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What Is a Business Plan?

Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

small business plan definition

A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
  • There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."

Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.

Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.

While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.

While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.

Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.

The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.

These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:

  • Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
  • Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
  • Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
  • Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.

The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.

Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.

A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

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What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates

AJ Beltis

Published: June 07, 2023

In an era where more than 20% of small enterprises fail in their first year, having a clear, defined, and well-thought-out business plan is a crucial first step for setting up a business for long-term success.

Business plan graphic with business owner, lightbulb, and pens to symbolize coming up with ideas and writing a business plan.

Business plans are a required tool for all entrepreneurs, business owners, business acquirers, and even business school students. But … what exactly is a business plan?


In this post, we'll explain what a business plan is, the reasons why you'd need one, identify different types of business plans, and what you should include in yours.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a documented strategy for a business that highlights its goals and its plans for achieving them. It outlines a company's go-to-market plan, financial projections, market research, business purpose, and mission statement. Key staff who are responsible for achieving the goals may also be included in the business plan along with a timeline.

The business plan is an undeniably critical component to getting any company off the ground. It's key to securing financing, documenting your business model, outlining your financial projections, and turning that nugget of a business idea into a reality.

What is a business plan used for?

The purpose of a business plan is three-fold: It summarizes the organization’s strategy in order to execute it long term, secures financing from investors, and helps forecast future business demands.

Business Plan Template [ Download Now ]


Working on your business plan? Try using our Business Plan Template . Pre-filled with the sections a great business plan needs, the template will give aspiring entrepreneurs a feel for what a business plan is, what should be in it, and how it can be used to establish and grow a business from the ground up.

Purposes of a Business Plan

Chances are, someone drafting a business plan will be doing so for one or more of the following reasons:

1. Securing financing from investors.

Since its contents revolve around how businesses succeed, break even, and turn a profit, a business plan is used as a tool for sourcing capital. This document is an entrepreneur's way of showing potential investors or lenders how their capital will be put to work and how it will help the business thrive.

All banks, investors, and venture capital firms will want to see a business plan before handing over their money, and investors typically expect a 10% ROI or more from the capital they invest in a business.

Therefore, these investors need to know if — and when — they'll be making their money back (and then some). Additionally, they'll want to read about the process and strategy for how the business will reach those financial goals, which is where the context provided by sales, marketing, and operations plans come into play.

2. Documenting a company's strategy and goals.

A business plan should leave no stone unturned.

Business plans can span dozens or even hundreds of pages, affording their drafters the opportunity to explain what a business' goals are and how the business will achieve them.

To show potential investors that they've addressed every question and thought through every possible scenario, entrepreneurs should thoroughly explain their marketing, sales, and operations strategies — from acquiring a physical location for the business to explaining a tactical approach for marketing penetration.

These explanations should ultimately lead to a business' break-even point supported by a sales forecast and financial projections, with the business plan writer being able to speak to the why behind anything outlined in the plan.

small business plan definition

Free Business Plan Template

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

  • Outline your idea.
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You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Free Business Plan [Template]

Fill out the form to access your free business plan., 3. legitimizing a business idea..

Everyone's got a great idea for a company — until they put pen to paper and realize that it's not exactly feasible.

A business plan is an aspiring entrepreneur's way to prove that a business idea is actually worth pursuing.

As entrepreneurs document their go-to-market process, capital needs, and expected return on investment, entrepreneurs likely come across a few hiccups that will make them second guess their strategies and metrics — and that's exactly what the business plan is for.

It ensures an entrepreneur's ducks are in a row before bringing their business idea to the world and reassures the readers that whoever wrote the plan is serious about the idea, having put hours into thinking of the business idea, fleshing out growth tactics, and calculating financial projections.

4. Getting an A in your business class.

Speaking from personal experience, there's a chance you're here to get business plan ideas for your Business 101 class project.

If that's the case, might we suggest checking out this post on How to Write a Business Plan — providing a section-by-section guide on creating your plan?

What does a business plan need to include?

  • Business Plan Subtitle
  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • The Business Opportunity
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Target Market
  • Marketing Plan
  • Financial Summary
  • Funding Requirements

1. Business Plan Subtitle

Every great business plan starts with a captivating title and subtitle. You’ll want to make it clear that the document is, in fact, a business plan, but the subtitle can help tell the story of your business in just a short sentence.

2. Executive Summary

Although this is the last part of the business plan that you’ll write, it’s the first section (and maybe the only section) that stakeholders will read. The executive summary of a business plan sets the stage for the rest of the document. It includes your company’s mission or vision statement, value proposition, and long-term goals.

3. Company Description

This brief part of your business plan will detail your business name, years in operation, key offerings, and positioning statement. You might even add core values or a short history of the company. The company description’s role in a business plan is to introduce your business to the reader in a compelling and concise way.

4. The Business Opportunity

The business opportunity should convince investors that your organization meets the needs of the market in a way that no other company can. This section explains the specific problem your business solves within the marketplace and how it solves them. It will include your value proposition as well as some high-level information about your target market.


5. Competitive Analysis

Just about every industry has more than one player in the market. Even if your business owns the majority of the market share in your industry or your business concept is the first of its kind, you still have competition. In the competitive analysis section, you’ll take an objective look at the industry landscape to determine where your business fits. A SWOT analysis is an organized way to format this section.

6. Target Market

Who are the core customers of your business and why? The target market portion of your business plan outlines this in detail. The target market should explain the demographics, psychographics, behavioristics, and geographics of the ideal customer.

7. Marketing Plan

Marketing is expansive, and it’ll be tempting to cover every type of marketing possible, but a brief overview of how you’ll market your unique value proposition to your target audience, followed by a tactical plan will suffice.

Think broadly and narrow down from there: Will you focus on a slow-and-steady play where you make an upfront investment in organic customer acquisition? Or will you generate lots of quick customers using a pay-to-play advertising strategy? This kind of information should guide the marketing plan section of your business plan.

8. Financial Summary

Money doesn’t grow on trees and even the most digital, sustainable businesses have expenses. Outlining a financial summary of where your business is currently and where you’d like it to be in the future will substantiate this section. Consider including any monetary information that will give potential investors a glimpse into the financial health of your business. Assets, liabilities, expenses, debt, investments, revenue, and more are all useful adds here.

So, you’ve outlined some great goals, the business opportunity is valid, and the industry is ready for what you have to offer. Who’s responsible for turning all this high-level talk into results? The "team" section of your business plan answers that question by providing an overview of the roles responsible for each goal. Don’t worry if you don’t have every team member on board yet, knowing what roles to hire for is helpful as you seek funding from investors.

10. Funding Requirements

Remember that one of the goals of a business plan is to secure funding from investors, so you’ll need to include funding requirements you’d like them to fulfill. The amount your business needs, for what reasons, and for how long will meet the requirement for this section.

Types of Business Plans

  • Startup Business Plan
  • Feasibility Business Plan
  • Internal Business Plan
  • Strategic Business Plan
  • Business Acquisition Plan
  • Business Repositioning Plan
  • Expansion or Growth Business Plan

There’s no one size fits all business plan as there are several types of businesses in the market today. From startups with just one founder to historic household names that need to stay competitive, every type of business needs a business plan that’s tailored to its needs. Below are a few of the most common types of business plans.

For even more examples, check out these sample business plans to help you write your own .

1. Startup Business Plan


As one of the most common types of business plans, a startup business plan is for new business ideas. This plan lays the foundation for the eventual success of a business.

The biggest challenge with the startup business plan is that it’s written completely from scratch. Startup business plans often reference existing industry data. They also explain unique business strategies and go-to-market plans.

Because startup business plans expand on an original idea, the contents will vary by the top priority goals.

For example, say a startup is looking for funding. If capital is a priority, this business plan might focus more on financial projections than marketing or company culture.

2. Feasibility Business Plan


This type of business plan focuses on a single essential aspect of the business — the product or service. It may be part of a startup business plan or a standalone plan for an existing organization. This comprehensive plan may include:

  • A detailed product description
  • Market analysis
  • Technology needs
  • Production needs
  • Financial sources
  • Production operations

According to CBInsights research, 35% of startups fail because of a lack of market need. Another 10% fail because of mistimed products.

Some businesses will complete a feasibility study to explore ideas and narrow product plans to the best choice. They conduct these studies before completing the feasibility business plan. Then the feasibility plan centers on that one product or service.

3. Internal Business Plan


Internal business plans help leaders communicate company goals, strategy, and performance. This helps the business align and work toward objectives more effectively.

Besides the typical elements in a startup business plan, an internal business plan may also include:

  • Department-specific budgets
  • Target demographic analysis
  • Market size and share of voice analysis
  • Action plans
  • Sustainability plans

Most external-facing business plans focus on raising capital and support for a business. But an internal business plan helps keep the business mission consistent in the face of change.

4. Strategic Business Plan


Strategic business plans focus on long-term objectives for your business. They usually cover the first three to five years of operations. This is different from the typical startup business plan which focuses on the first one to three years. The audience for this plan is also primarily internal stakeholders.

These types of business plans may include:

  • Relevant data and analysis
  • Assessments of company resources
  • Vision and mission statements

It's important to remember that, while many businesses create a strategic plan before launching, some business owners just jump in. So, this business plan can add value by outlining how your business plans to reach specific goals. This type of planning can also help a business anticipate future challenges.

5. Business Acquisition Plan


Investors use business plans to acquire existing businesses, too — not just new businesses.

A business acquisition plan may include costs, schedules, or management requirements. This data will come from an acquisition strategy.

A business plan for an existing company will explain:

  • How an acquisition will change its operating model
  • What will stay the same under new ownership
  • Why things will change or stay the same
  • Acquisition planning documentation
  • Timelines for acquisition

Additionally, the business plan should speak to the current state of the business and why it's up for sale.

For example, if someone is purchasing a failing business, the business plan should explain why the business is being purchased. It should also include:

  • What the new owner will do to turn the business around
  • Historic business metrics
  • Sales projections after the acquisition
  • Justification for those projections

6. Business Repositioning Plan

businessplan_6 (1)

When a business wants to avoid acquisition, reposition its brand, or try something new, CEOs or owners will develop a business repositioning plan.

This plan will:

  • Acknowledge the current state of the company.
  • State a vision for the future of the company.
  • Explain why the business needs to reposition itself.
  • Outline a process for how the company will adjust.

