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  • Write Your Business Plan | Part 1 Overview Video
  • The Basics of Writing a Business Plan
  • How to Use Your Business Plan Most Effectively
  • 12 Reasons You Need a Business Plan
  • The Main Objectives of a Business Plan
  • What to Include and Not Include in a Successful Business Plan
  • The Top 4 Types of Business Plans
  • A Step-by-Step Guide to Presenting Your Business Plan in 10 Slides
  • 6 Tips for Making a Winning Business Presentation
  • 3 Key Things You Need to Know About Financing Your Business
  • 12 Ways to Set Realistic Business Goals and Objectives
  • How to Perfectly Pitch Your Business Plan in 10 Minutes
  • Write Your Business Plan | Part 2 Overview Video
  • How to Fund Your Business Through Friends and Family Loans and Crowdsourcing
  • How to Fund Your Business Using Banks and Credit Unions
  • How to Fund Your Business With an SBA Loan
  • How to Fund Your Business With Bonds and Indirect Funding Sources
  • How to Fund Your Business With Venture Capital
  • How to Fund Your Business With Angel Investors
  • How to Use Your Business Plan to Track Performance
  • How to Make Your Business Plan Attractive to Prospective Partners
  • Is This Idea Going to Work? How to Assess the Potential of Your Business.
  • When to Update Your Business Plan
  • Write Your Business Plan | Part 3 Overview Video
  • How to Write the Management Team Section to Your Business Plan
  • How to Create a Strategic Hiring Plan
  • How to Write a Business Plan Executive Summary That Sells Your Idea
  • How to Build a Team of Outside Experts for Your Business
  • Use This Worksheet to Write a Product Description That Sells
  • What Is Your Unique Selling Proposition? Use This Worksheet to Find Your Greatest Strength.
  • How to Raise Money With Your Business Plan
  • Customers and Investors Don't Want Products. They Want Solutions.
  • Write Your Business Plan | Part 4 Overview Video
  • 5 Essential Elements of Your Industry Trends Plan
  • How to Identify and Research Your Competition
  • Who Is Your Ideal Customer? 4 Questions to Ask Yourself.
  • How to Identify Market Trends in Your Business Plan
  • How to Define Your Product and Set Your Prices
  • How to Determine the Barriers to Entry for Your Business
  • How to Get Customers in Your Store and Drive Traffic to Your Website
  • How to Effectively Promote Your Business to Customers and Investors
  • Write Your Business Plan | Part 5 Overview Video
  • What Equipment and Facilities to Include in Your Business Plan
  • How to Write an Income Statement for Your Business Plan
  • How to Make a Balance Sheet
  • How to Make a Cash Flow Statement
  • How to Use Financial Ratios to Understand the Health of Your Business
  • How to Write an Operations Plan for Retail and Sales Businesses
  • How to Make Realistic Financial Forecasts
  • How to Write an Operations Plan for Manufacturers
  • What Technology Needs to Include In Your Business Plan
  • How to List Personnel and Materials in Your Business Plan
  • The Role of Franchising
  • The Best Ways to Follow Up on a Buisiness Plan
  • The Best Books, Sites, Trade Associations and Resources to Get Your Business Funded and Running
  • How to Hire the Right Business Plan Consultant
  • Business Plan Lingo and Resources All Entrepreneurs Should Know
  • How to Write a Letter of Introduction
  • What To Put on the Cover Page of a Business Plan
  • How to Format Your Business Plan
  • 6 Steps to Getting Your Business Plan In Front of Investors

What to Include and Not Include in a Successful Business Plan Here's what investors want to see in a business plan (and what you should definitely leave out.)

By Eric Butow Oct 27, 2023

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This is part 6 / 12 of Write Your Business Plan: Section 1: The Foundation of a Business Plan series.

You need to have a business plan to act as your company's North Star—and, let's not forget, get funding from banks and/or investors. Here are some simple tips for writing a business plan that gets you on the right track.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Writing A Business Plan

10 Simple Tips for Writing an Impactful Business Plan

1. Know your competition. You need to name them and point out what makes you different from (and better than) each of them. But do not disparage your competition.

2. Know your audience. You may need several versions of your business plan. For example, you may need one for bankers or venture capitalists, one for individual investors, and one for companies that may want to do a joint venture with you rather than fund you.

3. Have proof to back up every claim you make. If you expect to be the leader in your field in six months, you have to say why you think that is. If you say your product will take the market by storm, you have to support this statement with facts. If you say your management team is fully qualified to make the business a success, be sure staff resumes demonstrate their experience.

4. Be conservative in all financial estimates and projections. If you feel certain you'll capture 50 percent of the market in the first year, you can say why you think so and hint at what those numbers may be. But make your financial projections more conservative. For example, a 10 percent market share is much more credible.

5. Be realistic with time and resources. If you're working with a big company before you buy a business, you may think things will happen faster than they will once you have to buy the supplies, write the checks, and answer the phones yourself. Being overly optimistic with time and resources is a common error entrepreneurs make. Being realistic is important because it lends credibility to your presentation. Always assume things will take 20 percent longer than you anticipated. Therefore, 20 weeks is now 24 weeks.

6. Be logical. Think like a banker and write what they would want to see.

Related: How To Write A Business Plan

7. Have a strong management team. Make sure it has good credentials and expertise. Your team members don't have to have worked in the field. However, you need to draw parallels between what they've done and the skills needed to make your venture succeed. Don't have all the skills you need? Consider adding an advisory board of people skilled in your field and include their resumes.

8. Document why your idea will work. Have others done something similar that was successful? Have you made a prototype? Include all the variables that can have an impact on the result or outcome of your idea. Show why some of the variables don't apply to your situation or explain how you intend to overcome them or make them better.

9. Describe your facilities and location for performing the work. That includes equipment you use to create your products and/or services. If you'll need to expand, discuss when, where, and why.

10. Discuss payout options for the investors. Some investors want a hands-on role. Some want to put associates on your board of directors. Some don't want to be involved in day-to-day activities at all. All investors want to know when they can get their money back and at what rate of return. Most want out within three to five years. Provide a brief description of options for investors, or at least mention that you're ready to discuss options with any serious prospect.

Related: The Basics of Writing A Business Plan

What Not to Include in a Business Plan

Form over substance. If it looks good but doesn't have a solid basis in fact and research, you might as well save your energy.

Empty claims. If you make a statement without supporting it, you may as well leave it out. You need to follow up on what you say in the next sentence with a statistic, fact, or even a quote from a knowledgeable source that supports the claim.

Rumors about the competition. If you know for sure a competitor is going out of business, you can allude to it but avoid listing its weaknesses or hearsay. Stick to facts.

Superlatives and strong adjectives. Words like "major," "incredible," "amazing," "outstanding," "unbelievable," "terrific," "great," "most," "best," and "fabulous" don't have a place in a business plan. Avoid "unique" unless you can demonstrate with facts that the product or service is truly one of a kind. (Hint: Chances are, it isn't.) The same goes for hyperbole. Let the positives of your business speak for themselves.

Related: The Main Objectives Of A Business Plan

Long documents. If they want more, they will ask.

Overestimating your financial projections. Sure, you want to look good but resist optimism here. Use half of what you think is reasonable. Better to underestimate than set expectations that aren't fulfilled.

Overly optimistic time frames. Ask around or do research on the internet. If it takes most companies six to twelve months to get up and running, that is what it will take your company. If you think it will take three months to develop your prototype, double it. You will face delays you don't know about yet—ones you can't control. Remember to be conservative in your time predictions.

Gimmicks. Serious investors want facts, not gimmicks. They may eat the chocolate rose that accompanies the business plan for your new florist shop, but it won't make them any more interested in investing in the venture.

Amateurish financial projections. Spend some money and get an accountant to do these for you. They'll help you think through the financial side of your venture, plus put the numbers into a standard business format that a businessperson expects.

Related: How To Build A Business Plan

More in Write Your Business Plan

Section 1: the foundation of a business plan, section 2: putting your business plan to work, section 3: selling your product and team, section 4: marketing your business plan, section 5: organizing operations and finances, section 6: getting your business plan to investors.

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17 Key Business Plan Mistakes to Avoid in 2024

Posted december 6, 2023 by noah parsons.

what should not be included in a business plan

If you’re like most people and you’re writing a business plan for the first time, you want to make sure you get it right. Even if you follow the instructions in one of the popular business plan templates out there, you can still make mistakes. 

After having spent countless hours reading thousands of business plans and having judged hundreds of business plan competitions, I’ve assembled a list of the biggest business plan mistakes that I’ve seen.

What is the biggest mistake when preparing a business plan?

The absolute biggest business plan mistake you can make is to not plan at all.

That doesn’t mean everyone must write a detailed business plan. While you should do some planning to figure out what direction you want to take your business—your plan could be as simple as a one-page business plan, or even a pitch presentation that highlights your current strategy.

Your strategy and ideas will certainly evolve as you go, but taking a little time to figure out how your business works will pay dividends over time.

17 common business plan mistakes to avoid 

Assuming you’ve at least decided that you should do some business planning, here are the top business plan mistakes to avoid:

1. Not taking the planning process seriously

Writing a business plan just to “tick the box” and have a pile of paper to hand to a loan officer at the bank is the wrong way to approach business planning.

If you don’t take the business planning process seriously, it’s going to show that you don’t really care about your business and haven’t really thought through how your business is going to be successful. 

Instead, take the time and use the planning process to strengthen your understanding of how your business will be successful. It will improve your chances with lenders and investors and help you run a better business in the long run.

2. Not having a defined purpose for your business plan

Why are you writing a business plan?

Is it to raise money? Are you just trying to get your team on the same page as you so they understand your strategy? Or are you planning a new period of growth?

Knowing why you are writing a business plan will help you stay focused on what matters to help you achieve your goals, while not wasting time on areas of the plan that don’t matter for what you’re doing.

For example, if you’re writing an internal business plan, you can probably skip the sections that describe your team. 

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3. Not writing for the right audience

When you’re putting together your business plan, make sure to consider who your readers are. This is especially important for businesses that are in the technology and medical industries .

If your audience isn’t going to understand the specialized vocabulary that you use to describe your business and what you do, they aren’t going to be able to understand your business.

On the other hand, if your audience is going to be all industry insiders, make sure to write in the language that they understand.

