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What Is a Business Plan?

Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, 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.

business plan definition example

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A business plan is a document that outlines a company's goals and the strategies to achieve them. It's valuable for both startups and established companies. For startups, a well-crafted business plan is crucial for attracting potential lenders and investors. Established businesses use business plans to stay on track and aligned with their growth objectives. This article will explain the key components of an effective business plan and guidance on how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document detailing a company's business activities and strategies for achieving its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to launch their venture and to attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan helps keep the executive team focused on short- and long-term objectives.
  • There's no single required format for a business plan, but certain key elements are essential for most companies.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place before beginning operations. Banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before considering making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a company doesn't need additional funding, having a business plan helps it stay focused on its goals. Research from the University of Oregon shows that businesses with a plan are significantly more likely to secure funding than those without one. Moreover, companies with a business plan grow 30% faster than those that don't plan. According to a Harvard Business Review article, entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than those who don't.

A business plan should ideally be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect achieved goals or changes in direction. An established business moving in a new direction might even create an entirely new plan.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. It allows for careful consideration of ideas before significant investment, highlights potential obstacles to success, and provides a tool for seeking objective feedback from trusted outsiders. A business plan may also help ensure that a company’s executive team remains aligned on strategic action items and priorities.

While business plans vary widely, even among competitors in the same industry, they often share basic elements detailed below.

A well-crafted business plan is essential for attracting investors and guiding a company's strategic growth. It should address market needs and investor requirements and provide clear financial projections.

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, gathering the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document is best. Any additional crucial elements, such as patent applications, can be referenced in the main document and included as appendices.

Common elements in many business plans include:

  • 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 : Describe the products and services the company offers or plans to introduce. Include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique consumer benefits. Mention production and manufacturing processes, relevant patents , proprietary technology , and research and development (R&D) information.
  • Market analysis : Explain the current state of the industry and the competition. Detail where the company fits in, the types of customers it plans to target, and how it plans to capture market share from competitors.
  • Marketing strategy : Outline the company's plans to attract and retain customers, including anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. Describe the distribution channels that will be used to deliver products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections : Established businesses should include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses should provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. This section may also include any funding requests.

Investors want to see a clear exit strategy, expected returns, and a timeline for cashing out. It's likely a good idea to provide five-year profitability forecasts and realistic financial estimates.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can vary in format, often categorized into traditional and lean startup plans. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These are detailed and lengthy, requiring more effort to create but offering comprehensive information that can be persuasive to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These are concise, sometimes just one page, and focus on key elements. While they save time, companies should be ready to provide additional details if requested by investors or lenders.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

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

How Often Should a Business Plan Be Updated?

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on its nature. Updating your business plan is crucial due to changes in external factors (market trends, competition, and regulations) and internal developments (like employee growth and new products). While 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 ideal for quickly explaining a business, especially for new companies that don't have much information yet. Key sections may include a value proposition , major activities and advantages, resources (staff, intellectual property, and capital), partnerships, customer segments, and revenue sources.

A well-crafted business plan is crucial for any company, whether it's a startup looking for investment or an established business wanting to stay on course. It outlines goals and strategies, boosting a company's chances of securing funding and achieving growth.

As your business and the market change, update your business plan regularly. This keeps it relevant and aligned with your current goals and conditions. Think of your business plan as a living document that evolves with your company, not something carved in stone.

University of Oregon Department of Economics. " Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Business Planning Using Palo Alto's Business Plan Pro ." Eason Ding & Tim Hursey.

Bplans. " Do You Need a Business Plan? Scientific Research Says Yes ."

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

Harvard Business Review. " How to Write a Winning Business Plan ."

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

SCORE. " When and Why Should You Review Your Business Plan? "

business plan definition example

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What is a Business Plan? Definition and Resources

Clipboard with paper, calculator, compass, and other similar tools laid out on a table. Represents the basics of what is a business plan.

9 min. read

Updated May 10, 2024

If you’ve ever jotted down a business idea on a napkin with a few tasks you need to accomplish, you’ve written a business plan — or at least the very basic components of one.

The origin of formal business plans is murky. But they certainly go back centuries. And when you consider that 20% of new businesses fail in year 1 , and half fail within 5 years, the importance of thorough planning and research should be clear.

But just what is a business plan? And what’s required to move from a series of ideas to a formal plan? Here we’ll answer that question and explain why you need one to be a successful business owner.

  • What is a business plan?

Definition: Business plan is a description of a company's strategies, goals, and plans for achieving them.

A business plan lays out a strategic roadmap for any new or growing business.

Any entrepreneur with a great idea for a business needs to conduct market research , analyze their competitors , validate their idea by talking to potential customers, and define their unique value proposition .

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

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

Reasons for writing a business plan

If you’re asking yourself, ‘Do I really need to write a business plan?’ consider this fact: 

Companies that commit to planning grow 30% faster than those that don’t.

Creating a business plan is crucial for businesses of any size or stage. It helps you develop a working business and avoid consequences that could stop you before you ever start.

If you plan to raise funds for your business through a traditional bank loan or SBA loan , none of them will want to move forward without seeing your business plan. Venture capital firms may or may not ask for one, but you’ll still need to do thorough planning to create a pitch that makes them want to invest.

But it’s more than just a means of getting your business funded . The plan is also your roadmap to identify and address potential risks. 

It’s not a one-time document. Your business plan is a living guide to ensure your business stays on course.

Related: 14 of the top reasons why you need a business plan

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What research shows about business plans

Numerous studies have established that planning improves business performance:

  • 71% of fast-growing companies have business plans that include budgets, sales goals, and marketing and sales strategies.
  • Companies that clearly define their value proposition are more successful than those that can’t.
  • Companies or startups with a business plan are more likely to get funding than those without one.
  • Starting the business planning process before investing in marketing reduces the likelihood of business failure.

The planning process significantly impacts business growth for existing companies and startups alike.

Read More: Research-backed reasons why writing a business plan matters

When should you write a business plan?

No two business plans are alike. 

Yet there are similar questions for anyone considering writing a plan to answer. One basic but important question is when to start writing it.

A Harvard Business Review study found that the ideal time to write a business plan is between 6 and 12 months after deciding to start a business. 

But the reality can be more nuanced – it depends on the stage a business is in, or the type of business plan being written.

Ideal times to write a business plan include:

  • When you have an idea for a business
  • When you’re starting a business
  • When you’re preparing to buy (or sell)
  • When you’re trying to get funding
  • When business conditions change
  • When you’re growing or scaling your business

Read More: The best times to write or update your business plan

How often should you update your business plan?

As is often the case, how often a business plan should be updated depends on your circumstances.

A business plan isn’t a homework assignment to complete and forget about. At the same time, no one wants to get so bogged down in the details that they lose sight of day-to-day goals. 

But it should cover new opportunities and threats that a business owner surfaces, and incorporate feedback they get from customers. So it can’t be a static document.

Related Reading: 5 fundamental principles of business planning

For an entrepreneur at the ideation stage, writing and checking back on their business plan will help them determine if they can turn that idea into a profitable business .

And for owners of up-and-running businesses, updating the plan (or rewriting it) will help them respond to market shifts they wouldn’t be prepared for otherwise. 

It also lets them compare their forecasts and budgets to actual financial results. This invaluable process surfaces where a business might be out-performing expectations and where weak performance may require a prompt strategy change. 

The planning process is what uncovers those insights.

Related Reading: 10 prompts to help you write a business plan with AI

  • How long should your business plan be?

Thinking about a business plan strictly in terms of page length can risk overlooking more important factors, like the level of detail or clarity in the plan. 

Not all of the plan consists of writing – there are also financial tables, graphs, and product illustrations to include.

But there are a few general rules to consider about a plan’s length:

  • Your business plan shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to skim.
  • Business plans for internal use (not for a bank loan or outside investment) can be as short as 5 to 10 pages.

A good practice is to write your business plan to match the expectations of your audience. 

If you’re walking into a bank looking for a loan, your plan should match the formal, professional style that a loan officer would expect . But if you’re writing it for stakeholders on your own team—shorter and less formal (even just a few pages) could be the better way to go.

The length of your plan may also depend on the stage your business is in. 

For instance, a startup plan won’t have nearly as much financial information to include as a plan written for an established company will.

Read More: How long should your business plan be?  

What information is included in a business plan?

The contents of a plan business plan will vary depending on the industry the business is in. 

After all, someone opening a new restaurant will have different customers, inventory needs, and marketing tactics to consider than someone bringing a new medical device to the market. 

But there are some common elements that most business plans include:

  • Executive summary: An overview of the business operation, strategy, and goals. The executive summary should be written last, despite being the first thing anyone will read.
  • Products and services: A description of the solution that a business is bringing to the market, emphasizing how it solves the problem customers are facing.
  • Market analysis: An examination of the demographic and psychographic attributes of likely customers, resulting in the profile of an ideal customer for the business.
  • Competitive analysis: Documenting the competitors a business will face in the market, and their strengths and weaknesses relative to those competitors.
  • Marketing and sales plan: Summarizing a business’s tactics to position their product or service favorably in the market, attract customers, and generate revenue.
  • Operational plan: Detailing the requirements to run the business day-to-day, including staffing, equipment, inventory, and facility needs.
  • Organization and management structure: A listing of the departments and position breakdown of the business, as well as descriptions of the backgrounds and qualifications of the leadership team.
  • Key milestones: Laying out the key dates that a business is projected to reach certain milestones , such as revenue, break-even, or customer acquisition goals.
  • Financial plan: Balance sheets, cash flow forecast , and sales and expense forecasts with forward-looking financial projections, listing assumptions and potential risks that could affect the accuracy of the plan.
  • Appendix: All of the supporting information that doesn’t fit into specific sections of the business plan, such as data and charts.

Read More: Use this business plan outline to organize your plan

  • Different types of business plans

A business plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all document. There are numerous ways to create an effective business plan that fits entrepreneurs’ or established business owners’ needs. 

Here are a few of the most common types of business plans for small businesses:

  • One-page plan : Outlining all of the most important information about a business into an adaptable one-page plan.
  • Growth plan : An ongoing business management plan that ensures business tactics and strategies are aligned as a business scales up.
  • Internal plan : A shorter version of a full business plan to be shared with internal stakeholders – ideal for established companies considering strategic shifts.

Business plan vs. operational plan vs. strategic plan

  • What questions are you trying to answer? 
  • Are you trying to lay out a plan for the actual running of your business?
  • Is your focus on how you will meet short or long-term goals? 

Since your objective will ultimately inform your plan, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you start writing.

While a business plan provides the foundation for a business, other types of plans support this guiding document.

An operational plan sets short-term goals for the business by laying out where it plans to focus energy and investments and when it plans to hit key milestones.

