company’s profit). Also, let the investor know the process for selling their equity in your business.

Case for Debt

You may decide not to offer equity in exchange for funds, instead, you make a funding request with the promise to pay back the money borrowed at the agreed time frame.

When making a funding request with an agreement to pay back, note that you will have to repay your creditors both the principal amount borrowed and the interest on it. Financial institutions offer this type of funding for businesses.

Large companies combine both equity and debt in their capital structure. When drafting your business plan, decide if you want to offer both or one over the other.

Before you sell equity in exchange for funding in your business, consider if you are willing to accept not being in total control of your business. Also, before you seek loans in your funding request section, ensure that the terms of repayment are favorable.

You should set a clear timeline in your funding request so that potential investors and creditors can know what you are expecting. Some investors and creditors may agree to your funding request and then delay payment for longer than 30 days, meanwhile, your business needs an immediate cash injection to operate efficiently.

Additional Tips for Writing the Funding Request Section of your Business Plan

The funding request section is not necessary for every business, it is only needed by businesses who plan to use their business plan to secure funding.

If you are adding the funding request section to your business plan, provide an itemized summary of how you plan to use the funds requested. Hiring a lawyer, accountant, or other professionals may be necessary for the proper development of this section.

You should also gather and use financial statements that add credibility and support to your funding requests. Ensure that the financial statements you use should include your projected financial data such as projected cash flows, forecast statements, and expenditure budgets.

If you are an existing business, include all historical financial statements such as cash flow statements, balance sheets and income statements .

Provide monthly and quarterly financial statements for a year. If your business has records that date back beyond the one-year mark, add the yearly statements of those years. These documents are for the appendix section of your business plan.

8. Detail Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projections

If you used the funding request section in your business plan, supplement it with a financial plan, metrics, and projections. This section paints a picture of the past performance of your business and then goes ahead to make an informed projection about its future.

The goal of this section is to convince readers that your business is going to be a financial success. It outlines your business plan to generate enough profit to repay the loan (with interest if applicable) and to generate a decent return on investment for investors.

If you have an existing business already in operation, use this section to demonstrate stability through finance. This section should include your cash flow statements, balance sheets, and income statements covering the last three to five years. If your business has some acceptable collateral that you can use to acquire loans, list it in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

Apart from current financial statements, this section should also contain a prospective financial outlook that spans the next five years. Include forecasted income statements, cash flow statements, balance sheets, and capital expenditure budget.

If your business is new and is not yet generating profit, use clear and realistic projections to show the potentials of your business.

When drafting this section, research industry norms and the performance of comparable businesses. Your financial projections should cover at least five years. State the logic behind your financial projections. Remember you can always make adjustments to this section as the variables change.

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section create a baseline which your business can either exceed or fail to reach. If your business fails to reach your projections in this section, you need to understand why it failed.

Investors and loan managers spend a lot of time going through the financial plan, metrics, and projection section compared to other parts of the business plan. Ensure you spend time creating credible financial analyses for your business in this section.

Many entrepreneurs find this section daunting to write. You do not need a business degree to create a solid financial forecast for your business. Business finances, especially for startups, are not as complicated as they seem. There are several online tools and templates that make writing this section so much easier.

Use Graphs and Charts

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section is a great place to use graphs and charts to tell the financial story of your business. Charts and images make it easier to communicate your finances.

Accuracy in this section is key, ensure you carefully analyze your past financial statements properly before making financial projects.

Address the Risk Factors and Show Realistic Financial Projections

Keep your financial plan, metrics, and projection realistic. It is okay to be optimistic in your financial projection, however, you have to justify it.

You should also address the various risk factors associated with your business in this section. Investors want to know the potential risks involved, show them. You should also show your plans for mitigating those risks.

What You Should In The Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection Section of Your Business Plan

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section of your business plan should have monthly sales and revenue forecasts for the first year. It should also include annual projections that cover 3 to 5 years.

A three-year projection is a basic requirement to have in your business plan. However, some investors may request a five-year forecast.

Your business plan should include the following financial statements: sales forecast, personnel plan, income statement, income statement, cash flow statement, balance sheet, and an exit strategy.

1. Sales Forecast

Sales forecast refers to your projections about the number of sales your business is going to record over the next few years. It is typically broken into several rows, with each row assigned to a core product or service that your business is offering.

One common mistake people make in their business plan is to break down the sales forecast section into long details. A sales forecast should forecast the high-level details.

For example, if you are forecasting sales for a payroll software provider, you could break down your forecast into target market segments or subscription categories.

Benefits of Sales Forecasting

Your sales forecast section should also have a corresponding row for each sales row to cover the direct cost or Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). The objective of these rows is to show the expenses that your business incurs in making and delivering your product or service.

Note that your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) should only cover those direct costs incurred when making your products. Other indirect expenses such as insurance, salaries, payroll tax, and rent should not be included.

For example, the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) for a restaurant is the cost of ingredients while for a consulting company it will be the cost of paper and other presentation materials.

Factors that affect sales forecasting

2. Personnel Plan

The personnel plan section is where you provide details about the payment plan for your employees. For a small business, you can easily list every position in your company and how much you plan to pay in the personnel plan.

However, for larger businesses, you have to break the personnel plan into functional groups such as sales and marketing.

The personnel plan will also include the cost of an employee beyond salary, commonly referred to as the employee burden. These costs include insurance, payroll taxes , and other essential costs incurred monthly as a result of having employees on your payroll.

True HR Cost Infographic

3. Income Statement

The income statement section shows if your business is making a profit or taking a loss. Another name for the income statement is the profit and loss (P&L). It takes data from your sales forecast and personnel plan and adds other ongoing expenses you incur while running your business.

The income statement section

Every business plan should have an income statement. It subtracts your business expenses from its earnings to show if your business is generating profit or incurring losses.

The income statement has the following items: sales, Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), gross margin, operating expenses, total operating expenses, operating income , total expenses, and net profit.

  • Sales refer to the revenue your business generates from selling its products or services. Other names for sales are income or revenue.
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) refers to the total cost of selling your products. Other names for COGS are direct costs or cost of sales. Manufacturing businesses use the Costs of Goods Manufactured (COGM) .
  • Gross Margin is the figure you get when you subtract your COGS from your sales. In your income statement, you can express it as a percentage of total sales (Gross margin / Sales = Gross Margin Percent).
  • Operating Expenses refer to all the expenses you incur from running your business. It exempts the COGS because it stands alone as a core part of your income statement. You also have to exclude taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Your operating expenses include salaries, marketing expenses, research and development (R&D) expenses, and other expenses.
  • Total Operating Expenses refers to the sum of all your operating expenses including those exemptions named above under operating expenses.
  • Operating Income refers to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. It is simply known as the acronym EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Calculating your operating income is simple, all you need to do is to subtract your COGS and total operating expenses from your sales.
  • Total Expenses refer to the sum of your operating expenses and your business’ interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.
  • Net profit shows whether your business has made a profit or taken a loss during a given timeframe.

4. Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement tracks the money you have in the bank at any given point. It is often confused with the income statement or the profit and loss statement. They are both different types of financial statements. The income statement calculates your profits and losses while the cash flow statement shows you how much you have in the bank.

Cash Flow Statement Example

5. Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is a financial statement that provides an overview of the financial health of your business. It contains information about the assets and liabilities of your company, and owner’s or shareholders’ equity.

You can get the net worth of your company by subtracting your company’s liabilities from its assets.

Balance sheet Formula

6. Exit Strategy

The exit strategy refers to a probable plan for selling your business either to the public in an IPO or to another company. It is the last thing you include in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

You can choose to omit the exit strategy from your business plan if you plan to maintain full ownership of your business and do not plan on seeking angel investment or virtual capitalist (VC) funding.

Investors may want to know what your exit plan is. They invest in your business to get a good return on investment.

Your exit strategy does not have to include long and boring details. Ensure you identify some interested parties who may be interested in buying the company if it becomes a success.

Exit Strategy Section of Business Plan Infographic

Key Questions to Answer with Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection

Your financial plan, metrics, and projection section helps investors, creditors, or your internal managers to understand what your expenses are, the amount of cash you need, and what it takes to make your company profitable. It also shows what you will be doing with any funding.

You do not need to show actual financial data if you do not have one. Adding forecasts and projections to your financial statements is added proof that your strategy is feasible and shows investors you have planned properly.

Here are some key questions to answer to help you develop this section.

  • What is your sales forecast for the next year?
  • When will your company achieve a positive cash flow?
  • What are the core expenses you need to operate?
  • How much money do you need upfront to operate or grow your company?
  • How will you use the loans or investments?

9. Add an Appendix to Your Business Plan

Adding an appendix to your business plan is optional. It is a useful place to put any charts, tables, legal notes, definitions, permits, résumés, and other critical information that do not fit into other sections of your business plan.

The appendix section is where you would want to include details of a patent or patent-pending if you have one. You can always add illustrations or images of your products here. It is the last section of your business plan.

When writing your business plan, there are details you cut short or remove to prevent the entire section from becoming too lengthy. There are also details you want to include in the business plan but are not a good fit for any of the previous sections. You can add that additional information to the appendix section.

Businesses also use the appendix section to include supporting documents or other materials specially requested by investors or lenders.

You can include just about any information that supports the assumptions and statements you made in the business plan under the appendix. It is the one place in the business plan where unrelated data and information can coexist amicably.

If your appendix section is lengthy, try organizing it by adding a table of contents at the beginning of the appendix section. It is also advisable to group similar information to make it easier for the reader to access them.

A well-organized appendix section makes it easier to share your information clearly and concisely. Add footnotes throughout the rest of the business plan or make references in the plan to the documents in the appendix.

The appendix section is usually only necessary if you are seeking funding from investors or lenders, or hoping to attract partners.

People reading business plans do not want to spend time going through a heap of backup information, numbers, and charts. Keep these documents or information in the Appendix section in case the reader wants to dig deeper.