4. Writing a business plan that’s too long

Don’t write a book when you’re putting together your plan. Your audience doesn’t have time to spend reading countless pages about your business. Instead, focus on getting straight to the point and make your business plan as short as possible.

Start with a one-page plan to keep things concise. You can always include additional details in an appendix or in follow-up documents if your reader needs more information.

5. Not doing enough research

You don’t need to spend endless time researching, but your business plan should demonstrate that you truly understand your industry, your target market, and your competitors. If you don’t have this core knowledge, it’s going to show that you’re not prepared to launch your business.

To keep things simple, start with this four-step process to make sure you cover your bases with an initial market analysis.

6. Not defining your target market

Don’t assume your products are for “everyone.”

Even a company like Facebook that now truly does target “everyone” started out with a focus on college students. Make sure you take some time to understand your target market and who your customers really are.

Investors will want to see that you understand who you are marketing to and that you’re building your product or service for a specific market.

7. Failing to establish a sound business model

Every business needs to eventually have a way to make money. Your business plan needs to clearly explain who your customers are, what they pay you, and have financial projections that show your path to profitability.

Without a real business model , where income covers your expenses, it will be difficult to show that you have a viable path to success.

8. Failing to showcase current traction and milestones

Great business plans are more than just a collection of ideas. They also demonstrate that you have early traction — a fancy way of saying that you have some initial success.

This could come in the form of pre-orders from a Kickstarter campaign or initial contracts that you’ve signed with your first customers. Traction can be as little as expressed interest from potential customers, but the more commitment you have, the better. The companion to traction is milestones. Milestones are simply your roadmap for the future — your next steps with details of what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. Make sure to include your best guess at your future timeline as part of your business plan.  

9. Having unrealistic financial projections

Everyone dreams of sales that start from zero and then just skyrocket off the charts. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. So, if you have financial projections that look too good to be true, it’s worth a second look.

Investors don’t want you to be overly conservative either. You just need to have a financial forecast that’s based in reality and that you can easily explain. 

Keep in mind that when first starting out, you may not have exact numbers to work with. That’s perfectly fine. You can work with general assumptions and compare against competitive benchmarks to set a baseline for your business.

The key here is to develop reasonable projections that you and any external parties can reference and see as viable.

10. Ignoring your competitors

Not knowing who your competitors are , or pretending that you have no competition, is a common mistake. It’s easy to say that you have “no competition,” but that’s just taking the easy way out. Every business has competition, even if it’s a completely different way of solving the same problem.

For example, Henry Ford’s early competition to the automobile wasn’t other cars — it was horses.

11. Missing organizational or team information

When you’re starting a business, it’s likely that you haven’t hired everyone that you’re going to need. That’s OK. The mistake people make in their business plan is not acknowledging that there are key positions yet to be filled.

A successful plan will highlight the key roles that you plan to hire for in the future and the types of people you’ll be looking for. This is especially vital when pitching to investors to showcase that you’re already thinking ahead.

12. Inconsistent information and mistakes

This almost goes without saying, but make sure to proofread your plan before you send it out. Beyond ensuring that you use proper grammar and spelling, make sure that any numbers that you mention in your plan are the same ones that you have in your financial projections.

You don’t want to write that you’re aiming for $2 million in sales, while your sales forecast shows $3 million. 

13. Including incomplete financial information

You may have a great idea, but a business plan isn’t complete without a full financial forecast. Too many business plans neglect this area, probably because it seems like it’s the most challenging. But, if you use a good forecasting tool like LivePlan , the process is easy.

Make sure to include forecasts for Profit and Loss, Cash Flow, and Balance Sheet. You may also want to include additional detail related to your sales forecast.

For example, if you run a subscription business , you should include information about your churn rate and customer retention.

14. Adding too much information

Don’t fall into the trap of adding everything you know about your business, your industry, and your target market into your business plan. Your business plan should just cover the highlights so that it’s short enough that people will read it.

A simple and concise plan will engage your reader and could prompt follow-up requests for additional information. 

Focus on writing an engaging executive summary and push non-critical, detailed information into your appendix — or leave it out altogether and leave the details for those that ask.

Remember, your business plan is there to serve a purpose. If you’re raising money, you want to get that next meeting with your investors. If you’re sharing your strategy with your team, you want your team to actually read what you wrote.

Keep your plan short and simple to help achieve these goals.

What should not be included in a business plan?

Here are a few things to leave out of your plan:

  • Full resumes of each team member. Just hit the highlights.
  • Detailed technical explanations or schematics of how your product works. Put these in the appendix or just leave them out completely.
  • A long history of your industry. A few sentences should be enough.
  • Detailed market research. Yes, you want market research but just include the summary of your findings, not all the data.

Make sure to include:

  • Executive summary.
  • Financial projections.
  • Market research (just a summary)
  • Competition overview
  • Funding needs (if you’re raising money)

15. Having no one review your plan

As with any work that you do, it’s always helpful to have a few other people take a look at your work as you go. You don’t have to please everyone and you don’t have to implement every comment, but you should listen for themes in your feedback and make adjustments as you go. 

A fresh pair of eyes will always help spot pesky typos as well as highlight areas of your plan that may not make sense. You can even explore having a plan writing expert review your plan for a more in-depth analysis.

16. Never revisiting your business plan

Business plans are never 100% accurate and things never go exactly as planned. Just like when you set out on a road trip, you have a plan to reach your final destination and an idea of how you will get there.

But, things can change as you go and you may want to adjust your route. 

Planning for your business is often the same as that road trip and your plans will change as you grow your business. Keeping your plan updated will help you set new goals for you and your team and, most importantly, set financial goals and budgets that will help your business thrive.

Incorporate your plan into regular review meetings to be sure you’re consistently revisiting it and integrating the time spent reviewing into your current workflow.

17. Not using your business plan to manage your business

Revisiting and revising your business plan is how you use your plan to manage your business. If you aren’t updating your goals and following a budget, you’re flying blind. Your plan is your ultimate tool to help you manage your business to success. You can use it to set sales goals and figure out when and how you should expand. 

You’ll use your plan to ensure that you have healthy cash flow and enough money in the bank to handle your growth. Without managing your plan, you’re left to guess and live with a level of uncertainty about where your business is headed.

How a business planning and management tool helps you avoid mistakes

Writing a business plan can seem like a daunting task. Sure, you can do it yourself with free templates and advice like you find on this website . But, doing it on your own can just slow the process down, lead to mistakes, and keep you from actually working on building your business.

Instead, consider using a planning tool, like LivePlan, which features step-by-step guidance and financial forecasting tools that propel you through the process.

LivePlan will help you include only what you need in your plan and reduce the time you spend on formatting and presenting. You’ll also get help building solid financial models that you can trust, without having to worry about getting everything right in a spreadsheet.

Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results. This makes it easy to track your progress and make adjustments as you go.

So, whether you’re writing a plan to explore a new business idea, looking to raise money from investors, seeking a loan, or just trying to run your business better—a solid business plan built with LivePlan will help get you there. 

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Noah Parsons

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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 should not be included in 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? "

what should not be included in a business plan

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How to Write a Business Plan: Your Step-by-Step Guide

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So, you’ve got an idea and you want to start a business —great! Before you do anything else, like seek funding or build out a team, you'll need to know how to write a business plan. This plan will serve as the foundation of your company while also giving investors and future employees a clear idea of your purpose.

Below, Lauren Cobello, Founder and CEO of Leverage with Media PR , gives her best advice on how to make a business plan for your company.

Build your dream business with the help of a high-paying job—browse open jobs on The Muse »

What is a business plan, and when do you need one?

According to Cobello, a business plan is a document that contains the mission of the business and a brief overview of it, as well as the objectives, strategies, and financial plans of the founder. A business plan comes into play very early on in the process of starting a company—more or less before you do anything else.

“You should start a company with a business plan in mind—especially if you plan to get funding for the company,” Cobello says. “You’re going to need it.”

Whether that funding comes from a loan, an investor, or crowdsourcing, a business plan is imperative to secure the capital, says the U.S. Small Business Administration . Anyone who’s considering giving you money is going to want to review your business plan before doing so. That means before you head into any meeting, make sure you have physical copies of your business plan to share.

Different types of business plans

The four main types of business plans are:

Startup Business Plans

Internal business plans, strategic business plans, one-page business plans.

Let's break down each one:

If you're wondering how to write a business plan for a startup, Cobello has advice for you. Startup business plans are the most common type, she says, and they are a critical tool for new business ventures that want funding. A startup is defined as a company that’s in its first stages of operations, founded by an entrepreneur who has a product or service idea.

Most startups begin with very little money, so they need a strong business plan to convince family, friends, banks, and/or venture capitalists to invest in the new company.

Internal business plans “are for internal use only,” says Cobello. This kind of document is not public-facing, only company-facing, and it contains an outline of the company’s business strategy, financial goals and budgets, and performance data.

Internal business plans aren’t used to secure funding, but rather to set goals and get everyone working there tracking towards them.

As the name implies, strategic business plans are geared more towards strategy and they include an assessment of the current business landscape, notes Jérôme Côté, a Business Advisor at BDC Advisory Services .

Unlike a traditional business plan, Cobello adds, strategic plans include a SWOT analysis (which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and an in-depth action plan for the next six to 12 months. Strategic plans are action-based and take into account the state of the company and the industry in which it exists.

Although a typical business plan falls between 15 to 30 pages, some companies opt for the much shorter One-Page Business Plan. A one-page business plan is a simplified version of the larger business plan, and it focuses on the problem your product or service is solving, the solution (your product), and your business model (how you’ll make money).

A one-page plan is hyper-direct and easy to read, making it an effective tool for businesses of all sizes, at any stage.

How to create a business plan in 7 steps

Every business plan is different, and the steps you take to complete yours will depend on what type and format you choose. That said, if you need a place to start and appreciate a roadmap, here’s what Cobello recommends:

1. Conduct your research

Before writing your business plan, you’ll want to do a thorough investigation of what’s out there. Who will be the competitors for your product or service? Who is included in the target market? What industry trends are you capitalizing on, or rebuking? You want to figure out where you sit in the market and what your company’s value propositions are. What makes you different—and better?