Then there is the strategic plan , which examines longer-range opportunities for the business, and how to meet those larger goals over time.

Read More: How to use a business plan for strategic development and operations

  • Business plan vs. business model

If a business plan describes the tactics an entrepreneur will use to succeed in the market, then the business model represents how they will make money. 

The difference may seem subtle, but it’s important. 

Think of a business plan as the roadmap for how to exploit market opportunities and reach a state of sustainable growth. By contrast, the business model lays out how a business will operate and what it will look like once it has reached that growth phase.

Learn More: The differences between a business model and business plan

  • Moving from idea to business plan

Now that you understand what a business plan is, the next step is to start writing your business plan . 

The best way to start is by reviewing examples and downloading a business plan template. These resources will provide you with guidance and inspiration to help you write a plan.

We recommend starting with a simple one-page plan ; it streamlines the planning process and helps you organize your ideas. However, if one page doesn’t fit your needs, there are plenty of other great templates available that will put you well on your way to writing a useful business plan.

Content Author: Tim Berry

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

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Table of Contents

  • Reasons to write a business plan
  • Business planning research
  • When to write a business plan
  • When to update a business plan
  • Information to include
  • Business vs. operational vs. strategic plans

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

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What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

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

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

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

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

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

business plan definition example

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

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

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

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

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

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

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

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

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

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

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

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

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

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

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

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

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

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

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

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get started.

What Do You Need A Business Plan For?

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

1. Secure Funds

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

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

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

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

2. Monitor Business Growth

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

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

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

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

3. Measure Business Success

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

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

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

4. Document Your Marketing Strategies

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

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

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

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

Business Plan Infographic

How to Write a Business Plan Step-by-Step

1. create your executive summary.

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

Executive Summary of the business plan

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

A good executive summary should do the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Add Your Company Overview

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

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

Your company overview should contain the following:

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

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

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

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

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

It describes what your business does

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

  • Mission Statement

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

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

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

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

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

Business Objectives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Market Analysis

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

Market Analysis for Online Business

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

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

  • Market Research

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

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

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

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

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

How to Quantify Your Target Market

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

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

What Does a Good Market Analysis Entail?

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

Market Analysis Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

Competitive Analysis

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

Four Steps to Create a Competitive Marketing Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Perform Competitive Analysis

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

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

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

Direct vs Indirect Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Factors that Differentiate Your Business from the Competition

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

1. Cost Leadership

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

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

2. Product Differentiation

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

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

3. Market Segmentation

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

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

4. Define Your Business and Management Structure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Management Team

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

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

Create Management Team For Business Plan

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

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

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

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

Key Questions to Answer When Structuring Your Management Team

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

Additional Tips for Writing the Management Structure Section

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

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

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

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

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

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

Organizational Chart

Organizational chart Infographic

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

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

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

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

5. Describe Your Product and Service Offering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Avoid Technical Descriptions and Industry Buzzwords

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Long or Short Products or Services Section

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Describe Your Relationships with Vendors or Suppliers

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

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

5. Your Primary Goal Is to Convince Your Readers

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

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

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

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

Key Questions to Answer When Writing your Products and Services Section

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

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

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

6. Show and Explain Your Marketing and Sales Plan

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

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

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

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

Outline Your Business’ Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

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

Target Market and Target Audience

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

Target Market Vs Target Audience

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

Creating a Smart Marketing and Sales Plan

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

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

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

Your Positioning Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Rules to Follow When Pricing Your Offering

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

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

Pricing Strategy

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

Pricing strategy influences the price of offering

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

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

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

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

Advertising

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

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

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

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

Public Relations

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

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

Content Marketing

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

The Benefits of Content Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Media

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

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

Most popular social media platforms

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

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

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

Choosing the right social media platform

Strategic Alliances

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

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

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

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

Steps Involved in Creating a Marketing and Sales Plan

1. Focus on Your Target Market

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

2. Evaluate Your Competition

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

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

These questions can help you know your competition.

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

3. Consider Your Brand

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

4. Focus on Benefits

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

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

5. Focus on Differentiation

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

Key Questions to Answer When Writing Your Marketing and Sales Plan

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

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

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

7. Clearly Show Your Funding Request

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funding Request: Debt or Equity?

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

Case for Equity

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

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

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

Case for Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Detail Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use Graphs and Charts

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

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

Address the Risk Factors and Show Realistic Financial Projections

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Sales Forecast

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

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

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

Benefits of Sales Forecasting

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

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

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

Factors that affect sales forecasting

2. Personnel Plan

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

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

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

True HR Cost Infographic

3. Income Statement

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

The income statement section

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

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

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

4. Cash Flow Statement

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

Cash Flow Statement Example

5. Balance Sheet

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

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

Balance sheet Formula

6. Exit Strategy

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

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

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

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

Exit Strategy Section of Business Plan Infographic

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

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

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

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

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

9. Add an Appendix to Your Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips and Strategies for Writing a Convincing Business Plan

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

1. Know Your Audience

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

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

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

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

2. Get Inspiration from People

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

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

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

3. Avoid Being Over Optimistic

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

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

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

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

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

4. Keep it Simple and Short

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

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

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

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

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

5. Make an Outline and Follow Through

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Ask a Professional to Proofread

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

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

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

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

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

1. hubspot's one-page business plan.

HubSpot's One Page Business Plan

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

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

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

2. Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

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

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

3. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

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

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

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

4. Business Plan by My Own Business Institute

The Business Profile

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

The comprehensive template consists of a whopping 15 sections.

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

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

5. Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

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

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

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

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

6. Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

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

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

7. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

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

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

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

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

The $100 Startup's One Page Business Plan

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

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

9. PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invoiceberry Templates Business Concept

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

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

Alternatives to the Traditional Business Plan

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

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

Business Model Canvas (BMC)

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

Business Model Canvas (BMC) Infographic

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

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

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

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

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

Lean Canvas

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

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

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

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

Startup Pitch Deck

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

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

Startup Pitch Deck Presentation

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

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

Airbnb Pitch Deck

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Plan FAQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exlore Further

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

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Martin luenendonk.

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

business plan definition example

Have you ever wondered how to write a business plan step by step? Mike Andes, told us: 

This guide will help you write a business plan to impress investors.

Throughout this process, we’ll get information from Mike Andes, who started Augusta Lawn Care Services when he was 12 and turned it into a franchise with over 90 locations. He has gone on to help others learn how to write business plans and start businesses.  He knows a thing or two about writing  business plans!

We’ll start by discussing the definition of a business plan. Then we’ll discuss how to come up with the idea, how to do the market research, and then the important elements in the business plan format. Keep reading to start your journey!

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is simply a road map of what you are trying to achieve with your business and how you will go about achieving it. It should cover all elements of your business including: 

  • Finding customers
  • Plans for developing a team
  •  Competition
  • Legal structures
  • Key milestones you are pursuing

If you aren’t quite ready to create a business plan, consider starting by reading our business startup guide .

Get a Business Idea

Before you can write a business plan, you have to have a business idea. You may see a problem that needs to be solved and have an idea how to solve it, or you might start by evaluating your interests and skills. 

Mike told us, “The three things I suggest asking yourself when thinking about starting a business are:

  • What am I good at?
  • What would I enjoy doing?
  • What can I get paid for?”

Three adjoining circles about business opportunity

If all three of these questions don’t lead to at least one common answer, it will probably be a much harder road to success. Either there is not much market for it, you won’t be good at it, or you won’t enjoy doing it. 

As Mike told us, “There’s enough stress starting and running a business that if you don’t like it or aren’t good at it, it’s hard to succeed.”

If you’d like to hear more about Mike’s approach to starting a business, check out our YouTube video

Conduct Market Analysis

Market analysis is focused on establishing if there is a target market for your products and services, how large the target market is, and identifying the demographics of people or businesses that would be interested in the product or service. The goal here is to establish how much money your business concept can make.

Product and Service Demand

An image showing product service and demand

A search engine is your best friend when trying to figure out if there is demand for your products and services. Personally, I love using presearch.org because it lets you directly search on a ton of different platforms including Google, Youtube, Twitter, and more. Check out the screenshot for the full list of search options.

With quick web searches, you can find out how many competitors you have, look through their reviews, and see if there are common complaints about the competitors. Bad reviews are a great place to find opportunities to offer better products or services. 

If there are no similar products or services, you may have stumbled upon something new, or there may just be no demand for it. To find out, go talk to your most honest friend about the idea and see what they think. If they tell you it’s dumb or stare at you vacantly, there’s probably no market for it.

You can also conduct a survey through social media to get public opinion on your idea. Using Facebook Business Manager , you could get a feel for who would be interested in your product or service.

 I ran a quick test of how many people between 18-65  you could reach in the U.S. during a week. It returned an estimated 700-2,000 for the total number of leads, which is enough to do a fairly accurate statistical analysis.

Identify Demographics of Target Market

Depending on what type of business you want to run, your target market will be different. The narrower the demographic, the fewer potential customers you’ll have. If you did a survey, you’ll be able to use that data to help define your target audience. Some considerations you’ll want to consider are:

  • Other Interests
  • Marital Status
  • Do they have kids?

Once you have this information, it can help you narrow down your options for location and help define your marketing further. One resource that Mike recommended using is the Census Bureau’s Quick Facts Map . He told us,  

“It helps you quickly evaluate what the best areas are for your business to be located.”

How to Write a Business Plan

Business plan development

Now that you’ve developed your idea a little and established there is a market for it, you can begin writing a business plan. Getting started is easier with the business plan template we created for you to download. I strongly recommend using it as it is updated to make it easier to create an action plan. 

Each of the following should be a section of your business plan:

  • Business Plan Cover Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Description of Products and Services

SWOT Analysis

  • Competitor Data
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Marketing Expenses Strategy 

Pricing Strategy

  • Distribution Channel Assessment
  • Operational Plan
  • Management and Organizational Strategy
  • Financial Statements and/or Financial Projections

We’ll look into each of these. Don’t forget to download our free business plan template (mentioned just above) so you can follow along as we go. 

How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page

The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions.

A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:

  • Professionally designed logo
  • Company name
  • Mission or Vision Statement
  • Contact Info

Basically, think of a cover page for your business plan like a giant business card. It is meant to capture people’s attention but be quickly processed.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 2. Create a Table of Contents

Most people are busy enough that they don’t have a lot of time. Providing a table of contents makes it easy for them to find the pages of your plan that are meaningful to them.

A table of contents will be immediately after the cover page, but you can include it after the executive summary. Including the table of contents immediately after the executive summary will help investors know what section of your business plan they want to review more thoroughly.

