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8 Components of a Business Plan

Back to Business Plans

Written by: Carolyn Young

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by: David Lepeska

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

Published on February 19, 2023 Updated on February 27, 2024

8 Components of a Business Plan

A key part of the business startup process is putting together a business plan , particularly if you’d like to raise capital. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s absolutely essential, and an invaluable learning tool. 

Creating a business plan early helps you think through every aspect of your business, from operations and financing to growth and vision. In the end, the knowledge you’ll gain could be the difference between success and failure. 

But what exactly does a business plan consist of? There are eight essential components, all of which are detailed in this handy guide.

1. Executive Summary 

The executive summary opens your business plan , but it’s the section you’ll write last. It summarizes the key points and highlights the most important aspects of your plan. Often investors and lenders will only read the executive summary; if it doesn’t capture their interest they’ll stop reading, so it’s important to make it as compelling as possible.

The components touched upon should include:

  • The business opportunity – what problem are you solving in the market?
  • Your idea, meaning the product or service you’re planning to offer, and why it solves the problem in the market better than other solutions.
  • The history of the business so far – what have you done to this point? When you’re just getting started, this may be nothing more than coming up with the idea, choosing a business name , and forming a business entity.
  • A summary of the industry, market size, your target customers, and the competition.
  • A strong statement about how your company is going to stand out in the market – what will be your competitive advantage?
  • A list of specific goals that you plan to achieve in the short term, such as developing your product, launching a marketing campaign, or hiring a key person. 
  • A summary of your financial plan including cost and sales projections and a break-even analysis.
  • A summary of your management team, their roles, and the relevant experience that they have to serve in those roles.
  • Your “ask”, if applicable, meaning what you’re requesting from the investor or lender. You’ll include the amount you’d like and how it will be spent, such as “We are seeking $50,000 in seed funding to develop our beta product”. 

Remember that if you’re seeking capital, the executive summary could make or break your venture. Take your time and make sure it illustrates how your business is unique in the market and why you’ll succeed.

The executive summary should be no more than two pages long, so it’s important to capture the reader’s interest from the start. 

  • 2. Company Description/Overview

In this section, you’ll detail your full company history, such as how you came up with the idea for your business and any milestones or achievements. 

You’ll also include your mission and vision statements. A mission statement explains what you’d like your business to achieve, its driving force, while a vision statement lays out your long-term plan in terms of growth. 

A mission statement might be “Our company aims to make life easier for business owners with intuitive payroll software”, while a vision statement could be “Our objective is to become the go-to comprehensive HR software provider for companies around the globe.”

In this section, you’ll want to list your objectives – specific short-term goals. Examples might include “complete initial product development by ‘date’” or “hire two qualified sales people” or “launch the first version of the product”. 

It’s best to divide this section into subsections – company history, mission and vision, and objectives.

3. Products/Services Offered 

Here you’ll go into detail about what you’re offering, how it solves a problem in the market, and how it’s unique. Don’t be afraid to share information that is proprietary – investors and lenders are not out to steal your ideas. 

Also specify how your product is developed or sourced. Are you manufacturing it or does it require technical development? Are you purchasing a product from a manufacturer or wholesaler? 

You’ll also want to specify how you’ll sell your product or service. Will it be a subscription service or a one time purchase?  What is your target pricing? On what channels do you plan to sell your product or service, such as online or by direct sales in a store? 

Basically, you’re describing what you’re going to sell and how you’ll make money.

  • 4. Market Analysis 

The market analysis is where you’re going to spend most of your time because it involves a lot of research. You should divide it into four sections.

Industry analysis 

You’ll want to find out exactly what’s happening in your industry, such as its growth rate, market size, and any specific trends that are occurring. Where is the industry predicted to be in 10 years? Cite your sources where you can by providing links. 

Then describe your company’s place in the market. Is your product going to fit a certain niche? Is there a sub-industry your company will fit within? How will you keep up with industry changes? 

Competitor analysis 

Now you’ll dig into your competition. Detail your main competitors and how they differentiate themselves in the market. For example, one competitor may advertise convenience while another may tout superior quality. Also highlight your competitors’ weaknesses.

Next, describe how you’ll stand out. Detail your competitive advantages and how you’ll sustain them. This section is extremely important and will be a focus for investors and lenders. 

Target market analysis 

Here you’ll describe your target market and whether it’s different from your competitors’.  For example, maybe you have a younger demographic in mind? 

You’ll need to know more about your target market than demographics, though. You’ll want to explain the needs and wants of your ideal customers, how your offering solves their problem, and why they will choose your company. 

You should also lay out where you’ll find them, where to place your marketing and where to sell your products. Learning this kind of detail requires going to the source – your potential customers. You can do online surveys or even in-person focus groups. 

Your goal will be to uncover as much about these people as possible. When you start selling, you’ll want to keep learning about your customers. You may end up selling to a different target market than you originally thought, which could lead to a marketing shift. 

SWOT analysis 

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and it’s one of the more common and helpful business planning tools.   

First describe all the specific strengths of your company, such as the quality of your product or some unique feature, such as the experience of your management team. Talk about the elements that will make your company successful.

Next, acknowledge and explore possible weaknesses. You can’t say “none”, because no company is perfect, especially at the start. Maybe you lack funds or face a massive competitor. Whatever it is, detail how you will surmount this hurdle. 

Next, talk about the opportunities your company has in the market. Perhaps you’re going to target an underserved segment, or have a technology plan that will help you surge past the competition. 

Finally, examine potential threats. It could be a competitor that might try to replicate your product or rapidly advancing technology in your industry. Again, discuss your plans to handle such threats if they come to pass. 

5. Marketing and Sales Strategies

Now it’s time to explain how you’re going to find potential customers and convert them into paying customers.  

Marketing and advertising plan

When you did your target market analysis, you should have learned a lot about your potential customers, including where to find them. This should help you determine where to advertise. 

Maybe you found that your target customers favor TikTok over Instagram and decided to spend more marketing dollars on TikTok. Detail all the marketing channels you plan to use and why.

Your target market analysis should also have given you information about what kind of message will resonate with your target customers. You should understand their needs and wants and how your product solves their problem, then convey that in your marketing. 

Start by creating a value proposition, which should be no more than two sentences long and answer the following questions:

  • What are you offering
  • Whose problem does it solve
  • What problem does it solve
  • What benefits does it provide
  • How is it better than competitor products

An example might be “Payroll software that will handle all the payroll needs of small business owners, making life easier for less.”

Whatever your value proposition, it should be at the heart of all of your marketing.

Sales strategy and tactics 

Your sales strategy is a vision to persuade customers to buy, including where you’ll sell and how. For example, you may plan to sell only on your own website, or you may sell from both a physical location and online. On the other hand, you may have a sales team that will make direct sales calls to potential customers, which is more common in business-to-business sales.

Sales tactics are more about how you’re going to get them to buy after they reach your sales channel. Even when selling online, you need something on your site that’s going to get them to go from a site visitor to a paying customer. 

By the same token, if you’re going to have a sales team making direct sales, what message are they going to deliver that will entice a sale? It’s best for sales tactics to focus on the customer’s pain point and what value you’re bringing to the table, rather than being aggressively promotional about the greatness of your product and your business. 

Pricing strategy

Pricing is not an exact science and should depend on several factors. First, consider how you want your product or service to be perceived in the market. If your differentiator is to be the lowest price, position your company as the “discount” option. Think Walmart, and price your products lower than the competition. 

If, on the other hand, you want to be the Mercedes of the market, then you’ll position your product as the luxury option. Of course you’ll have to back this up with superior quality, but being the luxury option allows you to command higher prices.

You can, of course, fall somewhere in the middle, but the point is that pricing is a matter of perception. How you position your product in the market compared to the competition is a big factor in determining your price.

Of course, you’ll have to consider your costs, as well as competitor prices. Obviously, your prices must cover your costs and allow you to make a good profit margin. 

Whatever pricing strategy you choose, you’ll justify it in this section of your plan.

  • 6. Operations and Management 

This section is the real nuts and bolts of your business – how it operates on a day-to-day basis and who is operating it. Again, this section should be divided into subsections.

Operational plan

Your plan of operations should be specific , detailed and mainly logistical. Who will be doing what on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis? How will the business be managed and how will quality be assured? Be sure to detail your suppliers and how and when you’ll order raw materials. 

This should also include the roles that will be filled and the various processes that will be part of everyday business operations . Just consider all the critical functions that must be handled for your business to be able to operate on an ongoing basis. 

Technology plan

If your product involves technical development, you’ll describe your tech development plan with specific goals and milestones. The plan will also include how many people will be working on this development, and what needs to be done for goals to be met.

If your company is not a technology company, you’ll describe what technologies you plan to use to run your business or make your business more efficient. It could be process automation software, payroll software, or just laptops and tablets for your staff. 

Management and organizational structure 

Now you’ll describe who’s running the show. It may be just you when you’re starting out, so you’ll detail what your role will be and summarize your background. You’ll also go into detail about any managers that you plan to hire and when that will occur.

Essentially, you’re explaining your management structure and detailing why your strategy will enable smooth and efficient operations. 

Ideally, at some point, you’ll have an organizational structure that is a hierarchy of your staff. Describe what you envision your organizational structure to be. 

Personnel plan 

Detail who you’ve hired or plan to hire and for which roles. For example, you might have a developer, two sales people, and one customer service representative.

Describe each role and what qualifications are needed to perform those roles. 

  • 7. Financial Plan 

Now, you’ll enter the dreaded world of finance. Many entrepreneurs struggle with this part, so you might want to engage a financial professional to help you. A financial plan has five key elements.

Startup Costs

Detail in a spreadsheet every cost you’ll incur before you open your doors. This should determine how much capital you’ll need to launch your business. 

Financial projections 

Creating financial projections, like many facets of business, is not an exact science. If your company has no history, financial projections can only be an educated guess. 

First, come up with realistic sales projections. How much do you expect to sell each month? Lay out at least three years of sales projections, detailing monthly sales growth for the first year, then annually thereafter. 

Calculate your monthly costs, keeping in mind that some costs will grow along with sales. 

Once you have your numbers projected and calculated, use them to create these three key financial statements: 

  • Profit and Loss Statement , also known as an income statement. This shows projected revenue and lists all costs, which are then deducted to show net profit or loss. 
  • Cash Flow Statement. This shows how much cash you have on hand at any given time. It will have a starting balance, projections of cash coming in, and cash going out, which will be used to calculate cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.
  • Balance Sheet. This shows the net worth of the business, which is the assets of the business minus debts. Assets include equipment, cash, accounts receivables, inventory, and more. Debts include outstanding loan balances and accounts payable.