Common Items to Include in the Appendix Section of Your Business Plan

The appendix section includes documents that supplement or support the information or claims given in other sections of the business plans. Common items you can include in the appendix section include:

  • Additional data about the process of manufacturing or creation
  • Additional description of products or services such as product schematics
  • Additional financial documents or projections
  • Articles of incorporation and status
  • Backup for market research or competitive analysis
  • Bank statements
  • Business registries
  • Client testimonials (if your business is already running)
  • Copies of insurances
  • Credit histories (personal or/and business)
  • Deeds and permits
  • Equipment leases
  • Examples of marketing and advertising collateral
  • Industry associations and memberships
  • Images of product
  • Intellectual property
  • Key customer contracts
  • Legal documents and other contracts
  • Letters of reference
  • Links to references
  • Market research data
  • Organizational charts
  • Photographs of potential facilities
  • Professional licenses pertaining to your legal structure or type of business
  • Purchase orders
  • Resumes of the founder(s) and key managers
  • State and federal identification numbers or codes
  • Trademarks or patents’ registrations

Avoid using the appendix section as a place to dump any document or information you feel like adding. Only add documents or information that you support or increase the credibility of your business plan.

Tips and Strategies for Writing a Convincing Business Plan

To achieve a perfect business plan, you need to consider some key tips and strategies. These tips will raise the efficiency of your business plan above average.

1. Know Your Audience

When writing a business plan, you need to know your audience . Business owners write business plans for different reasons. Your business plan has to be specific. For example, you can write business plans to potential investors, banks, and even fellow board members of the company.

The audience you are writing to determines the structure of the business plan. As a business owner, you have to know your audience. Not everyone will be your audience. Knowing your audience will help you to narrow the scope of your business plan.

Consider what your audience wants to see in your projects, the likely questions they might ask, and what interests them.

  • A business plan used to address a company's board members will center on its employment schemes, internal affairs, projects, stakeholders, etc.
  • A business plan for financial institutions will talk about the size of your market and the chances for you to pay back any loans you demand.
  • A business plan for investors will show proof that you can return the investment capital within a specific time. In addition, it discusses your financial projections, tractions, and market size.

2. Get Inspiration from People

Writing a business plan from scratch as an entrepreneur can be daunting. That is why you need the right inspiration to push you to write one. You can gain inspiration from the successful business plans of other businesses. Look at their business plans, the style they use, the structure of the project, etc.

To make your business plan easier to create, search companies related to your business to get an exact copy of what you need to create an effective business plan. You can also make references while citing examples in your business plans.

When drafting your business plan, get as much help from others as you possibly can. By getting inspiration from people, you can create something better than what they have.

3. Avoid Being Over Optimistic

Many business owners make use of strong adjectives to qualify their content. One of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make when preparing a business plan is promising too much.

The use of superlatives and over-optimistic claims can prepare the audience for more than you can offer. In the end, you disappoint the confidence they have in you.

In most cases, the best option is to be realistic with your claims and statistics. Most of the investors can sense a bit of incompetency from the overuse of superlatives. As a new entrepreneur, do not be tempted to over-promise to get the interests of investors.

The concept of entrepreneurship centers on risks, nothing is certain when you make future analyses. What separates the best is the ability to do careful research and work towards achieving that, not promising more than you can achieve.

To make an excellent first impression as an entrepreneur, replace superlatives with compelling data-driven content. In this way, you are more specific than someone promising a huge ROI from an investment.

4. Keep it Simple and Short

When writing business plans, ensure you keep them simple throughout. Irrespective of the purpose of the business plan, your goal is to convince the audience.

One way to achieve this goal is to make them understand your proposal. Therefore, it would be best if you avoid the use of complex grammar to express yourself. It would be a huge turn-off if the people you want to convince are not familiar with your use of words.

Another thing to note is the length of your business plan. It would be best if you made it as brief as possible.

You hardly see investors or agencies that read through an extremely long document. In that case, if your first few pages can’t convince them, then you have lost it. The more pages you write, the higher the chances of you derailing from the essential contents.

To ensure your business plan has a high conversion rate, you need to dispose of every unnecessary information. For example, if you have a strategy that you are not sure of, it would be best to leave it out of the plan.

5. Make an Outline and Follow Through

A perfect business plan must have touched every part needed to convince the audience. Business owners get easily tempted to concentrate more on their products than on other sections. Doing this can be detrimental to the efficiency of the business plan.

For example, imagine you talking about a product but omitting or providing very little information about the target audience. You will leave your clients confused.

To ensure that your business plan communicates your full business model to readers, you have to input all the necessary information in it. One of the best ways to achieve this is to design a structure and stick to it.

This structure is what guides you throughout the writing. To make your work easier, you can assign an estimated word count or page limit to every section to avoid making it too bulky for easy reading. As a guide, the necessary things your business plan must contain are:

  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Product or service description
  • Target audience
  • Market size
  • Competition analysis
  • Financial projections

Some specific businesses can include some other essential sections, but these are the key sections that must be in every business plan.

6. Ask a Professional to Proofread

When writing a business plan, you must tie all loose ends to get a perfect result. When you are done with writing, call a professional to go through the document for you. You are bound to make mistakes, and the way to correct them is to get external help.

You should get a professional in your field who can relate to every section of your business plan. It would be easier for the professional to notice the inner flaws in the document than an editor with no knowledge of your business.

In addition to getting a professional to proofread, get an editor to proofread and edit your document. The editor will help you identify grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and inappropriate writing styles.

Writing a business plan can be daunting, but you can surmount that obstacle and get the best out of it with these tips.

Business Plan Examples and Templates That’ll Save You Tons of Time

1. hubspot's one-page business plan.

HubSpot's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan template by HubSpot is the perfect guide for businesses of any size, irrespective of their business strategy. Although the template is condensed into a page, your final business plan should not be a page long! The template is designed to ask helpful questions that can help you develop your business plan.

Hubspot’s one-page business plan template is divided into nine fields:

  • Business opportunity
  • Company description
  • Industry analysis
  • Target market
  • Implementation timeline
  • Marketing plan
  • Financial summary
  • Funding required

2. Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplans' free business plan template is investor-approved. It is a rich template used by prestigious educational institutions such as Babson College and Princeton University to teach entrepreneurs how to create a business plan.

The template has six sections: the executive summary, opportunity, execution, company, financial plan, and appendix. There is a step-by-step guide for writing every little detail in the business plan. Follow the instructions each step of the way and you will create a business plan that impresses investors or lenders easily.

3. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot’s downloadable business plan template is a more comprehensive option compared to the one-page business template by HubSpot. This free and downloadable business plan template is designed for entrepreneurs.

The template is a comprehensive guide and checklist for business owners just starting their businesses. It tells you everything you need to fill in each section of the business plan and how to do it.

There are nine sections in this business plan template: an executive summary, company and business description, product and services line, market analysis, marketing plan, sales plan, legal notes, financial considerations, and appendix.

4. Business Plan by My Own Business Institute

The Business Profile

My Own Business Institute (MOBI) which is a part of Santa Clara University's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers a free business plan template. You can either copy the free business template from the link provided above or download it as a Word document.

The comprehensive template consists of a whopping 15 sections.

  • The Business Profile
  • The Vision and the People
  • Home-Based Business and Freelance Business Opportunities
  • Organization
  • Licenses and Permits
  • Business Insurance
  • Communication Tools
  • Acquisitions
  • Location and Leasing
  • Accounting and Cash Flow
  • Opening and Marketing
  • Managing Employees
  • Expanding and Handling Problems

There are lots of helpful tips on how to fill each section in the free business plan template by MOBI.

5. Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score is an American nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs build successful companies. This business plan template for startups by Score is available for free download. The business plan template asks a whooping 150 generic questions that help entrepreneurs from different fields to set up the perfect business plan.

The business plan template for startups contains clear instructions and worksheets, all you have to do is answer the questions and fill the worksheets.

There are nine sections in the business plan template: executive summary, company description, products and services, marketing plan, operational plan, management and organization, startup expenses and capitalization, financial plan, and appendices.

The ‘refining the plan’ resource contains instructions that help you modify your business plan to suit your specific needs, industry, and target audience. After you have completed Score’s business plan template, you can work with a SCORE mentor for expert advice in business planning.

6. Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

The minimalist architecture business plan template is a simple template by Venngage that you can customize to suit your business needs .

There are five sections in the template: an executive summary, statement of problem, approach and methodology, qualifications, and schedule and benchmark. The business plan template has instructions that guide users on what to fill in each section.

7. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers two free business plan templates, filled with practical real-life examples that you can model to create your business plan. Both free business plan templates are written by fictional business owners: Rebecca who owns a consulting firm, and Andrew who owns a toy company.

There are five sections in the two SBA’s free business plan templates.

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Service Line
  • Marketing and Sales

8. The $100 Startup's One-Page Business Plan

The $100 Startup's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan by the $100 startup is a simple business plan template for entrepreneurs who do not want to create a long and complicated plan . You can include more details in the appendices for funders who want more information beyond what you can put in the one-page business plan.

There are five sections in the one-page business plan such as overview, ka-ching, hustling, success, and obstacles or challenges or open questions. You can answer all the questions using one or two sentences.

9. PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

The free business plan template by PandaDoc is a comprehensive 15-page document that describes the information you should include in every section.

There are 11 sections in PandaDoc’s free business plan template.

  • Executive summary
  • Business description
  • Products and services
  • Operations plan
  • Management organization
  • Financial plan
  • Conclusion / Call to action
  • Confidentiality statement

You have to sign up for its 14-day free trial to access the template. You will find different business plan templates on PandaDoc once you sign up (including templates for general businesses and specific businesses such as bakeries, startups, restaurants, salons, hotels, and coffee shops)

PandaDoc allows you to customize its business plan templates to fit the needs of your business. After editing the template, you can send it to interested parties and track opens and views through PandaDoc.

10. Invoiceberry Templates for Word, Open Office, Excel, or PPT

Invoiceberry Templates Business Concept

InvoiceBerry is a U.K based online invoicing and tracking platform that offers free business plan templates in .docx, .odt, .xlsx, and .pptx formats for freelancers and small businesses.

Before you can download the free business plan template, it will ask you to give it your email address. After you complete the little task, it will send the download link to your inbox for you to download. It also provides a business plan checklist in .xlsx file format that ensures you add the right information to the business plan.

Alternatives to the Traditional Business Plan

A business plan is very important in mapping out how one expects their business to grow over a set number of years, particularly when they need external investment in their business. However, many investors do not have the time to watch you present your business plan. It is a long and boring read.

Luckily, there are three alternatives to the traditional business plan (the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck). These alternatives are less laborious and easier and quicker to present to investors.