Companies planning for a business reposition often do so — proactively or retroactively — due to a shift in market trends and customer needs.

For example, shoe brand AllBirds plans to refocus its brand on core customers and shift its go-to-market strategy. These decisions are a reaction to lackluster sales following product changes and other missteps.

7. Expansion or Growth Business Plan

When your business is ready to expand, a growth business plan creates a useful structure for reaching specific targets.

For example, a successful business expanding into another location can use a growth business plan. This is because it may also mean the business needs to focus on a new target market or generate more capital.

This type of plan usually covers the next year or two of growth. It often references current sales, revenue, and successes. It may also include:

  • SWOT analysis
  • Growth opportunity studies
  • Financial goals and plans
  • Marketing plans
  • Capability planning

These types of business plans will vary by business, but they can help businesses quickly rally around new priorities to drive growth.

Getting Started With Your Business Plan

At the end of the day, a business plan is simply an explanation of a business idea and why it will be successful. The more detail and thought you put into it, the more successful your plan — and the business it outlines — will be.

When writing your business plan, you’ll benefit from extensive research, feedback from your team or board of directors, and a solid template to organize your thoughts. If you need one of these, download HubSpot's Free Business Plan Template below to get started.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.


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What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained

Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.

small business plan definition

What is a business plan? It’s the roadmap for your business. The outline of your goals, objectives, and the steps you’ll take to get there. It describes the structure of your organization, how it operates, as well as the financial expectations and actual performance. 

A business plan can help you explore ideas, successfully start a business, manage operations, and pursue growth. In short, a business plan is a lot of different things. It’s more than just a stack of paper and can be one of your most effective tools as a business owner. 

Let’s explore the basics of business planning, the structure of a traditional plan, your planning options, and how you can use your plan to succeed. 

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a document that explains how your business operates. It summarizes your business structure, objectives, milestones, and financial performance. Again, it’s a guide that helps you, and anyone else, better understand how your business will succeed.  

Why do you need a business plan?

The primary purpose of a business plan is to help you understand the direction of your business and the steps it will take to get there. Having a solid business plan can help you grow up to 30% faster and according to our own 2021 Small Business research working on a business plan increases confidence regarding business health—even in the midst of a crisis. 

These benefits are directly connected to how writing a business plan makes you more informed and better prepares you for entrepreneurship. It helps you reduce risk and avoid pursuing potentially poor ideas. You’ll also be able to more easily uncover your business’s potential. By regularly returning to your plan you can understand what parts of your strategy are working and those that are not.

That just scratches the surface for why having a plan is valuable. Check out our full write-up for fifteen more reasons why you need a business plan .  

What can you do with your plan?

So what can you do with a business plan once you’ve created it? It can be all too easy to write a plan and just let it be. Here are just a few ways you can leverage your plan to benefit your business.

Test an idea

Writing a plan isn’t just for those that are ready to start a business. It’s just as valuable for those that have an idea and want to determine if it’s actually possible or not. By writing a plan to explore the validity of an idea, you are working through the process of understanding what it would take to be successful. 

The market and competitive research alone can tell you a lot about your idea. Is the marketplace too crowded? Is the solution you have in mind not really needed? Add in the exploration of milestones, potential expenses, and the sales needed to attain profitability and you can paint a pretty clear picture of the potential of your business.

Document your strategy and goals

For those starting or managing a business understanding where you’re going and how you’re going to get there are vital. Writing your plan helps you do that. It ensures that you are considering all aspects of your business, know what milestones you need to hit, and can effectively make adjustments if that doesn’t happen. 

With a plan in place, you’ll have an idea of where you want your business to go as well as how you’ve performed in the past. This alone better prepares you to take on challenges, review what you’ve done before, and make the right adjustments.

Pursue funding

Even if you do not intend to pursue funding right away, having a business plan will prepare you for it. It will ensure that you have all of the information necessary to submit a loan application and pitch to investors. So, rather than scrambling to gather documentation and write a cohesive plan once it’s relevant, you can instead keep your plan up-to-date and attempt to attain funding. Just add a use of funds report to your financial plan and you’ll be ready to go.

The benefits of having a plan don’t stop there. You can then use your business plan to help you manage the funding you receive. You’ll not only be able to easily track and forecast how you’ll use your funds but easily report on how it’s been used. 

Better manage your business

A solid business plan isn’t meant to be something you do once and forget about. Instead, it should be a useful tool that you can regularly use to analyze performance, make strategic decisions, and anticipate future scenarios. It’s a document that you should regularly update and adjust as you go to better fit the actual state of your business.

Doing so makes it easier to understand what’s working and what’s not. It helps you understand if you’re truly reaching your goals or if you need to make further adjustments. Having your plan in place makes that process quicker, more informative, and leaves you with far more time to actually spend running your business.

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What should your business plan include?

The content and structure of your business plan should include anything that will help you use it effectively. That being said, there are some key elements that you should cover and that investors will expect to see. 

Executive summary

The executive summary is a simple overview of your business and your overall plan. It should serve as a standalone document that provides enough detail for anyone—including yourself, team members, or investors—to fully understand your business strategy. Make sure to cover the problem you’re solving, a description of your product or service, your target market, organizational structure, a financial summary, and any necessary funding requirements.

This will be the first part of your plan but it’s easiest to write it after you’ve created your full plan.

Products & Services

When describing your products or services, you need to start by outlining the problem you’re solving and why what you offer is valuable. This is where you’ll also address current competition in the market and any competitive advantages your products or services bring to the table. Lastly, be sure to outline the steps or milestones that you’ll need to hit to successfully launch your business. If you’ve already hit some initial milestones, like taking pre-orders or early funding, be sure to include it here to further prove the validity of your business. 

Market analysis

A market analysis is a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the current market you’re entering or competing in. It helps you understand the overall state and potential of the industry, who your ideal customers are, the positioning of your competition, and how you intend to position your own business. This helps you better explore the long-term trends of the market, what challenges to expect, and how you will need to initially introduce and even price your products or services.

Check out our full guide for how to conduct a market analysis in just four easy steps .  

Marketing & sales

Here you detail how you intend to reach your target market. This includes your sales activities, general pricing plan, and the beginnings of your marketing strategy. If you have any branding elements, sample marketing campaigns, or messaging available—this is the place to add it. 

Additionally, it may be wise to include a SWOT analysis that demonstrates your business or specific product/service position. This will showcase how you intend to leverage sales and marketing channels to deal with competitive threats and take advantage of any opportunities.

Check out our full write-up to learn how to create a cohesive marketing strategy for your business. 

Organization & management

This section addresses the legal structure of your business, your current team, and any gaps that need to be filled. Depending on your business type and longevity, you’ll also need to include your location, ownership information, and business history. Basically, add any information that helps explain your organizational structure and how you operate. This section is particularly important for pitching to investors but should be included even if attempted funding is not in your immediate future.

Financial projections

Possibly the most important piece of your plan, your financials section is vital for showcasing the viability of your business. It also helps you establish a baseline to measure against and makes it easier to make ongoing strategic decisions as your business grows. This may seem complex on the surface, but it can be far easier than you think. 

Focus on building solid forecasts, keep your categories simple, and lean on assumptions. You can always return to this section to add more details and refine your financial statements as you operate. 

Here are the statements you should include in your financial plan:

  • Sales and revenue projections
  • Profit and loss statement
  • Cash flow statement
  • Balance sheet

The appendix is where you add additional detail, documentation, or extended notes that support the other sections of your plan. Don’t worry about adding this section at first and only add documentation that you think will be beneficial for anyone reading your plan.

Types of business plans explained

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. So, to get the most out of your plan, it’s best to find a format that suits your needs. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering. 

Traditional business plan

The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you’ll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual. 

This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix. We recommend only starting with this business plan format if you plan to immediately pursue funding and already have a solid handle on your business information. 

Business model canvas

The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea. 

The structure ditches a linear structure in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It’s faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations. This is really best for those exploring their business idea for the first time, but keep in mind that it can be difficult to actually validate your idea this way as well as adapt it into a full plan.

One-page business plan

The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan. This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. It basically serves as a beefed-up pitch document and can be finished as quickly as the business model canvas.

By starting with a one-page plan, you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan. This plan type is useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Now, the option that we here at LivePlan recommend is the Lean Plan . This is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance.

It holds all of the benefits of the single-page plan, including the potential to complete it in as little as 27-minutes . However, it’s even easier to convert into a full plan thanks to how heavily it’s tied to your financials. The overall goal of Lean Planning isn’t to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the Lean Planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and stable through times of crisis.

It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

Try the LivePlan Method for Lean Business Planning

Now that you know the basics of business planning, it’s time to get started. Again we recommend leveraging a Lean Plan for a faster, easier, and far more useful planning process. 

To get familiar with the Lean Plan format, you can download our free Lean Plan template . However, if you want to elevate your ability to create and use your lean plan even further, you may want to explore LivePlan. 

It features step-by-step guidance that ensures you cover everything necessary while reducing the time spent on formatting and presenting. You’ll also gain access to financial forecasting tools that propel you through the process. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results. 

Check out how LivePlan streamlines Lean Planning by downloading our Kickstart Your Business ebook .

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Kody Wirth

Posted in Business Plan Writing

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Business Plan

By Entrepreneur Staff

Business Plan Definition:

A written document describing the nature of the business, the sales and marketing strategy, and the financial background, and containing a projected profit and loss statement

A business plan is also a road map that provides directions so a business can plan its future and helps it avoid bumps in the road. The time you spend making your business plan thorough and accurate, and keeping it up-to-date, is an investment that pays big dividends in the long term.

Your business plan should conform to generally accepted guidelines regarding form and content. Each section should include specific elements and address relevant questions that the people who read your plan will most likely ask. Generally, a business plan has the following components:

Title Page and Contents A business plan should be presented in a binder with a cover listing the name of the business, the name(s) of the principal(s), address, phone number, e-mail and website addresses, and the date. You don't have to spend a lot of money on a fancy binder or cover. Your readers want a plan that looks professional, is easy to read and is well-put-together.

Include the same information on the title page. If you have a logo, you can use it, too. A table of contents follows the executive summary or statement of purpose, so that readers can quickly find the information or financial data they need.