You’ll need monthly projected versions of each statement for the first year, then annual projections for the following two years.

Break-even analysis

The break-even point for your business is when costs and revenue are equal. Most startups operate at a loss for a period of time before they break even and start to make a profit. Your break-even analysis will project when your break-even point will occur, and will be informed by your profit and loss statement. 

Funding requirements and sources 

Lay out the funding you’ll need, when, and where you’ll get it. You’ll also explain what those funds will be used for at various points. If you’re in a high growth industry that can attract investors, you’ll likely need various rounds of funding to launch and grow. 

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

KPIs measure your company’s performance and can determine success. Many entrepreneurs only focus on the bottom line, but measuring specific KPIs helps find areas of improvement. Every business has certain crucial metrics. 

If you sell only online, one of your key metrics might be your visitor conversion rate. You might do an analysis to learn why just one out of ten site visitors makes a purchase. 

Perhaps the purchase process is too complicated or your product descriptions are vague. The point is, learning why your conversion rate is low gives you a chance to improve it and boost sales. 

8. Appendices

In the appendices, you can attach documents such as manager resumes or any other documents that support your business plan.

As you can see, a business plan has many components, so it’s not an afternoon project. It will likely take you several weeks and a great deal of work to complete. Unless you’re a finance guru, you may also want some help from a financial professional. 

Keep in mind that for a small business owner, there may be no better learning experience than writing a detailed and compelling business plan. It shouldn’t be viewed as a hassle, but as an opportunity! 

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12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)

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Starting and running a successful business requires proper planning and execution of effective business tactics and strategies .

You need to prepare many essential business documents when starting a business for maximum success; the business plan is one such document.

When creating a business, you want to achieve business objectives and financial goals like productivity, profitability, and business growth. You need an effective business plan to help you get to your desired business destination.

Even if you are already running a business, the proper understanding and review of the key elements of a business plan help you navigate potential crises and obstacles.

This article will teach you why the business document is at the core of any successful business and its key elements you can not avoid.

Let’s get started.

Why Are Business Plans Important?

Business plans are practical steps or guidelines that usually outline what companies need to do to reach their goals. They are essential documents for any business wanting to grow and thrive in a highly-competitive business environment .

1. Proves Your Business Viability

A business plan gives companies an idea of how viable they are and what actions they need to take to grow and reach their financial targets. With a well-written and clearly defined business plan, your business is better positioned to meet its goals.

2. Guides You Throughout the Business Cycle

A business plan is not just important at the start of a business. As a business owner, you must draw up a business plan to remain relevant throughout the business cycle .

During the starting phase of your business, a business plan helps bring your ideas into reality. A solid business plan can secure funding from lenders and investors.

After successfully setting up your business, the next phase is management. Your business plan still has a role to play in this phase, as it assists in communicating your business vision to employees and external partners.

Essentially, your business plan needs to be flexible enough to adapt to changes in the needs of your business.

3. Helps You Make Better Business Decisions

As a business owner, you are involved in an endless decision-making cycle. Your business plan helps you find answers to your most crucial business decisions.

A robust business plan helps you settle your major business components before you launch your product, such as your marketing and sales strategy and competitive advantage.

4. Eliminates Big Mistakes

Many small businesses fail within their first five years for several reasons: lack of financing, stiff competition, low market need, inadequate teams, and inefficient pricing strategy.

Creating an effective plan helps you eliminate these big mistakes that lead to businesses' decline. Every business plan element is crucial for helping you avoid potential mistakes before they happen.

5. Secures Financing and Attracts Top Talents

Having an effective plan increases your chances of securing business loans. One of the essential requirements many lenders ask for to grant your loan request is your business plan.

A business plan helps investors feel confident that your business can attract a significant return on investments ( ROI ).

You can attract and retain top-quality talents with a clear business plan. It inspires your employees and keeps them aligned to achieve your strategic business goals.

Key Elements of Business Plan

Starting and running a successful business requires well-laid actions and supporting documents that better position a company to achieve its business goals and maximize success.

A business plan is a written document with relevant information detailing business objectives and how it intends to achieve its goals.

With an effective business plan, investors, lenders, and potential partners understand your organizational structure and goals, usually around profitability, productivity, and growth.

Every successful business plan is made up of key components that help solidify the efficacy of the business plan in delivering on what it was created to do.

Here are some of the components of an effective business plan.

1. Executive Summary

One of the key elements of a business plan is the executive summary. Write the executive summary as part of the concluding topics in the business plan. Creating an executive summary with all the facts and information available is easier.

In the overall business plan document, the executive summary should be at the forefront of the business plan. It helps set the tone for readers on what to expect from the business plan.

A well-written executive summary includes all vital information about the organization's operations, making it easy for a reader to understand.

The key points that need to be acted upon are highlighted in the executive summary. They should be well spelled out to make decisions easy for the management team.

A good and compelling executive summary points out a company's mission statement and a brief description of its products and services.

Executive Summary of the Business Plan

An executive summary summarizes a business's expected value proposition to distinct customer segments. It highlights the other key elements to be discussed during the rest of the business plan.

Including your prior experiences as an entrepreneur is a good idea in drawing up an executive summary for your business. A brief but detailed explanation of why you decided to start the business in the first place is essential.

Adding your company's mission statement in your executive summary cannot be overemphasized. It creates a culture that defines how employees and all individuals associated with your company abide when carrying out its related processes and operations.

Your executive summary should be brief and detailed to catch readers' attention and encourage them to learn more about your company.

Components of an Executive Summary

Here are some of the information that makes up an executive summary:

  • The name and location of your company
  • Products and services offered by your company
  • Mission and vision statements
  • Success factors of your business plan

2. Business Description

Your business description needs to be exciting and captivating as it is the formal introduction a reader gets about your company.

What your company aims to provide, its products and services, goals and objectives, target audience , and potential customers it plans to serve need to be highlighted in your business description.

A company description helps point out notable qualities that make your company stand out from other businesses in the industry. It details its unique strengths and the competitive advantages that give it an edge to succeed over its direct and indirect competitors.

Spell out how your business aims to deliver on the particular needs and wants of identified customers in your company description, as well as the particular industry and target market of the particular focus of the company.

Include trends and significant competitors within your particular industry in your company description. Your business description should contain what sets your company apart from other businesses and provides it with the needed competitive advantage.

In essence, if there is any area in your business plan where you need to brag about your business, your company description provides that unique opportunity as readers look to get a high-level overview.

Components of a Business Description

Your business description needs to contain these categories of information.

  • Business location
  • The legal structure of your business
  • Summary of your business’s short and long-term goals

3. Market Analysis

The market analysis section should be solely based on analytical research as it details trends particular to the market you want to penetrate.

Graphs, spreadsheets, and histograms are handy data and statistical tools you need to utilize in your market analysis. They make it easy to understand the relationship between your current ideas and the future goals you have for the business.

All details about the target customers you plan to sell products or services should be in the market analysis section. It helps readers with a helpful overview of the market.

In your market analysis, you provide the needed data and statistics about industry and market share, the identified strengths in your company description, and compare them against other businesses in the same industry.

The market analysis section aims to define your target audience and estimate how your product or service would fare with these identified audiences.

Components of Market Analysis

Market analysis helps visualize a target market by researching and identifying the primary target audience of your company and detailing steps and plans based on your audience location.

Obtaining this information through market research is essential as it helps shape how your business achieves its short-term and long-term goals.

Market Analysis Factors

Here are some of the factors to be included in your market analysis.

  • The geographical location of your target market
  • Needs of your target market and how your products and services can meet those needs
  • Demographics of your target audience

Components of the Market Analysis Section

Here is some of the information to be included in your market analysis.

  • Industry description and statistics
  • Demographics and profile of target customers
  • Marketing data for your products and services
  • Detailed evaluation of your competitors

4. Marketing Plan

A marketing plan defines how your business aims to reach its target customers, generate sales leads, and, ultimately, make sales.

Promotion is at the center of any successful marketing plan. It is a series of steps to pitch a product or service to a larger audience to generate engagement. Note that the marketing strategy for a business should not be stagnant and must evolve depending on its outcome.

Include the budgetary requirement for successfully implementing your marketing plan in this section to make it easy for readers to measure your marketing plan's impact in terms of numbers.

The information to include in your marketing plan includes marketing and promotion strategies, pricing plans and strategies , and sales proposals. You need to include how you intend to get customers to return and make repeat purchases in your business plan.

Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Plan

5. Sales Strategy

Sales strategy defines how you intend to get your product or service to your target customers and works hand in hand with your business marketing strategy.

Your sales strategy approach should not be complex. Break it down into simple and understandable steps to promote your product or service to target customers.

Apart from the steps to promote your product or service, define the budget you need to implement your sales strategies and the number of sales reps needed to help the business assist in direct sales.

Your sales strategy should be specific on what you need and how you intend to deliver on your sales targets, where numbers are reflected to make it easier for readers to understand and relate better.

Sales Strategy

6. Competitive Analysis

Providing transparent and honest information, even with direct and indirect competitors, defines a good business plan. Provide the reader with a clear picture of your rank against major competitors.

Identifying your competitors' weaknesses and strengths is useful in drawing up a market analysis. It is one information investors look out for when assessing business plans.

Competitive Analysis Framework

The competitive analysis section clearly defines the notable differences between your company and your competitors as measured against their strengths and weaknesses.

This section should define the following:

  • Your competitors' identified advantages in the market
  • How do you plan to set up your company to challenge your competitors’ advantage and gain grounds from them?
  • The standout qualities that distinguish you from other companies
  • Potential bottlenecks you have identified that have plagued competitors in the same industry and how you intend to overcome these bottlenecks

In your business plan, you need to prove your industry knowledge to anyone who reads your business plan. The competitive analysis section is designed for that purpose.

7. Management and Organization

Management and organization are key components of a business plan. They define its structure and how it is positioned to run.

Whether you intend to run a sole proprietorship, general or limited partnership, or corporation, the legal structure of your business needs to be clearly defined in your business plan.

Use an organizational chart that illustrates the hierarchy of operations of your company and spells out separate departments and their roles and functions in this business plan section.

The management and organization section includes profiles of advisors, board of directors, and executive team members and their roles and responsibilities in guaranteeing the company's success.

Apparent factors that influence your company's corporate culture, such as human resources requirements and legal structure, should be well defined in the management and organization section.

Defining the business's chain of command if you are not a sole proprietor is necessary. It leaves room for little or no confusion about who is in charge or responsible during business operations.

This section provides relevant information on how the management team intends to help employees maximize their strengths and address their identified weaknesses to help all quarters improve for the business's success.