2. Define your purpose for the business plan

The purpose of your business plan will determine which kind of plan you choose to create. Are you trying to drum up funding, or get the company employees focused on specific goals? (For the former, you’d want a startup business plan, while an internal plan would satisfy the latter.) Also, consider your audience. An investment firm that sees hundreds of potential business plans a day may prefer to see a one-pager upfront and, if they’re interested, a longer plan later.

3. Write your company description

Every business plan needs a company description—aka a summary of the company’s purpose, what they do/offer, and what makes it unique. Company descriptions should be clear and concise, avoiding the use of jargon, Cobello says. Ideally, descriptions should be a few paragraphs at most.

4. Explain and show how the company will make money

A business plan should be centered around the company’s goals, and it should clearly explain how the company will generate revenue. To do this, Cobello recommends using actual numbers and details, as opposed to just projections.

For instance, if the company is already making money, show how much and at what cost (e.g. what was the net profit). If it hasn’t generated revenue yet, outline the plan for how it will—including what the product/service will cost to produce and how much it will cost the consumer.

5. Outline your marketing strategy

How will you promote the business? Through what channels will you be promoting it? How are you going to reach and appeal to your target market? The more specific and thorough you can be with your plans here, the better, Cobello says.

6. Explain how you’ll spend your funding

What will you do with the money you raise? What are the first steps you plan to take? As a founder, you want to instill confidence in your investors and show them that the instant you receive their money, you’ll be taking smart actions that grow the company.

7. Include supporting documents

Creating a business plan is in some ways akin to building a legal case, but for your business. “You want to tell a story, and to be as thorough as possible, while keeping your plan succinct, clear, interesting, and visually appealing,” Cobello says. “Supporting documents could include financial projects, a competitive analysis of the market you’re entering into, and even any licenses, patents, or permits you’ve secured.”

A business plan is an individualized document—it’s ultimately up to you what information to include and what story you tell. But above all, Cobello says, your business plan should have a clear focus and goal in mind, because everything else will build off this cornerstone.

“Many people don’t realize how important business plans are for the health of their company,” she says. “Set aside time to make this a priority for your business, and make sure to keep it updated as you grow.”

what should not be included in a business plan

Business Plan Example and Template

Learn how to create a business plan

What is a Business Plan?

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

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

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

Contents of a Business Plan

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

1. Title Page

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

2. Executive Summary

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

3. Industry Overview

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

4. Market Analysis and Competition

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

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

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

5. Sales and Marketing Plan

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

6. Management Plan

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

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

7. Operating Plan

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

8. Financial Plan

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

9. Appendices and Exhibits

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

Business Plan Template - Components

Business Plan Template

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

Section 1: Executive Summary

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

Section 2: Industry Overview

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

Section 3: Market Analysis and Competition

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

Section 4: Sales and Marketing Plan

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

Section 5: Management Plan

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

Section 6: Operating Plan

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

Section 7: Financial Plan

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

Section 8: Appendices and Exhibits

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

Related Readings

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

  • Corporate Structure
  • Three Financial Statements
  • Business Model Canvas Examples
  • See all management & strategy resources
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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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Ryan Lane is an editor on NerdWallet’s small-business team. He joined NerdWallet in 2019 as a student loans writer, serving as an authority on that topic after spending more than a decade at student loan guarantor American Student Assistance. In that role, Ryan co-authored the Student Loan Ranger blog in partnership with U.S. News & World Report, as well as wrote and edited content about education financing and financial literacy for multiple online properties, e-courses and more. Ryan also previously oversaw the production of life science journals as a managing editor for publisher Cell Press. Ryan is located in Rochester, New York.

what should not be included in a business plan

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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.

ZenBusiness

LLC Formation

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 should not be included in 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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Home > Business > Business Startup

How To Write a Business Plan

Stephanie Coleman

We are committed to sharing unbiased reviews. Some of the links on our site are from our partners who compensate us. Read our editorial guidelines and advertising disclosure .

How-to-write-a-business-plan

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

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

Table of contents

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

what should not be included in a business plan

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Step 1: Write your executive summary

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

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

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

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

what should not be included in a business plan

Step 2: Do your market research homework

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

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

Step 3: Set your business goals and objectives

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

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

Step 4: Plan your business strategy

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

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

Step 5: Describe your product or service

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

Step 6: Crunch the numbers

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

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

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

Step 7: Finalize your business plan

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

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

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The takeaway

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

Related content

  • 5 Best Business Plan Software and Tools in 2023 for Your Small Business
  • How to Get a Business License: What You Need to Know
  • What Is a Cash Flow Statement?

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Ownr Blog  > Ownrship 101  > Business Stages  > Managing Your Business  > Marketing  > The Complete Guide to Writing a Business Plan

The Complete Guide to Writing a Business Plan

Ownr Author

As an entrepreneur, you might be convinced that your idea is sure to succeed. You’ve spotted a perfect business opportunity and have the skills and knowledge required to meet a need in the market. In reality, no matter how knowledgeable, skilled, and prepared you are, a business plan is a powerful tool that can increase your chance of success

A business plan can help you clarify your goals for the future, your understanding of your market, and your pitch to potential investors. Learning how to write a business plan is far less daunting than it might seem at first if you take things one section at a time. No matter what your business goals are, a business plan is well worth taking the time to write.

  • What is a business plan, exactly?

A business plan is a widely recognized business document that provides key information about a business, its founders and key team members, its target market, how it will operate and be structured, and how it will generate a profit.

Since this is such a commonly used document, there are very clear expectations about what information should be included. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel by coming up with a structure for your business plan; you can go through the sections below and make sure you provide the relevant information to the best of your knowledge for each of them.

  • Why should I create a business plan?

A business plan could have many different potential audiences. As the foundation for a new business, it will help you set, measure and adjust your goals. It’s also instrumental in securing business funding and partnerships.

  • Better understand your business

The first reason to create a business plan is for you to understand the feasibility of your business idea. 

It requires you to think carefully and realistically about your business viability. This is a valuable exercise since it gives you a chance to address potential challenges before they become a problem. 

Entrepreneurship takes a lot of dedication and resources, and a business plan helps you make sure your business idea is feasible before you sink those resources in something that wasn’t well thought out.  Further, by creating this document, when you are starting out, you have something to return to while making sure you’re meeting your business goals. If you aren’t, that’s a good sign you may need to revisit your business plan.

  • Secure loans or funding

If you go to the bank for a business loan, they will want to see a viable business plan first. The same goes for any potential lenders or investors in your business. A business plan shows them that you’ve done your research and have the necessary expertise to successfully launch your business.

Your business plan should convince any potential investors or lenders that your business is viable and give them a realistic projection of your growth. 

  • Apply for grants and contests

Some grant programs require that you submit a business plan to be eligible to apply. For example, if you live in Ontario, the Starter Company Plus program requires that you create and submit a business plan to potentially receive a grant. 

  • What should I include in my business plan?

While there are lots of business plan templates available, they all include variations of the same sections outlined here.

Ideally, you should aim to complete all of these sections when writing your business plan. If, for some reason, one section doesn’t apply to your business, note why in your business plan. This way, your audience can be assured that you didn’t leave it out because you haven’t thought about it. 

  • Executive summary

The first section of a business plan is the executive summary and is ideally around a page in length. It’s designed to provide your audience with a summary of your business plan, including:

  • A description of your products or services
  • An overview of the market your business operates in, including why your business has a competitive advantage
  • A summary of your business goals and your financial requirements to meet these goals
  • Your projected growth 
  • For existing businesses, a snapshot of your current situation and any major milestones you’ve reached so far

This may seem like a lot to fit in one page, but remember that the goal is to give your audience a high-level understanding of what your business does and why they should care enough to read through the rest of your business plan.

  • Business overview and structure

The business overview section communicates your business history, your vision and mission for the future, and your ownership structure. Your audience should learn what your business does, why you’re starting it, and how you offer something unique.

Your business overview should include:

  • The industry you operate in, including high-level information about market size and emerging opportunities
  • A description of business activities
  • Your mission statement and a description of your vision for the future
  • For existing businesses, background information on what you have done so far
  • Information about your team, including their salaries. If you are the only person involved, you can provide your professional background
  • Your business structure, whether it is a sole proprietorship or corporation

This section is where you begin to show your audience why your business is special and a worthwhile investment for them. It should also communicate the why behind your business. Why did you choose this industry? Why will your business succeed despite competitors? What goals and values will guide your decision making as you grow?

  • Your products and services

This section of the business plan is your opportunity to demonstrate how great your product or service is. Go into detail about the features and benefits of your offering.

If your business involves selling a physical product, describe the steps involved in bringing your product to market. For example, if you are starting a clothing business, describe the design process, the material sourcing process and any existing suppliers, the manufacturing process, and how you plan to distribute the product.

If you provide a service, describe how your business is well-positioned to deliver the service to an excellent standard. For example, if you are starting an accounting business, include an overview of accounting services you have successfully provided in the past, and describe any specialized skills you may have that set you apart from other accountants. This business plan section should also provide an overview of your competitive advantage. In the clothing business example, it may be that your materials are ethically sourced and carbon neutral. For the accountant example, it may be your unique experience helping clients in a niche market with their accounting needs.

  • Market research

Defining the target market is a critical step for any new business. You need to make sure there is a market for your product or service and show that you have thought about how you will penetrate this market.

Your market research should include the size of your target market. Be as specific as possible in your business plan. While it’s impossible to get a perfectly accurate figure, you can look for government data or industry reports relevant to your industry, research trends in your industry, and make informed guesses to show you arrive at your market size.

For example, if your business is green household cleaning products, saying that every household in Canada is part of your target market is too broad. You’ll need to think about your actual ideal customer and figure out how many people who fit that profile you can reach with your business.

An important part of this section is identifying the key competitors in your market and demonstrating that you offer something unique that differs from them.

An effective way to demonstrate your competitive position within your market is by doing a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. 

Include a SWOT analysis in the market research section of the business plan by creating a section for each letter in a 2×2 grid. 

  • Under strengths, list your business characteristics that offer you a competitive edge.
  • Under weaknesses, include the areas where you know you are not as developed as your competitors.
  • Under opportunities, list any market trends or new developments that you can use to your advantage. 
  • Under threats, outline market trends or developments that disadvantage your business.