Check out Canva’s article about creating a  table of contents . It has a ton of great information about creating easy access to each section of your business plan. Just remember that you’ll want to use different strategies for digital and hard copy business plans.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 3. Write an Executive Summary

A notepad with a written executive summary for business plan writing

An executive summary is where your business plan should catch the readers interest.  It doesn’t need to be long, but should be quick and easy to read.

Mike told us,

How long should an executive summary bein an informal business plan?

For casual use, an executive summary should be similar to an elevator pitch, no more than 150-160 words, just enough to get them interested and wanting more. Indeed has a great article on elevator pitches .  This can also be used for the content of emails to get readers’ attention.

It consists of three basic parts:

  • An introduction to you and your business.
  • What your business is about.
  • A call to action

Example of an informal executive summary 

One of the best elevator pitches I’ve used is:

So far that pitch has achieved a 100% success rate in getting partnerships for the business.

What should I include in an executive summary for investors?

Investors are going to need a more detailed executive summary if you want to secure financing or sell equity. The executive summary should be a brief overview of your entire business plan and include:

  • Introduction of yourself and company.
  • An origin story (Recognition of a problem and how you came to solution)
  • An introduction to your products or services.
  • Your unique value proposition. Make sure to include intellectual property.
  • Where you are in the business life cycle
  • Request and why you need it.

Successful business plan examples

The owner of Urbanity told us he spent 2 months writing a 75-page business plan and received a $250,000 loan from the bank when he was 23. Make your business plan as detailed as possible when looking for financing. We’ve provided a template to help you prepare the portions of a business plan that banks expect.

Here’s the interview with the owner of Urbanity:

When to write an executive summary?

Even though the summary is near the beginning of a business plan, you should write it after you complete the rest of a business plan. You can’t talk about revenue, profits, and expected expenditures if you haven’t done the market research and created a financial plan.

What mistakes do people make when writing an executive summary?

Business owners commonly go into too much detail about the following items in an executive summary:

  • Marketing and sales processes
  • Financial statements
  • Organizational structure
  • Market analysis

These are things that people will want to know later, but they don’t hook the reader. They won’t spark interest in your small business, but they’ll close the deal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 4. Company Description

Every business plan should include a company description. A great business plan will include the following elements while describing the company:

  • Mission statement
  • Philosophy and vision
  • Company goals

Target market

  • Legal structure

Let’s take a look at what each section includes in a good business plan.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is a brief explanation of why you started the company and what the company’s main focus is. It should be no more than one or two sentences. Check out HubSpot’s article 27 Inspiring Mission Statement for a great read on informative and inspiring mission and vision statements. 

Company Philosophy and Vision

Writing the company philosophy and vision

The company philosophy is what drives your company. You’ll normally hear them called core values.  These are the building blocks that make your company different. You want to communicate your values to customers, business owners, and investors as often as possible to build a company culture, but make sure to back them up.

What makes your company different?

Each company is different. Your new business should rise above the standard company lines of honesty, integrity, fun, innovation, and community when communicating your business values. The standard answers are corporate jargon and lack authenticity. 

Examples of core values

One of my clients decided to add a core values page to their website. As a tech company they emphasized the values:

  •  Prioritize communication.
  •  Never stop learning.
  •  Be transparent.
  •  Start small and grow incrementally.

These values communicate how the owner and the rest of the company operate. They also show a value proposition and competitive advantage because they specifically focus on delivering business value from the start. These values also genuinely show what the company is about and customers recognize the sincerity. Indeed has a great blog about how to identify your core values .

What is a vision statement?

A vision statement communicate the long lasting change a business pursues. The vision helps investors and customers understand what your company is trying to accomplish. The vision statement goes beyond a mission statement to provide something meaningful to the community, customer’s lives, or even the world.

Example vision statements

The Alzheimer’s Association is a great example of a vision statement:

A world without Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia.

It clearly tells how they want to change the world. A world without Alzheimers might be unachievable, but that means they always have room for improvement.

Business Goals

You have to measure success against goals for a business plan to be meaningful. A business plan helps guide a company similar to how your GPS provides a road map to your favorite travel destination. A goal to make as much money as possible is not inspirational and sounds greedy.

Sure, business owners want to increase their profits and improve customer service, but they need to present an overview of what they consider success. The goals should help everyone prioritize their work.

How far in advance should a business plan?

Business planning should be done at least one year in advance, but many banks and investors prefer three to five year business plans. Longer plans show investors that the management team  understands the market and knows the business is operating in a constantly shifting market. In addition, a plan helps businesses to adjust to changes because they have already considered how to handle them.

Example of great business goals

My all time-favorite long-term company goals are included in Tesla’s Master Plan, Part Deux . These goals were written in 2016 and drive the company’s decisions through 2026. They are the reason that investors are so forgiving when Elon Musk continually fails to meet his quarterly and annual goals.

If the progress aligns with the business plan investors are likely to continue to believe in the company. Just make sure the goals are reasonable or you’ll be discredited (unless you’re Elon Musk).

A man holding an iPad with a cup of coffee on his desk

You did target market research before creating a business plan. Now it’s time to add it to the plan so others understand what your ideal customer looks like. As a new business owner, you may not be considered an expert in your field yet, so document everything. Make sure the references you use are from respectable sources. 

Use information from the specific lender when you are applying for lending. Most lenders provide industry research reports and using their data can strengthen the position of your business plan.

A small business plan should include a section on the external environment. Understanding the industry is crucial because we don’t plan a business in a vacuum. Make sure to research the industry trends, competitors, and forecasts. I personally prefer IBIS World for my business research. Make sure to answer questions like:

  • What is the industry outlook long-term and short-term?
  • How will your business take advantage of projected industry changes and trends?
  • What might happen to your competitors and how will your business successfully compete?

Industry resources

Some helpful resources to help you establish more about your industry are:

  • Trade Associations
  • Federal Reserve
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics

Legal Structure

There are five basic types of legal structures that most people will utilize:

  • Sole proprietorships
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLC)

Partnerships

Corporations.

  • Franchises.

Each business structure has their pros and cons. An LLC is the most common legal structure due to its protection of personal assets and ease of setting up. Make sure to specify how ownership is divided and what roles each owner plays when you have more than one business owner.

You’ll have to decide which structure is best for you, but we’ve gathered information on each to make it easier.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest legal structure to set up but doesn’t protect the owner’s personal assets from legal issues. That means if something goes wrong, you could lose both your company and your home.

To start a sole proprietorship, fill out a special tax form called a  Schedule C . Sole proprietors can also join the American Independent Business Alliance .

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is the most common business structure used in the United States because an LLC protects the owner’s personal assets. It’s similar to partnerships and corporations, but can be a single-member LLC in most states. An LLC requires a document called an operating agreement.

Each state has different requirements. Here’s a link to find your state’s requirements . Delaware and Nevada are common states to file an LLC because they are really business-friendly. Here’s a blog on the top 10 states to get an LLC.

Partnerships are typically for legal firms. If you choose to use a partnership choose a Limited Liability Partnership. Alternatively, you can just use an LLC.

Corporations are typically for massive organizations. Corporations have taxes on both corporate and income tax so unless you plan on selling stock, you are better off considering an LLC with S-Corp status . Investopedia has good information corporations here .

An iPad with colored pens on a desk

There are several opportunities to purchase successful franchises. TopFranchise.com has a list of companies in a variety of industries that offer franchise opportunities. This makes it where an entrepreneur can benefit from the reputation of an established business that has already worked out many of the kinks of starting from scratch.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 5. Products and Services

This section of the business plan should focus on what you sell, how you source it, and how you sell it. You should include:

  • Unique features that differentiate your business products from competitors
  • Intellectual property
  • Your supply chain
  • Cost and pricing structure 

Questions to answer about your products and services

Mike gave us a list  of the most important questions to answer about your product and services:

  • How will you be selling the product? (in person, ecommerce, wholesale, direct to consumer)?
  • How do you let them know they need a product?
  • How do you communicate the message?
  • How will you do transactions?
  • How much will you be selling it for?
  • How many do you think you’ll sell and why?

Make sure to use the worksheet on our business plan template .

How to Write a Business Plan Step 6. Sales and Marketing Plan

The marketing and sales plan is focused on the strategy to bring awareness to your company and guides how you will get the product to the consumer.  It should contain the following sections:

SWOT Analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Not only do you want to identify them, but you also want to document how the business plans to deal with them.

Business owners need to do a thorough job documenting how their service or product stacks up against the competition.

If proper research isn’t done, investors will be able to tell that the owner hasn’t researched the competition and is less likely to believe that the team can protect its service from threats by the more well-established competition. This is one of the most common parts of a presentation that trips up business owners presenting on Shark Tank .

SWOT Examples

Business plan SWOT analysis

Examples of strengths and weaknesses could be things like the lack of cash flow, intellectual property ownership, high costs of suppliers, and customers’ expectations on shipping times.

Opportunities could be ways to capitalize on your strengths or improve your weaknesses, but may also be gaps in the industry. This includes:

  • Adding offerings that fit with your current small business
  • Increase sales to current customers
  • Reducing costs through bulk ordering
  • Finding ways to reduce inventory
  •  And other areas you can improve

Threats will normally come from outside of the company but could also be things like losing a key member of the team. Threats normally come from competition, regulations, taxes, and unforeseen events.

The management team should use the SWOT analysis to guide other areas of business planning, but it absolutely has to be done before a business owner starts marketing. 

Include Competitor Data in Your Business Plan

When you plan a business, taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is key to navigating the field. Providing an overview of your competition and where they are headed shows that you are invested in understanding the industry.

For smaller businesses, you’ll want to search both the company and the owners names to see what they are working on. For publicly held corporations, you can find their quarterly and annual reports on the SEC website .

What another business plans to do can impact your business. Make sure to include things that might make it attractive for bigger companies to outsource to a small business.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing and sales part of business plans should be focused on how you are going to make potential customers aware of your business and then sell to them.

If you haven’t already included it, Mike recommends:

“They’ll want to know about Demographics, ages, and wealth of your target market.”

Make sure to include the Total addressable market .  The term refers to the value if you captured 100% of the market.

Advertising Strategy

You’ll explain what formats of advertising you’ll be using. Some possibilities are:

  • Online: Facebook and Google are the big names to work with here.
  • Print : Print can be used to reach broad groups or targeted markets. Check out this for tips .
  • Radio : iHeartMedia is one of the best ways to advertise on the radio
  • Cable television : High priced, hard to measure ROI, but here’s an explanation of the process
  • Billboards: Attracting customers with billboards can be beneficial in high traffic areas.

You’ll want to define how you’ll be using each including frequency, duration, and cost. If you have the materials already created, including pictures or links to the marketing to show creative assets.

Mike told us “Most businesses are marketing digitally now due to Covid, but that’s not always the right answer.”

Make sure the marketing strategy will help team members or external marketing agencies stay within the brand guidelines .