8. Products and Services

This business plan section describes what a company has to offer regarding products and services to the maximum benefit and satisfaction of its target market.

Boldly spell out pending patents or copyright products and intellectual property in this section alongside costs, expected sales revenue, research and development, and competitors' advantage as an overview.

At this stage of your business plan, the reader needs to know what your business plans to produce and sell and the benefits these products offer in meeting customers' needs.

The supply network of your business product, production costs, and how you intend to sell the products are crucial components of the products and services section.

Investors are always keen on this information to help them reach a balanced assessment of if investing in your business is risky or offer benefits to them.

You need to create a link in this section on how your products or services are designed to meet the market's needs and how you intend to keep those customers and carve out a market share for your company.

Repeat purchases are the backing that a successful business relies on and measure how much customers are into what your company is offering.

This section is more like an expansion of the executive summary section. You need to analyze each product or service under the business.

9. Operating Plan

An operations plan describes how you plan to carry out your business operations and processes.

The operating plan for your business should include:

  • Information about how your company plans to carry out its operations.
  • The base location from which your company intends to operate.
  • The number of employees to be utilized and other information about your company's operations.
  • Key business processes.

This section should highlight how your organization is set up to run. You can also introduce your company's management team in this section, alongside their skills, roles, and responsibilities in the company.

The best way to introduce the company team is by drawing up an organizational chart that effectively maps out an organization's rank and chain of command.

What should be spelled out to readers when they come across this business plan section is how the business plans to operate day-in and day-out successfully.

10. Financial Projections and Assumptions

Bringing your great business ideas into reality is why business plans are important. They help create a sustainable and viable business.

The financial section of your business plan offers significant value. A business uses a financial plan to solve all its financial concerns, which usually involves startup costs, labor expenses, financial projections, and funding and investor pitches.

All key assumptions about the business finances need to be listed alongside the business financial projection, and changes to be made on the assumptions side until it balances with the projection for the business.

The financial plan should also include how the business plans to generate income and the capital expenditure budgets that tend to eat into the budget to arrive at an accurate cash flow projection for the business.

Base your financial goals and expectations on extensive market research backed with relevant financial statements for the relevant period.

Examples of financial statements you can include in the financial projections and assumptions section of your business plan include:

  • Projected income statements
  • Cash flow statements
  • Balance sheets
  • Income statements

Revealing the financial goals and potentials of the business is what the financial projection and assumption section of your business plan is all about. It needs to be purely based on facts that can be measurable and attainable.

11. Request For Funding

The request for funding section focuses on the amount of money needed to set up your business and underlying plans for raising the money required. This section includes plans for utilizing the funds for your business's operational and manufacturing processes.

When seeking funding, a reasonable timeline is required alongside it. If the need arises for additional funding to complete other business-related projects, you are not left scampering and desperate for funds.

If you do not have the funds to start up your business, then you should devote a whole section of your business plan to explaining the amount of money you need and how you plan to utilize every penny of the funds. You need to explain it in detail for a future funding request.

When an investor picks up your business plan to analyze it, with all your plans for the funds well spelled out, they are motivated to invest as they have gotten a backing guarantee from your funding request section.

Include timelines and plans for how you intend to repay the loans received in your funding request section. This addition keeps investors assured that they could recoup their investment in the business.

12. Exhibits and Appendices

Exhibits and appendices comprise the final section of your business plan and contain all supporting documents for other sections of the business plan.

Some of the documents that comprise the exhibits and appendices section includes:

  • Legal documents
  • Licenses and permits
  • Credit histories
  • Customer lists

The choice of what additional document to include in your business plan to support your statements depends mainly on the intended audience of your business plan. Hence, it is better to play it safe and not leave anything out when drawing up the appendix and exhibit section.

Supporting documentation is particularly helpful when you need funding or support for your business. This section provides investors with a clearer understanding of the research that backs the claims made in your business plan.

There are key points to include in the appendix and exhibits section of your business plan.

  • The management team and other stakeholders resume
  • Marketing research
  • Permits and relevant legal documents
  • Financial documents

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11 Key Components of a Business Plan

Illustration of various business documents and star icons on a yellow background, representing the essential components of a well-structured business plan.

3 min. read

Updated June 9, 2024

Somebody asked me what the key components of a good business plan were, and I’m glad they did—it’s one of my favorite topics.

It gives me a chance to review and revise another of the lists that I’ve done off and on for years (such as the one from yesterday on  common business plan mistakes ).

  • 1. Measure a business plan by the decisions it causes

I’ve written about this one in several places. Like everything else in business, business plans have business objectives.

Does the plan accomplish its objective ? Whether it is better management, accountability, setting stepping stones to the future, convincing somebody to invest, or something else?

Realistically, it doesn’t matter whether your business plan is well-written, complete, well-formatted, creative, or intelligent. It only matters that it does the job it’s supposed to do. It’s a bad plan if it doesn’t.

  • 2. Concrete specifics

Dates, deadlines, major milestones, task responsibilities, sales forecasts, spending budgets, and cash flow projections.

Ask yourself how executable it is. Ask yourself how you’ll know, on a regular basis, how much progress you’ve made and whether or not you’re on track.

  • 3. Cash flow

Cash flow is the single most important concept in business. A business plan without cash flow is a marketing plan, strategic plan, summary, or something else—and those can be useful, but get your vocabulary right.

A business model, lean canvas, pitch deck, and so on can be useful in some contexts, like raising investment. But those aren’t business plans.

  • 4. Realistic

While it is true that all business plans are wrong , assumptions, drivers, deadlines, milestones, and other such details should be realistic, not crazy.

The plan is to be executed. Impossible goals and crazy forecasts make the whole thing a waste of time.

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  • 5. Short, sweet, easy-to-read summaries of strategy and tactics

Not all business plans need a lot of text.

The text and explanations are for outsiders, such as investors and bankers; however, many companies ought to use business planning to improve their business operations. If you don’t need the extra information, leave it out.

Define strategy and tactics in short bullet point lists. Tactics, by the way, are related to the marketing plan, product plan, financial plan, and so on. Strategy without tactics is just fluff.

  • 6. Alignment of strategy and tactics

It’s surprising how often they don’t match.

Strategy is focus, key target markets , key product/service features, important differentiators, and so forth. Tactics are things like pricing, social media, channels, and financials, and the two should match.

A gourmet restaurant (strategy) should not have a drive-through option (tactics.)

  • 7. Covers the event-specific, objective-specific bases

A lot of components of a business plan depend on the usage.

Internal plans have no need for descriptions of company teams. Market analysis hits one level for an internal plan but often has to be proof of market or validation for a plan associated with investment. Investment plans need to know something about exits; internal plans don’t.

  • 8. Easy in, easy out

Don’t make anybody work to find what information is where in the plan. Keep it simple.

Use bullets as much as possible, and be careful with naked bullets for people who don’t really know the background. Don’t show off.

  • 9. As lean as possible

Just big enough to do the job . It has to be reviewed and revised regularly to be useful. Nothing should be included that isn’t going to be used.

  • 10. Geared for change

A good business plan is the opposite of written in stone. It’s going to change in a few weeks.

List assumptions because reviewing assumptions is the best way to determine when to change the plan and when to stick with it.

  • 11. The right level of aggregation and summary

It’s not accounting. It’s planning.

Projections look like accounting statements, but they aren’t. They are summarized. They aren’t built on elaborate financial models. They are just detailed enough to generate good information.

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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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.

what are the three parts of a business plan

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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? "

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The 12 Key Components of a Business Plan

There are 12 components of a business plan entrepreneurs must know as they lay out how their business will work.

image of empty containers on a page representing components of a business plan

Entrepreneurs who create business plans are more likely to succeed than those who don’t. 

Not only can a sound plan help your business access investment capital but—as the study found—it can even determine the success or failure of your venture. 

Here are the critical components of a business plan to help you craft your own.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a document outlining your business goals and your strategies for achieving them. It might include your company’s mission statement , details about your products or services, how you plan to bring them to market, and how much time and money you need to execute the plan. 

For a thorough explanation of how to write a business plan, refer to Shopify’s guide .

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12 components of a business plan

Business plans vary depending on the product or service. Some entrepreneurs choose to use diagrams and charts, while others rely on text alone. Regardless of how you go about it, good business plans tend to include the following elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Marketing plan
  • Competitive analysis 
  • Organizational structure
  • Products and services
  • Operating plan
  • Financial plan
  • Funding sources

1. Executive summary

The executive summary briefly explains your business’s products or services and why it has the potential to be profitable. You may also include basic information about your company, such as its location and the number of employees.

2. Company description

The company description helps customers, lenders, and potential investors gain a deeper understanding of your product or service. It provides detailed descriptions of your supply chains and explains how your company plans to bring its products or services to market. 

3. Market analysis

The market analysis section outlines your plans to reach your target audience . It usually includes an estimate of the potential demand for the product or service and a summary of market research . 

The market analysis also includes information about marketing strategies, advertising ideas, or other ways of attracting customers. 

Another component of this section is a detailed breakdown of target customers. Many businesses find it helpful to analyze their target market using customer segments , often with demographic data such as age or income. This way, you can customize your marketing plans to reach different groups of customers. 

4. Marketing plan

The marketing plan section details how you plan to attract and retain customers. It covers the marketing mix: product, price, place, and promotion. It shows you understand your market and have clear, measurable goals to guide your marketing strategy.

For example, a fashion retail store might focus on online sales channels, competitive pricing strategies, high-quality products, and aggressive social media promotion.

5. Sales plan

This section focuses on the actions you’ll take to achieve sales targets and drive revenue. It’s different from a marketing plan because it’s more about the direct process of selling the product to your customer. It looks at the methods used from lead generation to closing the sale, as well as revenue targets. 

An ecommerce sales strategy might involve optimizing your online shopping experience, using targeted digital marketing to drive traffic, and employing tactics like flash sales , personalized email marketing, or loyalty programs to boost sales.

6. Competitive analysis

It’s essential that you understand your competitors and distinguish your business. There are two main types of competitors: direct and indirect competitors. 

  • Direct competitors. Direct competitors offer the same or similar products and services. For example, the underwear brand Skims is a direct competitor with Spanx .
  • Indirect competitors. Indirect competitors, on the other hand, offer different products and services that may satisfy the same customer needs. For example, cable television is an indirect competitor to Netflix.

A competitive analysis explains your business’s unique strengths that give it a competitive advantage over other businesses.

7. Organizational structure

The organizational structure explains your company’s legal structure and provides information about the management team. It also describes the business’s operating plan and details who is responsible for which aspects of the company.

8. Products and services

This component goes in-depth on what you’re actually selling and why it’s valuable to customers. It’ll provide a description of your products and services with all their features, benefits, and unique selling points. It may also discuss the current development stage of your products and plans for the future. 