Business Model Canvas (BMC)

The business model canvas is a business tool used to present all the important components of setting up a business, such as customers, route to market, value proposition, and finance in a single sheet. It provides a very focused blueprint that defines your business initially which you can later expand on if needed.

Business Model Canvas (BMC) Infographic

The sheet is divided mainly into company, industry, and consumer models that are interconnected in how they find problems and proffer solutions.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

The business model canvas was developed by founder Alexander Osterwalder to answer important business questions. It contains nine segments.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

  • Key Partners: Who will be occupying important executive positions in your business? What do they bring to the table? Will there be a third party involved with the company?
  • Key Activities: What important activities will production entail? What activities will be carried out to ensure the smooth running of the company?
  • The Product’s Value Propositions: What does your product do? How will it be different from other products?
  • Customer Segments: What demography of consumers are you targeting? What are the habits of these consumers? Who are the MVPs of your target consumers?
  • Customer Relationships: How will the team support and work with its customer base? How do you intend to build and maintain trust with the customer?
  • Key Resources: What type of personnel and tools will be needed? What size of the budget will they need access to?
  • Channels: How do you plan to create awareness of your products? How do you intend to transport your product to the customer?
  • Cost Structure: What is the estimated cost of production? How much will distribution cost?
  • Revenue Streams: For what value are customers willing to pay? How do they prefer to pay for the product? Are there any external revenues attached apart from the main source? How do the revenue streams contribute to the overall revenue?

Lean Canvas

The lean canvas is a problem-oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas. It was proposed by Ash Maurya, creator of Lean Stack as a development of the business model generation. It uses a more problem-focused approach and it majorly targets entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

The lean canvas is a problem oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas

Lean Canvas uses the same 9 blocks concept as the business model canvas, however, they have been modified slightly to suit the needs and purpose of a small startup. The key partners, key activities, customer relationships, and key resources are replaced by new segments which are:

  • Problem: Simple and straightforward number of problems you have identified, ideally three.
  • Solution: The solutions to each problem.
  • Unfair Advantage: Something you possess that can't be easily bought or replicated.
  • Key Metrics: Important numbers that will tell how your business is doing.

Startup Pitch Deck

While the business model canvas compresses into a factual sheet, startup pitch decks expand flamboyantly.

Pitch decks, through slides, convey your business plan, often through graphs and images used to emphasize estimations and observations in your presentation. Entrepreneurs often use pitch decks to fully convince their target audience of their plans before discussing funding arrangements.

Startup Pitch Deck Presentation

Considering the likelihood of it being used in a small time frame, a good startup pitch deck should ideally contain 20 slides or less to have enough time to answer questions from the audience.

Unlike the standard and lean business model canvases, a pitch deck doesn't have a set template on how to present your business plan but there are still important components to it. These components often mirror those of the business model canvas except that they are in slide form and contain more details.

Airbnb Pitch Deck

Using Airbnb (one of the most successful start-ups in recent history) for reference, the important components of a good slide are listed below.

  • Cover/Introduction Slide: Here, you should include your company's name and mission statement. Your mission statement should be a very catchy tagline. Also, include personal information and contact details to provide an easy link for potential investors.
  • Problem Slide: This slide requires you to create a connection with the audience or the investor that you are pitching. For example in their pitch, Airbnb summarized the most important problems it would solve in three brief points – pricing of hotels, disconnection from city culture, and connection problems for local bookings.
  • Solution Slide: This slide includes your core value proposition. List simple and direct solutions to the problems you have mentioned
  • Customer Analysis: Here you will provide information on the customers you will be offering your service to. The identity of your customers plays an important part in fundraising as well as the long-run viability of the business.
  • Market Validation: Use competitive analysis to show numbers that prove the presence of a market for your product, industry behavior in the present and the long run, as well as the percentage of the market you aim to attract. It shows that you understand your competitors and customers and convinces investors of the opportunities presented in the market.
  • Business Model: Your business model is the hook of your presentation. It may vary in complexity but it should generally include a pricing system informed by your market analysis. The goal of the slide is to confirm your business model is easy to implement.
  • Marketing Strategy: This slide should summarize a few customer acquisition methods that you plan to use to grow the business.
  • Competitive Advantage: What this slide will do is provide information on what will set you apart and make you a more attractive option to customers. It could be the possession of technology that is not widely known in the market.
  • Team Slide: Here you will give a brief description of your team. Include your key management personnel here and their specific roles in the company. Include their educational background, job history, and skillsets. Also, talk about their accomplishments in their careers so far to build investors' confidence in members of your team.
  • Traction Slide: This validates the company’s business model by showing growth through early sales and support. The slide aims to reduce any lingering fears in potential investors by showing realistic periodic milestones and profit margins. It can include current sales, growth, valuable customers, pre-orders, or data from surveys outlining current consumer interest.
  • Funding Slide: This slide is popularly referred to as ‘the ask'. Here you will include important details like how much is needed to get your business off the ground and how the funding will be spent to help the company reach its goals.
  • Appendix Slides: Your pitch deck appendix should always be included alongside a standard pitch presentation. It consists of additional slides you could not show in the pitch deck but you need to complement your presentation.

It is important to support your calculations with pictorial renditions. Infographics, such as pie charts or bar graphs, will be more effective in presenting the information than just listing numbers. For example, a six-month graph that shows rising profit margins will easily look more impressive than merely writing it.

Lastly, since a pitch deck is primarily used to secure meetings and you may be sharing your pitch with several investors, it is advisable to keep a separate public version that doesn't include financials. Only disclose the one with projections once you have secured a link with an investor.

Advantages of the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck over the Traditional Business Plan

  • Time-Saving: Writing a detailed traditional business plan could take weeks or months. On the other hand, all three alternatives can be done in a few days or even one night of brainstorming if you have a comprehensive understanding of your business.
  • Easier to Understand: Since the information presented is almost entirely factual, it puts focus on what is most important in running the business. They cut away the excess pages of fillers in a traditional business plan and allow investors to see what is driving the business and what is getting in the way.
  • Easy to Update: Businesses typically present their business plans to many potential investors before they secure funding. What this means is that you may regularly have to amend your presentation to update statistics or adjust to audience-specific needs. For a traditional business plan, this could mean rewriting a whole section of your plan. For the three alternatives, updating is much easier because they are not voluminous.
  • Guide for a More In-depth Business Plan: All three alternatives have the added benefit of being able to double as a sketch of your business plan if the need to create one arises in the future.

Business Plan FAQ

Business plans are important for any entrepreneur who is looking for a framework to run their company over some time or seeking external support. Although they are essential for new businesses, every company should ideally have a business plan to track their growth from time to time.  They can be used by startups seeking investments or loans to convey their business ideas or an employee to convince his boss of the feasibility of starting a new project. They can also be used by companies seeking to recruit high-profile employee targets into key positions or trying to secure partnerships with other firms.

Business plans often vary depending on your target audience, the scope, and the goals for the plan. Startup plans are the most common among the different types of business plans.  A start-up plan is used by a new business to present all the necessary information to help get the business up and running. They are usually used by entrepreneurs who are seeking funding from investors or bank loans. The established company alternative to a start-up plan is a feasibility plan. A feasibility plan is often used by an established company looking for new business opportunities. They are used to show the upsides of creating a new product for a consumer base. Because the audience is usually company people, it requires less company analysis. The third type of business plan is the lean business plan. A lean business plan is a brief, straight-to-the-point breakdown of your ideas and analysis for your business. It does not contain details of your proposal and can be written on one page. Finally, you have the what-if plan. As it implies, a what-if plan is a preparation for the worst-case scenario. You must always be prepared for the possibility of your original plan being rejected. A good what-if plan will serve as a good plan B to the original.

A good business plan has 10 key components. They include an executive plan, product analysis, desired customer base, company analysis, industry analysis, marketing strategy, sales strategy, financial projection, funding, and appendix. Executive Plan Your business should begin with your executive plan. An executive plan will provide early insight into what you are planning to achieve with your business. It should include your mission statement and highlight some of the important points which you will explain later. Product Analysis The next component of your business plan is your product analysis. A key part of this section is explaining the type of item or service you are going to offer as well as the market problems your product will solve. Desired Consumer Base Your product analysis should be supplemented with a detailed breakdown of your desired consumer base. Investors are always interested in knowing the economic power of your market as well as potential MVP customers. Company Analysis The next component of your business plan is your company analysis. Here, you explain how you want to run your business. It will include your operational strategy, an insight into the workforce needed to keep the company running, and important executive positions. It will also provide a calculation of expected operational costs.  Industry Analysis A good business plan should also contain well laid out industry analysis. It is important to convince potential investors you know the companies you will be competing with, as well as your plans to gain an edge on the competition. Marketing Strategy Your business plan should also include your marketing strategy. This is how you intend to spread awareness of your product. It should include a detailed explanation of the company brand as well as your advertising methods. Sales Strategy Your sales strategy comes after the market strategy. Here you give an overview of your company's pricing strategy and how you aim to maximize profits. You can also explain how your prices will adapt to market behaviors. Financial Projection The financial projection is the next component of your business plan. It explains your company's expected running cost and revenue earned during the tenure of the business plan. Financial projection gives a clear idea of how your company will develop in the future. Funding The next component of your business plan is funding. You have to detail how much external investment you need to get your business idea off the ground here. Appendix The last component of your plan is the appendix. This is where you put licenses, graphs, or key information that does not fit in any of the other components.

The business model canvas is a business management tool used to quickly define your business idea and model. It is often used when investors need you to pitch your business idea during a brief window.

A pitch deck is similar to a business model canvas except that it makes use of slides in its presentation. A pitch is not primarily used to secure funding, rather its main purpose is to entice potential investors by selling a very optimistic outlook on the business.

Business plan competitions help you evaluate the strength of your business plan. By participating in business plan competitions, you are improving your experience. The experience provides you with a degree of validation while practicing important skills. The main motivation for entering into the competitions is often to secure funding by finishing in podium positions. There is also the chance that you may catch the eye of a casual observer outside of the competition. These competitions also provide good networking opportunities. You could meet mentors who will take a keen interest in guiding you in your business journey. You also have the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs whose ideas can complement yours.

Exlore Further

  • 12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)
  • 13 Sources of Business Finance For Companies & Sole Traders
  • 5 Common Types of Business Structures (+ Pros & Cons)
  • How to Buy a Business in 8 Steps (+ Due Diligence Checklist)

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Martin luenendonk.