An iPad with graph about pricing strategy

This section of a business plan should be focused on pricing. There are a ton of pricing strategies that may work for different business plans. Which one will work for you depends on what kind of a business you run.

Some common pricing strategies are:

  • Value-based pricing – Commonly used with home buying and selling or other products that are status symbols.
  • Skimming pricing – Commonly seen in video game consoles, price starts off high to recoup expenses quickly, then reduces over time.
  • Competition-based pricing – Pricing based on competitors’ pricing is commonly seen at gas stations.
  • Freemium services –  Commonly used for software, where there is a free plan, then purchase options for more functionality.

HubSpot has a great calculator and blog on pricing strategies.

Beyond explaining what strategy your business plans to use, you should include references for how you came to this pricing strategy and how it will impact your cash flow.

Distribution Plan

This part of a business plan is focused on how the product or service is going to go through the supply chain. These may include multiple divisions or multiple companies. Make sure to include any parts of the workflow that are automated so investors can see where cost savings are expected and when.

Supply Chain Examples

For instance, lawn care companies  would need to cover aspects such as:

  • Suppliers for lawn care equipment and tools
  • Any chemicals or treatments needed
  • Repair parts for sprinkler systems
  • Vehicles to transport equipment and employees
  • Insurance to protect the company vehicles and people.

Examples of Supply Chains

These are fairly flat supply chains compared to something like a clothing designer where the clothes would go through multiple vendors. A clothing company might have the following supply chain:

  • Raw materials
  • Shipping of raw materials
  • Converting of raw materials to thread
  • Shipping thread to produce garments
  • Garment producer
  • Shipping to company
  • Company storage
  • Shipping to retail stores

There have been advances such as print on demand that eliminate many of these steps. If you are designing completely custom clothing, all of this would need to be planned to keep from having business disruptions.

The main thing to include in the business plan is the list of suppliers, the path the supply chain follows, the time from order to the customer’s home, and the costs associated with each step of the process.

According to BizPlanReview , a business plan without this information is likely to get rejected because they have failed to research the key elements necessary to make sales to the customer.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 7. Company Organization and Operational Plan

This part of the business plan is focused on how the business model will function while serving customers.  The business plan should provide an overview of  how the team will manage the following aspects:

Quality Control

  • Legal environment

Let’s look at each for some insight.

Production has already been discussed in previous sections so I won’t go into it much. When writing a business plan for investors, try to avoid repetition as it creates a more simple business plan.

If the organizational plan will be used by the team as an overview of how to perform the best services for the customer, then redundancy makes more sense as it communicates what is important to the business.

A wooden stamp with the words "quality control"

Quality control policies help to keep the team focused on how to verify that the company adheres to the business plan and meets or exceeds customer expectations.

Quality control can be anything from a standard that says “all labels on shirts can be no more than 1/16″ off center” to a defined checklist of steps that should be performed and filled out for every customer.

There are a variety of organizations that help define quality control including:

  • International Organization for Standardization – Quality standards for energy, technology, food, production environments, and cybersecurity
  • AICPA – Standard defined for accounting.
  • The Joint Commission – Healthcare
  • ASHRAE – HVAC best practices

You can find lists of the organizations that contribute most to the government regulation of industries on Open Secrets . Research what the leaders in your field are doing. Follow their example and implement it in your quality control plan.

For location, you should use information from the market research to establish where the location will be. Make sure to include the following in the location documentation.

  • The size of your location
  • The type of building (retail, industrial, commercial, etc.)
  • Zoning restrictions – Urban Wire has a good map on how zoning works in each state
  • Accessibility – Does it meet ADA requirements?
  • Costs including rent, maintenance, utilities, insurance and any buildout or remodeling costs
  • Utilities – b.e.f. has a good energy calculator .

Legal Environment

The legal requirement section is focused on defining how to meet the legal requirements for your industry. A good business plan should include all of the following:

  • Any licenses and/or permits that are needed and whether you’ve obtained them
  • Any trademarks, copyrights, or patents that you have or are in the process of applying for
  • The insurance coverage your business requires and how much it costs
  • Any environmental, health, or workplace regulations affecting your business
  • Any special regulations affecting your industry
  • Bonding requirements, if applicable

Your local SBA office can help you establish requirements in your area. I strongly recommend using them. They are a great resource.

Your business plan should include a plan for company organization and hiring. While you may be the only person with the company right now, down the road you’ll need more people. Make sure to consider and document the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the current leadership structure and what will it look like in the future?
  • What types of employees will you have? Are there any licensing or educational requirements?
  • How many employees will you need?
  • Will you ever hire freelancers or independent contractors?
  • What is each position’s job description?
  • What is the pay structure (hourly, salaried, base plus commission, etc.)?
  • How do you plan to find qualified employees and contractors?

One of the most crucial parts of a business plan is the organizational chart. This simply shows the positions the company will need, who is in charge of them and the relationship of each of them. It will look similar to this:

Organization chart

Our small business plan template has a much more in-depth organizational chart you can edit to include when you include the organizational chart in your business plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 8. Financial Statements 

No business plan is complete without financial statements or financial projections. The business plan format will be different based on whether you are writing a business plan to expand a business or a startup business plan. Let’s dig deeper into each.

Provide All Financial Income from an Existing Business

An existing business should use their past financial documents including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement to find trends to estimate the next 3-5 years.

You can create easy trendlines in excel to predict future revenue, profit and loss, cash flow, and other changes in year-over-year performance. This will show your expected performance assuming business continues as normal.

If you are seeking an investment, then the business is probably not going to continue as normal. Depending on the financial plan and the purpose of getting financing, adjustments may be needed to the following:

  • Higher Revenue if expanding business
  • Lower Cost of Goods Sold if purchasing inventory with bulk discounts
  • Adding interest if utilizing financing (not equity deal)
  • Changes in expenses
  • Addition of financing information to the cash flow statement
  • Changes in Earnings per Share on the balance sheet

Financial modeling is a challenging subject, but there are plenty of low-cost courses on the subject. If you need help planning your business financial documentation take some time to watch some of them.

Make it a point to document how you calculated all the changes to the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement in your business plan so that key team members or investors can verify your research.

Financial Projections For A Startup Business Plan

Unlike an existing business, a startup doesn’t have previous success to model its future performance. In this scenario, you need to focus on how to make a business plan realistic through the use of industry research and averages.

Mike gave the following advice in his interview:

Financial Forecasting Mistakes

One of the things a lot of inexperienced people use is the argument, “If I get one percent of the market, it is worth $100 million.” If you use this, investors are likely to file the document under bad business plan examples.

Let’s use custom t-shirts as an example.

Credence Research estimated in 2018 there were 11,334,800,000 custom t-shirts sold for a total of $206.12 Billion, with a 6% compound annual growth rate.

With that data,  you can calculate that the industry will grow to $270 Billion in 2023 and that the average shirt sold creates $18.18 in revenue.

Combine that with an IBIS World estimate of 11,094 custom screen printers and that means even if you become an average seller, you’ll get .009% of the market.

Here’s a table for easier viewing of that information.

A table showing yearly revenue of a business

The point here is to make sure your business proposal examples make sense.

You’ll need to know industry averages such as cost of customer acquisition, revenue per customer, the average cost of goods sold, and admin costs to be able to create accurate estimates.

Our simple business plan templates walk you through most of these processes. If you follow them you’ll have a good idea of how to write a business proposal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 9. Business Plan Example of Funding Requests

What is a business plan without a plan on how to obtain funding?

The Small Business Administration has an example for a pizza restaurant that theoretically needed nearly $20k to make it through their first month.

In our video, How to Start a $500K/Year T-Shirt Business (Pt. 1 ), Sanford Booth told us he needed about $200,000 to start his franchise and broke even after 4 months.

Freshbooks estimates it takes on average 2-3 years for a business to be profitable, which means the fictitious pizza company from the SBA could need up to $330k to make it through that time and still pay their bills for their home and pizza shop.

Not every business needs that much to start, but realistically it’s a good idea to assume that you need a fairly large cushion.

Ways to get funding for a small business

There are a variety of ways to cover this. the most common are:

  • Bootstrapping – Using your savings without external funding.
  • Taking out debt – loans, credit cards
  • Equity, Seed Funding – Ownership of a percentage of the company in exchange for current funds
  • Crowdsourcing – Promising a good for funding to create the product

Keep reading for more tips on how to write a business plan.

How funding will be used

When asking for business financing make sure to include:

  • How much to get started?
  • What is the minimum viable product and how soon can you make money?
  • How will the money be spent?

Mike emphasized two aspects that should be included in every plan, 

How to Write a Business Plan Resources

Here are some links to a business plan sample and business plan outline. 

  • Sample plan

It’s also helpful to follow some of the leading influencers in the business plan writing community. Here’s a list:

  • Wise Plans –  Shares a lot of information on starting businesses and is a business plan writing company.
  • Optimus Business Plans –  Another business plan writing company.
  • Venture Capital – A venture capital thread that can help give you ideas.

How to Write a Business Plan: What’s Next?

We hope this guide about how to write a simple business plan step by step has been helpful. We’ve covered:

  • The definition of a business plan
  • Coming up with a business idea
  • Performing market research
  • The critical components of a business plan
  • An example business plan

In addition, we provided you with a simple business plan template to assist you in the process of writing your startup business plan. The startup business plan template also includes a business model template that will be the key to your success.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our business hub .

Have you written a business plan before? How did it impact your ability to achieve your goals?

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What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained

Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.

business plan definition example

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.

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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.

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: 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. 

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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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How To Write a Business Plan

Stephanie Coleman

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How-to-write-a-business-plan

Starting a business is a wild ride, and a solid business plan can be the key to keeping you on track. A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your business — outlining your goals, strategies, market analysis and financial projections. Not only will it guide your decision-making, a business plan can help you secure funding with a loan or from investors .

Writing a business plan can seem like a huge task, but taking it one step at a time can break the plan down into manageable milestones. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to write a business plan.

Table of contents

  • Write your executive summary
  • Do your market research homework
  • Set your business goals and objectives
  • Plan your business strategy
  • Describe your product or service
  • Crunch the numbers
  • Finalize your business plan

business plan definition example

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Step 1: Write your executive summary

Though this will be the first page of your business plan , we recommend you actually write the executive summary last. That’s because an executive summary highlights what’s to come in the business plan but in a more condensed fashion.

An executive summary gives stakeholders who are reading your business plan the key points quickly without having to comb through pages and pages. Be sure to cover each successive point in a concise manner, and include as much data as necessary to support your claims.