Executive Summary The executive summary, or statement of purpose, succinctly encapsulates your reason for writing the business plan. It tells the reader what you want and why, right up front. Are you looking for a $10,000 loan to remodel and refurbish your factory? A loan of $25,000 to expand your product line or buy new equipment? How will you repay your loan, and over what term? Would you like to find a partner to whom you'd sell 25 percent of the business? What's in it for him or her? The questions that pertain to your situation should be addressed here clearly and succinctly.

The summary or statement should be no more than half a page in length and should touch on the following key elements:

  • Business concept describes the business, its product, the market it serves and the business' competitive advantage.
  • Financial features include financial highlights, such as sales and profits.
  • Financial requirements state how much capital is needed for startup or expansion, how it will be used and what collateral is available.
  • Current business position furnishes relevant information about the company, its legal form of operation, when it was founded, the principal owners and key personnel.
  • Major achievements points out anything noteworthy, such as patents, prototypes, important contracts regarding product development, or results from test marketing that have been conducted.

Description of the Business The business description usually begins with a short explanation of the industry. When describing the industry, discuss what's going on now as well as the outlook for the future. Do the necessary research so you can provide information on all the various markets within the industry, including references to new products or developments that could benefit or hinder your business. Base your observations on reliable data and be sure to footnote and cite your sources of information when necessary. Remember that bankers and investors want to know hard facts--they won't risk money on assumptions or conjecture.

When describing your business, say which sector it falls into (wholesale, retail, food service, manufacturing, hospitality and so on), and whether the business is new or established. Then say whether the business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, C or Sub chapter S corporation. Next, list the business' principals and state what they bring to the business. Continue with information on who the business' customers are, how big the market is, and how the product or service is distributed and marketed.

Description of the Product or Service The business description can be a few paragraphs to a few pages in length, depending on the complexity of your plan. If your plan isn't too complicated, keep your business description short, describing the industry in one paragraph, the product in another, and the business and its success factors in two or three more paragraphs.

When you describe your product or service, make sure your reader has a clear idea of what you're talking about. Explain how people use your product or service and talk about what makes your product or service different from others available in the market. Be specific about what sets your business apart from those of your competitors.

Then explain how your business will gain a competitive edge and why your business will be profitable. Describe the factors you think will make it successful. If your business plan will be used as a financing proposal, explain why the additional equity or debt will make your business more profitable. Give hard facts, such as "new equipment will create an income stream of $10,000 per year" and briefly describe how.

Other information to address here is a description of the experience of the other key people in the business. Whoever reads your business plan will want to know what suppliers or experts you've spoken to about your business and their response to your idea. They may even ask you to clarify your choice of location or reasons for selling this particular product.

Market Analysis A thorough market analysis will help you define your prospects as well as help you establish pricing, distribution, and promotional strategies that will allow your company to be successful vis-à-vis your competition, both in the short and long term.

Begin your market analysis by defining the market in terms of size, demographics, structure, growth prospects, trends, and sales potential. Next, determine how often your product or service will be purchased by your target market. Then figure out the potential annual purchase. Then figure out what percentage of this annual sum you either have or can attain. Keep in mind that no one gets 100 percent market share, and that a something as small as 25 percent is considered a dominant share. Your market share will be a benchmark that tells you how well you're doing in light of your market-planning projections.

You'll also have to describe your positioning strategy. How you differentiate your product or service from that of your competitors and then determine which market niche to fill is called "positioning." Positioning helps establish your product or service's identity within the eyes of the purchaser. A positioning statement for a business plan doesn't have to be long or elaborate, but it does need to point out who your target market is, how you'll reach them, what they're really buying from you, who your competitors are, and what your USP (unique selling proposition) is.

How you price your product or service is perhaps your most important marketing decision. It's also one of the most difficult to make for most small business owners, because there are no instant formulas. Many methods of establishing prices are available to you, but these are among the most common.

  • Cost-plus pricing is used mainly by manufacturers to assure that all costs, both fixed and variable, are covered and the desired profit percentage is attained.
  • Demand pricing is used by companies that sell their products through a variety of sources at differing prices based on demand.
  • Competitive pricing is used by companies that are entering a market where there's already an established price and it's difficult to differentiate one product from another.
  • Markup pricing is used mainly by retailers and is calculated by adding your desired profit to the cost of the product.

You'll also have to determine distribution, which includes the entire process of moving the product from the factory to the end user. Make sure to analyze your competitors' distribution channels before deciding whether to use the same type of channel or an alternative that may provide you with a strategic advantage.

Finally, your promotion strategy should include all the ways you communicate with your markets to make them aware of your products or services. To be successful, your promotion strategy should address advertising, packaging, public relations, sales promotions and personal sales.

Competitive Analysis The purpose of the competitive analysis is to determine:

  • the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within your market.
  • strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage.
  • barriers that can be developed to prevent competition from entering your market.
  • any weaknesses that can be exploited in the product development cycle.

The first step in a competitor analysis is to identify both direct and indirect competition for your business, both now and in the future. Once you've grouped your competitors, start analyzing their marketing strategies and identifying their vulnerable areas by examining their strengths and weaknesses. This will help you determine your distinct competitive advantage.

Whoever reads your business plan should be very clear on who your target market is, what your market niche is, exactly how you'll stand apart from your competitors, and why you'll be successful doing so.

Operations and Management The operations and management component of your plan is designed to describe how the business functions on a continuing basis. The operations plan highlights the logistics of the organization, such as the responsibilities of the management team, the tasks assigned to each division within the company, and capital and expense requirements related to the operations of the business.

Financial Components of Your Business Plan After defining the product, market and operations, the next area to turn your attention to are the three financial statements that form the backbone of your business plan: the income statement, cash flow statement, and balance sheet.

The income statement is a simple and straightforward report on the business' cash-generating ability. It is a scorecard on the financial performance of your business that reflects when sales are made and when expenses are incurred. It draws information from the various financial models developed earlier such as revenue, expenses, capital (in the form of depreciation), and cost of goods. By combining these elements, the income statement illustrates just how much your company makes or loses during the year by subtracting cost of goods and expenses from revenue to arrive at a net result, which is either a profit or loss. In addition to the income statements, include a note analyzing the results. The analysis should be very short, emphasizing the key points of the income statement. Your CPA can help you craft this.

The cash flow statement is one of the most critical information tools for your business, since it shows how much cash you'll need to meet obligations, when you'll require it and where it will come from. The result is the profit or loss at the end of each month and year. The cash flow statement carries both profits and losses over to the next month to also show the cumulative amount. Running a loss on your cash flow statement is a major red flag that indicates not having enough cash to meet expenses-something that demands immediate attention and action.

The cash flow statement should be prepared on a monthly basis during the first year, on a quarterly basis for the second year, and annually for the third year. The following 17 items are listed in the order they need to appear on your cash flow statement. As with the income statement, you'll need to analyze the cash flow statement in a short summary in the business plan. Once again, the analysis doesn't have to be long and should cover highlights only. Ask your CPA for help.

The last financial statement you'll need is a balance sheet. Unlike the previous financial statements, the balance sheet is generated annually for the business plan and is, more or less, a summary of all the preceding financial information broken down into three areas: assets, liabilities and equity.

Balance sheets are used to calculate the net worth of a business or individual by measuring assets against liabilities. If your business plan is for an existing business, the balance sheet from your last reporting period should be included. If the business plan is for a new business, try to project what your assets and liabilities will be over the course of the business plan to determine what equity you may accumulate in the business. To obtain financing for a new business, you'll need to include a personal financial statement or balance sheet.

In the business plan, you'll need to create an analysis for the balance sheet just as you need to do for the income and cash flow statements. The analysis of the balance sheet should be kept short and cover key points.

Supporting Documents In this section, include any other documents that are of interest to your reader, such as your resume; contracts with suppliers, customers, or clients, letters of reference, letters of intent, copy of your lease and any other legal documents, tax returns for the previous three years, and anything else relevant to your business plan.

Some people think you don't need a business plan unless you're trying to borrow money. Of course, it's true that you do need a good plan if you intend to approach a lender--whether a banker, a venture capitalist or any number of other sources--for startup capital. But a business plan is more than a pitch for financing; it's a guide to help you define and meet your business goals.

Just as you wouldn't start off on a cross-country drive without a road map, you should not embark on your new business without a business plan to guide you. A business plan won't automatically make you a success, but it will help you avoid some common causes of business failure, such as under-capitalization or lack of an adequate market.

As you research and prepare your business plan, you'll find weak spots in your business idea that you'll be able to repair. You'll also discover areas with potential you may not have thought about before--and ways to profit from them. Only by putting together a business plan can you decide whether your great idea is really worth your time and investment.

More from Business Plans

Financial projections.

Estimates of the future financial performance of a business

Financial Statement

A written report of the financial condition of a firm. Financial statements include the balance sheet, income statement, statement of changes in net worth and statement of cash flow.

Executive Summary

A nontechnical summary statement at the beginning of a business plan that's designed to encapsulate your reason for writing the plan

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Business Plan: What It Is + How to Write One

Discover what a business plan includes and how writing one can foster your business’s development.

[Featured image] Woman showing a business plan to a man at a desk

What is a business plan? 

A business plan is a written document that defines your business goals and the tactics to achieve those goals. A business plan typically explores the competitive landscape of an industry, analyzes a market and different customer segments within it, describes the products and services, lists business strategies for success, and outlines financial planning.  

In your research into business plans, you may come across different formats, and you might be wondering which kind will work best for your purposes. 

Let’s define two main types of business plans , the traditional business pla n and the lean start-up business plan . Both types can serve as the basis for developing a thriving business, as well as exploring a competitive market analysis, brand strategy , and content strategy in more depth. There are some significant differences to keep in mind [ 1 ]: 

The traditional business plan is a long document that explores each component in depth. You can build a traditional business plan to secure funding from lenders or investors. 

The lean start-up business plan focuses on the key elements of a business’s development and is shorter than the traditional format. If you don’t plan to seek funding, the lean start-up plan can serve mainly as a document for making business decisions and carrying out tasks. 

Now that you have a clear business plan definition , continue reading to begin writing a detailed plan that will guide your journey as an entrepreneur.  