A sample SWOT analysis for a new dentist location might look like this:

S: 15 years of experience, high end facility in a new building

W: first time dental office owner, no existing clients in the area

O: a new condo development will be completed soon with many potential clients moving to the area

T: economic downturn may mean people lost dental insurance, may put off going to the dentist

You might think that including weaknesses and threats in your business plan will discourage potential investors, but the opposite is true. It shows that you can think through potential challenges, which is essential if you’re going to meet and overcome those challenges.

  • Marketing strategy and implementation

In this section of your business plan, you can elaborate upon your target market segments and how you plan to differentiate your product for each of these target audiences . You’ll also describe how you will take your product to market.

A target market segment is a further subsection of your target market. For example, you might segment your market by age, profession, income, or geographic location. 

Explain how you will promote your business to each of your relevant market segments, and provide a comprehensive marketing plan for each segment. 

Your marketing plan should consider as many marketing channels as possible: email marketing, online ads, tv ads, influencer marketing, PR campaigns, trade shows , and more can all be a part of your marketing strategy, but not all of these may be relevant to your particular target market segment. Explain why each component of your marketing strategy is the best choice for reaching your target customer and outline your marketing budget.

Finally, be sure to include how or where your product or service will be sold.

  • Organization and team

This section of the business plan is all about your organizational structure. If you are the only person involved in your business, provide a complete overview of your qualifications and why you are the right person to make your business a success. 

If you have a larger management team, provide an overview of each role and the qualifications of each team member. 

This part of the business plan can also describe where your business takes place. Provide details of your locations, and identify any third parties involved in your business operations such as contract manufacturers. 

Include an overview of your daily operations.

  • Financial plan and pricing 

A key aspect of how to write a business plan is showing you can be profitable. Provide an overview of your pricing structure, including any pricing incentives such as discounts that you plan to offer.

You should include the following:

  • An income statement, showing income and expenses for a given period of time
  • A balance sheet, listing all business assets against business liabilities. This shows how much equity you own in your business, which will determine the riskiness of lending to you.
  • A cash-flow statement, which is similar to an income statement but factors in the timing of income and expenditures to determine if there are periods where your cash flow is negative

If you’re starting out, you will have to use educated guesses to complete this information. Come up with a realistic sales forecast for the first year of your business, and include expected variations due to things like seasonality. It’s important to be realistic with your projections. This shows you’ve done your research to arrive at reasonable estimates.

You may also include an appendix if you wish, with images of your product, packaging, retail locations, or anything else that may be relevant.

By the time you complete your business plan, you’ll be much more acquainted with your own business than when you started. 

This powerful document can serve as a guiding light as you make decisions, helping you stick to your plan and vision for success, and access funding to take your business to the next level. Now you know exactly how to create a business plan that works for you and your business.

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This article offers general information only, is current as of the date of publication, and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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what should not be included in a business plan

How To Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (2024)

Business plans aren’t just for entrepreneurs who need to secure funding—they can help you plan and evaluate new ideas or growth plans, too. Find out how to write a business plan and get the most out of the process in this comprehensive guide.

Illustration of two people looking at a business plan

A great business plan can help you clarify your strategy, identify potential roadblocks, determine necessary resources, and evaluate the viability of your idea and growth plan before you start a business .

Not every successful business launches with a formal business plan, but many founders find value in taking time to step back, research their idea and the market they’re looking to enter, and understand the scope and the strategy behind their tactics. That’s where writing a business plan comes in.

Learn how to write a business plan with a step-by-step guide, get tips for getting the most of your plan, and see real business plan examples to inspire you.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a strategic document that outlines a company's goals, strategies for achieving them, and the time frame for their achievement. It covers aspects like market analysis , financial projections, and organizational structure, serving as a roadmap for business growth and a tool to secure funding.

Often, financial institutions and investors need to see a business plan before funding any project. Even if you don’t plan to seek outside funding, a well-crafted plan becomes the guidance for your business as it scales.

How to write a business plan in 9 steps

  • Draft an executive summary.
  • Write a company description.
  • Perform a market analysis.
  • Outline the management and organization.
  • List your products and services.
  • Perform customer segmentation.
  • Define a marketing plan.
  • Provide a logistics and operations plan.
  • Make a financial plan.

Few things are more intimidating than a blank page. Starting your business plan with a structured outline and key elements for what you’ll include in each section is the best first step you can take.

Since an outline is such an important step in the process of writing a business plan, we’ve put together a high-level overview to get you started (and avoid the terror of facing a blank page).

Once you have your business plan template in place, it’s time to fill it in. We’ve broken it down by section to help you build your plan step by step.

1. Draft an executive summary.

A good executive summary is one of the most crucial sections of your plan—it’s also the last section you should write.

The executive summary distills everything that follows and gives time-crunched reviewers (e.g., potential investors and lenders) a high-level overview of your business that persuades them to read further.

Again, it’s a summary, so highlight the key points you’ve uncovered while writing your plan. If you’re writing for your own planning purposes, you can skip the summary altogether—although you might want to give it a try anyway, just for practice.

A webpage on the FIGS website showing an executive summary

An executive summary shouldn’t exceed one page. Admittedly, that space constraint can make squeezing in all of the salient information a bit stressful—but it’s not impossible. Your business plan’s executive summary should include:

  • Business concept. What does your business do?
  • Business goals and vision. What does your business want to do?
  • Product description and differentiation. What do you sell, and why is it different?
  • Target market. Who do you sell to?
  • Marketing strategy. How do you plan on reaching your customers?
  • Current financial state. What do you currently earn in revenue?
  • Projected financial state. What do you foresee earning in revenue?
  • The ask. How much money are you asking for?
  • The team. Who’s involved in the business?

2. Write a company description.

This section of your business plan should answer two fundamental questions: who are you, and what do you plan to do? 

Answering these questions with a company description provides an introduction to why you’re in business, why you’re different, what you have going for you, and why you’re a good investment. 

For example, clean makeup brand Saie shares a letter from its founder on the company’s mission and why it exists.

A webpage from the Saie site featuring a company description

Clarifying these details is still a useful exercise, even if you’re the only person who’s going to see them. It’s an opportunity to put to paper some of the more intangible facets of your business, like your principles, ideals, and cultural philosophies.

Here are some of the components you should include in your company description:

  • Your business structure (Are you a sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, or incorporated company?)
  • Your business model
  • Your industry
  • Your business’s vision, mission, and value proposition
  • Background information on your business or its history
  • Business objectives, both short and long term
  • Your team, including key personnel and their salaries

Brand values and goals

To define your brand values , think about all the people your company is accountable to, including owners, employees, suppliers, customers, and investors. Now consider how you’d like to conduct business with each of them. As you make a list, your core values should start to emerge.

Your company description should also include both short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals, generally, should be achievable within the next year, while one to five years is a good window for long-term goals. Make sure your goal setting includes SMART goals : specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

Vision and mission statements

Once you know your values, you can write a mission statement . Your statement should explain, in a convincing manner, why your business exists, and should be no longer than a single sentence.

Next, craft your vision statement : What impact do you envision your business having on the world once you’ve achieved your vision? Phrase this impact as an assertion—begin the statement with “We will” and you’ll be off to a great start. Your vision statement, unlike your mission statement, can be longer than a single sentence, but try to keep it to three at most. The best vision statements are concise.

3. Perform a market analysis.

No matter what type of business you start, it’s no exaggeration to say your market can make or break it. Choose the right market for your products—one with plenty of customers who understand and need your product—and you’ll have a head start on success. If you choose the wrong market, or the right market at the wrong time, you may find yourself struggling for each sale.

Market analysis is a key section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it.

This is why market research and analysis is a key section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it. It should include an overview of how big you estimate the market is for your products, an analysis of your business’s position in the market, and an overview of the competitive landscape. Thorough research supporting your conclusions is important both to persuade investors and to validate your own assumptions as you work through your plan.

Here is an example to illustrate how to approach this section:

Example of market analysis section on a business plan

How big is your potential market?

The potential market is an estimate of how many people need your product. While it’s exciting to imagine sky-high sales figures, you’ll want to use as much relevant independent data as possible to validate your estimated potential market.

Since this can be a daunting process, here are some general tips to help you begin your research:

  • Understand your ideal customer profile. Look for government data about the size of your target market , learn where they live, what social channels they use, and their shopping habits.
  • Research relevant industry trends and trajectory. Explore consumer trends and product trends in your industry by looking at Google Trends, trade publications, and influencers in the space.
  • Make informed guesses. You’ll never have perfect, complete information about your total addressable market. Your goal is to base your estimates on as many verifiable data points as necessary.

Some sources to consult for market data include government statistics offices, industry associations, academic research, and respected news outlets covering your industry.

Read more: What is a Marketing Analysis? 3 Steps Every Business Should Follow

SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis looks at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What are the best things about your company? What are you not so good at? What market or industry shifts can you take advantage of and turn into opportunities? Are there external factors threatening your ability to succeed?

SWOT is often depicted in a grid or visual way. With this visual presentation, your reader can quickly see the factors that may impact your business and determine your competitive advantage in the market.

Competitive analysis

There are three overarching factors you can use to differentiate your business in the face of competition:

  • Cost leadership. You have the capacity to maximize profits by offering lower prices than the majority of your competitors. Examples include companies like Mejuri and Endy .
  • Differentiation. Your product or service offers something distinct from the current cost leaders in your industry and banks on standing out based on your uniqueness. Think of companies like Knix and QALO .
  • Segmentation. You focus on a very specific, or niche, target market, and aim to build traction with a smaller audience before moving on to a broader market. Companies like TomboyX and Heyday Footwear are great examples of this strategy.

To understand which is the best fit, you’ll need to understand your business as well as the competitive landscape.

You’ll always have competition in the market, even with an innovative product, so it’s important to include a competitive overview in your business plan. If you’re entering an established market, include a list of a few companies you consider direct competitors and explain how you plan to differentiate your products and business from theirs.

For example, if you’re selling jewelry , your competitive differentiation could be that, unlike many high-end competitors, you donate a percentage of your profits to a notable charity or pass savings on to your customers.

If you’re entering a market where you can’t easily identify direct competitors, consider your indirect competitors—companies offering products that are substitutes for yours. For example, if you’re selling an innovative new piece of kitchen equipment, it’s too easy to say that because your product is new, you have no competition. Consider what your potential customers are doing to solve the same problems.