The products and services section also looks at pricing strategy , intellectual property (IP) rights, and any key supplier information. For example, in an ecommerce business plan focusing on eco-friendly home products, this section would detail the range of products, explain how they are environmentally friendly, outline sourcing and production practices, discuss pricing, and highlight any certifications or eco-labels the products have received.

9. Operating plan

Here is where you explain the day-to-day operations of the business. Your operating plan will cover aspects from production or service delivery to human and resource management. It shows readers how you plan to deliver on your promises. 

For example, in a business plan for a startup selling artisanal crafts, this section would include details on how artisans are sourced, how products are cataloged and stored, the ecommerce platform used for sales, and the logistics for packaging and shipping orders worldwide.

10. Financial plan

The financial plan is one of the most critical parts of the business plan, especially for companies seeking outside funding.

A plan often includes capital expenditure budgets, forecasted income statements , and cash flow statements , which can help predict when your company will become profitable and how it expects to survive in the meantime. 

If your business is already profitable, your financial plan can help with convincing investors of future growth. At the end of the financial section, you may also include a value proposition , which estimates the value of your business.

11. Funding sources

Some businesses planning to expand or to seek funds from venture capitalists may include a section devoted to their long-term growth strategy, including ways to broaden product offerings and penetrate new markets.

12. Appendix

The final component of a business plan is the appendix. Here, you may include additional documents cited in other sections or requested by readers. These might be résumés, financial statements, product pictures, patent approvals, and legal records.

Components of a business plan FAQ

What are 8 common parts of a good business plan.

Some of the most common components of a business plan are an executive summary, a company description, a marketing analysis, a competitive analysis, an organization description, a summary of growth strategies, a financial plan, and an appendix.

What is a business plan format?

A business plan format is a way of structuring a business plan. Shopify offers a free business plan template for startups that you can use to format your business plan.

What are the 5 functions of a business plan?

A business plan explains your company’s products or services, how you expect to make money, the reliability of supply chains, and factors that might affect demand.

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

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Rosalie Murphy is a small-business writer at NerdWallet. Since 2021, she has covered business insurance, banking, credit cards and e-commerce software, and her reporting has been featured by The Associated Press, MarketWatch, Entrepreneur and many other publications. Rosalie holds a graduate certificate in Quantitative Business Management from Kent State University and is now pursuing an MBA. She is based in Chicago.

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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

what are the three parts of a business plan

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?

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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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10 Essential Components of a Business Plan and How to Write Them

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Ayush Jalan

  • January 4, 2024

12 Min Read

10 Essential Business plan components and How to Write Them

A business plan is an essential document for any business, whether it’s a startup or an established enterprise. It’s the first thing any interested investor will ask for if they like your business idea and want to partner with you. 

That’s why it’s important to pay attention when writing your business plan and the components inside it. An incomplete business plan can give the impression that you’re unqualified—discouraging investors and lenders. 

A good business plan reduces ambiguity and communicates all essential details such as your financials, market analysis, competitive analysis, and a timeline for implementation of the plan. In this article, we’ll discuss the 10 important business plan components. 

10 Important Business Plan Components

A comprehensive and well-thought-out business plan acts as a roadmap that guides you in making sound decisions and taking the right actions at the right times. Here are its key components and what to include in them.

1. Executive summary

The executive summary is one of the most important parts of a business plan. It’s the first thing potential investors will read and should therefore provide a clear overview of your business and its goals.

In other words, it helps the reader get a better idea of what to expect from your company. So, when writing an executive summary of your business, don’t forget to mention your mission and vision statement.

Mission statement

A mission statement is a brief statement that outlines your objectives and what you want to achieve. It acts as a guiding principle that informs decisions and provides a clear direction for the organization to follow.

For instance, Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It’s short, inspiring, and immediately communicates what the company does.

A mission statement should be realistic, and hint towards a goal that is achievable in a reasonable amount of time with the resources you currently have or are going to acquire in the near future.

Vision statement

While a mission statement is more actionable and has an immediate effect on the daily activities of the company, a vision statement is more aspirational and has a much broader scope.

In other words, it highlights where the company aims to go in the future and the positive change it hopes to make in the world within its lifetime.

2. Company description

Company description Steps: 1) Overview 2) Products & Services 3) Company history

The second component of your business plan is the company description. Here, you provide a brief overview of your company, its products or services, and its history. You can also add any notable achievements if they are significant enough for an investor to know.

A company overview offers a quick bird’s-eye view of things such as your business model , operational capabilities, financials, business philosophy, size of the team, code of conduct, and short-term and long-term objectives.

Products and services

The products and services part of your company description explains what your business offers to its customers, how it’s delivered, and the costs involved in acquiring new customers and executing a sale.

Company History

Company history is the timeline of events that took place in your business from its origin to the present day. It includes a brief profile of the founder(s) and their background, the date the company was founded, any notable achievements and milestones, and other similar facts and details.

If you’re a startup, you’ll probably not have much of a history to write about. In that case, you can share stories of the challenges your startup faced during its inception and how your team overcame them.

3. Market analysis

Market analysis

The market analysis section of your business plan provides an in-depth analysis of the industry, target market, and competition. It should underline the risks and opportunities associated with your industry, and also comment on the attributes of your target customer.

Demographics and segmentation

Understanding the demographics of your customers plays a big role in how well you’re able to identify their traits and serve them.

By dividing your target audience into smaller and more manageable groups, you can tailor your services and products to better meet their needs.

You can use demographics such as age, gender, income, location, ethnicity, and education level to better understand the preferences and behaviors of each segment, and use that data to create more effective marketing strategies.     

Target market and size

Understanding your target market lies at the core of all your marketing endeavors. After all, if you don’t have a clear idea of who you’re serving, you won’t be able to serve well no matter how big your budget is.

For instance, Starbucks’ primary target market includes working professionals and office workers. The company has positioned itself such that many of its customers start their day with its coffee.

Estimating the market size helps you know how much scope there is to scale your business in the future. In other words, you’re trying to determine how much potential revenue exists in this market and if it’s worth the investment.

Market need

The next step is to figure out the market need, i.e., the prevalent pain points that people in that market experience. The easiest way to find these pain points is to read the negative reviews people leave on Amazon for products that are similar to yours.

The better your product solves those pain points, the better your chances of capturing that market. In addition, since your product is solving a problem that your rivals can’t, you can also charge a premium price.

To better identify the needs of your target customers, it helps to take into account things such as local cultural values, industry trends, buying habits, tastes and preferences, price elasticity, and more.

4. Product Summary

The product summary section of your business plan goes into detail about the features and benefits that your products and services offer, and how they differ from your competitors. It also outlines the manufacturing process, pricing, cost of production, inventory, packaging, and capital requirements.

5. Competitive analysis

Unless you’ve discovered an untapped market, you’re probably going to face serious competition and it’s only going to increase as you scale your business later down the line.

This is where the competitive analysis section helps; it gives an overview of the competitive landscape, introduces your immediate rivals, and highlights the current dominant companies and their market share.

In such an environment, it helps to have certain competitive advantages against your rivals so you can stand out in the market. Simply put, a competitive advantage is the additional value you can provide to your customers that your rivals can’t—perhaps via unique product features, excellent customer service, or more.

what are the three parts of a business plan

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6. Marketing and sales plan

what are the three parts of a business plan

The marketing and sales plan is one of the most important business plan components. It explains how you plan to penetrate the market, position your brand in the minds of the buyers, build brand loyalty, increase sales, and remain competitive in an ever-changing business environment.

Unique selling proposition

A unique selling proposition (USP) conveys how your products and services differ from those of your competitors, and the added value those differences provide.

A strong USP will stand out in a competitive market and make potential customers more likely to switch to your brand—essentially capturing the market share of your rivals.

Marketing Plan

Your product might be unique, but if people don’t even know that it exists, it won’t sell. That’s where marketing comes in.

A marketing plan outlines strategies for reaching your target market and achieving sales goals. It also outlines the budget required for advertising and promotion.

You may also include data on the target market, target demographics, objectives, strategies, a timeline, budget, and the metrics considered for evaluating success.

Sales and distribution plan

Once people are made aware of your product, the next step is to ensure it reaches them. This means having a competent sales and distribution plan and a strong supply chain.

Lay out strategies for reaching potential customers, such as online marketing, lead generation, retail distribution channels, or direct sales.

Your goal here is to minimize sales costs and address the risks involved with the distribution of your product. If you’re selling ice cream, for example, you would have to account for the costs of refrigeration and cold storage.

Pricing strategy

Pricing is a very sensitive yet important part of any business. When creating a pricing strategy , you need to consider factors such as market demand, cost of production, competitor prices, disposable income of target customers, and profitability goals.

Some businesses have a small profit margin but sell large volumes of their product, while others sell fewer units but with a massive markup. You will have to decide for yourself which approach you want to follow.

Before setting your marketing plans into action, you need a budget for them. This means writing down how much money you’ll need, how it will be used, and the potential return you are estimating on this investment.

A budget should be flexible, meaning that it should be open to changes as the market shifts and customer behavior evolves. The goal here is to make sure that the company is making the best use of its resources by minimizing the wastage of funds.

7. Operations plan

The operations plan section of your business plan provides an overview of how the business is run and its day-to-day operations. This section is especially important for manufacturing businesses.

It includes a description of your business structure, the roles and responsibilities of each team member, the resources needed, and the procedures you will use to ensure the smooth functioning of your business. The goal here is to maximize output whilst minimizing the wastage of raw material or human labor.

8. Management team

At the core of any successful business lies a dedicated, qualified, and experienced management team overlooking key business activities. 

This section provides an overview of the key members of your management team including their credentials, professional background, role and responsibilities, experience, and qualifications.

A lot of investors give special attention to this section as it helps them ascertain the competence and work ethic of the members involved.

Organizational structure

An organizational structure defines the roles, responsibilities, decision-making processes, and authority of each individual or department in an organization.

Having a clear organizational structure improves communication, increases efficiency, promotes collaboration, and makes it easier to delegate tasks. Startups usually have a flatter organizational hierarchy whereas established businesses have a more traditional structure of power and authority.

9. Financial Plan

Financials are usually the least fun thing to talk about, but they are important nonetheless as they provide an overview of your current financial position, capital requirements, projections, and plans for repayment of any loans. 

Your financial plan should also include an analysis of your startup costs, operating costs, administration costs, and sources of revenue.

Funding requirements

Once an investor has read through your business plan, it’s time to request funding. Investors will want to see an accurate and detailed breakdown of the funds required and an explanation of why the requested funds are necessary for the operation and expansion of your business.