How to write a business plan 

In the sections below, you’ll build the following components of your business plan:

Executive summary

Business description 

Products and services 

Competitor analysis 

Marketing plan and sales strategies 

Brand strategy

Financial planning

Explore each section to bring fresh inspiration to the surface and reveal new possibilities for developing your business. You may choose to adapt the sections, skip over some, or go deeper into others, depending on which format you’re using. Consider your first draft a foundation for your efforts and one that you can revise, as needed, to account for changes in any area of your business.  

Read more: What Is a Marketing Plan? And How to Create One

1. Executive summary 

This is a short section that introduces the business plan as a whole to the people who will be reading it, including investors, lenders, or other members of your team. Start with a sentence or two about your business, your goals for developing it, and why it will be successful. If you are seeking funding, summarize the basics of the financial plan. 

2. Business description 

Use this section to provide detailed information about your company and how it will operate in the marketplace. 

Mission statement: What drives your desire to start a business? What purpose are you serving? What do you hope to achieve for your business, the team, your customers? 

Revenue streams: From what sources will your business generate revenue? Examples include product sales, service fees, subscriptions, rental fees, license fees, and more. 

Leadership: Describe the leaders in your business, their roles and responsibilities, and your vision for building teams to perform various functions, such as graphic design, product development, or sales.  

Legal structure: If you’ve incorporated your business or registered it with your state as a legal entity such as an S-corp or LLC, include the legal structure here and the rationale behind this choice. 

3. Competitor analysis 

This section will include an assessment of potential competitors, their offers, and marketing and sales efforts. For each competitor, explore the following: 

Value proposition: What outcome or experience does this brand promise?

Products and services: How does each one solve customer pain points and fulfill desires? What are the price points? 

Marketing: Which channels do competitors use to promote? What kind of content does this brand publish on these channels? What messaging does this brand use to communicate value to customers?  

Sales: What sales process or buyer’s journey does this brand lead customers through?

Read more: What Is Competitor Analysis? And How to Conduct One

4. Products and services

Use this section to describe everything your business offers to its target market . For every product and service, list the following: 

The value proposition or promise to customers, in terms of how they will experience it

How the product serves customers, addresses their pain points, satisfies their desires, and improves their lives

The features or outcomes that make the product better than those of competitors

Your price points and how these compare to competitors

5. Marketing plan and sales strategies 

In this section, you’ll draw from thorough market research to describe your target market and how you will reach them. 

Who are your ideal customers?   

How can you describe this segment according to their demographics (age, ethnicity, income, location, etc.) and psychographics (beliefs, values, aspirations, lifestyle, etc.)? 

What are their daily lives like? 

What problems and challenges do they experience? 

What words, phrases, ideas, and concepts do consumers in your target market use to describe these problems when posting on social media or engaging with your competitors?  

What messaging will present your products as the best on the market? How will you differentiate messaging from competitors? 

On what marketing channels will you position your products and services?

How will you design a customer journey that delivers a positive experience at every touchpoint and leads customers to a purchase decision?

Read more: Market Analysis: What It Is and How to Conduct One   

6. Brand strategy 

In this section, you will describe your business’s design, personality, values, voice, and other details that go into delivering a consistent brand experience. 

What are the values that define your brand?

What visual elements give your brand a distinctive look and feel?

How will your marketing messaging reflect a distinctive brand voice, including the tone, diction, and sentence-level stylistic choices? 

How will your brand look and sound throughout the customer journey? 

Define your brand positioning statement. What will inspire your audience to choose your brand over others? What experiences and outcomes will your audience associate with your brand? 

Read more: What Is a Brand Strategy? And How to Create One

7. Financial planning  

In this section, you will explore your business’s financial future. If you are writing a traditional business plan to seek funding, this section is critical for demonstrating to lenders or investors that you have a strategy for turning your business ideas into profit. For a lean start-up business plan, this section can provide a useful exercise for planning how you will invest resources and generate revenue [ 2 ].  

Use any past financials and other sections of this business plan, such as your price points or sales strategies, to begin your financial planning. 

How many individual products or service packages do you plan to sell over a specific time period?

List your business expenses, such as subscribing to software or other services, hiring contractors or employees, purchasing physical supplies or equipment, etc.

What is your break-even point, or the amount you have to sell to cover all expenses?

Create a sales forecast for the next three to five years: (No. of units to sell X price for each unit) – (cost per unit X No. of units) = sales forecast

Quantify how much capital you have on hand.

When writing a traditional business plan to secure funding, you may choose to append supporting documents, such as licenses, permits, patents, letters of reference, resumes, product blueprints, brand guidelines, the industry awards you’ve received, and media mentions and appearances.

Business plan key takeaways and best practices

Remember: Creating a business plan is crucial when starting a business. You can use this document to guide your decisions and actions and even seek funding from lenders and investors. 

Keep these best practices in mind:

Your business plan should evolve as your business grows. Return to it periodically, such as every quarter or year, to update individual sections or explore new directions your business can take.

Make sure everyone on your team has a copy of the business plan and welcome their input as they perform their roles. 

Ask fellow entrepreneurs for feedback on your business plan and look for opportunities to strengthen it, from conducting more market and competitor research to implementing new strategies for success. 

Start your business with Coursera 

Ready to start your business? Watch this video on the lean approach from the Entrepreneurship Specialization : 

Article sources

1. US Small Business Administration. “ Write Your Business Plan , https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/write-your-business-plan." Accessed April 19, 2022.

2. Inc. " How to Write the Financial Section of a Business Plan ,   https://www.inc.com/guides/business-plan-financial-section.html." Accessed April 14, 2022.

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What Is a Business Plan?

Definition and Examples of a Business Plan

Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.

small business plan definition

Morsa Images / Getty Images

A business plan is a document that summarizes the operational and financial objectives of a business. It is a business's road map to success with detailed plans and budgets that show how the objectives will be realized.

Keep reading to learn the basic components of a business plan, why they're useful , and how they differ from an investment plan.

A business plan is a guide for how a company will achieve its goals. For anyone starting a business , crafting a business plan is a vital first step. Having these concrete milestones will help track the business's success (or lack thereof). There are different business plans for different purposes, and the best business plans are living documents that respond to real-world factors as quickly as possible.

In a nutshell, a business plan is a practice in due diligence. When it's done well, it will prevent entrepreneurs from wasting time and money on a venture that won't work.

How Does a Business Plan Work?

If you have an idea for starting a new venture, a business plan can help you determine if your business idea is viable. There's no point in starting a business if there is little or no chance that the business will be profitable, and a business plan helps to figure out your chances of success.

In many cases, people starting new businesses don't have the money they need to start the business they want to start. If start-up financing is required, you must have an investor-ready business plan to show potential investors that demonstrates how the proposed business will be profitable.

Since the business plan contains detailed financial projections, forecasts about your business's performance, and a marketing plan, it's an incredibly useful tool for everyday business planning. To be as effective as possible, it should be reviewed regularly and updated as required.

Business owners have leeway when crafting their business plan outline. They can be short or long, and they can include whatever detail you think will be useful. There are basic templates you can work from, and you'll likely notice some common elements if you look up examples of business plans.

Market Analysis

The market analysis will reveal whether there is sufficient demand for your product or service in your target market . If the market is already saturated, your business model will need to be changed (or scrapped).

Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis will examine the strengths and weaknesses of the competition and help direct your strategy for garnering a share of the market in your marketing plan . If the existing market is dominated by established competitors, for instance, you will have to come up with a marketing plan to lure customers from the competition (lower prices, better service, etc.).

Management Plan

The management plan outlines your business structure, management, and staffing requirements. If your business requires specific employee and management expertise, you will need a strategy for finding and hiring qualified staff and retaining them.

Operating Plan

The operating plan describes your facilities, equipment, inventory, and supply requirements. Business location and accessibility are critical for many businesses. If this is the case for your business, you will need to scout potential sites. If your proposed business requires parts or raw materials to produce goods to be sold to customers, you will need to investigate potential supply chains.

Financial Plan

The financial plan is the determining factor as to whether your proposed business idea is likely to be a success. If financing is required, your financial plan will determine how likely you are to obtain start-up funding in the form of equity or debt financing from banks, angel investors , or venture capitalists . You can have a great idea for a business, along with excellent marketing, management, and operational plans, but if the financial plan shows that the business will not be profitable enough, then the business model is not viable and there's no point in starting that venture.

Business Plan vs. Investment Proposal

A business plan is similar to an investment proposal. In fact, investment proposals are sometimes called investor-ready business plans . Generally speaking, they both have the same contents. You can think of an investment proposal as a business plan with a different audience.

The business plan is largely an internal document, intended to guide the decisions of executives, managers, and employees. The investment proposal, on the other hand, is designed to be presented to external agencies.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a detailed road map that explains what the company's goals are and how it will achieve them.
  • The exact details of a business plan will depend on the intended audience and the nature of the business.
  • It's a good idea to regularly revisit your business plan so you know it's as accurate, realistic, and detailed as possible.

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A Business Plan is a Roadmap for a Business to Achieve its Goals

What is a business plan? Definition, Purpose, and Types

In the world of business, a well-thought-out plan is often the key to success. This plan, known as a business plan, is a comprehensive document that outlines a company’s goals, strategies , and financial projections. Whether you’re starting a new business or looking to expand an existing one, a business plan is an essential tool.

As a business plan writer and consultant , I’ve crafted over 15,000 plans for a diverse range of businesses. In this article, I’ll be sharing my wealth of experience about what a business plan is, its purpose, and the step-by-step process of creating one. By the end, you’ll have a thorough understanding of how to develop a robust business plan that can drive your business to success.

What is a business plan?

Purposes of a business plan, executive summary, business description or overview, product and price, competitive analysis, target market, marketing plan, financial plan, funding requirements, lean startup business plans, traditional business plans, how often should a business plan be reviewed and revised, what are the key elements of a lean startup business plan.

  • What are some of the reasons why business plans don't succeed?

A business plan is a roadmap for your business. It outlines your goals, strategies, and how you plan to achieve them. It’s a living document that you can update as your business grows and changes.

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It will be helpful to hire someone to write a business plan . Our Award-winning business plan writers will help you achieve your business goals.