4. Outline the management and organization.

Woman writes on a laptop in a living room

If you have a management team, use an organizational chart to show your company’s internal structure, including the roles, responsibilities, and relationships between people in your chart. Communicate how each person will contribute to the success of your startup.

5. List your products and services.

Your products or services will feature prominently in most areas of your business plan, but it’s important to provide a section that outlines key details about them for interested readers.

If you sell many items, you can include more general information on each of your product lines. If you only sell a few, provide additional information on each. For example, bag shop BAGGU sells a large selection of different types of bags, in addition to home goods and other accessories. Its business plan would list out those categories and key details about the products within each.

A product collection page from Baggu's website

Describe new products you’ll launch in the near future and any intellectual property you own. Express how they’ll improve profitability. It’s also important to note where products are coming from—handmade crafts are sourced differently than trending products for a dropshipping business, for instance.

6. Perform customer segmentation.

Three women and front to back in a row in front of a lake

To give a holistic overview of your ideal customer, describe a number of general and specific demographic characteristics. Customer segmentation often includes:

  • Where they live.
  • Their age range.
  • Their level of education.
  • Some common behavior patterns.
  • How they spend their free time.
  • Where they work.
  • What technology they use.
  • How much they earn.
  • Where they’re commonly employed.
  • Their values, beliefs, or opinions.

This information will vary based on what you’re selling, but you should be specific enough that it’s unquestionably clear who you’re trying to reach—and more importantly, why you’ve made the choices you have based on who your customers are and what they value.

For example, a college student has different interests, shopping habits, and pricing sensitivity than a 50-year-old executive at a Fortune 500 company. Your business plan and decisions would look very different based on which one was your ideal customer.

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7. Define a marketing plan.

Close up of feminine hands typing on a laptop

If you’re planning to invest heavily in Instagram marketing or TikTok ads , for example, it might make sense to include whether Instagram and TikTok are a leading platform for your audience—if it’s not, that might be a sign to rethink your marketing plan.

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Most marketing plans include information on four key subjects. How much detail you present on each will depend on both your business and your plan’s audience.

  • Price:  How much do your products cost, and why have you made that decision?
  • Product:  What are you selling and how do you differentiate it in the market?
  • Promotion:  How will you get your products in front of your ideal customer?
  • Place:  Where will you sell your products? On what channels and in which markets?

Promotion may be the bulk of your plan since you can more readily dive into tactical details, but the other three areas should be covered at least briefly—each is an important strategic lever in your marketing mix.

Here is an example of a marketing plan for a new business:

Sample of a marketing plan for a small business

8. Provide a logistics and operations plan.

Logistics and operations are the workflows you’ll implement to make your business idea a reality. If you’re writing a business plan for your own planning purposes, this is still an important section to consider, even though you might not need to include the same level of detail as if you were seeking investment.

Cover all parts of your planned operations, including:

  • Suppliers . Where do you get the raw materials you need for production, or where are your products produced?
  • Production . Will you make, manufacture, wholesale , or dropship your products? How long does it take to produce your products and get them shipped to you? How will you handle a busy season or an unexpected spike in demand?
  • Facilities . Where will you and any team members work? Do you plan to have a physical retail space? If yes, where?
  • Equipment . What tools and technology do you require to be up and running? This includes everything from computers to lightbulbs and everything in between.
  • Shipping and fulfillment. Will you be handling all the fulfillment tasks in-house, or will you use a third-party fulfillment partner?
  • Inventory . How much will you keep on hand, and where will it be stored? How will you ship it to partners if required, and how will you approach inventory management ?

This section should signal to your reader that you’ve got a solid understanding of your supply chain and strong contingency plans in place to cover potential uncertainty. If your reader is you, it should give you a basis to make other important decisions, like how to price your products to cover your estimated costs, and at what point you plan to break even on your initial spending.

9. Make a financial plan.

Close up of hands doing financial work on a calculator

The level of detail required in your financial plan will depend on your audience and goals, but typically you’ll want to include three major views of your financials: an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash-flow statement. It also may be appropriate to include financial data and projections.

Here’s a spreadsheet template that includes everything you’ll need to create an income statement, balance sheet, and cash-flow statement, including some sample numbers. You can edit it to reflect projections if needed.

Let’s review the types of financial statements you’ll need.

Income statements

Your income statement is designed to give readers a look at your revenue sources and expenses over a given time period. With those two pieces of information, they can see the all-important bottom line or the profit or loss your business experienced during that time. If you haven’t launched your business yet, you can project future milestones of the same information.

Balance sheets

Your balance sheet offers a look at how much equity you have in your business. On one side, you list all your business assets (what you own), and on the other side, all your liabilities (what you owe). This provides a snapshot of your business’s shareholder equity, which is calculated as:

Assets - Liabilities = Equity

Cash flow statements

Your cash flow statement is similar to your income statement, with one important difference: it takes into account when revenues are collected and when expenses are paid.

When the cash you have coming in is greater than the cash you have going out, your cash flow is positive. When the opposite scenario is true, your cash flow is negative. Ideally, your cash flow statement will help you see when cash is low, when you might have a surplus, and where you might need to have a contingency plan to access funding to keep your business solvent .

It can be especially helpful to forecast your cash-flow statement to identify gaps or negative cash flow and adjust operations as required.

📚 Read more: What Is Cash Flow Management: Template and Examples

Why write a business plan?

Investors rely on business plans to evaluate the feasibility of a business before funding it, which is why business plans are commonly associated with getting a loan. 

Business plans also help owners identify areas of weakness before launching, potentially avoiding costly mistakes down the road. “Laying out a business plan helped us identify the ‘unknowns’ and made it easier to spot the gaps where we’d need help or, at the very least, to skill up ourselves,” says Jordan Barnett, owner of Kapow Meggings .

There are several other compelling reasons to consider writing a business plan, including:

  • Strategic planning. Writing out your plan is an invaluable exercise for clarifying your ideas and can help you understand the scope of your business, as well as the amount of time, money, and resources you’ll need to get started.
  • Evaluating ideas. If you’ve got multiple ideas in mind, a rough business plan for each can help you focus your time and energy on the ones with the highest chance of success.
  • Research. To write a business plan, you’ll need to research your ideal customer and your competitors—information that will help you make more strategic decisions.
  • Recruiting. Your business plan is one of the easiest ways to communicate your vision to potential new hires and can help build their confidence in the venture, especially if you’re in the early stages of growth.
  • Partnerships. If you plan to collaborate with other brands , having a clear overview of your vision, your audience, and your business strategy will make it much easier for them to identify if your business is a good fit for theirs.
  • Competitions. There are many business plan competitions offering prizes such as mentorships, grants, or investment capital. 

If you’re looking for a structured way to lay out your thoughts and ideas, and to share those ideas with people who can have a big impact on your success, a business plan is an excellent starting point.

Business plan types

Business plan types can span from one page to multiple pages with detailed graphs and reports. There’s no one way to create a business plan. The goal is to convey the most important information about your company for readers.

Common business plans we see include, but are not limited to, the following types:

Traditional business plans

These are the most common business plans. Traditional business plans take longer to write and can be dozens of pages long. Venture capitalist firms and lenders ask for this plan. Traditional business plans may not be necessary if you don’t plan to seek outside funding. That’s where the next type comes in.

Lean business plans

A lean business plan is a shorter version of a traditional business plan. It follows the same format, but only includes the most important information. Businesses use lean business plans to onboard new hires or modify existing plans for a specific target market.

Nonprofit business plans

A nonprofit business plan is for any entity that operates for public or social benefit. It covers everything you’ll find in a traditional business plan, plus a section describing the impact the company plans to make. For example, a speaker and headphone brand that aims to help people with hearing disabilities. Donors often request this plan.

📚 Read more: The Road to Success: Business Plan Examples to Inspire Your Own .

7 tips for creating a small business plan

There are a few best practices when it comes to writing a business plan. While your plan will be unique to your business and goals, keep these tips in mind as you write.

1. Know your audience.

When you know who will be reading your plan—even if you’re just writing it for yourself to clarify your ideas—you can tailor the language and level of detail to them. This can also help you make sure you’re including the most relevant information and figure out when to omit sections that aren’t as impactful.

2. Have a clear goal.

When creating a business plan, you’ll need to put in more work and deliver a more thorough plan if your goal is to secure funding for your business versus working through a plan for yourself or even your team.

3. Invest time in research.

Sections of your business plan will primarily be informed by your ideas and vision, but some of the most crucial information you’ll need requires research from independent sources. This is where you can invest time in understanding who you’re selling to, whether there’s demand for your products, and who else is selling similar products or services.

4. Keep it short and to the point.

No matter who you’re writing for, your business plan should be short and readable—generally no longer than 15 to 20 pages. If you do have additional documents you think may be valuable to your audience and your goals, consider adding them as appendices.

5. Keep the tone, style, and voice consistent.

This is best managed by having a single person write the plan or by allowing time for the plan to be properly edited before distributing it.

6. Use a business plan template.

You can also use a free business plan template to provide a skeleton for writing a plan. These often guide you through each section from financial projects to market research to mission statement ensuring you don’t miss a step.

7. Try business plan software.

Writing a business plan isn’t the easiest task for business owners. But it’s important for anyone starting or expanding a business. Fortunately, there are tools to help with everything from planning, drafting, creating graphics, syncing financial data, and more. Business plan software also has business plan templates and tutorials to help you finish a comprehensive plan in hours, rather than days.

A few curated picks include:

  • LivePlan : the most affordable option with samples and templates
  • Bizplan : tailored for startups seeking investment
  • Go Small Biz : budget-friendly option with industry-specific templates

📚 Read more: 6 Best Business Plan Software to Help Write Your Future

Common mistakes when writing a business plan

Other articles on business plans would never tell you what we’re about to tell you: Your business plan can fail. The last thing you want is for time and effort to go down the drain. Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Bad business idea. Sometimes your idea may be too risky for potential investors, too expensive to run, or there’s no market. Aim for small business ideas that require low startup costs.
  • No exit strategy. If you don’t show an exit strategy, or a plan for investors to leave the business with maximum profits, you’ll have little luck finding capital.
  • Unbalanced teams. A great product is the cost of entry to starting a business. But an incredible team will take it to the top. Unfortunately, many business owners overlook a balanced team. They focus on potential profits, without worrying about how it will be done. 
  • Missing financial projections. Don’t leave out your balance sheet, cash flow statements, P&L statements, and income statements. Include your break-even analysis and return-on-investment calculations in your financial projections to create a successful business plan.
  • Spelling and grammar errors. All the best organizations have an editor review their documents. If someone spots typos while reading your business plan, how can they believe you’ll run a successful company?