You’ll cover other things too, but answer these basic questions in your executive summary:

  • Idea: What’s your business concept? What problem does your business solve? What are your business goals?
  • Product: What’s your product/service and how is it different?
  • Market: Who’s your audience? How will you reach customers?
  • Finance: How much will your idea cost? And if you’re seeking funding, how much money do you need? How much do you expect to earn? If you’ve already started, where is your revenue at now?

business plan definition example

Step 2: Do your market research homework

The next step in writing a business plan is to conduct market research . This involves gathering information about your target market (or customer persona), your competition, and the industry as a whole. You can use a variety of research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and online research to gather this information. Your method may be formal or more casual, just make sure that you’re getting good data back.

This research will help you to understand the needs of your target market and the potential demand for your product or service—essential aspects of starting and growing a successful business.

Step 3: Set your business goals and objectives

Once you’ve completed your market research, you can begin to define your business goals and objectives. What is the problem you want to solve? What’s your vision for the future? Where do you want to be in a year from now?

Use this step to decide what you want to achieve with your business, both in the short and long term. Try to set SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound benchmarks—that will help you to stay focused and motivated as you build your business.

Step 4: Plan your business strategy

Your business strategy is how you plan to reach your goals and objectives. This includes details on positioning your product or service, marketing and sales strategies, operational plans, and the organizational structure of your small business.

Make sure to include key roles and responsibilities for each team member if you’re in a business entity with multiple people.

Step 5: Describe your product or service

In this section, get into the nitty-gritty of your product or service. Go into depth regarding the features, benefits, target market, and any patents or proprietary tech you have. Make sure to paint a clear picture of what sets your product apart from the competition—and don’t forget to highlight any customer benefits.

Step 6: Crunch the numbers

Financial analysis is an essential part of your business plan. If you’re already in business that includes your profit and loss statement , cash flow statement and balance sheet .

These financial projections will give investors and lenders an understanding of the financial health of your business and the potential return on investment.

You may want to work with a financial professional to ensure your financial projections are realistic and accurate.

Step 7: Finalize your business plan

Once you’ve completed everything, it's time to finalize your business plan. This involves reviewing and editing your plan to ensure that it is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

You should also have someone else review your plan to get a fresh perspective and identify any areas that may need improvement. You could even work with a free SCORE mentor on your business plan or use a SCORE business plan template for more detailed guidance.

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The takeaway

Writing a business plan is an essential process for any forward-thinking entrepreneur or business owner. A business plan requires a lot of up-front research, planning, and attention to detail, but it’s worthwhile. Creating a comprehensive business plan can help you achieve your business goals and secure the funding you need.

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7 Business Plan Examples to Inspire Your Own (2024)

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

business plan examples

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

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

7 business plan examples: section by section

The business plan examples in this article follow this template:

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

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

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

A four-paragraph long executive summary for a business.

  • Company description

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

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

A company description from the website of soap brand Orris

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

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

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

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

  • Market analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

An example products and services section from a business plan

  • Marketing plan

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

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

  • Logistics and operations plan

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

Financial plan

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

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

A sample bar chart showing business expenses by month

It then dives deeper into the financials to include:

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

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

A sample financial plan spreadsheet

Types of business plans, and what to include for each

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feasibility

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

Set yourself up for success as a business owner

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

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

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Business plan examples FAQ

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

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

What are the 3 main points of a business plan?

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

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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, what are the essential components of a business plan, executive summary, business description or overview, product and price, competitive analysis, target market, marketing plan, financial plan, funding requirements, types of business plan, 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.

Looking for someone to write a business plan?

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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.

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.

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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.

Need Guidance with Your Business Plan?

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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 Example and Template

Learn how to create a business plan

What is a Business Plan?

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

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

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

Contents of a Business Plan

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

1. Title Page

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

2. Executive Summary

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

3. Industry Overview

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

4. Market Analysis and Competition

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

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

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

5. Sales and Marketing Plan

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

6. Management Plan

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

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

7. Operating Plan

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

8. Financial Plan

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

9. Appendices and Exhibits

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

Business Plan Template - Components

Business Plan Template

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

Section 1: Executive Summary

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

Section 2: Industry Overview

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

Section 3: Market Analysis and Competition

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

Section 4: Sales and Marketing Plan

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

Section 5: Management Plan

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

Section 6: Operating Plan

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

Section 7: Financial Plan

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

Section 8: Appendices and Exhibits

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

Related Readings

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

  • Corporate Structure
  • Three Financial Statements
  • Business Model Canvas Examples
  • See all management & strategy resources
  • Share this article

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How to Build a Detailed Business Plan That Stands Out [Free Template]

AJ Beltis

Updated: March 29, 2022

Published: March 11, 2022

While starting a company may seem easier now than ever before, entrepreneurs have an uphill battle from the moment they start a business. And without a clear, actionable business plan for selling, marketing, finances, and operations, you're almost destined to face significant challenges.

Entrepreneur builds his business plan template

This is why crafting a business plan is an essential step in the entrepreneurial process.

In this post, we'll walk you through the process of filling out your business plan template, like this free, editable version :

free editable One-Page Business Plan PDF  Template

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

We know that when looking at a blank page on a laptop screen, the idea of writing your business plan can seem impossible. However, it's a mandatory step to take if you want to turn your business dreams into a reality.

→ Download Now: Free Business Plan Template

That's why we've crafted a business plan template for you to download and use to build your new company. You can download it here for free . It contains prompts for all of the essential parts of a business plan, all of which are elaborated on, below.

This way, you'll be able to show them how organized and well-thought-out your business idea is, and provide them with answers to whatever questions they may have.

business plan definition example

Free Business Plan Template

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

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

Download Free

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Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Building a Successful Business Plan

In the next section, we'll cover the components of a business plan , such as an executive summary and company description. But before we get to that, let's talk about key elements that should serve as building blocks for your plan.

For some entrepreneurs, the thought of writing a business plan sounds like a chore — a necessary means to an end. But that's a bad take.

A solid business plan is a blueprint for success . It's key to securing financing, presenting your business, outlining your financial projections, and turning that nugget of a business idea into a reality.

At the core, your business plan should answer two questions: why your business and why now?

Investors want to know why your business is entering the market, i.e. what problem it's solving and how it's different from what's currently out there. They also want to know why now is the right time for your type of product or service.

At a minimum, your plan should:

  • Be more realistic than idealistic: Too often, business plans focus too much on how things could be instead of how they are. While having a vision is important, your plan needs to be rooted in research and data.
  • Legitimize your business idea : If an idea fails on paper, it's a signal to go back to the drawing board. In doing so, you avoid losing precious time or money chasing an unrealistic idea.
  • Position your business for funding: To get your business off the ground, chances are you'll need financial backing. Even with a solid business idea, investors, lenders, and banks still need convincing. An effective business plan will outline how much money you need, where it's going, what targets you will hit, and how you plan to repay any debts.
  • Lay the foundation: Investors focus on risk – if anything looks shaky, it could be a dealbreaker. Ideally, your business plan will lay down the foundation for how you'll operate your business — from operational needs to financial projections and goals.
  • Communicate your needs: It's nearly impossible to communicate your needs if you don't know what they are first. Of course, a business’ needs are always changing — but your plan should give you a well-rounded view of how your business will work in the short and long term.

So back to the question of why and why now – consider three things:

  • Your industry – How does your product or service fit within your industry? Are you targeting a specific niche? Where do you see the industry going in the next five to 10 years?
  • Your target audience – Who are you targeting? What challenges are they facing? How will your product or service help them in their daily lives?
  • Your unique selling proposition (USP) – What sets you apart from your competitors? Is it your product/service features? Your company values? Price?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you'll be equipped to answer the question: why your business and why now.

How to Build a Business Plan

  • Executive Summary
  • Company and Business Description
  • Product and Services Line
  • Market Analysis
  • Marketing Plan
  • Legal Notes
  • Financial Considerations

Featured Resource: Free Business Plan Template

1. cover page.

Your business plan should be prefaced with an eye-catching cover page. This means including a high-resolution image of your company logo, followed by your company's name, address, and phone number.

Since this business plan will likely change hands and be seen by multiple investors, you should also provide your own name, role in the business, and email address on the cover page.

At the bottom of this page, you can also add a confidentiality statement to protect against the disclosure of your business details.

The statement can read as follows: " This document contains confidential and proprietary information created by [your company name]. When receiving this document, you agree to keep its content confidential and may only reproduce and/or share it with express written permission of [your company name] ."

Remember to keep your cover page simple and concise — and save the important details for other sections.

Why it matters: First impressions are everything, and a clean cover page is the first step in the right direction.

Example of a Cover Page

Business Plan Template: Cover Page

2. Executive Summary

The executive summary of your business plan provides a one- to two-page overview of your business and highlights the most crucial pieces of your plan, such as your short-term and long-term goals.

The executive summary is essentially a boiled-down version of your entire business plan, so remember to keep this section to the point and filled only with essential information.

Typically, this brief section includes:

  • A mission statement.
  • The company's history and leadership model.
  • An overview of competitive advantage(s).
  • Financial projections.
  • Company goals.
  • An ask from potential investors.

Why it matters: The executive summary is known as the make-or-break section of a business plan. It influences whether investors turn the page or not — so effectively summarizing your business and the problem it hopes to solve is a must.

Think of the Summary as a written elevator pitch (with more detail). While your business plan provides the nitty-gritty details, your Summary describes — in a compelling but matter-of-fact language — the highlights of your plan. If it's too vague, complicated, or fuzzy, you may need to scrap it and start again.

Example of an Executive Summary Introduction

"The future looks bright for North Side Chicago, particularly the Rock Hill Neighborhood. A number of high-end commercial and residential developments are well on their way, along with two new condo developments in nearby neighborhoods.

While the completion of these developments will increase the population within the neighborhood and stimulate the economy, the area lacks an upscale restaurant where residents and visitors can enjoy fine food and drink. Jay Street Lounge and Restaurant will provide such a place."

3. Company & Business Description

In this section, provide a more thorough description of what your company is and why it exists.

Business Plan Template: Business Description

The bulk of the writing in this section should be about your company's purpose – covering what the business will be selling, identifying the target market, and laying out a path to success.

In this portion of your business plan, you can also elaborate on your company's:

  • Mission statement
  • Core values
  • Team and organizational structure

Why it matters: Investors look for great structures and teams in addition to great ideas. This section gives an overview of your businesses' ethos. It's the perfect opportunity to set your business apart from the competition — such as your team's expertise, your unique work culture, and your competitive advantage.

Example of a Values/Mission Statement

"Jay Street Lounge and Restaurant will be the go-to place for people to get a drink or bite in an elegant, upscale atmosphere. The mission is to be North Side's leading restaurant, with the best tasting food and the highest quality service."

3. Product & Services Line

Here's where you'll cover the makeup of your business's product and/or services line. You should provide each product or service's name, its purpose, and a description of how it works (if appropriate). If you own any patents, copyrights, or trademarks, it's essential to include this info too.