These are the following purpose of business plan:

  • Attract investors and lenders: If you’re seeking funding for your business , a business plan is a must-have. Investors and lenders want to see that you have a clear plan for how you’ll use their money to grow your business and generate revenue.
  • Get organized and stay on track: Writing a business plan forces you to think through all aspects of your business, from your target market to your marketing strategy. This can help you identify any potential challenges and opportunities early on, so you can develop a plan to address them.
  • Make better decisions: A business plan can help you make better decisions about your business by providing you with a framework to evaluate different options. For example, if you’re considering launching a new product, your business plan can help you assess the potential market demand, costs, and profitability.

What are the essential components of a business plan?

The Essential Components of a Business Plan

The executive summary is the most important part of your business plan, even though it’s the last one you’ll write. It’s the first section that potential investors or lenders will read, and it may be the only one they read. The executive summary sets the stage for the rest of the document by introducing your company’s mission or vision statement, value proposition, and long-term goals.

The business description section of your business plan should introduce your business to the reader in a compelling and concise way. It should include your business name, years in operation, key offerings, positioning statement, and core values (if applicable). You may also want to include a short history of your company.

In this section, the company should describe its products or services , including pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other relevant information could include production and manufacturing processes, patents, and proprietary technology.

Every industry has competitors, even if your business is the first of its kind or has the majority of the market share. In the competitive analysis section of your business plan, you’ll objectively assess the industry landscape to understand your business’s competitive position. A SWOT analysis is a structured way to organize this section.

Your target market section explains the core customers of your business and why they are your ideal customers. It should include demographic, psychographic, behavioral, and geographic information about your target market.

Marketing plan describes how the company will attract and retain customers, including any planned advertising and marketing campaigns . It also describes how the company will distribute its products or services to consumers.

After outlining your goals, validating your business opportunity, and assessing the industry landscape, the team section of your business plan identifies who will be responsible for achieving your goals. Even if you don’t have your full team in place yet, investors will be impressed by your clear understanding of the roles that need to be filled.

In the financial plan section,established businesses should provide financial statements , balance sheets , and other financial data. New businesses should provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years, and may also request funding.

Since one goal of a business plan is to secure funding from investors , you should include the amount of funding you need, why you need it, and how long you need it for.

  • Tip: Use bullet points and numbered lists to make your plan easy to read and scannable.

Types of business plan

Business plans can come in many different formats, but they are often divided into two main types: traditional and lean startup. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) says that the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

Lean startup business plans are short (as short as one page) and focus on the most important elements. They are easy to create, but companies may need to provide more information if requested by investors or lenders.

Traditional business plans are longer and more detailed than lean startup business plans, which makes them more time-consuming to create but more persuasive to potential investors. Lean startup business plans are shorter and less detailed, but companies should be prepared to provide more information if requested.

Free: Business Plan Examples

Do you need help creating a business plan? Check out these 14 free, proven business plan examples from different industries to help you write your own.

A business plan should be reviewed and revised at least annually, or more often if the business is experiencing significant changes. This is because the business landscape is constantly changing, and your business plan needs to reflect those changes in order to remain relevant and effective.

Here are some specific situations in which you should review and revise your business plan:

  • You have launched a new product or service line.
  • You have entered a new market.
  • You have experienced significant changes in your customer base or competitive landscape.
  • You have made changes to your management team or organizational structure.
  • You have raised new funding.

A lean startup business plan is a short and simple way for a company to explain its business, especially if it is new and does not have a lot of information yet. It can include sections on the company’s value proposition, major activities and advantages, resources, partnerships, customer segments, and revenue sources.

What are some of the reasons why business plans don't succeed?

Reasons why Business Plans Dont Success

  • Unrealistic assumptions: Business plans are often based on assumptions about the market, the competition, and the company’s own capabilities. If these assumptions are unrealistic, the plan is doomed to fail.
  • Lack of focus: A good business plan should be focused on a specific goal and how the company will achieve it. If the plan is too broad or tries to do too much, it is unlikely to be successful.
  • Poor execution: Even the best business plan is useless if it is not executed properly. This means having the right team in place, the necessary resources, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Unforeseen challenges:  Every business faces challenges that could not be predicted or planned for. These challenges can be anything from a natural disaster to a new competitor to a change in government regulations.

What are the benefits of having a business plan?

  • It helps you to clarify your business goals and strategies.
  • It can help you to attract investors and lenders.
  • It can serve as a roadmap for your business as it grows and changes.
  • It can help you to make better business decisions.

How to write a business plan?

There are many different ways to write a business plan, but most follow the same basic structure. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  • Executive summary.
  • Company description.
  • Management and organization description.
  • Financial projections.

How to write a business plan step by step?

Start with an executive summary, then describe your business, analyze the market, outline your products or services, detail your marketing and sales strategies, introduce your team, and provide financial projections.

Why do I need a business plan for my startup?

A business plan helps define your startup’s direction, attract investors, secure funding, and make informed decisions crucial for success.

What are the key components of a business plan?

Key components include an executive summary, business description, market analysis, products or services, marketing and sales strategy, management and team, financial projections, and funding requirements.

Can a business plan help secure funding for my business?

Yes, a well-crafted business plan demonstrates your business’s viability, the use of investment, and potential returns, making it a valuable tool for attracting investors and lenders.

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Business Plan: Everything You Need to Know

A business plan is a written description of your small business's future.It shows what you intend to do and the way you intend to do it. 3 min read

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a written description of your small business's future. It shows what you intend to do and the way you intend to do it. Business plans are inherently strategic. Your plan reveals how you're going to start and grow your business.

Executive Summary

This defines the marketing strategy. The executive summary ought to inform the reader of what you plan to accomplish overall in your business. Clearly state what you are expecting. Typically, it's advisable that you simply write the executive summary after you have completed the rest of the document. Ideally, this section can act as a stand-alone page that covers the highlights of your detailed plan.

It’s quite common for investors to ask for only the executive summary when they're evaluating your small business. If buyers like what they see within the abstract, they’ll usually request the whole business plan , a pitch presentation, or additional information about your small business. Ideally, your abstract will be one to two pages at the most. It should be designed to give quick information that sparks curiosity and makes your investors interested in hearing more.

The Critical Components of a Winning Executive Summary

Create a one-sentence overview of your small business that sums up the essence of what you might be doing. Doing so is usually more practical if the sentence describes what your organization truly does. This is often known as your value proposition. Describe the issue you might be fixing for your intended customer.

Present a short overview of your staff or proposed staff, and include a brief clarification of why you and your staff are the best individuals to take your idea to market. If your small business method (i.e., “the way you generate income”) needs further clarification, then say you will describe it in more detail in later sections of the business plan. In case you are generating cash to start out or to further develop your small business, you could include a small statement of what you want within the main summary. Don’t include comments on possible additional  funding , however, since that can all be negotiated later.

Company Overview

The corporate overview will most certainly be the shortest part of your marketing strategy. The corporate overview should show your mission statement, an assessment of your organization’s structure and possessions, a short history of the business, if it’s an established one, and a mention of the business location. Your organization mission statement needs to be brief—one or two sentences at most—and it ought to embody what you are attempting to provide.

Business Structure

Your company overview also needs to embody a summary of your organization’s present  business structure . Are you an LLC ? A C-corp? An S-corp ? A sole proprietor? A partnership ? Potential investors will want to know the structure of the enterprise before they'll consider funding.

Business History

In case you are writing a plan or marketing strategy for an existing firm, it’s acceptable to  incorporate  a short history of the business and spotlight the main achievements. Keep the business history part brief, though. The business history section is very helpful in providing context for the remainder of your plan.

Business Description

The business description often begins with a brief description of the trade. When describing the trade, talk about the current outlook in addition to future prospects. You also need to give info on all the competitors and the market along with any new merchandise or developments that can bring profits or that can have a negative effect on your small business.

Products and Services

The products and services section is where the bulk of your plan should be. The services section is where you'll describe the issue that you are fixing, your resolution, and how your services or products match the present market. You’ll also use the services section to reveal what sets your business above others and how you intend to broaden your services or products later.

Using Your Plan

Your business plan is one thing you will use to pitch for funding, and you must keep it updated as your company develops.

If you need help with creating a  business plan , you can  post your legal need  on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.

Hire the top business lawyers and save up to 60% on legal fees

Content Approved by UpCounsel

  • Example of a Good Executive Summary for Business Plan
  • Creating a Business Plan
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  • Business Plan Format: Everything you Need to Know
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Small Business Plans

Small Business Plan Templates, Outlines & Examples.

Click Finish My Plan Fast below to create a professional business plan in only 1 day, guaranteed, using our fill-in-the blank business plan template. Or, click the menu items above for help with any section of your plan.

We Make Business Plans Easy

Interested in learning more about turning your business idea into a business plan? Click the icons below to learn more using our templates, resources, and blog articles.

Templates and information for every aspect of your business plan.

Resources to help you build your business around your business plan.

Explore articles that dig into various aspects of business plans to enhance your skill set.

Turn Your Business Idea Into A Business Plan

There’s no getting around it; having a business plan will significantly increase your chances of success. This is especially true in the early stages when you’ll be looking for funding, establishing relationships with vendors and suppliers, and hiring people. A business needs a plan.

Business planning is the core of writing a plan.  Whether you only create a lean business plan or just the executive summary, the business planning process will serve you well. Small business owners are often short on time or cash and overlook the importance of properly planning.  Start with the free business plan templates available on this site and you’ll see how much there is to be gained.

man on computer with document in hand

A business plan serves as a roadmap for your company. Nobody benefits more from a business plan than the founder who creates it. Writing a business plan will force critical thinking into your goals and strategies.

When complete, it will provide a comprehensive overview of your business.

Creating a business plan may seem daunting, but several small business plan templates are available that can make the process easier and more efficient.

Benefits of Using Small Business Plan Templates

Creating a business plan from scratch can be a time-consuming and overwhelming task. However, using a business plan template can make the process faster, easier, and less expensive. There are several benefits.

When you look at a business plan outline, you can tell in minutes where you’re prepared and where you will need to dig in. At a minimum, you’ll go from not knowing what you don’t know, to knowing what you don’t know. That’s a big step forward and the foundation for confidence, even if there’s much work to do.

The structured approach provided by a business plan template lets you know from the beginning about the work ahead. You’ll have a measured sense of completion and you’ll develop an understanding of how the pieces fit together.