Prepare your business plan today

Two people work together on a laptop

Whether you’re working on starting a new online business idea , building a retail storefront, growing your established business, or purchasing an existing business , you now understand how to write a business plan that suits your business’s goals and needs.

Feature illustration by Rachel Tunstall

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Business plan FAQ

How do i write a business plan.

Learning how to write a business plan is simple if you use a business plan template or business plan software. Typically, a traditional business plan for every new business should have the following components :

  • Executive summary
  • Company description, including value proposition
  • Market analysis and competitive analysis
  • Management and organization
  • Products and services
  • Customer segmentation
  • Marketing plan
  • Logistics and operations
  • Financial plan and financial projections

What is a good business plan?

A good business plan starts with a strong executive summary. It also adequately outlines idea feasibility, target market insights, and the competitive landscape. A business plan template can help businesses be sure to follow the typical format of traditional business plans which include financial projections, details about the management team, and other key elements that venture capital firms and potential investors want to see.

What are the 3 main purposes of a business plan?

The three main purposes of a business plan are: 

  • To clarify your plans for growth
  • To understand your financial needs
  • To attract funding from investors or secure a business loan

What are the different types of business plans?

The types of business plans include startup, refocusing, internal, annual, strategic, feasibility, operations, growth, and scenario-based. Each type of business plan has a different purpose. Business plan formats include traditional, lean, and nonprofit. Find a business plan template for the type of plan you want to write.

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Written by Jesse Sumrak | May 14, 2023

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Business plans might seem like an old-school stiff-collared practice, but they deserve a place in the startup realm, too. It’s probably not going to be the frame-worthy document you hang in the office—yet, it may one day be deserving of the privilege.

Whether you’re looking to win the heart of an angel investor or convince a bank to lend you money, you’ll need a business plan. And not just any ol’ notes and scribble on the back of a pizza box or napkin—you’ll need a professional, standardized report.

Bah. Sounds like homework, right?

Yes. Yes, it does.

However, just like bookkeeping, loan applications, and 404 redirects, business plans are an essential step in cementing your business foundation.

Don’t worry. We’ll show you how to write a business plan without boring you to tears. We’ve jam-packed this article with all the business plan examples, templates, and tips you need to take your non-existent proposal from concept to completion.

Table of Contents

What Is a Business Plan?

Tips to Make Your Small Business Plan Ironclad

How to Write a Business Plan in 6 Steps

Startup Business Plan Template

Business Plan Examples

Work on Making Your Business Plan

How to Write a Business Plan FAQs

What is a business plan why do you desperately need one.

A business plan is a roadmap that outlines:

  • Who your business is, what it does, and who it serves
  • Where your business is now
  • Where you want it to go
  • How you’re going to make it happen
  • What might stop you from taking your business from Point A to Point B
  • How you’ll overcome the predicted obstacles

While it’s not required when starting a business, having a business plan is helpful for a few reasons:

  • Secure a Bank Loan: Before approving you for a business loan, banks will want to see that your business is legitimate and can repay the loan. They want to know how you’re going to use the loan and how you’ll make monthly payments on your debt. Lenders want to see a sound business strategy that doesn’t end in loan default.
  • Win Over Investors: Like lenders, investors want to know they’re going to make a return on their investment. They need to see your business plan to have the confidence to hand you money.
  • Stay Focused: It’s easy to get lost chasing the next big thing. Your business plan keeps you on track and focused on the big picture. Your business plan can prevent you from wasting time and resources on something that isn’t aligned with your business goals.

Beyond the reasoning, let’s look at what the data says:

  • Simply writing a business plan can boost your average annual growth by 30%
  • Entrepreneurs who create a formal business plan are 16% more likely to succeed than those who don’t
  • A study looking at 65 fast-growth companies found that 71% had small business plans
  • The process and output of creating a business plan have shown to improve business performance

Convinced yet? If those numbers and reasons don’t have you scrambling for pen and paper, who knows what will.

Don’t Skip: Business Startup Costs Checklist

Before we get into the nitty-gritty steps of how to write a business plan, let’s look at some high-level tips to get you started in the right direction:

Be Professional and Legit

You might be tempted to get cutesy or revolutionary with your business plan—resist the urge. While you should let your brand and creativity shine with everything you produce, business plans fall more into the realm of professional documents.

Think of your business plan the same way as your terms and conditions, employee contracts, or financial statements. You want your plan to be as uniform as possible so investors, lenders, partners, and prospective employees can find the information they need to make important decisions.

If you want to create a fun summary business plan for internal consumption, then, by all means, go right ahead. However, for the purpose of writing this external-facing document, keep it legit.

Know Your Audience

Your official business plan document is for lenders, investors, partners, and big-time prospective employees. Keep these names and faces in your mind as you draft your plan.

Think about what they might be interested in seeing, what questions they’ll ask, and what might convince (or scare) them. Cut the jargon and tailor your language so these individuals can understand.

Remember, these are busy people. They’re likely looking at hundreds of applicants and startup investments every month. Keep your business plan succinct and to the point. Include the most pertinent information and omit the sections that won’t impact their decision-making.

Invest Time Researching

You might not have answers to all the sections you should include in your business plan. Don’t skip over these!

Your audience will want:

  • Detailed information about your customers
  • Numbers and solid math to back up your financial claims and estimates
  • Deep insights about your competitors and potential threats
  • Data to support market opportunities and strategy

Your answers can’t be hypothetical or opinionated. You need research to back up your claims. If you don’t have that data yet, then invest time and money in collecting it. That information isn’t just critical for your business plan—it’s essential for owning, operating, and growing your company.

Stay Realistic

Your business may be ambitious, but reign in the enthusiasm just a teeny-tiny bit. The last thing you want to do is have an angel investor call BS and say “I’m out” before even giving you a chance.

The folks looking at your business and evaluating your plan have been around the block—they know a thing or two about fact and fiction. Your plan should be a blueprint for success. It should be the step-by-step roadmap for how you’re going from Point A to Point B.

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How to Write a Business Plan—6 Essential Elements

Not every business plan looks the same, but most share a few common elements. Here’s what they typically include:

  • Executive Summary
  • Business Overview
  • Products and Services
  • Market Analysis
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Financial Strategy

Below, we’ll break down each of these sections in more detail.

1. Executive Summary

While your executive summary is the first page of your business plan, it’s the section you’ll write last. That’s because it summarizes your entire business plan into a succinct one-pager.

Begin with an executive summary that introduces the reader to your business and gives them an overview of what’s inside the business plan.

Your executive summary highlights key points of your plan. Consider this your elevator pitch. You want to put all your juiciest strengths and opportunities strategically in this section.

2. Business Overview

In this section, you can dive deeper into the elements of your business, including answering:

  • What’s your business structure? Sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc.
  • Where is it located?
  • Who owns the business? Does it have employees?
  • What problem does it solve, and how?
  • What’s your mission statement? Your mission statement briefly describes why you are in business. To write a proper mission statement, brainstorm your business’s core values and who you serve.

Don’t overlook your mission statement. This powerful sentence or paragraph could be the inspiration that drives an investor to take an interest in your business. Here are a few examples of powerful mission statements that just might give you the goosebumps:

  • Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
  • Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
  • InvisionApp : Question Assumptions. Think Deeply. Iterate as a Lifestyle. Details, Details. Design is Everywhere. Integrity.
  • TED : Spread ideas.
  • Warby Parker : To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.

3. Products and Services

As the owner, you know your business and the industry inside and out. However, whoever’s reading your document might not. You’re going to need to break down your products and services in minute detail.

For example, if you own a SaaS business, you’re going to need to explain how this business model works and what you’re selling.

You’ll need to include:

  • What services you sell: Describe the services you provide and how these will help your target audience.
  • What products you sell: Describe your products (and types if applicable) and how they will solve a need for your target and provide value.
  • How much you charge: If you’re selling services, will you charge hourly, per project, retainer, or a mixture of all of these? If you’re selling products, what are the price ranges?

4. Market Analysis

Your market analysis essentially explains how your products and services address customer concerns and pain points. This section will include research and data on the state and direction of your industry and target market.

This research should reveal lucrative opportunities and how your business is uniquely positioned to seize the advantage. You’ll also want to touch on your marketing strategy and how it will (or does) work for your audience.

Include a detailed analysis of your target customers. This describes the people you serve and sell your product to. Be careful not to go too broad here—you don’t want to fall into the common entrepreneurial trap of trying to sell to everyone and thereby not differentiating yourself enough to survive the competition.

The market analysis section will include your unique value proposition. Your unique value proposition (UVP) is the thing that makes you stand out from your competitors. This is your key to success.

If you don’t have a UVP, you don’t have a way to take on competitors who are already in this space. Here’s an example of an ecommerce internet business plan outlining their competitive edge:

FireStarters’ competitive advantage is offering product lines that make a statement but won’t leave you broke. The major brands are expensive and not distinctive enough to satisfy the changing taste of our target customers. FireStarters offers products that are just ahead of the curve and so affordable that our customers will return to the website often to check out what’s new.

5. Competitive Analysis

Your competitive analysis examines the strengths and weaknesses of competing businesses in your market or industry. This will include direct and indirect competitors. It can also include threats and opportunities, like economic concerns or legal restraints.

The best way to sum up this section is with a classic SWOT analysis. This will explain your company’s position in relation to your competitors.

6. Financial Strategy

Your financial strategy will sum up your revenue, expenses, profit (or loss), and financial plan for the future. It’ll explain how you make money, where your cash flow goes, and how you’ll become profitable or stay profitable.

This is one of the most important sections for lenders and investors. Have you ever watched Shark Tank? They always ask about the company’s financial situation. How has it performed in the past? What’s the ongoing outlook moving forward? How does the business plan to make it happen?

Answer all of these questions in your financial strategy so that your audience doesn’t have to ask. Go ahead and include forecasts and graphs in your plan, too:

  • Balance sheet: This includes your assets, liabilities, and equity.
  • Profit & Loss (P&L) statement: This details your income and expenses over a given period.
  • Cash flow statement: Similar to the P&L, this one will show all cash flowing into and out of the business each month.