Next, add some color to your sales strategy by outlining your pricing model and mark-up amounts.

If you're selling tangible products, you should also explain production and costs, and how you expect these factors to change as you scale.

Why it matters: This section contains the real meat of your business plan. It sets the stage for the problem you hope to solve, your solution, and how your said solution fits in the market.

There's no one-size-fits-all formula for this section. For instance, one plan may delve into its ability to market in a more cost-effective way than the competition, whereas another plan focuses on its key products and their unique features and benefits.

Regardless of your angle, it's critical to convey how your offerings will differ from the competition.

Example of a Product/Service Offering

"The menu at Jay Street Lounge and Restaurant will focus on Moroccan cuisine. The stars of the menu (our specialties) are the Moroccan dishes, such as eggplant zaalouk, seafood bastilla, tagine, and chickpea stew. For those who enjoy American dishes, there will also be a variety of options, from burger sliders and flatbread pizza to grilled steak and salads.

The food at Jay Street will have premium pricing to match its upscale atmosphere. During the summer months, the restaurant will have extra seating on the patio where clients can enjoy a special summer menu. We will be open on all days of the week."

4. Market Analysis

Business Plan Template: Market Analysis

It helps to reference your market research documentation in this section, like a Porter's Five Forces Analysis or a SWOT Analysis ( templates for those are available here ). You can also include them in your appendix.

If your company already has buyer personas, you should include them here as well. If not, you can create them right now using the Make My Persona Tool .

Why it matters: Having an awesome product is, well, awesome — but it isn't enough. Just as important, there must be a market for it.

This section allows you to dig deeper into your market, which segments you want to target, and why. The "why" here is important, since targeting the right segment is critical for the success and growth of your business.

It's easy to get lost (or overwhelmed) in a sea of endless data. For your business plan, narrow your focus by answering the following questions:

  • What is my market? In other words, who are my customers?
  • What segments of the market do I want to target?
  • What's the size of my target market?
  • Is my market likely to grow?
  • How can I increase my market share over time?

Example of a Market Analysis

"Jay Street Lounge and Restaurant will target locals who live and work within the Rock Hill Neighborhood and the greater North Side Chicago area. We will also target the tourists who flock to the many tourist attractions and colleges on the North Side.

We will specifically focus on young to middle-aged adults with an income of $40,000 to $80,000 who are looking for an upscale experience. The general demographics of our target market are women between 20 to 50 years old.

A unique and varied Moroccan-American menu, along with our unique upscale atmosphere, differentiates us from competitors in the area. Jay Street will also set itself apart through its commitment to high-quality food, service, design, and atmosphere."

5. Marketing Plan

Unlike the market analysis section, your marketing plan section should be an explanation of the tactical approach to reaching your aforementioned target audience. List your advertising channels, organic marketing methods, messaging, budget, and any relevant promotional tactics.

If your company has a fully fleshed-out marketing plan, you can attach it in the appendix of your business plan. If not, download this free marketing plan template to outline your strategy.

business plan definition example

Free Marketing Plan Template

Outline your company's marketing strategy in one simple, coherent plan.

  • Pre-Sectioned Template
  • Completely Customizable
  • Example Prompts
  • Professionally Designed

Why it matters: Marketing is what puts your product in front of your customers. It's not just advertising — it's an investment in your business.

Throwing money into random marketing channels is a haphazard approach, which is why it's essential to do the legwork to create a solid marketing plan.

Here's some good news — by this point, you should have a solid understanding of your target market. Now, it's time to determine how you'll reach them.

Example of a Marketing Plan Overview

"Our marketing strategy will focus on three main initiatives:

  • Social media marketing. We will grow and expand our Facebook and Instagram following through targeted social media ads.
  • Website initiatives. Our website will attract potential visitors by offering updated menus and a calendar of events.
  • Promotional events. Jay Street will have one special theme night per week to attract new clients."

6. Sales Plan

It doesn't matter if your sales department is an office full of business development representatives (BDR) or a dozen stores with your products on their shelves.

The point is: All sales plans are different, so you should clearly outline yours here. Common talking points include your:

  • Sales team structure, and why this structure was chosen.
  • Sales channels.
  • Sales tools, software, and resources.
  • Prospecting strategy.
  • Sales goals and budget.

Like with your marketing plan, it might make sense to attach your completed sales plan to the appendix of your business plan. You can download a template for building your sales plan here .

Why it matters: Among other things, investors are interested in the scalability of your business — which is why growth strategies are a critical part of your business plan.

Your sales plan should describe your plan to attract customers, retain them (if applicable), and, ultimately, grow your business. Be sure to outline what you plan to do given your existing resources and what results you expect from your work.

Example of a Sales Plan Overview

"The most important goal is to ensure financial success for Jay Street Lounge and Restaurant. We believe we can achieve this by offering excellent food, entertainment, and service to our clients.

We are not a low-cost dining option in the area. Instead, the food will have premium pricing to match its upscale feel. The strategy is to give Jay Street a perception of elegance through its food, entertainment, and excellent service."

7. Legal Notes

Your investors may want to know the legal structure of your business, as that could directly impact the risk of their investments. For example, if you're looking for business partners to engage in a non-corporation or LLC partnership, this means they could be on the line for more than their actual investment.

Because this clarification is often needed, explain if you are and/or plan to become a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, LLC, or other.

You should also outline the steps you have taken (or will need to take) to operate legally. This includes licenses, permits, registrations, and insurance.

The last thing your investor wants to hear after they've sent you a big chunk of change is that you're operating without proper approval from the local, state, or federal government.

Why it matters: The last thing your investor wants to hear after they've sent you a big chunk of change is that you're operating without proper approval from the local, state, or federal government.

Example of Legal Notes

"Jay Street Lounge and Restaurant is up-to-date on all restaurant licenses and health permits. Our business name and logo are registered trademarks, presenting the possibility of expanding locally."

8. Financial Considerations

Ultimately, investors want to know two things:

  • When they will earn their money back.
  • When they will start seeing returns on their initial investment.

That said, be clear, calculated, and convincing in this section. It should cover:

  • Startup costs.
  • Sales forecasts for the next several months/quarters.
  • Break-even analysis for time and dollars.
  • Projected profit and loss (P&L) statement.

Facts and figures are key here, so be as specific as possible with each line item and projection. In addition, explain the "why" behind each of these sections.

However, keep in mind that information overload is a risk, especially when it comes to data. So, if you have pages upon pages of charts and spreadsheets for this section, distill them into a page or two and include the rest of the sheets in the appendix. This section should only focus on key data points.

Why it matters: One of the most important aspects of becoming "investor ready" is knowing your numbers. More importantly, you need to understand how those numbers will enhance your business.

While it's easy to write a number down on paper, it's more important to understand (and communicate) why you need capital, where it's going, and that your evaluation makes sense.

Example of Financial Projections

"Based on our knowledge and experience in the restaurant industry, we have come up with projections for the business.

Starting with an expenditure of $400,000 in year 1, we forecast sales of $1,500,000 and $2,800,000 for years two and three. We expect to achieve a net profit of 15% by year three."

9. Appendix

A detailed and well-developed business plan can range anywhere from 20 to 50 pages, with some even reaching upward of 80.

In many cases, the appendix is the longest section. Why? Because it includes the supportive materials mentioned in previous sections. To avoid disrupting the flow of the business plan with visuals, charts, and spreadsheets, business owners usually add them in the last section, i.e. the appendix.

Aside from what we've already mentioned – marketing plan, sales plan, department budgets, financial documents – you may also want to attach the following in the appendix:

  • Marketing materials
  • Market research data
  • Licensing documentation
  • Branding assets
  • Floor plans for your location
  • Mockups of your product
  • Renderings of your office space or location design

Adding these pieces to the appendix enriches the reader's understanding of your business and proves you've put the work into your business plan without distracting from the main points throughout the plan.

Why it matters: An appendix helps the reader do their due diligence. It contains everything they need to support your business plan.

Keep in mind, however, that an appendix is typically necessary only if you're seeking financing or looking to attract business partners.

Use a Business Plan Template to Get Started

Writing a business plan shouldn't be an insurmountable roadblock to starting a business. Unfortunately, for all too many, it is.

That's why we recommend using our free business plan template. Pre-filled with detailed section prompts for all of the topics in this blog post, we're confident this template will get your business plan started in the right direction.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in June 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Business Plan Template

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Business Plan Executive Summary Example & Template

Kimberlee Leonard

Updated: Jun 3, 2024, 1:03pm

Business Plan Executive Summary Example & Template

Table of Contents

Components of an executive summary, how to write an executive summary, example of an executive summary, frequently asked questions.

A business plan is a document that you create that outlines your company’s objectives and how you plan to meet those objectives. Every business plan has key sections such as management and marketing. It should also have an executive summary, which is a synopsis of each of the plan sections in a one- to two-page overview. This guide will help you create an executive summary for your business plan that is comprehensive while being concise.

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The executive summary should mimic the sections found in the business plan . It is just a more concise way of stating what’s in the plan so that a reader can get a broad overview of what to expect.

State the company’s mission statement and provide a few sentences on what the company’s purpose is.

Company History and Management

This section describes the basics of where the company is located, how long it has been in operation, who is running it and what their level of experience is. Remember that this is a summary and that you’ll expand on management experience within the business plan itself. But the reader should know the basics of the company structure and who is running the company from this section.

Products or Services

This section tells the reader what the product or service of the company is. Every company does something. This is where you outline exactly what you do and how you solve a problem for the consumer.

This is an important section that summarizes how large the market is for the product or service. In the business plan, you’ll do a complete market analysis. Here, you will write the key takeaways that show that you have the potential to grow the business because there are consumers in the market for it.

Competitive Advantages

This is where you will summarize what makes you better than the competitors. Identify key strengths that will be reasons why consumers will choose you over another company.

Financial Projections

This is where you estimate the sales projections for the first years in business. At a minimum, you should have at least one year’s projections, but it may be better to have three to five years if you can project that far ahead.

Startup Financing Requirements

This states what it will cost to get the company launched and running. You may tackle this as a first-year requirement or if you have made further projections, look at two to three years of cost needs.

The executive summary is found at the start of the business plan, even though it is a summary of the plan. However, you should write the executive summary last. Writing the summary once you have done the work and written the business plan will be easier. After all, it is a summary of what is in the plan. Keep the executive summary limited to two pages so that it doesn’t take someone a long time to peruse what the summary says.

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It might be easier to write an executive summary if you know what to expect. Here is an example of an executive summary that you can use as a template.

business plan definition example

Bottom Line

Writing an executive summary doesn’t need to be difficult if you’ve already done the work of writing the business plan itself. Take the elements from the plan and summarize each section. Point out key details that will make the reader want to learn more about the company and its financing needs.