10. Appendix

The appendix is the last section of your business plan and it includes additional supporting documents such as resumes of key team members, market research documents, financial statements, and legal documents. 

In other words, anything important or relevant that couldn’t fit in any of the former sections of your business plan goes in the appendix.

Write a Business Plan Worth Reading

Starting a business is never easy, but it’s a little less overwhelming if you have a well-made business plan. It helps you better navigate the industry, reduce risk, stay competitive, and make the best use of your time and money.

Remember, since every business is unique, every business plan is unique too, and must be regularly updated to keep up with changing industry trends. Also, it’s very likely that interested investors will give you feedback, so make sure to implement their recommendations as well.

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About the Author

what are the three parts of a business plan

Ayush is a writer with an academic background in business and marketing. Being a tech-enthusiast, he likes to keep a sharp eye on the latest tech gadgets and innovations. When he's not working, you can find him writing poetry, gaming, playing the ukulele, catching up with friends, and indulging in creative philosophies.

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

AJ Beltis

Published: June 28, 2024

Years ago, I had an idea to launch a line of region-specific board games. I knew there was a market for games that celebrated local culture and heritage. I was so excited about the concept and couldn't wait to get started.

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

But my idea never took off. Why? Because I didn‘t have a plan. I lacked direction, missed opportunities, and ultimately, the venture never got off the ground.

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And that’s exactly why a business plan is important. It cements your vision, gives you clarity, and outlines your next step.

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

Table of Contents

What is a business plan?

What is a business plan used for.

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Purposes of a Business Plan

What does a business plan need to include, types of business plans.

what are the three parts of a business plan

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A business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines a company's goals, strategies, and financial projections. It provides a detailed description of the business, including its products or services, target market, competitive landscape, and marketing and sales strategies. The plan also includes a financial section that forecasts revenue, expenses, and cash flow, as well as a funding request if the business is seeking investment.

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

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

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9 essential components of a business plan.

9 Essential Components of a Business Plan

Maybe you’re a small business owner that has been in business for years. Or, you could be going through the process of starting a business. Regardless of where you’re at with your career, tasks and responsibilities will come at you quickly.

You need to worry about to-do lists, scheduled meetings, accounting processes and everything in between. When are you supposed to find the time to put your business plan together? It can be an intimidating process to go through, but having a well-thought-out business plan is incredibly important.

There’s no perfect recipe for a business plan, but one of the best things that you can do is write it before you start your business. It can act as a roadmap for where your business is going in the future and how you’re going to get there. So, where do you start?

Let’s take a look at everything that you need to know for writing a business plan that can get you ahead.

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

What Is a Business Plan?

Tips to make your business plan stand out, 9 components of a business plan, key takeaways.

Think about the last time you needed to get somewhere you hadn’t been before. You might drive, ride your bike or take the train. But no matter the way you get there, you first need to know how to get there. You might put the directions into a GPS, follow a bike path or look up the train schedules.

A business plan works in the exact same way, only it’s a roadmap for your business. It’s a comprehensive document that outlines how your small business is going to grow and develop.

Throughout a business plan, you’re going to communicate who your business is, what you plan on doing and how you plan on doing it. This can give valuable insights into your business for potential investors or hiring new talent.

That all said, a business plan is completely different from a general business concept or business idea. A business plan acts as a blueprint for your business and will highlight who you are. Most banking institutions and venture capitalists won’t invest in a small business unless they have a good business plan.

Potential investors are going to want to know that you have a product or service that fits in the market with a good team in place. Plus, it can show the scalability of your business and how you will grow sales volume.

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When Do You Need a Business Plan?

First and foremost, a business plan is important to have regardless of the industry you’re in or the products you offer your customers. It will not only keep you focused and efficient, but a well-written business plan can have other benefits.

A business plan can be helpful when:

  • You need new investments, funding or loans
  • You are searching for a new partner for your business
  • You are attracting and retaining top talent
  • You are experiencing slower growth than expected and want a change

Every business plan is going to be a little different compared to others. This is since your business is unique and your business plan is going to reflect that. But, if your plan is badly written or missing key bits of information then it won’t be as attractive to potential investors.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your business plan and make it stand out.

  • Make it as easy to read as possible. Investors want something that’s easily scannable and is divided into distinct sections. This way, they can quickly look through the plan and spot the key information.
  • Keep it brief. Most business plans are going to range anywhere from 10 – 20 pages. But, as long as you cover the essentials and highlight the key points, less can often be more.
  • Make sure you proofread and edit. Always double-check for grammatical errors and that it’s formatted properly. Typos and mistakes are not going to reflect positively for your business.
  • Have a quality design. Make sure you have the proper layout, formatting and brand messaging throughout. Bookbinding your business plan can make it look more professional.
  • Know all your business margins. Include each and every cost that your business incurs. You can make sure that you’re organizing and assigning those costs to the right product or service you offer.

One of the best things that you can do before writing your business plan is to determine who your audience is going to be. Are you pitching to a room full of potential investors? Do you have a meeting with your local financial institution’s venture funding department? Or, do you just want to create an internal document to help guide your business forward?

Being able to define who your audience is going to be will help you figure out how to write your business plan. For example, the language in your business plan might be different depending on who you want to highlight your business to.

Here are the 9 essential components of a business plan.

1. Executive Summary

Your executive summary is going to be at the front of your plan and be one of the first things that someone reads. But, writing the executive summary should be the last thing that you do, even though it’s first on the list. For now, you can leave your executive summary blank.

Why? Because it lays out every piece of vital information that’s included in your business plan, usually in one page or less. It’s basically a high-level summary of each of the sections in the plan. This means you can’t really write the executive summary first.

2. Company Description

This is where you’re going to highlight your business and what you do. Your company description will include three different things: a mission statement, company history and business objectives.

First, let’s look at your mission statement .

A mission statement is basically the main reason why you’re in business. It’s not necessarily about what you do or the products or services that you sell. Rather, it’s all about why your business does what it does.

Try and make your mission statement inspirational, motivational and even emotional. It’s going to be the foundation on which your business is built. Put some thought into the things that motivate you and the reasons why you started your business in the first place. What do you want to get out of it? Why are you doing it?

You can also think about the causes or different experiences which led you to start your business and the problems it can solve for your customers.

Next, let’s look at your company history .

This doesn’t need to be a long or in-depth section, but more of a highlight of what your business has done in the past and where you stand today. To help make things easier, you can even write about your company history in the form of a profile. Here’s some of the important information you can include in your company history.

  • The date you founded or started your business
  • Any major milestones worth highlighting
  • Your business location, or locations
  • How many employees you have
  • Your executive leadership and the roles that they have within your company
  • The flagship services or products that you offer your customers

Finally, let’s look at your business objectives .

Your business objectives are your guiding lights. They’re the goals that you plan on achieving and they will outline how you plan on getting there. When developing your business objectives, base them on the process of SMART goals.

These are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Basically, each objective gets tied to the key results you want to achieve. If you don’t clearly define your business objectives, it can make it more difficult for your employees to work efficiently towards a common goal.

3. Market Research and Business Potential

This is the section of your business plan where you outline your target demographic and ideal customer base. You’re also going to do research into the potential and actual size of the market you’re going to enter into. Target markets are going to identify specific information about your customers.

Usually, you can research and find the following information for your target customers:

  • Location and average income
  • Age and gender
  • Education level and profession
  • Any activities or hobbies that are relevant

Getting as specific as possible will allow you to illustrate your expertise and get a sense of confidence when it comes to your business. For example, if your target market is extremely broad, it will show investors that it might be more difficult to generate revenue.

4. Competitive Analysis

What is your competition doing? Competitor research is going to start by identifying any companies that are currently in the market you want to enter into. Understanding everything you can about your competition can seem overwhelming and intimidating.

But having this information is extremely useful and will help you make more informed business decisions in the future. Here are a few common questions that you can ask yourself when you’re doing competitive research.

  • Where are they investing most in marketing and advertising?
  • Do they get any press coverage? If they do, how are they getting it?
  • What is their customer service like? Does your customer service stack up against theirs?
  • What are their pricing strategies and what are their sales?
  • Do they have good reviews on third-party rating platforms?

One of the best ways to do competitive research is to check out your competition’s website. Read through their About Us page or their value and mission statements. This will give you a better understanding of who they are, what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

Being able to distinguish your business from your competition is a critical element of any business plan. Take some time to think about what sets your business apart and how you’re going to provide a solution to a problem.

5. Describe You Products or Services

What do you offer your customers? What product or service is your business built on? This section of your business plan is going to detail everything about your product or service. Plus, it’s going to highlight why what your business offers is better than the competition.

Touch on the benefits that your product or service offers, the production process and the product life cycle.

When you’re describing the benefits, try and focus on things like unique features and how they translate into benefits. You can also highlight intellectual property rights or patents that differentiate your products.

For the production process, you can explain how you create your existing or new products or services and how you source the raw materials. Other things such as quality control, quality assurance and supply chain logistics can get included.

With your product life cycle, you can highlight any cross-sells, down-sells or upsells. As well as your future plans for research and development.

what are the three parts of a business plan

6. Marketing and Sales Strategy

You could spend weeks putting together an in-depth business plan that highlights your company and what you do. But, if you don’t have a solid marketing and sales strategy in place then it won’t matter how good your business plan is. You still need to know how you’re going to generate sales.

This part of your plan is entirely dependant on the type of products or services that you offer. You can include your company’s value proposition, ideal target market and your existing customer segments. Then, you can start with some more specifics.

What’s the launch plan that you have in place to help attract new business? What are your growth tactics to help your business expand in the future? Do you have any retention strategies in place, such as customer loyalty or referral programs? What about advertising across print, social media, search engines or television?

These are all good questions to ask yourself when putting together your sales and marketing strategy. You can use this part of the business plan to highlight your business strengths and how you differentiate from the competition.

7. Business Financials

If you are just starting your business then you aren’t going to have much financial data. You won’t have things like financial statements or an income statement. But, you still need to put together some type of financial plan and budget. If you have been operating for a while, you will have some important information to include, such as:

  • Profit and loss statements
  • Income statements
  • Cash flow statement
  • Balance sheets
  • Revenue vs net income
  • The ratio of liquidity to debt repayment

Make sure that the data and figures that you include are accurate. For example, things like costs, profit margins and sale prices can be closely linked together. If you don’t have access to historical data, you can put together financial projections.

8. Management and Organization

The people that you have working for your business are the driving force behind your overall success. Without the right people in place, your business won’t likely be successful. This is the part of your business plan where you’re going to highlight your team.