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Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.

18 of My Favorite Sample Business Plans & Examples For Your Inspiration

Clifford Chi

Published: July 01, 2024

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

sample business plans and examples

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

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

Table of Contents

Business Plan Types

Business plan format, sample business plan: section by section, sample business plan templates, top business plan examples.

Ultimately, the format of your business plan will vary based on your goals for that plan. I’ve added this quick review of different business plan types that achieve differing goals.

For a more detailed exploration of business plan types, you can check out this post .

simple business plan content

Free Business Plan Template

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1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas. If you’re planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business.

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

2. Feasibility Studies

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

3. Internal Use

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

4. Strategic Initiatives

A strategic business plan is another business plan that's often shared internally. This plan covers long-term business objectives that might not have been included in the startup business plan.

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

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

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

I’m going to focus on a startup business plan that needs to be detailed and research-backed as well as compelling enough to convince investors to offer funding. In my experience, the most comprehensive and convincing business plans contain the following sections.

Executive Summary

This all-important introduction to your business plan sets the tone and includes the company description as well as what you will be exchanging for money — whether that’s product lines, services, or product-service hybrids.

Market Opportunity

Information about gaps in your industry’s market and how you plan to fill them, focused on demand and potential for growth.

Competitive Landscape Analysis

An overview of your competitors that includes consideration of their strengths and how you’ll manage them, their weaknesses and how you’ll capitalize on them, and how you can differentiate your offerings in the industry.

Target Audience

Descriptions of your ideal customers, their various problems that you can solve, and your customer acquisition strategy.

Marketing Strategy

This section details how you will market your brand to achieve specific goals, the channels and tactics you’ll utilize to reach those goals, and the metrics you’ll be using to measure your progress.

Key Features and Benefits

This is where you’ll use plain language to emphasize the value of your product/service, how it solves the problems of your target audiences, and how you’ll scale up over time.

Pricing and Revenue

This section describes your pricing strategy and plans for building revenue streams that fit your audiences while achieving your business goals.

This is the final section, communicating with investors that your business idea is worth investing in via profit/loss statements, cash flow statements, and balance sheets to prove viability.

Okay, so now that we have a format established, I’ll give you more specific details about each section along with examples. Truthfully, I wish I’d had this resource to help me flesh out those first business plans long ago.

1. Executive Summary

I’d say the executive summary is the most important section of the entire business plan. It is essentially an overview of and introduction to your entire project.

Write this in such a way that it grabs your readers' attention and guides them through the rest of the business plan. This is important because a business plan can be dozens or hundreds of pages long.

There are two main elements I’d recommend including in your executive summary: your company description and your products and services.

Company Description

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

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

Need some extra help firming up your business goals? I’d recommend HubSpot Academy’s free course to help you set meaningful goals that matter most for your business.

Products and Services

Here, you will incorporate an overview of your offerings. This doesn’t have to be extensive, as it is just a chance to introduce your industry and overall purpose as a business. I recommend including snippets of information about your financial projections and competitive advantage here as well.

Keep in mind that you'll cover many of these topics in more detail later on in the business plan. The executive summary should be clear and brief, only including the most important takeaways.

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

This example was created with HubSpot’s business plan template . What makes this executive summary good is that it tells potential investors a short story while still covering all of the most important details.

Our Mission

Maria’s Gluten Free Bagels offers gluten-free bagels, along with various toppings, other gluten-free breakfast sandwich items, and coffee. The facility is entirely gluten free. Our team expects to catch the interest of gluten-free, celiac, or health-conscious community members who are seeking an enjoyable cafe to socialize. Due to a lack of gluten-free bagel products in the food industry currently, we expect mild competition and are confident we will be able to build a strong market position.

The Company and Management

Maria’s Gluten Free Bagels was founded in 2010 by Maria Jones, who first began selling her gluten-free bagels online from her home, using social media to spread the word. In 2012 she bought a retail location in Hamilton, MA, which now employs four full-time employees and six part-time employees. Prior to her bagel shop, Maria was a chef in New York and has extensive experience in the food industry.

Along with Maria Jones, Gluten Free Bagel Shop has a board of advisors. The advisors are:

  • Jeni King, partner at Winding Communications, Ltd.
  • Henry Wilson, president of Blue Robin, LLP.

Our Product

We offer gluten-free products ranging from bagels and cream cheese to blueberry muffins, coffee, and pastries. Our customers are health-conscious, community-oriented people who enjoy gluten-free products. We will create a welcoming, warm environment with opportunities for open mic nights, poetry readings, and other community functions. We will focus on creating an environment in which someone feels comfortable meeting a friend for lunch, or working remotely.

Our Competitive Advantages

While there are other coffee shops and cafes in the North Shore region, there are none that offer purely gluten-free options. This restricts those suffering from gluten-free illnesses or simply those with a gluten-free preference. This will be our primary selling point. Additionally, our market research [see Section 3] has shown a demand for a community-oriented coffee and bagel shop in the town of Hamilton, MA.

Financial Considerations

Our sales projections for the first year are $400,000. We project a 15% growth rate over the next two years. By year three, we project 61% gross margins.

We will have four full-time employees. The salary for each employee will be $50,000.

Start-up Financing Requirements

We are seeking to raise $125,000 in startup to finance year one. The owner has invested $50,000 to meet working capital requirements, and will use a loan of $100,000 to supplement the rest.

Example 2 :

Marianne and Keith Bean have been involved with the food industry for several years. They opened their first restaurant in Antlers, Oklahoma in 1981, and their second in Hugo in 1988. Although praised for the quality of many of the items on their menu, they have attained a special notoriety for their desserts. After years of requests for their flavored whipped cream toppings, they have decided to pursue marketing these products separately from the restaurants.

Marianne and Keith Bean have developed several recipes for flavored whipped cream topping. They include chocolate, raspberry, cinnamon almond, and strawberry. These flavored dessert toppings have been used in the setting of their two restaurants over the past 18 years, and have been produced in large quantities. The estimated shelf life of the product is 21 days at refrigeration temperatures and up to six months when frozen. The Beans intend to market this product in its frozen state in 8 and 12-ounce plastic tubs. They also intend to have the products available in six ounce pressurized cans. Special attention has been given to developing an attractive label that will stress the gourmet/specialty nature of the products.

Distribution of Fancy's Foods Whipped Dream product will begin in the local southeastern Oklahoma area. The Beans have an established name and reputation in this area, and product introduction should encounter little resistance.

Financial analyses show that the company will have both a positive cash flow and profit in the first year. The expected return on equity in the first year is 10.88%

Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

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

For more guidance, check out our tips for writing an effective executive summary .

2. Market Opportunity

This is where you'll detail the opportunity in the market. Ask and answer: Where is the gap in the current industry, and how will my product fill that gap?

To get a thorough understanding of the market opportunity, you'll want to conduct a TAM, SAM, SOM analysis , a SWOT analysis , and perform market research on your industry to get some insights for this section. More specifically, here’s what I’d include.

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

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

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

Example: The market for Doggie Pause is all of the dog owners in the metropolitan area and surrounding areas of the city. We believe that this is going to be 2/3 of the population, and we have a goal of gaining a 50% market share. We have a target of a 20% yearly profit increase as the business continues.

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

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

3. Competitive Landscape Analysis

Since we’re already speaking of market share, you‘ll also need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are. After all, your customers likely have more than one brand to choose from, and you’ll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another.

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

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

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

I like how the competitive landscape section of this business plan shows a clear outline of who the top competitors are. It also highlights specific industry knowledge and the importance of location. This demonstrates useful experience in the industry, helping to build trust in your ability to execute your business plan.

Competitive Environment

Currently, there are four primary competitors in the Greater Omaha Area: Pinot’s Palette Lakeside (franchise partner), Village Canvas and Cabernet, The Corky Canvas, and Twisted Vine Collective. The first three competitors are in Omaha and the fourth is located in Papillion.

Despite the competition, all locations have both public and private events. Each location has a few sold-out painting events each month. The Omaha locations are in new, popular retail locations, while the existing Papillion location is in a downtown business district.

There is an opportunity to take advantage of the environment and open a studio in a well-traveled or growing area. Pinot’s Palette La Vista will differentiate itself from its competitors by offering a premium experience in a high-growth, influential location.

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

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

4. Target Audience

Use this section to describe who your customer segments are in detail. What is the demographic and psychographic information of your audience? I’d recommend building a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be clear about why you're targeting them. Here are some questions I’d ask myself:

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

Target Audience Business Plan Example

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

The Audience

Recognize that audiences are often already aware of important issues. Outreach materials should:

  • Emphasize a pollution-prevention practice
  • Tell audience a little about how to prevent pollution
  • Tell audience where they can obtain information about prevention.

Message Content

  • Focus the content for outreach materials on cost savings, such as when and where pollution prevention is as cheap as or cheaper than traditional techniques. Include facts and figures.
  • Emphasize how easy it is to do the right thing and the impacts of not engaging in pollution prevention.
  • Stress benefits such as efficiency or better relations with government, for businesses not primarily concerned with public image.

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

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

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you‘ll discuss how you’ll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. I think it’s helpful to have a marketing plan built out in advance to make this part of your business plan easier. I’d suggest including these details:

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

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

This business plan example includes the marketing strategy for the town of Gawler. In my opinion, it works because it offers a comprehensive picture of how they plan to use digital marketing to promote the community.

Screenshot of sample marketing plan

7. Pricing and Revenue

This is where you'll discuss your cost structure and various revenue streams. Your pricing strategy must be solid enough to turn a profit while staying competitive in the industry. For this reason, here’s what I’d might outline in this section:

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

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

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

Financial Overview

Revenue Model

Plum generates revenue through the sale of our Plum hardware products, including Plum Lightpad Dimmer, Plum Smart Plug, and Plum Duplex Outlet.

All Plum hardware products are strategically priced at a level that places them significantly below competing products [which retail for an average of $200 or higher] making Plum an accessible home automation option for a broader range of consumer budgets.