It takes cash to change the world—lenders and investors get it. If you’re short on funding, explain how much money you’ll need and how you’ll use the capital. Where are you looking for financing? Are you looking to take out a business loan, or would you rather trade equity for capital instead?

Read More: 16 Financial Concepts Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Startup Business Plan Template (Copy/Paste Outline)

Ready to write your own business plan? Copy/paste the startup business plan template below and fill in the blanks.

Executive Summary Remember, do this last. Summarize who you are and your business plan in one page.

Business Overview Describe your business. What’s it do? Who owns it? How’s it structured? What’s the mission statement?

Products and Services Detail the products and services you offer. How do they work? What do you charge?

Market Analysis Write about the state of the market and opportunities. Use date. Describe your customers. Include your UVP.

Competitive Analysis Outline the competitors in your market and industry. Include threats and opportunities. Add a SWOT analysis of your business.

Financial Strategy Sum up your revenue, expenses, profit (or loss), and financial plan for the future. If you’re applying for a loan, include how you’ll use the funding to progress the business.

What’s the Best Business Plan to Succeed as a Consultant?

5 Frame-Worthy Business Plan Examples

Want to explore other templates and examples? We got you covered. Check out these 5 business plan examples you can use as inspiration when writing your plan:

  • SBA Wooden Grain Toy Company
  • SBA We Can Do It Consulting
  • OrcaSmart Business Plan Sample
  • Plum Business Plan Template
  • PandaDoc Free Business Plan Templates

Get to Work on Making Your Business Plan

If you find you’re getting stuck on perfecting your document, opt for a simple one-page business plan —and then get to work. You can always polish up your official plan later as you learn more about your business and the industry.

Remember, business plans are not a requirement for starting a business—they’re only truly essential if a bank or investor is asking for it.

Ask others to review your business plan. Get feedback from other startups and successful business owners. They’ll likely be able to see holes in your planning or undetected opportunities—just make sure these individuals aren’t your competitors (or potential competitors).

Your business plan isn’t a one-and-done report—it’s a living, breathing document. You’ll make changes to it as you grow and evolve. When the market or your customers change, your plan will need to change to adapt.

That means when you’re finished with this exercise, it’s not time to print your plan out and stuff it in a file cabinet somewhere. No, it should sit on your desk as a day-to-day reference. Use it (and update it) as you make decisions about your product, customers, and financial plan.

Review your business plan frequently, update it routinely, and follow the path you’ve developed to the future you’re building.

Keep Learning: New Product Development Process in 8 Easy Steps

What financial information should be included in a business plan?

Be as detailed as you can without assuming too much. For example, include your expected revenue, expenses, profit, and growth for the future.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a business plan?

The most common mistake is turning your business plan into a textbook. A business plan is an internal guide and an external pitching tool. Cut the fat and only include the most relevant information to start and run your business.

Who should review my business plan before I submit it?

Co-founders, investors, or a board of advisors. Otherwise, reach out to a trusted mentor, your local chamber of commerce, or someone you know that runs a business.

Ready to Write Your Business Plan?

Don’t let creating a business plan hold you back from starting your business. Writing documents might not be your thing—that doesn’t mean your business is a bad idea.

Let us help you get started.

Join our free training to learn how to start an online side hustle in 30 days or less. We’ll provide you with a proven roadmap for how to find, validate, and pursue a profitable business idea (even if you have zero entrepreneurial experience).

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About Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a writing zealot focused on creating killer content. He’s spent almost a decade writing about startup, marketing, and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped business. A writer by day and a peak bagger by night (and early early morning), you can usually find Jesse preparing for the apocalypse on a precipitous peak somewhere in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

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

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What is a Business Plan? Definition and Resources

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

9 min. read

Updated May 10, 2024

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

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

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

  • What is a business plan?

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons for writing a business plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What research shows about business plans

Numerous studies have established that planning improves business performance:

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

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

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

When should you write a business plan?

No two business plans are alike. 

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

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

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

Ideal times to write a business plan include:

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

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

How often should you update your business plan?

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

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

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

Related Reading: 5 fundamental principles of business planning

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

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

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

The planning process is what uncovers those insights.

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

  • How long should your business plan be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read More: How long should your business plan be?  

What information is included in a business plan?

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

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

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

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

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

  • Different types of business plans

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

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

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

Business plan vs. operational plan vs. strategic plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Business plan vs. business model

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

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

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

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

  • Moving from idea to business plan

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

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

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

Content Author: Tim Berry

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

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Table of Contents

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

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What Should a Business Plan Include?

A business plan serves as a roadmap to successfully launch a business. It helps you overcome the challenges you might experience in your industry. Learn how to create and use a business plan for your startup.

One of the most fatal mistakes that aspiring entrepreneurs make in launching a startup is forgetting a business plan . You wouldn’t launch a ship at sea without establishing its routes and the direction you’ll steer it to. Without proper planning, your ship will end up adrift or worst, dramatically sink when the tides hit. And in a volatile commercial industry, the tides are constantly changing.

Avoid common startup mistakes by creating a business plan. A business plan not only strengthens your foundation but also helps you navigate the ever-changing field of business. Chances are your customers’ preferences will change over time and you have to keep up with them. Hence, a business plan also changes accordingly.

But how exactly do you create a business plan ? Is there a template to follow? Should you enlist the help of other experts to write it? Today, we’ll look into what should be included in your business plan and how it should be written. The first step is by understanding what it is and what it is for.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is an official company document that breaks down all the goals of a business and how to achieve them. It basically lays out the groundwork for your idea to come alive. It’s often referred to as the “blueprint of the business”, summarizing your goals.

Although there are many ways to write it, its key point usually discusses the financial, marketing, and operational strategies of the business.   

What is it for?

A business plan serves as a guide for a growing company. It’s a consistent reference for business owners and stakeholders to base critical decisions on. It’s especially useful for early-stage startups to attract investors. When a company doesn’t have a proven track record, it can lay out its full potential instead.

Not only is the business plan useful for the initial launching of a business, but it also helps with pivotal changes. Since the market is perpetually changing, it’s crucial that your plan also evolves with it. Hence, the goals and methods of achieving will be updated. In some cases, a whole new plan is created if the company wants to drastically move in a new direction.   

What’s included in a Business Plan

Although there’s no fixed formula for writing a business plan, there are some identifiable key points. These are generally the items factored in its creation:

1.     Executive Summary

The executive summary outlines the whole plan. You start with a clear introduction of who you are, what you sell, and what your ambitions are as a business. This section includes your mission statement, product description, and the basic overview of your company’s structure. It should also include your financial plans.   

2.     Business Description

The business description provides detailed information about your industry. It must describe its current outlook as well as its profit potential. You will go into detail about your target market and other organizations or businesses you cater to. Also, this section briefly discusses what problem the business is trying to solve.  

3.     Market Analysis

A business must have a firm understanding of its target market and should be able to prove its sustainability. The market analysis provides trends and studies about the target consumers—their size, demographics, buying power, and frequent activities. This section also touches briefly on the competitors.

4.     Product Development

Investors need a clear idea of how you would create and maintain your product. The development plan section contains the details of the product’s design; its production methods, lifecycle, marketing, and development budget. This includes the overall strategy of how it will be sold in the market.

5.     Marketing Strategies

The product is only as good as how much it will sell. Therefore, this section describes how you will present your products and services to the market. This will discuss your marketing campaigns, distribution channels, and types of media you’ll tap into. You will summarize how you intend to reach your customers and pitch your products to them.

6.     Operations and Management

Your investors need an overview of how the business functions. The operations plan highlights the logistics of the company such as team responsibilities, division tasks, and operational expenses. This helps track down who is responsible for certain areas of the business.  

7.     Financial Plans

Money mobilizes the idea. Hence, it’s important to keep an accurate record of where it’s going. This section shows the company’s monetary plans and its future projections. This includes financial statements, balance sheets, and third-party business transactions. For startups, it will mostly contain the target profit and estimates of expenses.    

Tips on Writing a Business Plan

Now that we have an idea of the business plan template , it’s time to learn how to write it effectively. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re writing one for your business.

  • Keep it concise. It serve as a guide for the company and the investors. It needs to be easy to understand and direct to the point. You can’t afford to waste a reader’s time by creating a 100-page business plan. Instead, aim for a summarized version of your plan, only highlighting the important points and outlining the rest.
  • Avoid jargon. Ensure that everyone, especially investors, can understand your business plan. Do not include complex jargon in your content. Save the technicalities for the experts and simplify the terms in explaining your ideas.
  • Keep it up-to-date. As previously mentioned, business plans are not static. Over time, a lot of things in the industry will change and might make your original plans obsolete. Frequently update your business plan according to what’s new in the field and with new methods you’re employing. Remember, a business plan is only useful if it’s still relevant.  

Build your Business

Business plans are important when you’re starting your business from scratch. However, the success of your business still heavily relies on their execution. A lot of startups fail because they can’t push through with what was proposed in the business plans.

More than just articulating your ideas, you need to do a lot more to make them come to life. For one, you’ll need the capital to kick things off and make everything operational. Second, you’ll need to hire the best people to run your operations. Lastly, you have to find investors to sustain your business.

One way to ensure that your business plan is properly executed is by enlisting the help of business experts. Full Scale is an offshore software development company that specializes in helping startups.

We can provide the talent and resources needed to begin your operations. Whether you need project managers, marketing specialists, or technical experts; we’ve got them all. We’ll take care of all the processes of recruitment and management so you can focus on your core competencies.

Ready to begin your entrepreneurial journey? Get your FREE consultation today!

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More From Forbes

Seven sections your business plan should have.

Forbes Business Development Council

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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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Joseph Ferriolo

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What should a business plan include?

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Every business needs a plan to succeed. A business plan is a crucial document that gives you and interested parties (like investors or lenders) a description and overview of your company’s future. At its most basic, your business plan should explain who you are, where you want to go, and how you plan to get there. 

So, what details should a business plan include to convey this information? This guide will explain why your business plan needs the following elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Competitor and market analysis
  • Details of organisation and management
  • Breakdown of products and services
  • Marketing and sales
  • Funding requests and financial projections

Use a combination of these nine elements to create your business plan.