Identify the members of your team and explain how they are going to help turn your business idea into a reality. Plus, you can highlight the qualifications and expertise of each team member. This will position your business as one that’s worth potentially investing in.

9. Include an Appendix

This is where you’re going to compile and include everything that both investors and your team will need access to. Include everything that’s useful for an investor to conduct due diligence.

Here are some of the most common official documents you can include in a well-organized appendix.

  • Any legal documents, local permits or deeds
  • Professional licenses or business registries
  • Any patents or intellectual property
  • Any industry memberships or associations
  • Your business identification numbers or codes
  • Any key purchase orders or customer contracts that you have in place

It can also be helpful to include a table of contents in your appendix. This can make it easier to find the right information or allow you to highlight the most important documents.

It’s worth noting that a business plan doesn’t just have to be a way to attract potential investors. There are several other reasons why having a business plan is important.

You can better clarify the goals and objections that you want your business to accomplish and you can gain insights into your target market. Team members can have a much better sense as to the direction the business is going and how they can contribute to its success and growth. Plus, you can establish and define the roles of each team member, all while setting achievable benchmarks.

Creating a business plan will act as a roadmap for your business. It’s going to highlight the goals and objectives you have. As well as touch on things like marketing, advertising, your management team and financials. Here’s a quick review of the 9 essential components of a business plan.

  • Executive summary, which you will write after you have completed steps 2 – 9
  • Company description, including a mission statement, company history and business objectives
  • Competitive analysis
  • Market research and business potential
  • Your products or services
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Business financials
  • Management and organization

Follow the 9 components outlined in this article to help you develop a business plan. You can clearly define your business goals and have a roadmap to help your business be successful.

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An Introduction to Business Plans Why is a business plan so vital to the health of your business? Read the first section of our tutorial on How to Build a Business Plan to find out.

A business plan is a written description of your business's future. That's all there is to it--a document that desribes what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot down a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you've written a plan, or at least the germ of a plan.

Business plans can help perform a number of tasks for those who write and read them. They're used by investment-seeking entrepreneurs to convey their vision to potential investors. They may also be used by firms that are trying to attract key employees, prospect for new business, deal with suppliers or simply to understand how to manage their companies better.

So what's included in a business plan, and how do you put one together? Simply stated, a business plan conveys your business goals, the strategies you'll use to meet them, potential problems that may confront your business and ways to solve them, the organizational structure of your business (including titles and responsibilities), and finally, the amount of capital required to finance your venture and keep it going until it breaks even.

Sound impressive? It can be, if put together properly. A good business plan follows generally accepted guidelines for both form and content. There are three primary parts to a business plan:

  • The first is the business concept , where you discuss the industry, your business structure, your particular product or service, and how you plan to make your business a success.
  • The second is the marketplace section , in which you describe and analyze potential customers: who and where they are, what makes them buy and so on. Here, you also describe the competition and how you'll position yourself to beat it.
  • Finally, the financial section contains your income and cash flow statement, balance sheet and other financial ratios, such as break-even analyses. This part may require help from your accountant and a good spreadsheet software program.

Breaking these three major sections down even further, a business plan consists of seven key components:

  • Executive summary
  • Business description
  • Market strategies
  • Competitive analysis
  • Design and development plan
  • Operations and management plan
  • Financial factors

In addition to these sections, a business plan should also have a cover, title page and table of contents.

How Long Should Your Business Plan Be? Depending on what you're using it for, a useful business plan can be any length, from a scrawl on the back of an envelope to, in the case of an especially detailed plan describing a complex enterprise, more than 100 pages. A typical business plan runs 15 to 20 pages, but there's room for wide variation from that norm. Much will depend on the nature of your business. If you have a simple concept, you may be able to express it in very few words. On the other hand, if you're proposing a new kind of business or even a new industry, it may require quite a bit of explanation to get the message across.

The purpose of your plan also determines its length. If you want to use your plan to seek millions of dollars in seed capital to start a risky venture, you may have to do a lot of explaining and convincing. If you're just going to use your plan for internal purposes to manage an ongoing business, a much more abbreviated version should be fine.

Who Needs a Business Plan?

About the only person who doesn't need a business plan is one who's not going into business. You don't need a plan to start a hobby or to moonlight from your regular job. But anybody beginning or extending a venture that will consume significant resources of money, energy or time, and that is expected to return a profit, should take the time to draft some kind of plan.

Startups. The classic business plan writer is an entrepreneur seeking funds to help start a new venture. Many, many great companies had their starts on paper, in the form of a plan that was used to convince investors to put up the capital necessary to get them under way.

Most books on business planning seem to be aimed at these startup business owners. There's one good reason for that: As the least experienced of the potential plan writers, they're probably most appreciative of the guidance. However, it's a mistake to think that only cash-starved startups need business plans. Business owners find plans useful at all stages of their companies' existence, whether they're seeking financing or trying to figure out how to invest a surplus.

Established firms seeking help. Not all business plans are written by starry-eyed entrepreneurs. Many are written by and for companies that are long past the startup stage. WalkerGroup/Designs, for instance, was already well-established as a designer of stores for major retailers when founder Ken Walker got the idea of trademarking and licensing to apparel makers and others the symbols 01-01-00 as a sort of numeric shorthand for the approaching millennium. Before beginning the arduous and costly task of trademarking it worldwide, Walker used a business plan complete with sales forecasts to convince big retailers it would be a good idea to promise to carry the 01-01-00 goods. It helped make the new venture a winner long before the big day arrived. "As a result of the retail support up front," Walker says, "we had over 45 licensees running the gamut of product lines almost from the beginning."

These middle-stage enterprises may draft plans to help them find funding for growth just as the startups do, although the amounts they seek may be larger and the investors more willing. They may feel the need for a written plan to help manage an already rapidly growing business. Or a plan may be seen as a valuable tool to be used to convey the mission and prospects of the business to customers, suppliers or others.

Plan an Updating Checklist Here are seven reasons to think about updating your business plan. If even just one applies to you, it's time for an update.

  • A new financial period is about to begin. You may update your plan annually, quarterly or even monthly if your industry is a fast-changing one.
  • You need financing , or additional financing. Lenders and other financiers need an updated plan to help them make financing decisions.
  • There's been a significant market change . Shifting client tastes, consolidation trends among customers and altered regulatory climates can trigger a need for plan updates.
  • Your firm develops or is about to develop a new product , technology , service or skill. If your business has changed a lot since you wrote your plan the first time around, it's time for an update.
  • You have had a change in management . New managers should get fresh information about your business and your goals.
  • Your company has crossed a threshold, such as moving out of your home office, crossing the $1 million sales mark or employing your 100th employee .
  • Your old plan doesn't seem to reflect reality any more. Maybe you did a poor job last time; maybe things have just changed faster than you expected. But if your plan seems irrelevant, redo it.

Finding the Right Plan for You

Business plans tend to have a lot of elements in common, like cash flow projections and marketing plans. And many of them share certain objectives as well, such as raising money or persuading a partner to join the firm. But business plans are not all the same any more than all businesses are.

Depending on your business and what you intend to use your plan for, you may need a very different type of business plan from another entrepreneur. Plans differ widely in their length, their appearance, the detail of their contents, and the varying emphases they place on different aspects of the business.

The reason that plan selection is so important is that it has a powerful effect on the overall impact of your plan. You want your plan to present you and your business in the best, most accurate light. That's true no matter what you intend to use your plan for, whether it's destined for presentation at a venture capital conference, or will never leave your own office or be seen outside internal strategy sessions.

When you select clothing for an important occasion, odds are you try to pick items that will play up your best features. Think about your plan the same way. You want to reveal any positives that your business may have and make sure they receive due consideration.

Types of Plans Business plans can be divided roughly into four separate types. There are very short plans, or miniplans. There are working plans, presentation plans and even electronic plans. They require very different amounts of labor and not always with proportionately different results. That is to say, a more elaborate plan is not guaranteed to be superior to an abbreviated one, depending on what you want to use it for.

  • The Miniplan. A miniplan may consist of one to 10 pages and should include at least cursory attention to such key matters as business concept, financing needs, marketing plan and financial statements, especially cash flow, income projection and balance sheet. It's a great way to quickly test a business concept or measure the interest of a potential partner or minor investor. It can also serve as a valuable prelude to a full-length plan later on.

Be careful about misusing a miniplan. It's not intended to substitute for a full-length plan. If you send a miniplan to an investor who's looking for a comprehensive one, you're only going to look foolish.

  • The Working Plan. A working plan is a tool to be used to operate your business. It has to be long on detail but may be short on presentation. As with a miniplan, you can probably afford a somewhat higher degree of candor and informality when preparing a working plan.

A plan intended strictly for internal use may also omit some elements that would be important in one aimed at someone outside the firm. You probably don't need to include an appendix with resumes of key executives, for example. Nor would a working plan especially benefit from, say, product photos.

Fit and finish are liable to be quite different in a working plan. It's not essential that a working plan be printed on high-quality paper and enclosed in a fancy binder. An old three-ring binder with "Plan" scrawled across it with a felt-tip marker will serve quite well.

Internal consistency of facts and figures is just as crucial with a working plan as with one aimed at outsiders. You don't have to be as careful, however, about such things as typos in the text, perfectly conforming to business style, being consistent with date formats and so on. This document is like an old pair of khakis you wear into the office on Saturdays or that one ancient delivery truck that never seems to break down. It's there to be used, not admired.

  • The Presentation Plan. If you take a working plan, with its low stress on cosmetics and impression, and twist the knob to boost the amount of attention paid to its looks, you'll wind up with a presentation plan. This plan is suitable for showing to bankers, investors and others outside the company.

Almost all the information in a presentation plan is going to be the same as your working plan, although it may be styled somewhat differently. For instance, you should use standard business vocabulary, omitting the informal jargon, slang and shorthand that's so useful in the workplace and is appropriate in a working plan. Remember, these readers won't be familiar with your operation. Unlike the working plan, this plan isn't being used as a reminder but as an introduction.

You'll also have to include some added elements. Among investors' requirements for due diligence is information on all competitive threats and risks. Even if you consider some of only peripheral significance, you need to address these concerns by providing the information.

The big difference between the presentation and working plans is in the details of appearance and polish. A working plan may be run off on the office printer and stapled together at one corner. A presentation plan should be printed by a high-quality printer, probably using color. It must be bound expertly into a booklet that is durable and easy to read. It should include graphics such as charts, graphs, tables and illustrations.

It's essential that a presentation plan be accurate and internally consistent. A mistake here could be construed as a misrepresentation by an unsympathetic outsider. At best, it will make you look less than careful. If the plan's summary describes a need for $40,000 in financing, but the cash flow projection shows $50,000 in financing coming in during the first year, you might think, "Oops! Forgot to update that summary to show the new numbers." The investor you're asking to pony up the cash, however, is unlikely to be so charitable.