You will save time by starting with a template, mainly because you won’t spend much time wondering if you’re on the right track. Many well-written templates will include sections that do not apply to your business. For example, if you’re starting a restaurant, you probably won’t need a section on research and development or intellectual property. You might–but you’ll know when you see how they are addressed in the template.

Many free and low-cost business plan templates are available on the internet, so you’ll save time and money. Compared with services that will write your plan for you, or even business plan software, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Best of all, writing your business plan using a professional template will guide you into critical thinking about your business that others will surely ask. Even if things don’t go as planned, you’ll be equipped first to see that and, secondly, to pivot appropriately.

What is a Business Plan Template?

Business plan templates are plentiful on the internet. Some are simple lists with 10 to 12 section titles and a few bullet point items. That’s a business plan outline, not a template. That’s fine if it’s all you need, but a business plan template is more.

Business Plan Template Definition

A business plan template is a document that provides a framework for a complete business plan. A professional template will include headings and subheadings, with detailed line items to cover everything in each section. Beyond a simple outline, a template will prompt how to write each item, what to include, and what to avoid. A well-written business plan template is like having a business coach in your corner.

How to Find and Use a Business Plan Template

Step 1: find a template.

“Business plan template” is searched 60,000 times every month on Google. Finding a business plan template is not hard, but finding a highly credible one takes a little more effort.

Our business plan template  has been used by thousands of people to write a business plan. For all the obvious reasons, we suggest you start there .

We provide templates with step-by-step instructions for every section of your business plan, free, right on the website. From the home page, using the Templates top menu item , go directly to any section of your plan. Or, you can download the free business plan template that covers every section in order.

Step 2: Customize the Template for Your Type of Business

Once you have your template, review it with the specifics of your business in mind. Delete the sections that don’t apply to your business or industry. Where necessary (and that should be limited), add line items in sections where you’ll want to expand.

After just a short time of customizing the template to fit your needs, you should be able to look at the template and see precisely how your business plan will take shape.

Step 3: Write Your Plan

Go through the template and start creating your plan. Follow the prompts that are provided in each section. If there are good and bad examples, be sure to understand the differences.

Young man writing on document by computer

You do not have to write the sections in any specific order. It’s essential to understand how the entire plan will come together, but you do not need to write the sections in the order that they will appear. You’ll motivate yourself if you start with the areas that come easily to you.

As that progress needle in your mind moves from left to right, you’ll gain confidence and momentum to carry you through. If you need to turn to others for help with specific sections, which is very common, you’ll feel proud that you have already made significant progress.

Step 4: Review and Revise

After you’ve gone through the entire template and drafted your complete business plan, step away and clear your mind. Then, return to your document and read it with a fresh perspective. How does it flow? What is the tone? Does it sound like you wrote it?

Now is the time to make your business plan sound like you. Consider replacing words that might have been provided in the template that don’t sound like something you would say. Replace them with words and phrases that are comfortable to you and perhaps more appropriate to your business.

Most word processors today go beyond spell-check and grammar check and can even make suggestions. Be sure to use the tools you have to polish your plan.

When this step is done, you have YOUR business plan!

Step 5: Take Your Business Plan for a Spin

Now that you’ve completed your business plan show it to a trusted advisor before you put it in front of your primary target audience. Your accountant, attorney, or friend, who is a successful business owner, would all be good examples.

Business advisor and client

Naturally, it’s okay to show your business plan to your significant other or a good friend. Yet, ask yourself, Do they have the perspective to offer sound advice on the business itself or the drafting of the plan?

There’s not much upside to showing your business plan to those who will feel compelled to tell you how great it is, even if they have no idea.

Step 6: Do What You Set Out to Do

Why were you writing your business plan? To get funding? To solicit partnerships? To hire key people? Now it’s time to show your document to those people and let it do its job. Whenever you send your business plan, follow these guidelines:

  • Let them know it is coming and why you are sending it.
  • At the same time you send the plan, ask to schedule a time to discuss their thoughts, allowing enough time for them to read it
  • Follow through on the “What are your thoughts” meeting and be open-minded. Many very successful entrepreneurs tell stories of sending their plan to five, ten, twenty or more people before achieving their objective. Stay positive, be open-minded, and carry on. That’s what successful entrepreneurs do.

Step 7: Don’t Let Your Business Plan Get Stale

Keep your business plan up to date as time goes by. Even if you don’t think you’ve made any changes to your business, go back and review the plan at least annually. Even if you have not changed things in your business, the world around us is changing faster and faster.

It’s essential to consider your business plan from the perspective of how things are today.

What Should a Business Plan Template Include

Some people ask how to write a business plan that you know is good if you’re using someone else’s template. First, be sure to select a source for your template that is credible. Next, compare their template to the business plan format below.

Any modern business plan template would have detailed templates for all of the sections below at a minimum:

Executive Summary:

A summary of your business plan that can be read very quickly. One to two pages is typical. More than five is too long. Provide an overview of your business, including a compelling statement about the value you bring to the market, your strategies and your goals.

Company Description

The company description provides a more detailed overview of your business, including its history or a statement indicating it is a startup, current ownership structure, and the type of legal entity you’ve selected.

Market Analysis and Target Market

Provide an overview of your target market, including its size, demographics, and buying habits. Include an analysis of your competition.

Products and Services

This section provides a detailed description of your products and services. It should include details on your pricing, delivery, and production.

Marketing Plan and Sales Strategies

The marketing and sales strategies section outlines how you plan to market and sell your products and services. This is often called your go-to-market strategy. Include a detailed analysis of your target audience and your marketing channels.

Management Team

Provide min-bios on the management team, including their experience, qualifications, and responsibilities.

Operating Plan

Demonstrate that you have a vision for how your people will deliver on everything required to source or create your products, market your services to your prospective customers, and support your customers. The operating plan is where it all comes together.

Financial Statements and Projections

The financial projections section of your business plan provides a detailed analysis, complete with spreadsheet tables in printed form, of your business’s financial projections. Every business plan should include an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow analysis. A sources and uses of funds table is also beneficial for your overall financial plan.

Should I Use Business Plan Software?

Using business plan software to generate your plan has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider:

  • Convenience: Business plan software can be a convenient solution for entrepreneurs who don’t have the time or expertise to create a plan from scratch. Most software programs offer templates and pre-populated sections that can help you get started quickly.
  • Professional look: Business plan software can help you create a professional-looking document with charts, graphs, and other visual aids that can impress potential investors or lenders.
  • Guidance: Many business plan software programs offer guidance and tips for creating an effective plan, including advice on financial projections, market research, and marketing strategies.
  • Collaboration: Some business plan software programs allow multiple users to collaborate on a single plan, making it easier for teams to work together to create a comprehensive document.
  • Cost: Business plan software can be expensive, with some programs costing several hundred dollars per year. Recently, most providers have gone to charging monthly recurring fees. For entrepreneurs on a tight budget, there are other options.
  • Limited customization: While templates can be convenient, they may not be customizable enough to fit the specific needs of your business. This could lead to a generic, cookie-cutter plan that doesn’t accurately represent your vision.
  • Learning curve: Business plan software can have a learning curve. Just when you’re trying to learn to write a business plan, now you must learn a new software program too.
  • Over-reliance: Relying too heavily on business plan software can lead to a lack of critical thinking and understanding of your business. It’s important to remember that your business plan should be a reflection of your unique business and vision, not just a generic template.

Remember the Business Plan Software You Already Have

The two most important software programs that will help you write your business plan, you probably already have! Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel are the two most common tools to draft, fine-tune and finish your business plan.

When you start with a business plan outline or template, your next steps are to use Word and Excel to craft your plan. You’ll be getting the help you need on writing the business plan and using the software you already own and know how to use.

It’s hard enough to write a business plan, without having to learn how to use and pay for a new software program at the same time. Start with what you have.

Finish Your Business Plan in One Day

We now offer a quick way to use all the best practices of creating a business plan in a fraction of the time.  Our fill-in-the-blank business plan template follows all the guidelines on the SmallBusinessPlans.com site and will help you finish your business plan in 1 day.  Thousands of current and future business owners have used our formula to complete their professional business plan quickly and easily.  You can too. From the executive summary to the closing details, you’ll cover it all and we’ll guide you through the process. 

Business Plan Template

You Can Write Your Own Business Plan

It’s all here! Use the Templates Menu above to get detailed information, outlines, and examples for each section. You’ll find it easy to create an effective yet simple business plan. Your plan will have you ready to start, grow and succeed in your new business. The number one reason people don’t start (or finish) their business plan is that they just aren’t sure where to begin. Now you’ve found it!

Our templates and resources cover everything expected in traditional business plans.  You’ll have a winning business plan complete with financial forecasts, cash flow statements, and a marketing section complete with your value proposition and unique selling proposition. Your executive summary will wow your readers and you will sound like a seasoned business owner.  Best of all, you’ll really understand it because everything is clearly explained. 

You will learn how to write a business plan that makes you look like a pro! The business plan outline for each section will show you how to create a professional business plan quickly and easily. Whether you need to learn how to write a business plan for the first time or you just need a refresher, we’re confident you’ll find what you need right here.

Not Enough Time? Use Our Fill-in-the-Blank Business Plan Template

  • A total, cover-to-cover template
  • Microsoft Word format so you can edit quickly and easily
  • Web links, built-in, that allow extensive help for every section
  • Step-by-step instructions so you always know what to do

Click Here to Learn More

How to Get Started

If you want to start a business, you are about to embark on a life-changing opportunity. This is an exciting time, full of fun and interesting experiences, but it is also rather challenging. However, you can be prepared for this by creating a small business plan. This step is crucial, and if you skip it, you are risking the ultimate success of your business.

While it takes a lot of work to complete a business plan outline, it is good work, and it is worth it in the end. You will be glad you invested this time when you find yourself confronted with a difficult situation down the road.

Small Business Plan Reference Guide

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small business plan definition

What Is a Business Plan Useful For?

At its most basic level, a business plan is used so that you can map out your business and the steps you need to take to realize your idea. 

A business plan can be used for far more things than a simple step by step guide. They can also be used to attract investors, talented employees and even potential business partners. Most banks and lenders will also require a detailed business plan in order to greenlight any loans. So having an in-depth plan is a vital way to support and fund your business.