Plum Lightpad Dimmer: COGS: $21 Wholesale $39 Retail: $79

Plum Smart Plug: COGS: $24 Wholesale: $43 Retail: $84

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

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

8. Financials

To me, this section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to figure out funding strategies, investment opportunities, and more. While some business plans might include more or less information, according to Forbes you'll want to include three main details:

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

Financials Business Plan Example

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

Current Assets

1010 Checking 583,961

1020 Savings 224,600

1030 Petty Cash 89,840

Total Cash - 898,402

1100 Accounts Receivable - 3,593,607

1200 Work in Process - 589,791

1300 Other Current Assets

1310 Prepaid Rent 164,593

1320 Prepaid Liability Insurance 109,728

Total Other Current Assets - 274,321

Total Current Assets - 5,356,121

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

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

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

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

Screenshot of sample business plan from Hubspot

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

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

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

Screenshot of business startup kit download page from hubspot

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Use This Simple Business Plan Outline to Organize Your Plan

Male and female entrepreneur sitting at a table with two other team members. Reviewing a business plan outline to discuss the main components they need to cover.

12 min. read

Updated April 10, 2024

When starting a business, having a well-thought-out business plan prepared is necessary for success . It helps guide your strategy and prepares you to overcome the obstacles and risks associated with entrepreneurship. In short, a business plan makes you more likely to succeed.

However, like everything in business, starting is often the hardest part. What information do you need? How in-depth should each section be? How should the plan be structured?

All good questions that you can answer by following this business plan outline. 

  • What is a business plan outline?

A business plan outline is similar to most business plan templates . It lists the common sections that all business plans should include.

A traditional business plan typically includes an executive summary, an overview of your products and services, thorough market research, a competitive analysis, a marketing and sales strategy, operational and company details, financial projections, and an appendix. 

  • Why is a business plan outline important?

Starting with a business plan outline helps ensure that you’re including all of the necessary information for a complete business plan. 

But, depending on what you intend to do with your plan, you may not need all of this information right away. If you’re going to speak with investors or pursue funding, then yes, you’ll need to include everything from this outline.

But, if you’re using your plan to test an idea or help run your business, you may want to opt for a one-page plan . This is a simpler and faster method that is designed to be updated and used day-to-day. 

If you’re unsure of which plan is right for you, check out our guide explaining the differences and use cases for each plan type . 

  • 10 key sections in a standard business plan outline

No matter the type of business plan you create, these are the ten basic sections you should include. Be sure to download your free business plan template to start drafting your own plan as you work through this outline.

Business Plan Outline Example Graphic with 10 unique components. A standard business plan outline will include the executive summary, products and services, market analysis, competition, marketing and sales, operations, milestones and metrics, company overview, financial plan, and appendix sections.

1. Executive summary

While it may appear first, it’s best to write your executive summary last. It’s a brief section that highlights the high-level points you’ve made elsewhere in your business plan.

Summarize the problem you are solving for customers, your solution, the target market, your team that’s building the business, and financial forecast highlights. Keep things as brief as possible and entice your audience to learn more about your company. 

Keep in mind, this is the first impression your plan and business will make. After looking over your executive summary, your reader is either going to throw your business plan away or keep reading. So make sure you spend the time to get it just right.

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2. Products and services

Start the products and services section of your business plan by describing the problem you are solving for your customer. Next, describe how you solve that problem with your product or service. 

If you’ve already made some headway selling your solution, detail that progress here—this is called “traction”. You can also describe any intellectual property or patents that you have if that’s an important part of your business.

3. Market analysis 

You need to know your target market —the types of customers you are looking for—and how it’s changing.

Use the market analysis section of your business plan to discuss the size of your market—how many potential customers exist for your business—and if your potential customers can be segmented into different groups, such as age groups or some other demographic.

4. Competition

Describe your competition in this section. If you don’t have any direct competitors, describe what your customers currently do to solve the problem that your product fixes. 

If you have direct competition, detail what your strengths and weaknesses are in comparison, and how you’ll differentiate from what is already available. 

5. Marketing and sales

Use this business plan section to outline your marketing and sales plan —how you’ll reach your target customers and what the process will be for selling to them.

You’ll want to cover your market position, marketing activities, sales channels, and your pricing strategy. This will likely evolve over time, but it’s best to include anything that clearly details how you will sell and promote your products and services. 

6. Operations

What’s included in the operations section really depends on the type of business you are planning for. If your business has a physical location or other facilities, you’ll want to describe them here. If your business relies heavily on technology or specific equipment or tools, you should describe that technology or equipment here.

You can also use this section to describe your supply chain if that’s an important aspect of your business. 

7. Milestones and metrics

In a business, milestones are important goals that you are setting for your business. They may be important launch dates, or a timeline of when you’ll get regulatory approval—if that’s something you need for your business. Use this section of your plan to describe those milestones and the roadmap you are planning to follow.

You can also describe important metrics for your business, such as the number of sales leads you expect to get each month or the percentage of leads that will become customers.

8. Company overview and team

The company and team section of your plan is an overview of who you are.

It should describe the organization of your business, and the key members of the management team. It should also provide any historical background about your business. For example, you’ll describe when your company was founded, who the owners are, what state your company is registered in and where you do business, and when/if your company was incorporated.

Be sure to include summaries of your key team members’ backgrounds and experience—these should act like brief resumes—and describe their functions with the company. You should also include any professional gaps you intend to fill with new employees.

9. Financial plan and forecasts

Your financial plan should include a sales forecast, profit and loss, cash flow projections, and balance sheet, along with a brief description of the assumptions you’re making with your projections.

If you are raising money or taking out loans, you should highlight the money you need to launch the business. This part should also include a use of funds report—basically an overview of how the funding will be used in business operations. 

And while it’s not required, it may be wise to briefly mention your exit strategy . This doesn’t need to be overly detailed, just a general idea of how you may eventually want to exit your business. 

10. Appendix

The end of your business plan should include any additional information to back up specific elements of your plan. More detailed financial statements, resumes for your management team, patent documentation, credit histories, marketing examples, etc. 

  • Detailed business plan outline

If you’re looking for greater insight into what goes into specific planning sections, check out the following outline for a business plan. It can help you develop a detailed business plan or provide guidance as to what may be missing from your current plan. 

Keep in mind that every business plan will look a bit different because every business is unique. After all, business planning is to help you be more successful, so focus on the sections that are most beneficial to your business and skip the sections that aren’t useful or don’t apply. 

To help, we’ve marked sections that are truly optional with an *.

Executive summary

Company purpose / mission statement.

A very brief description of what your business does and/or what its mission is.

Problem We Solve

A summary of the problem you are solving and an identifiable need in the market you are filling.

Our Solution

A description of the product or service you will provide to solve the problem.

Target Market

A defined customer base who will most likely purchase the product or service.

Briefly describe who is behind the business.

Financial Summary

A short overview of revenue goals and profitability timeline.

If you’ve already started selling your product or service, highlight important initial details here.

Funding Needed*

If you are raising money for your business, describe how much capital you need.

Products & Services

Problem worth solving.

A thorough description of the problem or pain points you intend to solve for your customer base. 

A thorough description of your proposed product or service that alleviates the problem for your customer base.

Describe any initial evidence that your customers are excited to spend money on your solution. Initial sales or signed contracts are good signs.

Intellectual Property/Patents*

If this is important for your business, outline it here.

Regulatory Requirements*

If government approval is required for your business, explain the details and timeline.

Future Products and Services*

What products and services might you offer in the future once your initial products and services are successful?

Market Size & Segments

How many potential customers do you have and what potential groups of customers are separated by specific characteristics?

Market Trends*

How consumers in your target market tend to act including purchasing habits, financial trends, and any other relevant factors.

Market Growth*

The perceived potential increase or decrease in the size of your target market.

Industry Analysis*

If your industry is changing or adjusting over time, describe those changes.

Key Customers*

If your business relies on certain important customers, describe who they are here.

Future Markets*

A snapshot of the potential market based on the last few sections and how your business strategy works within it.

Competition 

Current alternatives.

A list of potential competitors. Identifying the competition isn’t always obvious and it may take some digging on your part.

Our Advantages

The strategic advantage(s) that makes your target market more likely to choose you over the competition. 

Barriers to Entry*

If there’s anything that makes it more difficult for other people to start competing with you, describe those barriers.

Marketing & Sales

Market positioning.

Where do your products or services fit into the market? Are you the low-price leader or the premium option?

Unique value proposition*

What’s special about your offering that makes your customers want to choose it over the competition.

Marketing Plan

An outline of your marketing and advertising strategy including costs, advertising channels, and goals.

How do you sell your product or service? Self-serve or with a team of sales representatives?

Pricing Strategy*

Describe your pricing and how it compares to alternatives in the market.

Distribution*

Describe how your product gets in front of customers. Are you selling in stores and online? Which retailers?

SWOT Analysis*

Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Location & Facilities

If you have a physical presence, describe where and what it is.

What technology is crucial for your business success?

Equipment & Tools

If special equipment or tools are needed for your business, describe them here.

Sourcing and fulfillment*

If you purchase your products or parts for your products from somewhere else, describe that sourcing and supply chain.

Partners and Resources*

If you have key partners that you work with to make your business a success, describe who they are and what services or products they provide.

Milestones and metrics

A detailed roadmap of specific goals and objectives you plan to achieve will help you manage and steer your business.

Key metrics

Performance measurements that help you gauge the overall performance and health of your business.

Company overview and team

Organizational structure.

An overview of the legal structure of your business. 

Company history and ownership

A summary of your company’s history and how it relates to planning your business.

Management team

The team that is starting or running your business and why they are uniquely qualified to make the business a success.

Management team gaps

Key positions that your business will need to fill to make it successful.

Financial plan and forecast

Projected profit and loss.

How much money you will bring in by selling products and/or services and how much profit you will make or lose after accounting for costs and expenses.

Projected cash flow

How and when cash moves in and out of your business. This also includes your overall cash position.

Projected balance sheet

Expected balances for business assets, liabilities, and equity.

Use of funds

If you are raising money either through loans or investment, explain how funds will be used. This is typically meant to be shared with investors or lenders.

Exit strategy

A brief explanation of how you intend to eventually exit from your business. This could include selling the business, going public, transitioning the business to a family member/employee, etc.

A repository for any additional information, including charts and graphs, to support your business plan.

Business plan outline FAQ

How do you organize your business plan?

There’s no real established order to business plans, aside from keeping the Executive Summary at the top. As long as you have all of the main business plan components, then the order should reflect your goals. 