  • The Electronic Plan. The majority of business plans are composed on a computer of some kind, then printed out and presented in hard copy. But more and more business information that once was transferred between parties only on paper is now sent electronically. So you may find it appropriate to have an electronic version of your plan available. An electronic plan can be handy for presentations to a group using a computer-driven overhead projector, for example, or for satisfying the demands of a discriminating investor who wants to be able to delve deeply into the underpinnings of complex spreadsheets.

Source: The Small Business Encyclopedia , Business Plans Made Easy , Start Your Own Business and Entrepreneur magazine .

Continue on to the next section of our Business Plan How-To >> Plan Your Plan

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The 10 Key Components of a Business Plan

Written by Dave Lavinsky

Growthink.com Components of a Business Plan Step By Step Advice

Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 1 million entrepreneurs and business owners write business plans. These plans have been used to raise funding and grow countless businesses.

Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here >

From working with all these businesses, we know what the 10 elements in any great business plan. Providing a comprehensive assessment of each of these components is critical in attracting lenders, angel investors, venture capitalists or other equity investors.

Get started with a title page that includes your company name, logo and contact information, since interested readers must have a simple way to find and reach out to you. After that be sure to include the 10 parts of a business plan documented below.

What are the 10 Key Components of a Business Plan?

The 10 sections or elements of a business plan that you must include are as follows:

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary provides a succinct synopsis of the business plan, and highlights the key points raised within. It often includes the company’s mission statement and description of the products and services. It’s recommended by me and many experts including the Small Business Administration to write the executive summary last.

The executive summary must communicate to the prospective investor the size and scope of the market opportunity, the venture’s business and profitability model, and how the resources/skills/strategic positioning of the company’s management team make it uniquely qualified to execute the business plan. The executive summary must be compelling, easy-to-read, and no longer than 2-4 pages.  

2. Company Analysis

This business plan section provides a strategic overview of the business and describes how the company is organized, what products and services it offers/will offer, and goes into further detail on the business’ unique qualifications in serving its target markets. As any good business plan template will point out, your company analysis should also give a snapshot of the company’s achievements to date, since the best indicator of future success are past accomplishments.

3. Industry or Market Analysis

This section evaluates the playing field in which the company will be competing, and includes well-structured answers to key market research questions such as the following:

  • What are the sizes of the target market segments?
  • What are the trends for the industry as a whole?
  • With what other industries do your services compete?

To conduct this market research, do research online and leverage trade associations that often have the information you need.  

4. Analysis of Customers

The customer analysis business plan section assesses the customer segment(s) that the company serves. In this section, the company must convey the needs of its target customers. It must then show how its products and services satisfy these needs to an extent that the customer will pay for them.

The following are examples of customer segments: moms, engaged couples, schools, online retailers, teens, baby boomers, business owners, etc.

As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of business you operate as different segments often have different needs. Try to break out your target customers in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, including a discussion of the ages, genders, locations and income levels of the customers you seek to serve. With regards to psychographic variables, discuss whether your customers have any unique lifestyles, interests, opinions, attitudes and/or values that will help you market to them more effectively.

5. Analysis of Competition

All capable business plan writers discuss the competitive landscape of your business. This element of your plan must identify your direct and indirect competitors, assesses their strengths and weaknesses and delineate your company’s competitive advantages. It’s a crucial business plan section.

Direct competitors are those that provide the same product or service to the same customer. Indirect competitors are those who provide similar products or services. For example, the direct competitors to a pizza shop are other local pizza shops. Indirect competitors are other food options like supermarkets, delis, other restaurants, etc.

The first five components of your business plan provide an overview of the business opportunity and market research to support it. The remaining five business plan sections focus mainly on strategy, primarily the marketing, operational, financial and management strategies that your firm will employ.

6. Marketing, Sales & Product Plan

The marketing and sales plan component of your business plan details your strategy for penetrating the target markets. Key elements include the following:

  • A description of the company’s desired strategic positioning
  • Detailed descriptions of the company’s product and service offerings and potential product extensions
  • Descriptions of the company’s desired image and branding strategy
  • Descriptions of the company’s promotional strategies
  • An overview of the company’s pricing strategies
  • A description of current and potential strategic marketing partnerships/ alliances

7. Operations Strategy, Design and Development Plans

These sections detail the internal strategies for building the venture from concept to reality, and include answers to the following questions:

  • What functions will be required to run the business?
  • What milestones must be reached before the venture can be launched?
  • How will quality be controlled?

8. Management Team

The management team section demonstrates that the company has the required human resources to be successful. The business plan must answer questions including:

  • Who are the key management personnel and what are their backgrounds?
  • What management additions will be required to make the business a success?
  • Who are the other investors and/or shareholders, if any?
  • Who comprises the Board of Directors and/or Board of Advisors?
  • Who are the professional advisors (e.g., lawyer, accounting firm)?

9. Financial Plan

The financial plan involves the development of the company’s revenue and profitability model. These financial statements detail how you generate income and get paid from customers,. The financial plan includes detailed explanations of the key assumptions used in building the business plan model, sensitivity analysis on key revenue and cost variables, and description of comparable valuations for existing companies with similar business models.

One of the key purposes of your business plan is to determine the amount of capital the firm needs. The financial plan does this along with assessing the proposed use of these funds (e.g., equipment, working capital, labor expenses, insurance costs, etc.) and the expected future earnings. It includes Projected Income Statements, Balance Sheets (showing assets, liabilities and equity) and Cash Flow Statements, broken out quarterly for the first two years, and annually for years 1-5.

Importantly, all of the assumptions and projections in the financial plan must flow from and be supported by the descriptions and explanations offered in the other sections of the plan. The financial plan is where the entrepreneur communicates how he/she plans to “monetize” the overall vision for the new venture. Note that in addition to traditional debt and equity sources of startup and growth funding that require a business plan (bank loans, angel investors, venture capitalists, friends and family), you will probably also use other capital sources, such as credit cards and business credit, in growing your company.

10. Appendix

The appendix is used to support the rest of the business plan. Every business plan should have a full set of financial projections in the appendix, with the summary of these financials in the executive summary and the financial plan. Other documentation that could appear in the appendix includes technical drawings, partnership and/or customer letters, expanded competitor reviews and/or customer lists.

Find additional business plan help articles here.

Expertly and comprehensively discussing these components in their business plan helps entrepreneurs to better understand their business opportunity and assists them in convincing investors that the opportunity may be right for them too.

In addition to ensuring you included the proper elements of a business plan when developing your plan always think about why you are uniquely qualified to succeed in your business. For example, is your team’s expertise something that’s unique and can ensure your success? Or is it marketing partnerships you have executed? Importantly, if you don’t have any unique success factors, think about what you can add to make your company unique. Doing so can dramatically improve your success. Also, whether you write it on a word processor or use business plan software , remember to update your plan at least annually. After several years, you should have several business plans you can review to see what worked and what didn’t. This should prove helpful as you create future plans for your company’s growth.

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what are the three parts of a business plan

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7 parts to a winning business plan.

7 Parts of a Business Plan

It is important to understand that while a business plan may not make success inevitable for a business, it can definitely help you identify viable ways to avoid failure. It helps you get a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your business and devise ways to capitalize on the strength and minimize the risks.

Parts of a Business Plan

Executive summary.

Sometimes, you might require to show the business plan you formulate to investors and financiers. Therefore, you should ensure that you get to the to-the-point in the summary.

Description of the Business

Analysis of market opportunities and competition.

A thorough market research is crucial for your business. This research should analyze the buying habits of customers, purchasing cycle, their willingness to accept new products and services etc. In short, you would need to determine whether there is a viable market for the products and/or services your business will offer.

Marketing and Sales

This section is dedicated to how you plan on running the business. This may include requirements related to staffing, logistics and development of the business. Also, the tasks assigned to every division, responsibilities of the management team etc. are included. Some other aspects that you need to consider are infrastructure, working equipment, WiFi requirements and so on.

Contingency Plan

Even with a full-fledged plan, there can still be certain areas that can go wrong. Your business plan should include strategies that you will implement in case things don’t go as anticipated. This could include a shift in marketing strategies in case the desired results are not obtained within a specific time, change in product focus etc.

Parts of Business Plan and Definition

The parts of business plan and definition refer to the governing document of your company and the elements it should include. 3 min read updated on February 01, 2023

The parts of business plan and definition refer to the governing document of your company and the elements it should include. The business plan thoroughly describes your company's purpose, structure, and goals for potential partners, stakeholders, and investors.

Purpose of a Business Plan

Your business plan will be informed by the specific goals for your business. The more complex your product or service, the more complex and detailed your business plan must be. If you are using the business plan to seek investors, you'll need to provide a thorough explanation of your concept and how it fits into your industry.

Once you've drafted a plan, show it to colleagues, partners, and mentors you trust. They can provide an objective view of the business plan and indicate areas where you may need to provide more thorough information.

Executive Summary

This is the first section of your business plan and provides a quick overview of what you want to accomplish with your company. This should comprise the mission statement followed by a description of the services and/or products you provide. Use this basic outline:

  • Description of the business
  • Products/services
  • Market/competition
  • Goals and objectives
  • Owner and executive qualifications
  • Funding information
  • Cash and earnings projections

Company Description

A more involved company description should follow the executive summary. This section details the business's key information and examines the market segment you want to capture. The company description is the "meat" of your business plan and should include information about:

  • The name of your business
  • The business location
  • The type of business entity (proprietorship, corporation, or limited liability company (LLC))
  • How your company is different from its competition
  • Growth and success factors
  • How the products and services you offer will solve a problem or fill a need for your desired audience

This is also where you should include operational details such as your hiring plan for the first year or two in business with job classifications and duties. You should also indicate the type of facility you will need for operations and where it will be located.

Market Analysis

This section will demonstrate your understanding of your specific market as well as your industry as a whole. Include the following information:

  • Description of your target market
  • Overview of industry projection
  • List of all competitors with business analysis of each

Product and Service Information

Describe the products and services your business will offer, providing enough detail for those who may be unfamiliar with your industry. Indicate whether you will need to patent your product idea and/or whether a patent application is pending. You should also indicate other steps you've taken to protect intellectual property such as your business name, product names, logo, and branding identity.

If you are manufacturing a product, include information about the materials you'll need and your suppliers for those materials as well as the production process.