Business plans are a very useful way for potential investors to evaluate the feasibility of a business before helping fund it. 

Even though this is often the case, some people think a business plan is only useful as a way to secure funding. It can be seen as a pitch full of fantasies, unrealistically high profit margins and crazy financial projections. 

However, a business plan is as much to do with convincing yourself of your business as it is with other people.

No matter what type of business you intend to make, a thorough, well-thought-out business plan is key. It can help you identify and lock down your business strategy and tackle potential problems. It’s also useful to plan out what you’ll need financially and check the viability of your idea.

It’s essentially a way of showcasing your business in a way that shows that you’ve put a lot of consideration into it. It can show that you have identified a gap in the market that you believe you can fill.

How to Write a Business Plan

There is no one-size-fits-all way to write a business plan. No two business plans will be the same, even if they are within the same industry. However, there is a recognized and often used business plan format. This utilizes the same elements for writing traditional business plans. 

Here are the 10 steps that we feel are the most important to follow: 

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary should always be at the beginning of your business plan.

Its purpose is to concisely and clearly summarize everything contained within your business plan. It’s essentially putting the conclusion at the start. 

This is done to give the reader a clear idea of what the business plan will entail. It is therefore perhaps the most important section of your plan. If the summary doesn’t hook the reader, then the chances are that they won’t continue reading. 

The executive summary should be detailed, interesting, and should be no longer than a page in length. It should be succinct, snappy, and leave the reader wanting to read on. 

2. Company Description

The next section of your plan should be the company description. 

As per the name, this is where you give a detailed description of your company.

You should answer questions such as:

  • Who are you?
  • What are your goals?
  • What makes your business unique? 

It’s important to remember that during the early stages of a business, a potential investor will be investing in the owner as much as the idea. They will want to invest in someone who clearly shows a passion for what they’re doing, and with the business knowledge to back it up. 

This section can also help you to develop your business’s identity. Having a strong identity helps ground you and your business and goes a long way towards building your brand. 

3. Market Analysis

The process of analyzing your market is key. 

One of the most common reasons that a new business fails to succeed is because the owner neglected to analyze their market. 

A business without customers is useless. Therefore your product needs to match your audience because your audience will make or break you. That’s why it’s vital that you research, then lay out the expected consumer demand for what your business is selling. 

Your market analysis will also outline your potential competitors. As well as how your business factors within the industry. You can lay out their strengths and weaknesses, and then describe how you will fit into this market. As well as describe how easy or difficult it may be to take a share of the market. 

4. Management and Organization

If you are starting a medium or large-sized business, then the chances are that you will not be the only person working for the business. 

This section is where you will introduce the team that you have around you or the team that you plan to assemble. It’s good to have a strong team of entrepreneurs that have experience in the market. As this can give great confidence to potential investors. 

You can include their skill sets and the roles and responsibilities of each team member. It’s also good practice to communicate how you believe each member involved will contribute to the success of your business. 

You may be starting out as a solo entrepreneur and won’t have a team behind you. If that is the case, then you can use this section to lay out how you plan on managing each of the roles that your business requires. Whether that’s utilizing freelancers or taking on all aspects yourself. 

You may also want to show if you have plans on eventually bringing in staff once you are settled and have the capabilities to expand. 

5. Products and Services

This section is the ideal place to go into more depth and detail about your products and services. It is important to note that this shouldn’t be the first time that you are mentioning your product, but this is merely the opportunity to expand. 

If your business has a wide array of products or services, then you don’t need to go into great detail about all of them. It is acceptable to give a general overview, then pick out two or three products that you believe will be your best sellers. 

If your business is only focusing on a small number of products, then you can provide as much detail on each as you feel is necessary. While making sure to convey their worth and value. 

Remember to highlight what makes your products or services unique. Examples may include them being environmentally friendly or handmade. Or perhaps providing something your competitors aren’t. 

6. Customer Segmentation

Customer segmentation is the process of highlighting the exact audience you’ll be targeting. Known as your ‘target market’, this is a cornerstone of your business plan. 

Most business plans will create an ‘ideal customer’. This is a rough description of what your typical customer may be. You can describe their age, sex and level of education among other details. 

This shows that you have researched and understand your target market. 

7. Marketing Plan

Once you’ve laid out who your target market is, then you need to show how you plan on reaching them. 

This section of your plan is used to convey your proposed marketing strategy. It describes how the business will attract and retain a customer base and shows the outline of a clear distribution channel. 

This section will also spell out your marketing strategy and advertising campaign plans. As well as highlighting which media will be used to target the audience. 

8. Logistics and Operational Plan

The logistics and operations section should be packed with detail. This is because this section will show whether or not your idea can become a reality. 

Your logistics and operational plan should showcase who your suppliers will be. As well as detail the overall production process. So if you’re creating a product, you’ll want to include who will be supplying the ingredients and what the process of creation will be. 

This is also the section where you should show what your facilities are, or whether you need a physical location. You can also show what equipment you’ll be needing, your shipping process, and how you plan on housing your inventory. 

It is good practice to show that you have thought of a number of contingency plans in your operating plan. This will show that you can cover any number of potential problems or setbacks that may occur over the course of operations. 

9. Financial Plan

Your financial plan is one of the most vital parts of any business plan.

Even if all other sections of your business plan are perfect – if your financial projections don’t add up then no investor will take it seriously. 

This is where you will include your financial statements. Such as a balance sheet and a cash flow statement. You can also include an income statement and other financial information. New business owners will need to include targets and estimates for the first number of years of the business. 

Running out of funds is one of the most common reasons that a new or existing business will fail. This is mainly down to poor cash flow management.

Therefore, it’s vital that you show a clear and detailed understanding of your financial situation. It’s also important to be realistic about your business’s future, and not add unlikely projections. While you may not have to provide exact figures, you should be able to create a range of numbers, with a best and worst-case scenario laid out. 

If you are writing your business plan for a potential investor, then this is the section where you should outline your funding request. This request should involve a section where you outline how and when you will generate enough profit to start repaying the loan. As well as any cost savings that you can incorporate. 

10. The Appendices

If needed, the final stage of your business plan should be compiling a well-organized appendix. This should include any documents needed for the reader to conduct any due diligence. 

Your appendices can include things such as: 

  • Patents and intellectual properties
  • Deeds, local permits and legal documents
  • Business registries and professional licenses 
  • Industry associations and memberships 
  • Key customer contracts and purchase orders

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5 Best Business Plan Templates

The business world is a tough place to get a foothold in. It’s full of enterprising, ambitious businesses looking to corner their target market.

In such a competitive world, you have to make sure your business is finely tuned and ready to be scrutinized. Therefore, it needs to be thoroughly researched, finely detailed plans that are full of enthusiasm and skill. 

When it comes to writing a business plan, it can all seem quite daunting. That’s why there are so many templates for traditional business plans out there to help you along the way. 

We’ll take a look at the 5 best business plan consultant templates available so you can start your business with confidence and on the right foot. 

1. FreshBooks

FreshBooks offers a free template that is packed full of details and information. 

They take you through each section of the plan and what it should involve and what it should look like. 

As far as attention to detail goes, FreshBooks has you covered. Each section comes with a detailed description of what you can include in an easy-to-read and easy to understand way. 

Their website also included a huge amount of information and advice about business plans. They go through why they are important, how to make yours stand out and include some expert business tips. 

HubSpot offers a free one-page plan that is perfect for a business of any size. 

This one-page plan gives you a framework for how to build your business and your brand. It includes fields such as company description, required funding and a timeline of when you want to achieve certain goals.

The only issue is that as it is only a one-page plan, there isn’t room to go into full detail. This may work for someone who has a rough business idea, but it may be lacking for someone with a lot of pertinent details. 

BPlan offers a great free business plan template that concentrates on the financial side of things. 

The majority of small business owners that go out of business within the first three years tend to go under due to financial reasons. So by putting a huge amount of effort and details into your finances early on is a smart move. 

After filling out BPlans template, you will certainly have a much better understanding of your business’s financial plans. This will then help you take the right steps to maintain or improve it. 

4. PandaDoc

PandaDoc is a hugely popular software company that offers SaaS software. They tend to be known for their eSigning tools but they also offer a number of templates. 

Their business plan writing services are quite basic in its design. But it is packed full of tips, information and easy-to-understand content. 

What’s great about PandaDocs templates is that they have a number of custom business plans. These are specifically geared towards certain businesses. For example, they have everything from a Bakery Template to their Salon Template. 

Plum has gone down the route of showing their idea of a perfect business plan that you can follow along with. So instead of just supplying you with a template, they’ve given you their business plan for you to emulate. 

It’s a fantastic representation of a visually appealing business plan that blends design with content. 

You can see how they tell the story of their business model in a well-put-together, successful business plan.

There are a number of reasons as to why you should write a business plan. But one of the main reasons is so that you can start your business on a strong foundation.

Many small businesses fail within their first five years. This could be due to mismanaged finances or targeting the wrong market. It may be a lack of research, or even entering an industry that you don’t have an in-depth knowledge of.

But while these are all legitimate reasons, almost all of these can be solved by starting out with a solid business plan. 

As they say, if you fail to prepare – prepare to fail.

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Business Plans FAQs

The length of a business plan will vary from business-to-business. While you will want to give as much detail as possible, you also need it to be concise. A document that is too long may deter the reader from getting to the end.

There may be elements to your business plan that you deem crucial, but you’re struggling to find the space for. For example applications for patents. In this case, they can be referenced in the main body and then included as appendices.

Operating a business without a structured plan isn’t recommended. There are very few examples of a successful business that didn’t start with a strong and detailed business plan.

Without a business plan, you may struggle to attract investors or secure a loan. You may also put too much money into ideas without giving them enough consideration.

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10+ Small Business Plan Examples in MS Word | Pages | Google Docs | PDF

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Small Business Plan

10+ small business plan examples, 1. small construction business plan template, 2. small business plan template, 3. small business recruitment plan template, 4. small business development plan template, 5. small business sales plan template, 6. small client business plan, 7. individual small business plan, 8. small business plan example, 9. sample small business plan, 10. small business plan in pdf, 11. small commercial business plan, what is a small business plan, what are the three main purposes of a business plan, how to create a small business plan, what makes a good business plan, what is a startup business plan, what should a business plan cover page look like.