If this is meant solely for your personal use, lay it out as a roadmap with similar sections grouped together for easy reference. If you’re pitching this to potential investors, lead with the stronger sections to emphasize the pitch. Then if you’re unsure of what order makes sense, then just stick to the outline in this article.

Should you include tables and charts in your business plan?

Every business plan should include bar charts and pie charts to illustrate the numbers. It’s a simple way for you, your team, and investors to visualize and digest complex financial information.

Cash flow is the single most important numerical analysis in a business plan, and a standard cash flow statement or table should never be missing. Most standard business plans also include a sales forecast and income statement (also called profit and loss), and a balance sheet.

How long should your business plan be?

There’s no perfect length for a business plan. A traditional business plan can be anywhere from 10 to 50 pages long depending on how much detail you include in each section. However, as we said before unless you intend to pursue funding, you likely don’t need a lengthy business plan at first.

Content Author: Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.

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Business Plan Example and Template

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What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that contains the operational and financial plan of a business, and details how its objectives will be achieved. It serves as a road map for the business and can be used when pitching investors or financial institutions for debt or equity financing .

Business Plan - Document with the words Business Plan on the title

A business plan should follow a standard format and contain all the important business plan elements. Typically, it should present whatever information an investor or financial institution expects to see before providing financing to a business.

Contents of a Business Plan

A business plan should be structured in a way that it contains all the important information that investors are looking for. Here are the main sections of a business plan:

1. Title Page

The title page captures the legal information of the business, which includes the registered business name, physical address, phone number, email address, date, and the company logo.

2. Executive Summary

The executive summary is the most important section because it is the first section that investors and bankers see when they open the business plan. It provides a summary of the entire business plan. It should be written last to ensure that you don’t leave any details out. It must be short and to the point, and it should capture the reader’s attention. The executive summary should not exceed two pages.

3. Industry Overview

The industry overview section provides information about the specific industry that the business operates in. Some of the information provided in this section includes major competitors, industry trends, and estimated revenues. It also shows the company’s position in the industry and how it will compete in the market against other major players.

4. Market Analysis and Competition

The market analysis section details the target market for the company’s product offerings. This section confirms that the company understands the market and that it has already analyzed the existing market to determine that there is adequate demand to support its proposed business model.

Market analysis includes information about the target market’s demographics , geographical location, consumer behavior, and market needs. The company can present numbers and sources to give an overview of the target market size.

A business can choose to consolidate the market analysis and competition analysis into one section or present them as two separate sections.

5. Sales and Marketing Plan

The sales and marketing plan details how the company plans to sell its products to the target market. It attempts to present the business’s unique selling proposition and the channels it will use to sell its goods and services. It details the company’s advertising and promotion activities, pricing strategy, sales and distribution methods, and after-sales support.

6. Management Plan

The management plan provides an outline of the company’s legal structure, its management team, and internal and external human resource requirements. It should list the number of employees that will be needed and the remuneration to be paid to each of the employees.

Any external professionals, such as lawyers, valuers, architects, and consultants, that the company will need should also be included. If the company intends to use the business plan to source funding from investors, it should list the members of the executive team, as well as the members of the advisory board.

7. Operating Plan

The operating plan provides an overview of the company’s physical requirements, such as office space, machinery, labor, supplies, and inventory . For a business that requires custom warehouses and specialized equipment, the operating plan will be more detailed, as compared to, say, a home-based consulting business. If the business plan is for a manufacturing company, it will include information on raw material requirements and the supply chain.

8. Financial Plan

The financial plan is an important section that will often determine whether the business will obtain required financing from financial institutions, investors, or venture capitalists. It should demonstrate that the proposed business is viable and will return enough revenues to be able to meet its financial obligations. Some of the information contained in the financial plan includes a projected income statement , balance sheet, and cash flow.

9. Appendices and Exhibits

The appendices and exhibits part is the last section of a business plan. It includes any additional information that banks and investors may be interested in or that adds credibility to the business. Some of the information that may be included in the appendices section includes office/building plans, detailed market research , products/services offering information, marketing brochures, and credit histories of the promoters.

Business Plan Template - Components

Business Plan Template

Here is a basic template that any business can use when developing its business plan:

Section 1: Executive Summary

  • Present the company’s mission.
  • Describe the company’s product and/or service offerings.
  • Give a summary of the target market and its demographics.
  • Summarize the industry competition and how the company will capture a share of the available market.
  • Give a summary of the operational plan, such as inventory, office and labor, and equipment requirements.

Section 2: Industry Overview

  • Describe the company’s position in the industry.
  • Describe the existing competition and the major players in the industry.
  • Provide information about the industry that the business will operate in, estimated revenues, industry trends, government influences, as well as the demographics of the target market.

Section 3: Market Analysis and Competition

  • Define your target market, their needs, and their geographical location.
  • Describe the size of the market, the units of the company’s products that potential customers may buy, and the market changes that may occur due to overall economic changes.
  • Give an overview of the estimated sales volume vis-à-vis what competitors sell.
  • Give a plan on how the company plans to combat the existing competition to gain and retain market share.

Section 4: Sales and Marketing Plan

  • Describe the products that the company will offer for sale and its unique selling proposition.
  • List the different advertising platforms that the business will use to get its message to customers.
  • Describe how the business plans to price its products in a way that allows it to make a profit.
  • Give details on how the company’s products will be distributed to the target market and the shipping method.

Section 5: Management Plan

  • Describe the organizational structure of the company.
  • List the owners of the company and their ownership percentages.
  • List the key executives, their roles, and remuneration.
  • List any internal and external professionals that the company plans to hire, and how they will be compensated.
  • Include a list of the members of the advisory board, if available.

Section 6: Operating Plan

  • Describe the location of the business, including office and warehouse requirements.
  • Describe the labor requirement of the company. Outline the number of staff that the company needs, their roles, skills training needed, and employee tenures (full-time or part-time).
  • Describe the manufacturing process, and the time it will take to produce one unit of a product.
  • Describe the equipment and machinery requirements, and if the company will lease or purchase equipment and machinery, and the related costs that the company estimates it will incur.
  • Provide a list of raw material requirements, how they will be sourced, and the main suppliers that will supply the required inputs.

Section 7: Financial Plan

  • Describe the financial projections of the company, by including the projected income statement, projected cash flow statement, and the balance sheet projection.

Section 8: Appendices and Exhibits

  • Quotes of building and machinery leases
  • Proposed office and warehouse plan
  • Market research and a summary of the target market
  • Credit information of the owners
  • List of product and/or services

Related Readings

Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to Business Plans. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following CFI resources will be helpful:

  • Corporate Structure
  • Three Financial Statements
  • Business Model Canvas Examples
  • See all management & strategy resources
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Simple Business Plan Template Of 2024

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Simple Business Plan Template Of 2024

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Why business plans are vital, get your free simple business plan template, write an effective business plan in 6 steps.

Business plans are vital in helping you establish your goals and define the means by which they can be achieved . Our simple business plan template covers everything you need to consider when launching a side gig, solo operation or small business. By following this step-by-step process, you might even uncover a few alternative routes to success.

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Whether you’re a first-time solopreneur or a seasoned business owner, the planning process challenges you to examine the costs and tasks involved in bringing a product or service to market. The process can also help you spot new income opportunities and hone in on the most profitable business models.

Though vital, business planning doesn’t have to be a chore. Business plans for lean start-ups and solo traders can simply outline the business concept, sales proposition, target customers and sketch out a plan of action to bring the product or service to market.

However, if you’re seeking start-up funding or partnership opportunities, you’ll need a  write a business plan  that details market research, operating costs and revenue forecasting.

Whichever startup category you fall into, if you’re at square one, our simple business plan template can help point you down the right path.

Copy our free simple business plan template so you can fill in the blanks as we explore each element of your business plan. Need help getting your ideas flowing? You’ll also find several startup scenario examples below.

Download free template as .docx

Whether you need a quick-launch overview or an in-depth plan for investors, any business plan should cover the six key elements outlined in our free template and explained below.

The main difference in  starting a small business  versus an investor-funded business is the market research and operational and financial details needed to support the concept.

1. Your mission or vision

Begin by declaring a “dream statement” for your business. You can call this your executive summary, vision statement or mission. Whatever the name, the first part of your business plan summarises your idea by answering five questions. Keep it brief, such as an elevator pitch. You’ll expand these answers in the following sections of the simple business plan template.

  • What does your business do?  Are you selling products, services, information or a combination?
  • Where does this happen?  Will you conduct business online, in-store, via mobile means or in a specific location or environment?
  • Who does your business benefit?  Who is your target market and ideal customer for your concept?
  • Why would potential customers care?  What would make your ideal customers take notice of your business?
  • How do your products and/or services outshine the competition?  What would make your ideal customers choose you over a competitor?

These answers come easily if you have a solid concept for your business, but don’t worry if you get stuck. Use the rest of your plan template to brainstorm ideas and tactics. You’ll quickly find these answers and possibly new directions as you explore your ideas and options.

2. Offer and value proposition

This is where you detail your offer, such as selling products, providing services or both, and why anyone would care. That’s the value proposition. Specifically, you’ll expand on your answers to the first and fourth bullets from your mission/vision.

As you complete this section, you might find that exploring value propositions uncovers marketable business opportunities that you hadn’t yet considered. So spend some time brainstorming the possibilities in this section.

For example, a cottage baker startup specialising in gluten-free or keto-friendly products might be a value proposition that certain audiences care deeply about.

Plus, you could expand on that value proposition by offering wedding and other special-occasion cakes that incorporate gluten-free, keto-friendly and traditional cake elements that all guests can enjoy.

3. Audience and ideal customer

Here is where you explore bullet point number three, who your business will benefit. Identifying your ideal customer and exploring a broader audience for your goods or services is essential in defining your sales and marketing strategies, plus it helps fine-tune what you offer.

There are many ways to research potential audiences, but a shortcut is to simply identify a problem that people have that your product or service can solve. If you start from the position of being a problem solver, it’s easy to define your audience and describe the wants and needs of your ideal customer for marketing efforts.

Using the cottage baker start-up example, a problem people might have is finding fresh-baked gluten-free or keto-friendly sweets. Examining the wants and needs of these people might reveal a target audience that is health-conscious or possibly dealing with health issues and willing to spend more for hard-to-find items.

However, it’s essential to have a customer base that can support your business. You can be too specialised. For example, our baker startup can attract a broader audience and boost revenue by offering a wider selection of traditional baked goods alongside its gluten-free specialties.