Financial Projections

This section demonstrates your plan to make a profit using realistic numbers with a basis in research. Although your ideas are important, you'll also need to show that you will generate enough cash flow to capture a significant market share. Elements this section of your business plan should address include:

  • Initial operating costs
  • First-year cash flow and sales projects
  • Personal expenses
  • Start-up and growth financing
  • Business bank accounts and/or credit lines
  • Projected timeline to a positive cash flow

Management Information

A strong management team will inspire confidence in potential lenders, investors, and partners. The purpose of this section is to make your people shine by highlighting their unique strengths. This part of your business plan should include answers to these questions:

  • Who are your company-level and department-level managers?
  • What are their qualifications?
  • How many full-time and part-time managers do you need?
  • How many employees will each manage and what are their responsibilities?
  • How will you fund wages and benefits?
  • What are your plans for employee training and mentorship?

Additional Information

Complete your business plan with supplemental information that will strengthen your case. Finish with a summary that restates the highlights of your plan and indicates your determination to succeed as a business owner. Attach supporting documents such as licenses, permits, patents, product diagrams, building blueprints, and letters of support from consultants and/or your accountant and attorney.

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

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Seven sections your business plan should have.

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Joseph is Director at  Wise Business Plans , a firm helping clients with professionally written business plans, branding, licensing and more.

To someone who’s never done it before, crafting a business plan can seem like a complicated, magical process that regular people are incapable of accomplishing. The finished product looks so complex and informative — who even knows what goes into something like that?

But, in reality, business plans are less like magic and more like baking. Gather the right ingredients, put them together in the proper order, and ta-da! The finished product is a road map for the company’s future success.

With a little help from a professional or the right recipe, even the newest small-business owner will be baking up business plans in no time.

So, what is that recipe for planning perfection? Like bread and pastry, every business plan has some flair of its own, from custom graphic design to unique financial information.

But some sections are universal and absolutely necessary if a business owner wants to be taken seriously by investors and banks.

1. An Executive Summary

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This concise, carefully written, first section of the plan offers an easy-to-follow introduction to the company, its purpose and its framework. This section sums up the information in your plan, so it can be helpful to go back and write it after the rest of the work is completed.

Pro Tip: In the opening statement, explain the business in one or two sentences. Once you have completed your business plan, write the Executive Summary last.

2. Company Overview

List the goods and services the company will provide, the market it will serve, short- and long-term goals for growth and a brief history of the company’s formation and past performance.

Pro Tip: Explain any momentum the company has made to date and future plans.

3. Products & Services

This section allows for a more complete explanation of the kinds of goods or services the business will be selling or providing. Make the descriptions compelling and engaging. 

Pro Tip: List a detailed description of your products or services and their competitive advantages over the competition.

4. Market Analysis

Use this as an opportunity to showcase the research and knowledge company leaders have to bring to the table with regard to the people and entities they hope to serve or sell to. Include information on the industry the company belongs to and the state of the competition locally, nationally and even internationally, if relevant. 

Pro Tip: Check out the census website  for statistics and demographics.

5. Marketing Strategy

How does the business intend to get the word out about what it has to offer? This section should list plans for all expected marketing channels, from traditional advertising to social media outreach efforts.

Pro Tip: The marketing budget and strategy should be a focal point of your plan. This will ultimately drive sales.

6. Organization & Management

This can be broken into separate sections, but both leadership and plans for employees must be addressed. This should include a basic visual “tree” showing the number of employees expected to be hired, as well as the reporting structure for those people. The management portion should contain an introduction to the company’s leaders and their expertise and career achievements. 

Pro Tip: Explain why you and your team are capable of executing the business goals and objectives.

7. Financials

Different kinds of plans will require slightly different financial information. However, every plan should show historical financial data, if available, and sensible projected expenditures and forecasted income. This section should also include an overview of the company’s current financial status.

Pro Tip: Every industry has a set of key performance indicators (KPIs). Benchmark your company against its peers in the market.

It’s a fact that a quality business plan contains complicated information about not only the business being built but also the market and industry the company plans to compete in. Looking at a business plan as a piece-by-piece process, rather than a completed whole, can make creating your own a little less daunting. Including the seven sections listed above is a great starting point for making a plan that will impress any investor or financial institution.

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  1. How to Create a Business Plan

    what are the three parts of a business plan

  2. 12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)

    what are the three parts of a business plan

  3. The Essential Guide to Making a Business Plan

    what are the three parts of a business plan

  4. What Are The Main Parts Of A Business Plan

    what are the three parts of a business plan

  5. How to Write a Business Plan

    what are the three parts of a business plan

  6. 12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)

    what are the three parts of a business plan

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COMMENTS

  1. The 10 Components of a Business Plan

    That's where your business plan comes in. It provides investors, lenders and potential partners with an understanding of your company's structure and goals. If you want to gain the financial autonomy to run a business or become an entrepreneur, a financial advisor can help align your finances. 1. Executive Summary.

  2. How To Write A Business Plan (2024 Guide)

    Describe Your Services or Products. The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you're offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit ...

  3. 8 Key Components of a Business Plan

    There are eight essential components, all of which are detailed in this handy guide. 1. Executive Summary. The executive summary opens your business plan, but it's the section you'll write last. It summarizes the key points and highlights the most important aspects of your plan.

  4. 12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)

    Here are some of the components of an effective business plan. 1. Executive Summary. One of the key elements of a business plan is the executive summary. Write the executive summary as part of the concluding topics in the business plan. Creating an executive summary with all the facts and information available is easier.

  5. How to Write a Business Plan: Guide + Examples

    Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It's also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. After completing your plan, you can ...

  6. Write your business plan

    A good business plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing your business. You'll use your business plan as a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. It's a way to think through the key elements of your business. Business plans can help you get funding or bring on new business partners.

  7. 13 Key Business Plan Components

    13 Key Business Plan Components. We've built a comprehensive guide to the major parts of a business plan for you. From elements like the executive summary to product descriptions, traction, and financials, we'll guide you on all of the key sections you should include in your business plan. December 14th, 2022 | By: The Startups Team | Tags ...

  8. 11 Key Components of a Business Plan

    Nothing should be included that isn't going to be used. 10. Geared for change. A good business plan is the opposite of written in stone. It's going to change in a few weeks. List assumptions because reviewing assumptions is the best way to determine when to change the plan and when to stick with it. 11.

  9. Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One

    Business Plan: A business plan is a written document that describes in detail how a business, usually a new one, is going to achieve its goals. A business plan lays out a written plan from a ...

  10. 10 Important Components of an Effective Business Plan

    Effective business plans contain several key components that cover various aspects of a company's goals. The most important parts of a business plan include: 1. Executive summary. The executive summary is the first and one of the most critical parts of a business plan. This summary provides an overview of the business plan as a whole and ...

  11. The 12 Key Components of a Business Plan (2023)

    Some entrepreneurs choose to use diagrams and charts, while others rely on text alone. Regardless of how you go about it, good business plans tend to include the following elements: Executive summary. Company description. Market analysis. Marketing plan. Sales plan. Competitive analysis. Organizational structure.

  12. Business Plan: What it Is, How to Write One

    A business plan explains what your business does now and where you hope to be in three to five years. You may need one to apply for a business loan. ... The third part of a business plan is an ...

  13. 10 Essential Business Plan Components + Free Template

    Here are its key components and what to include in them. 1. Executive summary. The executive summary is one of the most important parts of a business plan. It's the first thing potential investors will read and should therefore provide a clear overview of your business and its goals.

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

    The purpose of a business plan is three-fold: It summarizes the organization's strategy in order to execute it long term, secures financing from investors, and helps forecast future business demands. ... It may be part of a startup business plan or a standalone plan for an existing organization. This comprehensive plan may include: A detailed ...

  15. Business Plan: What It Is + How to Write One

    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 ...

  16. 9 Essential Components of a Business Plan

    Here are the 9 essential components of a business plan. 1. Executive Summary. Your executive summary is going to be at the front of your plan and be one of the first things that someone reads. But, writing the executive summary should be the last thing that you do, even though it's first on the list.

  17. An Introduction to Business Plans

    There are three primary parts to a business plan: The first is the business concept, where you discuss the industry, your business structure, your particular product or service, and how you plan ...

  18. Components of a Business Plan

    The 10 sections or elements of a business plan that you must include are as follows: 1. Executive Summary. The executive summary provides a succinct synopsis of the business plan, and highlights the key points raised within. It often includes the company's mission statement and description of the products and services.

  19. The 3 Key Elements of a Business Plan

    At a minimum, your business plan should have best- and worst-case scenarios in four key areas: Operating budget. List your business's day-to-day operating expenses — rent, salaries, supplies ...

  20. 7 Parts to a Winning Business Plan

    The success or failure of a business boils down to its profits and this section will help in planning how to keep it steady. The major aspects include: • An income statement comprising the sources of the business's cash generation. • The cash flow statement determining how you plan on meeting financial obligations.

  21. Parts of Business Plan and Definition

    The parts of business plan and definition refer to the governing document of your company and the elements it should include.3 min read updated on February 01, 2023. The parts of business plan and definition refer to the governing document of your company and the elements it should include. The business plan thoroughly describes your company's ...

  22. Seven Sections Your Business Plan Should Have

    3. Products & Services. This section allows for a more complete explanation of the kinds of goods or services the business will be selling or providing. Make the descriptions compelling and ...

  23. What Are the 4 Important Parts of a Business Plan?

    As a result, there are four key areas you need to focus on in your business plan, in addition to the rest of its contents: The unique value proposition of your business. The experience, education ...

  24. What is Project 2025? What to know about the conservative blueprint for

    The recommendations outlined in the sprawling plan reach every corner of the executive branch, from the Executive Office of the President to the Department of Homeland Security to the little-known ...

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    As they continue to pursue a blockbuster merger, Kroger and Albertsons have identified nearly three-dozen Illinois stores they plan to sell as part of a divestiture agreement, according to a press ...

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    The UK's biggest supermarket chain has told customers its Express stores across England will close at 7.30pm instead of the usual 10pm or 11pm if the Three Lions reach the final of the Euros.

  27. Millennial Traveled to Bali 13 Years Ago and Now ...

    The best part of Bali has, by far, been the people, he said: "I've always experienced people's willingness to help." Menu icon A vertical stack of three evenly spaced horizontal lines.

  28. Maple Leaf Farms (TSE:MFI) Blasts Up on Pork Spinoff Plan

    The plan to spin off the pork shop calls for Maple Leaf Foods to hold 19.9% of the new company while handing out the remaining shares to current Maple Leaf shareholders.As for the why, CEO Curtis ...

  29. Why Britain Just Ended 14 Years of Conservative Rule

    The Plan to Defeat Critics of Israel in Congress Why Britain Just Ended 14 Years of Conservative Rule Last week, the center-left Labour Party won the British general election in a landslide.