How long is an executive summary?

An executive summary should be one to two pages and no more. This is just enough information to help the reader determine their overall interest in the company.

Does an executive summary have keywords?

The executive summary uses keywords to help sell the idea of the business. As such, there may be enumeration, causation and contrasting words.

How do I write a business plan?

If you have business partners, make sure to collaborate with them to ensure that the plan accurately reflects the goals of all parties involved. You can use our simple business plan template to get started.

What basic items should be included in a business plan?

When writing out a business plan, you want to make sure that you cover everything related to your concept for the business,  an analysis of the industry―including potential customers and an overview of the market for your goods or services―how you plan to execute your vision for the business, how you plan to grow the business if it becomes successful and all financial data around the business, including current cash on hand, potential investors and budget plans for the next few years.

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What Is a Business Plan?

Business Plan Explained in Less Than 5 Minutes

business plan definition example

Definition and Examples of a Business Plan

How a business plan works, types of business plans, business plan vs. business model.

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A business plan is a detailed written document that describes your business’s activities, goals, and strategy. A strong plan outlines everything from the products a company sells to the executive summary to the overall management. In essence, a business plan should guide a founder’s actions through each stage of growth

Think of your business plan as a road map. It documents the various stages of starting and running your business, including business activities and objectives. Business plans create the structure you need to make decisions by outlining the financial and operational goals you’re striving toward. 

One of the most common reasons for crafting a business plan is to attract investors—and, in return, receive funding. As an early stage company, for example, you may leverage your business plan to convince investors or banks that your entity is credible and worthy of funding. The business plan should prove that their money will be returned . 

A business plan can also be useful for when a well-developed company goes through a merger or acquisition . As outlined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), a merger creates a new entity via the combination of two businesses. An acquisition, on the other hand, is when a company is purchased and absorbed into an existing business. In either case, a business plan helps establish relationships between business entities, making a merger or acquisition more likely.

  • Alternate name : Strategic plan

A business plan is a formalized outline of the business operations, finances, and goals you aim to achieve to be a successful company. When designing a business plan, companies have leeway for how long, short, or detailed it can be. So long as it outlines the foundational aspects of the business, in most cases, it will be effective.

The most common type of business plan is a traditional business plan. This style tends to have the following common elements, generally in this order.

  • Executive summary : Tells your reader why your company will be successful. Includes the company’s mission statement , product information, and basics regarding the business structure. 
  • Company description : Where you brag about your entity’s strengths. Answer the question, what problem is your team solving?
  • Market analysis : A deep dive into your industry and the competition. Consider why competitors are successful. How can your offering do it better? If applicable, how can you enhance the experience for the consumer? 
  • Management plan : Outlines leadership structure of the company and may be best detailed as a chart. This way, readers can see exactly who is planning to run the company and how they will impact growth. 
  • Marketing and sales plan : Details how you’ll attract consumers with your product or service, and how you will retain those customers. All strategies outlined in this section, such as the use of digital marketing , will be referenced in your financial plan. 
  • Funding request : For those companies asking for funding, this is where you’ll detail the amount of funding you’ll need to achieve your goals. Clearly explain how much you need and what it will be used for.
  • Financial plan : Convinces the reader that your company is financially stable and can turn a profit . You will need to include a balance sheet , an income statement, and the cash flow statement (or cash flow projection, in the case of a new venture). 
  • Appendix : Where any supporting documents, such as legal documents, licenses of employees, and pictures of the product will be included. 

Your company’s business plan should fit your needs, which will often depend on what stage of growth you are in. If you are considering starting a new venture, for example, writing a detailed business plan can help prove if your concept is viable or not. 

If your business is seeking financial capital, though, you will want your business plan to be investor-ready. This will require you to have a funding request section, which would be placed right above your financial plan.

You should avoid using lofty terms or technical jargon that those outside your team won’t understand. A business plan is meant to be shared with those inside and outside your organization. Simple and effective language is best.

Your business’s stage impacts the length and detail of a business plan. As discussed, a traditional plan follows a detailed structure, from the executive summary to the appendix. It is a lengthier document, often amounting to dozens of pages, and is often used when seeking funding to prove business viability. In most cases, crafting a traditional plan will take lots of due diligence work.

The other main type of business plan is a lean startup plan. A lean startup plan is much more high-level and shorter than the traditional version. Companies just starting development will often create a lean startup plan to help them navigate where they should start. These can be as short as one or two pages. 

A lean plan will include the following elements.

  • Key partnerships : Notes other services or businesses you will work with, such as manufacturers and suppliers. 
  • Key activities and resources : Outlines how your company will gain a competitive advantage and create value for your consumers. Resources you may leverage include capital, staff, or intellectual property.
  • Value proposition : Clearly defines the unique value your company offers.
  • Customer relationships : Details the customer experience from start to finish. 
  • Channels : How will you stay connected with your customers? Detail those methods here.
  • Cost structure and revenue streams : Details the most significant costs you will face as well as how your business will actually make money.  

Remember that business plans are meant to change as your company grows or pivots. You should actively review and edit your business plan to keep it up to date with business activities. For example, you may start with a lean plan and move to a traditional plan when you hit the fundraising stage.

Describes a business’s operations and objectives, including financial goals Describes the method by which a company generates profits
Is the structure of the business Is the foundation of the business
Sections include mission statement, market analysis, and financial plan Examples include retailer, franchise, and distributor
Needs review and revisions over time Needs review and revisions over time

A business plan may often be confused with a business model, and it is easy to understand why. Simply put, a business plan is the holistic overview of the business, while a business model is a skeleton for how money will be made.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines a business’s operations, finances, and goals. It guides the business’s day-to-day decisions.
  • A business plan is necessary for your company’s success, as it creates a path to scalability.
  • There are two main types of business plans: a traditional business plan and a lean startup plan.
  • A traditional business plan will be essential when you begin to seek debt or equity capital for your company.

U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Merge and Acquire Businesses .” Accessed June 8, 2021.

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ." Accessed June 8, 2021.

How to Write a Business Plan Outline in 9 Steps (Example Included!)

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Starting a business often begins with writing a business plan , especially if you need funding . It acts as a roadmap, guiding you through each stage of launching and managing your company, and it presents a clear, compelling case to potential investors and partners. But here's the thing: not everyone finds this step intuitive. That's where a business plan outline can be incredibly helpful.

Creating a detailed business plan outline helps you organize your thoughts and ensure you cover all the key aspects of your business strategy. Plus, it might be just what you need to overcome that blank page and start typing.

Below, you'll find an easy-to-follow guide on how to craft your business plan outline, and an example to show you what it should look like.

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What is an outline of a business plan?

Think of a business plan outline as the skeleton of your entire business plan. It gives a high-level overview of the main sections you'll need to flesh out later. It's not the final document but a crucial step in getting you there.

Simply put, it's like creating a detailed table of contents for your business plan, showing you exactly what information to include and how everything fits together. A well-structured business plan outline also helps you plan things ahead, saving time and effort.

Writing a business plan outline in 9 steps

Follow these steps to build your business plan outline and learn exactly what each section should include.

(Bear in mind that every business plan is unique, tailored to the specific needs and goals of the business. While the structure below is common, the order of sections may vary—only the executive summary will always come first.)

1. Executive summary

Imagine you have just 60 seconds to convince someone to invest in your business. That's the essence of a strong executive summary. Although it appears first on your business plan, this section is often written last because it sums up the entire plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch . This section gives a quick overview of your entire business plan, highlighting key points that grab the reader's attention.

Keep it clear and concise. Start with a brief overview of your business, including its name and what it offers. Summarize your mission statement and objectives, and don’t forget to mention crucial aspects like financial projections and competitive advantages.

2. Company description

Here's where you provide detailed information about your company. Begin with the business name and location. Describe the legal structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation) and ownership. If your business already exists, share a brief history.

For new ventures, explain the business's nature and the problems you aim to solve. Go into more detail about your vision and mission statements, outlining your goals and the principles guiding your business. This section helps potential investors and stakeholders grasp your company’s identity and purpose.

3. Market research and analysis

This section shares insights into your company’s industry. Start with a landscape analysis to give an overview of the market, including its size, growth rate, and key players.

Next, define your target market and customer demographics—age, location, income, and interests—detailing who your ideal customers are. Identify market needs and trends your business will address, and highlight customer pain points your product or service aims to solve.

Consider conducting a SWOT analysis to evaluate your business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and gain a strategic view of where your business stands in the competitive landscape.

4. Organization and management

Describe how your business is structured and who runs it. Outline the organizational structure, and if helps, include a chart. Introduce the leadership team and key personnel, highlighting their qualifications and roles. If you have a board of directors, mention them and briefly explain their involvement.

Then, outline your production processes, detailing how your product or service is (or will be) created—from sourcing materials to delivery—to give a comprehensive view of your operational capabilities.

5. Products and services

This section of your business plan outline is crucial for showing potential investors what makes your products and services unique and valuable.

Clearly describe what your business offers, emphasizing your unique selling propositions (USPs) and the benefits and features that set you apart from the competition. Talk about the product life cycle, including any plans for future updates.

If your business holds any intellectual property or proprietary technologies, detail them here to underscore your competitive advantages.

6. Marketing strategy

Having a fantastic product or service is just half the battle. The marketing plan section should outline how you'll reach your target market and convert them into customers.

Begin with market positioning and branding, explaining how you want your brand perceived. Detail your marketing and promotional strategies, including specific tactics to reach your target audience.

Discuss your sales strategy, focusing on how you'll convert leads into customers. Lastly, include your pricing strategy and provide a sales forecast, projecting your expected revenue over a certain period.

7. Operations plan

Here, the goal is to give a detailed overview of the physical and logistical aspects of your company. Start with the business location and facilities, describing where it operates and any significant physical assets. Detail the technology and equipment needed for daily operations.

Briefly describe your supply chain and logistics processes to illustrate how you manage inventory, procurement, and distribution. Finish it by outlining your production process and quality control measures to ensure your products or services consistently meet high standards.

8. Financial plan

Use this section of the business plan to show how your company will succeed financially. Include financial projections like income statements and cash flow statements. Specify how much capital you need and how you plan to use it, discussing funding sources.

Conduct a break-even analysis to estimate when your business will become profitable. Be transparent and address any financial risks and assumptions, outlining how you plan to mitigate them.

9. Appendices and exhibits

In this section, include any additional information that supports your business plan. This might be resumes of key personnel to highlight your team's expertise and experience, or even legal documents and agreements.

Include market research data and surveys to back up your market analysis. Add financial statements for a detailed look at your financial plan. Also, provide detailed product specifications to give a clear understanding of your products and services.