4. Revenue streams, sales channels and marketing

Thanks to our internet-driven economy, start-ups have many revenue opportunities and can connect with target audiences through various channels. Revenue streams and sales channels also serve as marketing vehicles, so you can cover all three in this section.

Revenue streams

Revenue streams are the many ways you can make money in your business. In your plan template, list how you’ll make money upon launch, plus include ideas for future expansion. The income possibilities just might surprise you.

For example, our cottage baker startup might consider these revenue streams:

  • Product sales : Online, pop-up shops, wholesale and (future) in-store sales
  • Affiliate income : Monetise blog and social media posts with affiliate links
  • Advertising income : Reserve website space for advertising
  • E-book sales : (future) Publish recipe e-books targeting gluten-free and keto-friendly dessert niches
  • Video income : (future) Monetise a YouTube channel featuring how-to videos for the gluten-free and keto-friendly dessert niches
  • Webinars and online classes : (future) Monetise coaching-style webinars and online classes covering specialty baking tips and techniques
  • Members-only content : (future) Monetise a members-only section of the website for specialty content to complement webinars and online classes
  • Franchise : (future) Monetise a specialty cottage bakery concept and sell to franchise entrepreneurs.

Sales channels

Sales channels put your revenue streams into action. This section also answers the “where will this happen” question in the second bullet of your vision.

The product sales channels for our cottage bakery example can include:

  • Mobile point-of-sale (POS) : A  mobile platform  such as Shopify or Square POS for managing in-person sales at local farmers’ markets, fairs and festivals
  • E-commerce platform : An  online store  such as Shopify, Square or WooCommerce for online retail sales and wholesale sales orders
  • Social media channels : Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest shoppable posts and pins for online sales via  social media channels
  • Bricks-and-mortar location : For  in-store sales , once the business has grown to a point that it can support a physical location.

Channels that support other income streams might include:

  • Affiliate income :  Blog section  on the e-commerce website and affiliate partner accounts
  • Advertising income : Reserved advertising spaces on the e-commerce website
  • E-book sales : Amazon e-book sales via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
  • Video income : YouTube channel with ad monetisation
  • Webinars and online classes : Online class and webinar platforms that support member accounts, recordings and playback
  • Members-only content : Password-protected website content using membership apps such as MemberPress.

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Nowadays, the line between marketing and sales channels is blurred. Social media outlets, e-books, websites, blogs and videos serve as both marketing tools and income opportunities. Since most are free and those with advertising options are extremely economical, these are ideal marketing outlets for lean startups.

However, many businesses still find value in traditional advertising such as local radio, television, direct mail, newspapers and magazines. You can include these advertising costs in your simple business plan template to help build a marketing plan and budget.

simple business plan content

5. Structure, suppliers and operations

This section of your simple business plan template explores how to structure and operate your business. Details include the type of business organisation your startup will take, roles and responsibilities, supplier logistics and day-to-day operations. Also, include any certifications or permits needed to launch your enterprise in this section.

Our cottage baker example might use a structure and startup plan such as this:

  • Business structure : Sole trader with a view to expand
  • Permits and certifications : Local authority-issued food handling permit and food certification for home-based food production. Option, check into certified commercial kitchen rentals
  • Roles and responsibilities : Solopreneur, all roles and responsibilities with the owner
  • Supply chain : Bulk ingredients and food packaging via Amazon Prime, for example, with annual membership costs
  • Day-to-day operations : Source ingredients and bake three days per week to fulfill local and online orders. Reserve time for specialty sales, wholesale partner orders and market events as needed. Ship online orders on alternating days. Update website and create marketing and affiliate blog posts on non-shipping days.

6. Financial forecasts

Your final task is to list forecasted business startup and ongoing costs and profit projections in your simple business plan template. Thanks to free business tools such as Square and free marketing on social media, lean startups can launch with few upfront costs. In many cases, the cost of goods, shipping and packaging, business permits or licences, and printing for business cards are your only out-of-pocket expenses.

Cost forecast

Set out a clear cost forecast with costs ranging from raw ingredients to marketing, POS systems and packaging leaving no stone unturned.

This exercise will help you determine the retail prices and sales volume required to keep your business running and, hopefully, earn income for yourself.

Use product research to spot target retail prices for your goods, then subtract your cost of goods, such as hourly rate, raw goods and supplier costs. The total amount is your gross profit per item or service.

Bottom line

Putting careful thought and detail in a business plan is always beneficial, but don’t get so bogged down in planning that you never hit the start button to  launch your business .

Also, remember that business plans aren’t set in stone. Markets, audiences and technologies change, and so will your goals and means of achieving them. Think of your business plan as a living document and regularly revisit, expand and restructure it as market opportunities and business growth demand.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is there a template for a business plan.

You can copy our  free business plan template and fill in the blanks or customise it in Google Docs, Microsoft Word or another word processing app.

This free business plan template includes the six key elements that any entrepreneur needs to consider when launching a new business.

What does a simple business plan include?

A simple business plan is a one- to two-page overview covering six key elements that any budding entrepreneur needs to consider when launching a start-up.

These include your vision or mission, product or service offering, target audience, revenue streams and sales channels, structure and operations, and financial forecasts.

How can I create a free business plan template?

Start with our  free business plan template  that covers the six essential elements of a startup.

Once downloaded, you can edit this document in Google Docs or another word processing app and add new sections or subsections to your plan template to meet your specific business plan needs.

What basic items should be included in a business plan?

When writing out a business plan, you want to make sure that you cover everything related to your concept for the business.

This includes an analysis of the industry―including potential customers and an overview of the market for your goods or services―how you plan to execute your vision for the business, how you plan to grow the business if it becomes successful.

It also includes all financial data around the business, including current cash on hand, potential investors and budget plans for the next few years.

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Writing an Effective One-Page Business Plan: What You Need to Know (+ Free Template)

By Homebase Team

Person writing in a notebook

If you’ve started—or are starting—a small business, you’ve probably heard the words ‘business plan’ thrown around. That’s because a business plan is an important document with important information! Even a one-page business plan can help you address key questions early in the planning process.

That’s right—we said  one page. In many cases, there’s no need for a supermassive document that takes ages to create. In this article, we walk you through what a good business plan needs—and what a business plan one-pager should contain. 

Whether you’re writing your business plan for the first time or giving your existing plan a refresh, we’ve got your back. We’ve even got a free, downloadable business plan template to help you get started. Let’s get into it!

Why do you need a business plan?

A business plan is a blueprint for your business. It outlines everything your business needs, from goals to market to the steps you need to implement.

Business plans serve two main purposes:

  • To help you set your business up for success. As you put together your business plan, you’ll be forced to think strategically about all your business goals and activities . Are they realistic? Is something likely to go wrong? What haven’t you thought of? The goal is for you to walk away feeling confident in the future of your business.
  • To communicate the value of your business to others. It’s rare that entrepreneurs like yourself will go it 100% alone. You’ll likely work with partners, investors, or vendors to bring your small business to life. A business plan gives your collaborators confidence in you and your business and helps them support you in the best way possible.

Taking the time to create a business plan can feel like you’re wasting all-too-precious time, but it can help keep you focused and increase efficiency down the road. It’ll also help you make better business decisions off the bat so you can grow your small business quickly and wisely. 

What are the 7 main points in a business plan?

Every business plan is unique, which is part of the reason writing one can feel a tad overwhelming. You can’t just copy and paste the plan from another business—instead, you need to assess your business’s idea within its niche.

Luckily, the skeleton of every plan is usually very similar. Whether you’re creating a plan for a neighborhood daycare or that cool new bar down the street , here are a few main points to put into any comprehensive business plan.

1. Executive summary

Your executive summary is an overview of your business plan. 

Think about this section like a TL;DR or too long, don’t read . If someone wants to understand the gist of your business plan in just a few minutes, what information would they need to know?

If you find yourself just sharing your executive summary with your business’s interested parties, it may be that your business plan is too long! Consider a one-page business plan as your business’s elevator pitch, or a longer executive summary.

2. Company overview and description

In this section, you should introduce your business to the reader. By the time they finish reading this section, they should have a good idea of who you are, what you do, and what you sell—in other words, your business’s niche.

Don’t be afraid to dive into your own background and why you decided to start this business. Building a small business is personal, and your story can go a long way in giving the reader some context.

3. Market and competitive analysis

Every business needs customers. Here’s where you’ll detail who they are and the potential target market of your business, including your ideal customer.

You’ll also want to take note of potential competitors that may impact your business. These might be direct competitors, but could also be similar businesses that may compete for your customers’ time and money. For example, if you’re opening a cycling studio, you might consider any other type of fitness studio to be a competitor.

Competition isn’t a bad thing, but being aware of your competition is one way to ensure your business stands out from the crowd. 

4. Business offerings

Here’s where you’ll outline what products or services your business will offer in more detail. It doesn’t have to be a complete laundry list, but it should give readers a general idea and show a certain degree of forethought and attention to details.

For example, if you’re opening a bakery , this might be a sample of your menu. Or if you’re an HVAC repair company , you might share an overview of the services you’ll offer your customers. This section might even mention the products or services you won’t offer and why, especially if it helps clarify how your business is unique.

5. Management and operational plan

From managing employees and inventory to securing equipment and a lease, there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. Every business plan should touch on how you’ll manage the day-to-day of your business.

This is also a great place to indicate key milestones and timelines so you know that you’re on track for a successful grand opening. 

6. Sales, marketing, and PR strategy

Now that you’ve got all the research and operational plans in place , it’s time to start attracting customers and securing those sales. Even with the best products or services in town, every business can use a little marketing boost. Feel free to get creative. From social media to paid ads, there are tons of ways you can spread the word about your budding business . 

7. Financial forecast and budget

No one loves to crunch financials, but when it comes to business, money talks. And a strong financial plan is key to the long-term success of your business.

This final section of your business plan should estimate the costs, revenue, and profits of your business in the short and long term. How do you plan to finance your business? What costs will you incur before opening day ? What are the ongoing costs?

Not only will this give your vendors and investors confidence in your business, but it helps you make sure that your business is profitable in the long run.

What is a one-page business plan?

A one-page business plan is essentially a condensed version of a full business plan.  