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Step 1: Create an Executive Summary

Step 2: include operational and marketing plans, step 3: include your organizational structure, step 4: clear out the financial plan, more design, 8+ self-catering business plan examples - pdf examples, free 11+ marketing business plan examples & templates ..., 9+ import/export business plan examples - pdf, word examples, 13+ business financial plan examples - pdf, word, google docs ..., what you should know about financial analysis for small business ..., how to develop a human resources department business plan ..., 12+ social media business plan examples - pdf, word examples, 10+ market research business plan templates - google docs ..., how to create a startup business plan in 8 easy steps examples, 7+ social media consulting business plan examples - pdf ..., 4+ small business marketing strategy examples in pdf examples, 13+ restaurant business plan examples [ startup, fast food ....


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small business plan definition

What Is A Small Business?

August 20, 2019

To be a small business, vendors must adhere to industry size standards   established by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)   . When small firms register as a government contractor in the System for Award Management (SAM)   , they also self-certify their business as small.

The SBA, for most industries, defines a “small business” either in terms of the average number of employees over the past 12 months, or average annual receipts over time. In addition, as per 13 CFR § 121.105   , SBA defines a U.S. small business as a concern that:

  • Is organized for profit
  • Has a place of business in the US
  • Operates primarily within the U.S. or makes a significant contribution to the U.S. economy  through payment of taxes or use of American products, materials or labor
  • Is independently owned and operated and is not dominant in its field on a national basis

The business may be a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or any other legal form. In determining what constitutes a small business, the definition will vary to reflect industry differences – especially size standards.

The SBA’s table of size standards   corresponds to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). All federal agencies must use  SBA size standards   for small business contracting.  Vendors should select NAICS codes   that best match their business activities and then determine if their business meets the size standards for the selected NAICS codes. Vendors can use the SBA’s Size Standards Tool   to determine if they qualify as a small business.

For federal government procurements, vendors must meet the small business size standard that corresponds to the NAICS code selected by the contracting officer for that contract. The selected contract NAICS code is not required to match up to a vendor’s principal activity NAICS code. The vendor qualifies as a small business as long as it meets the size standard for the procurement.

Small Business Size Regulations are in Title 13 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 121(13 CFR §121)   .

Small businesses may qualify for one or more Small Business Set-Asides. For more information, see SBA Contracting Assistance Programs   .

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Definition of a business plan.

What is a business plan? Why do you need a small business plan to succeed in business? Understand the definition of a business plan to learn how to write business plan. It sounds obvious but it's most important to focus your business plan layout on the direction you want to go; then put performance measures in place to ensure that you are on-track and make corrections or changes as necessary.

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Telling business owners that they must write their small business plan to enable their success is usually met with very little enthusiasm by business owners.

In other words, planning is probably on most small business owners' least favorite things to-do list.

This is likely because most small business owners are do-ers, not planners.

However, planning, in all its forms, is an integral part of an organization's success and it must be done.

But it can be done in smaller pieces. A thorough plan will include many elements of the overall business and the strategies to run it.

What is a Business Plan? Definition of a Business Plan.

The plan is a summary of operations and financials; it contains activities, tactics and strategies (for example, marketing plan, workforce plan, market research plan, etc.) for achieving your operation's objectives and goals.

Planning includes Defining, Analyzing, Researching and Writing:

The business plan is really a compilation of a number of plans that include:

The small business plan (and growing that plan into a strategic business plan) is the foundation of the overall plan.

It needs to include all functional areas (operations, marketing and sales, financial and administration, and resources). For example, a key function that needs a detailed business operations plan is the operations function.

Within those functional areas, there are also a number of other business functions that need planning and implementation efforts. And, for startups, a new business plan, which is different than writing a business plan for an existing business.

Within the marketing function, it's important to build a strategic marketing plan that includes a focus on marketing research planning .

Marketing efforts need to be focused on the products or services you want to sell, the pricing strategies, the promotional effort required, and the distribution or place methods to be used.

A sales plan and a customer service and/or customer-centric plan will focus the business on service and selling.

Build a new product development plan for the introduction of new products to your markets.

A business continuity plan , using business continuity resources is a necessity for all businesses (and often overlooked or forgotten).

Develop a scenario plan and conduct an analysis of the scenario to ensure effectiveness (and make sure that you include disaster recovery scenarios in this exercise).

From this analysis of scenarios and your business continuity activities, build a risk management plan that addresses the specific needs of your business.

Make sure to update this plan as your business grows or changes.

A human resources plan is a necessity if your business employs staff (or even if you work with contractors rather than employees).

In addition to planning your human resources, you need to have an employee orientation outline and a safety checklist plan (which is often part of the disaster recovery program), and an employee handbook that covers your policies.

You also need to develop an environmental impact plan from both an internal (the business) and external (the community and all levels of government).

Exit Strategy

While many business owners don't think about this until they want to leave or exit their business, it's important to develop a framework for your future exit.

Ensure that a business exit strategy or succession plan is part of your overall business strategy. And make sure to build it early enough to be effective.

And once you are about five years away from your 'exit', make sure that you review your strategy, update if necessary and communicate it to those in your business (and your family) that need to know the plan.

It is useful to review a financial plan sample to help build your business financial plan (including income statements, project budgets, cash flow projections, analysis of financial ratios ) and more.

Also plan for your capital expenditures to ensure that you understand the impact of those expenditures on the business.

If cash flow is a concern in your business model, then planning some cash flow management scenarios would be helpful and necessary. Develop a peer group to help you build better strategies.

This long list of plans to write can be overwhelming. So, use a business plan outline to start with a small, targeted and reasonable approach; and once you're comfortable with that, develop your plan to cover the more challenging areas. Remember that planning is important but equally important is acting on the plan; and improving and adapting it as your market and your business changes.

How to Write Business Plan:

Write your small business plan as an expandable document. Ensure that your plan includes clear goals and objectives and how you will achieve them. Add other sections as you have time and/or as you need to (to manage your operation).

If you asked business owners for a definition of a business plan, you would likely get a variety of responses. There really is no one answer; however from your organization's perspective think about your small business plan as a road map that directs you in the direction you plan to go.

Following a simple business plan outline will result in a plan of about 12 pages. Creating a more comprehensive plan that focuses on strategic marketing plan elements, or strategic consideration of a small business startup, or a new product introduction, or a merger (or a number of other specific directions and/or challenges) will take more time and effort but will help you to focus on managing your business.

The common reaction once your business plan is written is to congratulate yourself on a job well done and completed and file the plan away!

However, a plan is most effective when you build measurement into the forecasts or budgets. To do that you can use software programs that are easy to manage and that provide solid analysis functions. For example, use performance management software to help you forecast and integrate your business budget, goals, and more. When you track your results to your forecast in a timely manner, you will be better able to plan the actions you need to take to reach, and surpass, your goals.

What is a Business Plan? Use It Once It's Completed!

Do not let your plan become a dust collector.

Use it. Build your key performance indicators (to measure business performance) and then assess your progress against your plan or plans.

Share it with employees. Build the goals and objectives into their performance evaluations.

Share a limited amount of information from your plan with your customers (for example, like how your organization is being designed and developed to become customer centric; only do this if you are truly committed and have begun to make some progress that you can point to).

Share a limited amount of information from your plan with your suppliers (for example, like how you're looking for the most environmentally friendly supplies available and how you're willing to reduce your number of suppliers if you can increase the amount of environmental supplies from one source).

Build Regular Reviews into your Small Business Plan

Once you've developed your plan, ensure that you update it at least once a year (more often if you work in a quickly changing environment). Then begin to add some of the other plans listed above and fold them into your overall business plan.

Planning is important to your operation because what you plan, you can manage. Unplanned events, or surprises, are often not happy occurrences and will require you to shift your focus from running your small business to putting out fires.

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Implement your plan: for results.

Once you've built your plan, you need to implement it.

Developing your strategy (in the plan) is the first, necessary, step. You need to know the direction you want to go, and you need the strategy and the plan to help you get there.

But once you've built the plan, you must execute it.

There is no value in building a plan that just gathers dust.

When building your business plan, make sure that you include an action plan for the strategies, techniques and tactics.

The actions need to include who's responsible for doing what; measurements for success (such as deadlines and timelines, targets and goals, costs, etc.); and why you need to take the action (in some cases, one action needs to be accomplished before subsequent ones can be launched).

As you work through the plan, make sure that you build reporting periods into the implementation: you need to know what's going on and why something is working, or not.

Make sure to communicate progress, or lack of it, throughout the organization. And re-visit the plan when and where necessary.

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Plan for the future: lots of business owners want to get, or keep, moving forward. Planning seems to be more of a passive activity.

However, to ensure that your business goes in the right direction and that it optimizes all its opportunities, and manages its challenges, it is important to plan.

Balance your activities against the plan: make sure that you are investing your time, and money, on the elements of your business that will help you succeed.

Measure what works, and what doesn't work, and keep your focus: use your business plan as a map to guide you in the direction you want to go.

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Meeting the Definition of a Small Business Concern Checklist

A Checklist for existing or prospective federal government contractors to determine whether they can meet the definition of a small business concern (SBC) under the Small Business Act (SBA). This Checklist includes the definitional thresholds and size standards for SBCs. This Checklist can also be used to determine if an SBC can qualify under a specific small business category, including the 8(a) Business Development Program, a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB), a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), an Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB), and a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) SBC.

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    Small business management involves aligning and co-ordinating all aspects of a small business. That can include managing employees, suppliers, finances and all the daily processes of the business. A small business manager will often also be responsible for overseeing the big-picture business plan. Everyone's definition of the company size of ...

  25. Meeting the Definition of a Small Business Concern Checklist

    A Checklist for existing or prospective federal government contractors to determine whether they can meet the definition of a small business concern (SBC) under the Small Business Act (SBA). This Checklist includes the definitional thresholds and size standards for SBCs. This Checklist can also be used to determine if an SBC can qualify under a ...

  26. Small Business Administration

    Manage your business. Run your business like a boss. Master day-to-day operations and prepare for success. Manage your finances. Hire and manage employees. Pay taxes. Stay legally compliant. Buy assets and equipment. Marketing and sales.