Here's a business plan outline example

Not quite there yet? Take a look at this business plan outline example—it will make everything clear for you.

3.1 Executive Summary

  • Overview of the business
  • Key points of the business plan

3.2 Company Description

  • Business name and location
  • History and nature of the business
  • Legal structure and ownership
  • Vision and mission statement

3.3 Market Research and Analysis

  • Industry analysis
  • Target market and customer demographics
  • Market needs, trends
  • Customer pain points
  • SWOT analysis

3.4 Organization and Management

  • Organizational structure
  • Leadership team and key personnel
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Board of directors (if applicable)
  • Production processes

3.5 Products and Services

  • Description of products or services offered
  • Unique selling propositions, benefits, features
  • Product lifecycle and development plans
  • Intellectual property and proprietary technologies

3.6 Marketing Strategy

  • Market positioning and branding
  • Marketing and promotional strategies
  • Sales strategy and tactics
  • Pricing strategy and sales forecast

3.7 Operations Plan

  • Business location and facilities
  • Technology and equipment
  • Supply chain and logistics
  • Production process and quality control

3.8 Financial Plan

  • Financial projections (income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements)
  • Funding requirements and sources
  • Break-even analysis
  • Financial risks and assumptions

3.9 Appendices and Exhibits (if applicable)

  • Supporting documents and additional information
  • Resumes of key personnel
  • Legal documents and agreements
  • Market research data and surveys
  • Financial Statements
  • Detailed Product Specifications

Bonus tips on how to write a winning business plan

Once you've done your business plan outline, it's time to fill in the gaps and craft a winning business plan. Here are some bonus tips to keep in mind:

  • Tailor it to fit your business : Customize sections to meet industry-specific needs and highlight what makes your business unique.
  • Keep it clear and concise : Use straightforward language and support your points with data to ensure easy understanding and avoid any confusion.
  • Set actionable and realistic goals : Define measurable objectives with clear timelines and milestones to track your progress.
  • Update regularly : Keep your plan dynamic by making regular updates to reflect changes in goals, market conditions, and strategies.
  • Seek feedback : Gain insights from mentors and advisors to refine your plan.

Read this next: How to Start a Business in 8 Steps: A Comprehensive Guide from Concept to Launch

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What is a Business Plan?

Home › Business Management › What is a Business Plan?

Definition:  A business plan is a detailed written steps and goals defined to guide a business’ course of action from its initial stages. A business plan provides a complete description and projection of the company as well as its core strategies and expected results.

  • What Does Business Plan Mean?

The creation of a new organization or a new business requires coherent actions in order to achieve the desired outcomes. Following a business plan allows to link actions and resources to objectives and measurable goals. This plan can be used internally like a roadmap for the owner but also can be a requirement when looking for funding or partners.

A business plan is generally a precise, short document that commonly contains the following sections: executive summary, business description with its products or services, marketing plan, operational plan and financial plan with its forecasted financial statements for the first years of operation, often five to ten years. The initial business plan is later substituted by annual or bi-annual strategic plans.

Mark Tilson is a young professional that wants to start a new business. He has the idea of providing an innovative maintenance service to medium-size manufacturing companies but he needs funds to implement it. Mr. Tilson therefore decided to write a business plan to present the idea to some potential capital partners. He though that the ideas were already clear but soon realized that more analysis and pre-launching work was required.

How many employees the company will have? How the company will market its services? How much money the initial investment requires? How much profit the company is expected to generate at the end of the fifth year of operation? These and other questions must be answered and coherently written in the business plan. Finally, Mr. Tilson improved his ideas, presented the plan and found the required partner.

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Guide to Business Plan Introduction

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

  • July 8, 2024

how to write a compelling business plan introduction with example

Be it a blog post, your business plan, or even a grocery list—catchy introductions can turn casual skimmers into avid readers.

Now imagine turning these casual readers into people who hang on to every word, eager to dive deeper into what your business has to offer. That’s the magic of a stellar business plan introduction!

But the main question is: How do you write such an irresistible introduction?

Well, we’ll help you with that in this blog post. We’ve also added a template and an example to enhance your overall understanding.

So let’s get started.

What is a business plan introduction?

An introduction sets the stage for your business plan by offering context and a high-level overview of what the subsequent sections will cover.

It’s different from your executive summary and is placed right after it. Rather than summarizing the entire plan, this section of your business plan focuses on providing essential background information.

Introductions are crisp and can be anywhere between 2 paragraphs to 1 page long.

Why do you need a business plan introduction?

You must be wondering: Why do I need an introduction when there’s an executive summary summarizing my entire plan?

Well, primarily to set the readers’ expectations straight. With its contextual overview, an introduction helps the readers understand what details they will uncover in the plan.

Besides, business plans are quite extensive. If a reader just wants a basic business overview and understanding of your objectives, they shouldn’t have to read your entire plan. An introduction should offer that by providing a quick insight into your business.

Additionally, introductions give your business plan a professional and organized head start. It sets the tone of your plan and generates excitement amongst readers to read further.

Whether you need a business plan to establish credibility for your business or generate funds—an introduction plays a huge role in setting up your business plan for success.

Let’s now understand the process of writing an introduction for your business plan.

How to write a compelling introduction for business plans?

how to write a introduction for business plan

Wondering what you should include in your introduction and how to place it together? Check this step-by-step process and learn:

1. Determine the details

Writing an introduction gets much easier when you have a thorough understanding of what to include in it.

While there’s no fixed rule, here are a few points you can quickly touch in your introduction:

  • Business background
  • Business objectives
  • Management overview
  • Mission statement
  • Core values

However, depending on the specialty or core focus of your plan, you can also include a general overview of a financial plan, marketing plan, target market, competitive analysis, and customer segments in your introduction.

Determine which of these will add value and context to your business plan before creating an outline of your introduction.

2. Create an outline

Before you start writing, take some time to create an outline. It will help you fill in the details more quickly and efficiently.

A general outline or structure of an introduction can be as follows:

  • Opening statement
  • Business overview
  • Purpose of a business plan
  • Preview of each section (optional)
  • Closing statement

You don’t need to cover these sections in detail (specific sections of a business plan will do that). Just a line or two offering a macro overview of these aspects is enough.

3. Write your introduction

It’s now time to write an introduction by filling in the outline.

However, before that, finish writing your business plan . This will help translate the essence of your business plan more efficiently.

Now, place all the information you want to add to your introduction and weave them together in a cohesive narrative. Keep the tone persuasive and the content short.

4. Revise and review

Ask people from your team or someone professional to read your introduction.

Could they gather the context of your plan? Can they merely understand what the business does and aims to achieve from an introduction? Are they compelled to read your entire plan after reading an introduction?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, your introduction needs a revision and rework. Get it right before adding it to your business plan.

That’s how you write an introduction. Not a ninja task after all!

Business plan introduction template

Introductions don’t follow a strict structure. It simply answers a few core fundamental questions and sets the tone for your business plan.

Refer to this business plan introduction template and answer its questions to structure your section.

  • Why are you starting this business?
  • What are the problems you’re trying to solve?
  • Who will buy from you?
  • What makes your business different from competitors?
  • How will you become profitable?
  • When will you become profitable?
  • What can the reader expect from your business plan?

It’s just a template. You can refine and remove these questions to suit your needs.

Business plan introduction example

Refer to this introduction example for a new-age gourmet restaurant, TasteBites, in the city.

TasteBites aims to create a unique dining experience combining gourmet flavors with a cozy, family-friendly atmosphere. Positioned in the heart of downtown, our location is ideal, surrounded by offices and residential areas, ensuring a steady stream of customers seeking high-quality dining options.

Managed by culinary experts and seasoned restaurateurs, TasteBites will feature a diverse menu highlighting local ingredients, catering to various tastes while maintaining high-profit margins. Our strategic location and commitment to quality will establish TasteBites as a beloved dining destination in the community.

The bottom line

Introductions are supposed to be exciting and persuasive. It should offer a true overview of your business opportunity and must reflect your preparedness to start this new venture.

Don’t focus too hard on proving your business’s capabilities in this section. You have an entire plan to do so. The idea here is to excite your readers and nudge them to read your business plan further.

Now, before you work on the introduction, ensure that you have your entire plan ready. If not, use Upmetrics’s AI business plan generator to whip up a fresh business plan in less than 10 minutes.

Build your Business Plan Faster

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can i modify the introduction after writing the rest of the business plan.

Yes, you can. In fact , it’s r ecommended to review and edit your introduction in the end. By doing so, you can ensure that the introduction covers all the high-value points and that it offers an appropriate contextual overview of your plan.

What tone should I use in the business plan introduction?

You should use a professional confident tone while writing your business plan introduction. The introduction should portray your business in the best light and should confide in the reader’s interest. It should be sincere and subtle; persuading the readers to read your plan till the end.

How can I make my business plan introduction engaging?

To make your introduction engaging, start with a compelling question or statement to highlight the unique aspect of your business. Include details about profitability, new technology, or a strategic location to generate excitement in your readers. And most importantly, adapt a storytelling narrative to keep your readers hooked.

How long should the business plan introduction be?

A business plan introduction is ideally 2-3 paragraphs long. However, if there’s a lot to cover you can extend your introduction to 1 page. Anything longer than that needs to be redone.

About the Author

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Upmetrics Team

Upmetrics is the #1 business planning software that helps entrepreneurs and business owners create investment-ready business plans using AI. We regularly share business planning insights on our blog. Check out the Upmetrics blog for such interesting reads. Read more

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scalability

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What is scalability?

In information technology , scalability (frequently spelled scaleability ) has two uses: for a computer application to function with change in size and volume, and to take advantage of rescaling.

Continual application function with size and volume change

The ability of a computer application or product, hardware or software, to continue to function well when it, or its context, is changed in size or volume in order to meet a user need. Typically, the rescaling is to a larger size or volume. The rescaling can be of the product itself, such as a line of computer systems of different sizes in terms of storage and RAM, or in the scalable object's movement to a new context, such as a new operating system ( OS ).

John Young, in his book Exploring IBM's New-Age Mainframes , describes the RS/6000 SP OS as one that delivers scalability as he states it has "the ability to retain performance levels when adding additional processors."

As another example, in printing, scalable fonts can be resized without losing quality.

Taking advantage of rescaling

Scalability is to function well in the rescaled situation, but to also take full advantage of it. It is usually easier to have scalability upward rather than downward since developers often must make full use of a system's resources, such as the amount of disk storage available, when an application is initially coded. Scaling a product downward may mean trying to achieve the same results in a more constrained environment.

An application program would be scalable if it could be moved from a smaller to a larger OS and take full advantage of the larger OS in terms of performance , user response time, and the larger number of users that could be handled.

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