It covers all the core information about your business without overwhelming the reader with details. The goal is to summarize your business plan for yourself and potential stakeholders so they can understand your business at a glance.

Depending on your business needs, this concise document may even be all you need to get your business off the ground. Or it could serve as a stepping stone to a more robust plan in the future. 

Top benefits of a one-page business plan.

Bigger isn’t always better—and one-page business plans are here to prove it.

Here are some benefits and reasons why you might opt for a one-page business plan:

  • To kickstart your business planning: A full business plan can be incredibly daunting. A one-page business plan gives you a place to start without feeling overwhelmed with the nitty gritty. 
  • To share and distribute: Sometimes potential vendors, partners, or investors want to get more information about your business before they sign on officially. Instead of leaving them with a massive document, a one-page business plan helps you share the relevant need-to-know information easily.
  • To focus on the key details: If you’re early on in the business ideation process and want to make sure you have all the important information, a one-page business plan can help you easily validate your business plan.
  • To save time: In the long term, you may still expect to put together a full business plan at some point. However, if you’re in a time crunch, a one-page plan can help you get the important insights without the time commitment.
  • To easily edit: In an ever-changing business environment, a one-page business plan is much easier to keep updated. 

Key details to include in a one-page business plan.

Above, we outlined the key components of any business plan. The key with a one-pager is to keep it brief without losing any of those important details. 

Let’s look at the sections of a business plan one-pager and dig into how you can adapt them to cover all the details of your business—all on one page. 

Summary and overview

Start your one-page plan by sharing the name of your business, what you do, and your main value proposition.

The problem—and your solution

In a few sentences, share the problem that your business solves and how you solve it. This clarifies why your business should exist, so it’s an important section!

Depending on your business, you may also want to share a few of your team members to help readers put a face to your business. Great examples include the executive chef for a restaurant, or the lead veterinarian for your vet clinic.

Target market

Briefly describe who you expect to be a customer and their characteristics. This could be in the form of a short “ideal customer” profile.

Competitor overview

Here, you’ll touch on potential competitors and what makes your business stand out.

Business timeline

Share the key milestones for your business. For example, pitch when you’ll start marketing your business, when you’ll hire employees , and when you expect to open.

Sales and marketing plan

Here, you’ll quickly highlight the key marketing activities that you’ll use to drive new customers to your business. Try to stick to the most interesting or high-value stuff, like a website or social media .

Financial projections

Outline your expected revenue , expenses, and profits to give the reader an idea of your financial future.

Our tips for creating a one-page business plan.

If you’ve ever written something with a limited word count, you know that sometimes keeping things concise can be easier said than done.

As you get writing your one-page business plan, here are some of our top tips so you can make the most of that one page.

  • Focus on the need-to-know information.
  • Avoid fluff and keep your sentences short.
  • Link out to additional resources and material if more information is necessary.
  • Don’t be afraid to strategically incorporate visuals to emphasize the important points.
  • Feel free to up sections or have different versions of your one-page business plan based on who’s reading it. 
  • Get creative with formatting to keep information organized.

One-page business plan example.

If you’re skeptical that all that information can fit on one page—we have proof!  Here’s an example that you can use to start thinking about your business plan.

Example of business plan

Download our free one-page business plan template.

A one-page business plan is one of the most important pages you’ll write for your business. While there’s a lot to think about, it’s worth the effort to give both you and your partners peace of mind.

The good news is that we’ve done the heavy lifting for you! If the above one-pager looks good to you, we’ve pulled it together as a download for you. All that’s left for you to customize it for your unique business, fill in the sections, and get ready to launch your business.

Download your one-page business plan template PDF

As you think about starting your business, think about how you’re going to keep track of your team! Get your business on track with one app to manage everything from employee scheduling to team communication.

Get your team in sync with our easy-to-use, all-in-one employee app.

One-page business plan FAQs

Why should you create a business plan.

There are several reasons you should create a business plan, such as:

  • Improving your decision-making as you start and grow your business.
  • Setting realistic goals and timelines.
  • Attracting top-notch suppliers, investors, and even employees.
  • Keeping your business profitable and your financials in order.

What types of companies need a business plan?

From brand-new small businesses to established corporations, companies of all shapes and sizes need a business plan. It’s a key part of setting your business up for success and improving your business trajectory.

Even if you already have a business plan in place, revisiting it from time to time can help you stay on track with your goals and adapt as your business changes.

Can a business plan be one page?

Yes, in many cases a business page can be one page. The trick to creating an effective one-page business plan is making sure that you’re covering the most important pieces of information. 

Our top tips? Keep it as concise and organized as possible, so you can effectively communicate the value of your business to your audience.

Writing a one-page business plan is simple. You can create a business plan from scratch or use a free template like the one above to stay on track, but generally, the steps to writing a one-page business plan include:

  • Start with a short executive summary and value proposition to introduce your business.
  • Share the problem your business solves and your solution.
  • Give an outline of top competitors and how your business compares.
  • Create a timeline of key milestones.
  • Outline your sales and marketing plan for attracting customers.
  • Summarize your financial projections and funding plans.

Remember:  This is not legal advice. If you have questions about your particular situation, please consult a lawyer, CPA, or other appropriate professional advisor or agency.

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How to Write a Business Plan: Your Step-by-Step Guide

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So, you’ve got an idea and you want to start a business —great! Before you do anything else, like seek funding or build out a team, you'll need to know how to write a business plan. This plan will serve as the foundation of your company while also giving investors and future employees a clear idea of your purpose.

Below, Lauren Cobello, Founder and CEO of Leverage with Media PR , gives her best advice on how to make a business plan for your company.

Build your dream business with the help of a high-paying job—browse open jobs on The Muse »

What is a business plan, and when do you need one?

According to Cobello, a business plan is a document that contains the mission of the business and a brief overview of it, as well as the objectives, strategies, and financial plans of the founder. A business plan comes into play very early on in the process of starting a company—more or less before you do anything else.

“You should start a company with a business plan in mind—especially if you plan to get funding for the company,” Cobello says. “You’re going to need it.”

Whether that funding comes from a loan, an investor, or crowdsourcing, a business plan is imperative to secure the capital, says the U.S. Small Business Administration . Anyone who’s considering giving you money is going to want to review your business plan before doing so. That means before you head into any meeting, make sure you have physical copies of your business plan to share.

Different types of business plans

The four main types of business plans are:

Startup Business Plans

Internal business plans, strategic business plans, one-page business plans.

Let's break down each one:

If you're wondering how to write a business plan for a startup, Cobello has advice for you. Startup business plans are the most common type, she says, and they are a critical tool for new business ventures that want funding. A startup is defined as a company that’s in its first stages of operations, founded by an entrepreneur who has a product or service idea.

Most startups begin with very little money, so they need a strong business plan to convince family, friends, banks, and/or venture capitalists to invest in the new company.

Internal business plans “are for internal use only,” says Cobello. This kind of document is not public-facing, only company-facing, and it contains an outline of the company’s business strategy, financial goals and budgets, and performance data.

Internal business plans aren’t used to secure funding, but rather to set goals and get everyone working there tracking towards them.

As the name implies, strategic business plans are geared more towards strategy and they include an assessment of the current business landscape, notes Jérôme Côté, a Business Advisor at BDC Advisory Services .

Unlike a traditional business plan, Cobello adds, strategic plans include a SWOT analysis (which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and an in-depth action plan for the next six to 12 months. Strategic plans are action-based and take into account the state of the company and the industry in which it exists.

Although a typical business plan falls between 15 to 30 pages, some companies opt for the much shorter One-Page Business Plan. A one-page business plan is a simplified version of the larger business plan, and it focuses on the problem your product or service is solving, the solution (your product), and your business model (how you’ll make money).

A one-page plan is hyper-direct and easy to read, making it an effective tool for businesses of all sizes, at any stage.

How to create a business plan in 7 steps

Every business plan is different, and the steps you take to complete yours will depend on what type and format you choose. That said, if you need a place to start and appreciate a roadmap, here’s what Cobello recommends:

1. Conduct your research

Before writing your business plan, you’ll want to do a thorough investigation of what’s out there. Who will be the competitors for your product or service? Who is included in the target market? What industry trends are you capitalizing on, or rebuking? You want to figure out where you sit in the market and what your company’s value propositions are. What makes you different—and better?

2. Define your purpose for the business plan

The purpose of your business plan will determine which kind of plan you choose to create. Are you trying to drum up funding, or get the company employees focused on specific goals? (For the former, you’d want a startup business plan, while an internal plan would satisfy the latter.) Also, consider your audience. An investment firm that sees hundreds of potential business plans a day may prefer to see a one-pager upfront and, if they’re interested, a longer plan later.

3. Write your company description

Every business plan needs a company description—aka a summary of the company’s purpose, what they do/offer, and what makes it unique. Company descriptions should be clear and concise, avoiding the use of jargon, Cobello says. Ideally, descriptions should be a few paragraphs at most.

4. Explain and show how the company will make money

A business plan should be centered around the company’s goals, and it should clearly explain how the company will generate revenue. To do this, Cobello recommends using actual numbers and details, as opposed to just projections.

For instance, if the company is already making money, show how much and at what cost (e.g. what was the net profit). If it hasn’t generated revenue yet, outline the plan for how it will—including what the product/service will cost to produce and how much it will cost the consumer.

5. Outline your marketing strategy

How will you promote the business? Through what channels will you be promoting it? How are you going to reach and appeal to your target market? The more specific and thorough you can be with your plans here, the better, Cobello says.

6. Explain how you’ll spend your funding

What will you do with the money you raise? What are the first steps you plan to take? As a founder, you want to instill confidence in your investors and show them that the instant you receive their money, you’ll be taking smart actions that grow the company.

7. Include supporting documents

Creating a business plan is in some ways akin to building a legal case, but for your business. “You want to tell a story, and to be as thorough as possible, while keeping your plan succinct, clear, interesting, and visually appealing,” Cobello says. “Supporting documents could include financial projects, a competitive analysis of the market you’re entering into, and even any licenses, patents, or permits you’ve secured.”

A business plan is an individualized document—it’s ultimately up to you what information to include and what story you tell. But above all, Cobello says, your business plan should have a clear focus and goal in mind, because everything else will build off this cornerstone.

“Many people don’t realize how important business plans are for the health of their company,” she says. “Set aside time to make this a priority for your business, and make sure to keep it updated as you grow.”

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