The executive summary appears first in your business plan and highlights what you’ll discuss in your business plan to give the reader an idea of what to expect. Since it’s a summary of what’s to come, it’s best to write it last to make sure you include all the important parts.

A good executive summary is engaging from the first sentence, revealing your company’s mission and sharing details about your products or services. It might be good to explain why you’re starting your business and share details about your experience in the industry.

After your executive summary, you include a company description that includes key information about your business, goals and target market. Use this section to provide a detailed description of your company, including the problems you solve and who you solve them for. 

Explain your competitive advantages that will make your business succeed. Your company description is the best place to boast about your strengths and abilities. 

  • Competitor analysis

A good business plan will also include a section that describes how your business will compete against your competitors. Use this section to prove your knowledge of the industry, breaking down other companies’ strengths and weaknesses. 

This section aims to demonstrate how your business will measure up and explain if anything will prevent you from jumping into the market. Examples of such obstacles could be high upfront costs or complicated supply processes. Whatever it is, you need to be honest about it. The competitor analysis is part of your market analysis, which we’ll cover in the next section.

  • Market analysis

This section is to show readers that you understand the industry and specific market you want to enter. You’ll explain how your unique strengths will fit into the market and back it up with data and statistics about industry trends and themes. 

Include information about how other businesses are succeeding and failing, and use the analysis to visualise your target customers. Above all, your analysis should demonstrate how your business will provide value in your target market .

  • Organisation and management

Here you’ll explain how your business will be structured and managed. Describe the legal structure of your business: will you be a sole trader or run a limited company? 

Use an organisational chart to lay out how you’ll manage your business, including if you plan to eventually hire staff or if you’ll go it alone the entire way. The more details you can provide, the better an overview the reader will get.

While you’ll include a description of your products or services in your company description, this section will give the reader all the details they need. This section should include a complete description of what your business creates and sells. Explain how long they could last and how they’ll meet the existing demand in the market. 

You should also mention your suppliers (if you have any) and other key information like how much it’ll cost to make your products and how much you hope to make from them. If you have any patents or copyrights, this is where you list them.

This section is where you explain how you’ll attract and retain customers, including how a sale will actually happen. You’ll need to refer to this section when you make financial projections (we’ll cover this later), so be thorough when describing your marketing and sales strategies. 

Break down the steps you’ll take to promote your business and the budget you’ll need to implement your strategies.

  • Funding request

If you need funding , this section is where you outline your funding requirements. Clearly explain how much funding you need over the next few years and what you’ll use the money for. 

You’ll need to specify the type of funding you want, such as the terms you want to apply and the length of time your request will cover. Explain if you need funding to buy equipment or materials, cover specific bills until business picks up, or if you need it for something else. Always include a description of how you plan to pay off your debt as well.

  • Financial projections

In this final section, you’ll break down the financial goals and expectations that you’ve set based on your market analysis. 

Report how much you anticipate to make in the first 12 months and your projected earnings for the second, third, fourth and fifth years of business. If you’re applying for a personal loan or small business loan, it’s a good idea to include an appendix or added section that provides additional financial or background information.

Now that you know what to include, you should have all the tools you need to create a solid business plan.

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here .

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Businessing Magazine

Small Business Advice Book

Strategizing     Logan    March 5, 2019     6 min read

10 Important Aspects of a Successful Business Plan

10 Important Aspects of a Successful Business Plan

Every business needs to have a business plan, no matter the size. The main reason so many startups don’t survive past the first five years is because they didn’t set a strong business plan. You may have a great business idea, but then after setting out a plan and crunching the numbers, you find out it’s not such a great idea.

Your business plan is the roadmap for your business; it’ll contain future milestones, your budget and finances, marketing and sales strategy, and will help you overcome future obstacles. Whether your business plan is for bankers, venture capitalists, or just your employees, there are main elements set by the Small Business Administration ( www.sba.gov ) that should be included in every business plan.

What Are the Elements of a Business Plan?

  • The Executive Summary This is the first section of the business plan. It can be from 1 to 5 pages. It serves as the table of content for your plan.
  • Company Profile In this section, you explain what your business is, what your goals are, your vision, and mission, why you’re special and unique. Some companies mention the management and team members with short descriptions.
  • Market Analysis Before starting a business, you need to learn about the market. Study your competitors. Find out their profit range, what they’re known for, and what technologies are used in the industry. Every detail matters and can give you an advantage in your business.
  • Product/ Service Explain your products, different types or packages, your selling points, and answer all the questions a customer/ investor may have. Whoever reads your business plan should fully understand what you’re offering.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy The best product in the world wouldn’t sell if it has a poor marketing plan. Get into detail with how you’ll advertise your product. Detail your target audience, prices, and any promotional discounts.
  • Funding This is the most important section in your plan because it states your initial budget, the funds you’ll need for the next five years, what you plan on doing with the funds, the creditors’ or investors’ return, and all business expenses such as salaries and equipment.
  • Financial Forecast If you’re using your business plan for a loan or funds, you need to have the documents to back up your claim. You need to include all your financial statements and balance sheets, and any sources of income from the past few years.
  • Business Overview Give a general overview of your business with info like the legal structure, operations plan, business address , whether it’s an online or physical business, number of employees, specific roles, etc.

What Are the Aspects of a Successful Business Plan?

Now that we’ve stated the main elements that should be included in a business plan, let’s get to the points you should focus on to create a successful business plan and not just a boring, lengthy one.

Use a Template or Hire Someone with Experience

You can write your business plan yourself, but with all the elements that need to be added, it can get complicated. If your business plan is short, then you might not need a template. If your plan is lengthy, you can find templates with a prepared structure online. In order to have a professional, well-written business plan, you can look into hiring someone with experience to get the job done. They would be able to better structure your plan and add charts and graphs when needed.

Do Your Research

Before jumping into writing your business plan, you need to ensure you’ve done an efficient amount of research. It’s your responsibility to have the answers to the questions that creditors or investors would ask. Whether it’s researching the market, competitors, or the industry, you need to know every small detail that can be an advantage or disadvantage to your business.

Define the Purpose of Your Business Plan

Your business plan will be your guide throughout the years, working as your roadmap, but you need to define why you’re creating it from the start. For example, are you making a plan for personal needs, as a guide for your employees, or are you planning on using it for investors and funding? If for funding, you’ll need to be very precise and clear with your targets and overall writing.

A Modified Business Plan

Your business plan is going to be read by various types of people from bankers, investors, and venture capitalists, to employees and yourself. Each audience type has certain points they’re looking for in your plan and you need to address those points accordingly. Make sure your plan can easily be modified according to your target audience. For example, banks would focus on balance sheets and statements while your employees will be focused on business goals or market research. You need to be able to make small alterations to serve different purposes.

Don’t Make It Too Long

The truth is no one is actually going to read your whole business plan. An executive summary is important so readers can easily find the sections they need. A typical business plan usually ranges from 20 to 50 pages. For example, venture capitalists are usually time restricted, so they’d want to find things like the financial forecast and investors’ return quickly. Knowing this, you should place this information in the beginning.

Regularly Update Your Business Plan

Your business plan needs to be updated as your business evolves and grows. Not all the sections will need updating, but the objectives set at the start of your business will change and your financial records will need to be up-to-date, especially if you’re still looking for funding. As mentioned before, your business plan is your roadmap, so don’t neglect it down the line.

Stand Out, but Don’t Overdo It

Your business plan is mostly stating the facts about your business but you need to capture the reader’s attention, mention why you’re different from your competitors, what makes you better. But sometimes businesses tend to oversell themselves, explain your passion, how much you care for your business, and the problems you want to solve but without unnecessary exaggeration.

Don’t Undersell Your Competitors

Every business has competitors and you need to clearly acknowledge these competitors in your business plan. Some startups think that not mentioning their competitors or underselling them helps their case, when in fact, it does the complete opposite.

You need to highlight what your competitors are good at, and state how you can do better. This will give you an edge with investors. Never talk bad about competitors or imply they’re not worthy of mentioning, this will lessen your credibility and make you look unprofessional.

Set Long-term and Short-term Goals

Every business plan should include five-year goals, but most importantly, it should include short-term goals such as annual and quarterly goals. It’s great to know where you want your business to be in the future, but investors need to know you have a clear plan to get there.

Back Up Your Plan with Documents, Charts, or Graphs

A business plan shouldn’t just be blocks of text; you need to make your plan appealing by adding images, charts, or graphs whenever possible. It won’t only improve your overall design; it can simplify and explain complicated sections. In order to strengthen your plan, you need to add supporting documents like articles about your business, financial statements, or contracts.

These were 10 important aspects that will help you create a successful and polished business plan. A great business plan from the start can change the trajectory of your whole business so giving it the right amount of work, focus, and dedication is vital for your business.

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Logan is a passionate content creator, specializing in the business solutions sector. He loves to share his experience about technology, startups, entrepreneurs, and business-related updates.

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Who Should be Involved in Creating a Business Plan?

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

  • July 9, 2024

who should be involved in creating a business plan

A successful business plan addresses all the aspects of business planning comprehensively and realistically.

However, writing it single-handedly without any help can result in a superficial document that fails to address crucial details.

Whether it’s structuring, strategizing, financing, or designing an implementation approach—one needs the opinions and inputs of different experts to add depth and value to the business plan.

Involving the right people can enhance the quality and usefulness of your business plans significantly. But the question is who should be involved in creating a business plan?

Let’s decode that in this blog post. But before that…

Why involve multiple people in creating a business plan?

Involving different people in your planning process helps you prepare a feasible, actionable, and well-rounded business plan addressing key components of your business plan efficiently.

Here are a few more benefits of having multiple people on your plan writing team:

  • Offers you a comprehensive perspective of every department.
  • Aligns your long-term objectives with individual departmental goals.
  • Identifies the risks, loopholes, and opportunities that would’ve skipped individual attention.
  • Enhances commitment and ownership towards the business goals.
  • Provides realistic projections and financials to secure funding.
  • Increases the relevance and efficiency of your strategies.

All in all, when you get multiple people on your business planning team, you get to explore the depth and breadth of different business aspects helping you build an actionable plan.

Who should be involved in creating a business plan

who should be involved in preparing the business plan

Here are a few stakeholders, professionals, and subject matter experts whose contribution to a business plan can make a significant difference.

1. Business owners and founders

There’s no doubt that the founding members of a business should lead the plan writing process. After all, no one can translate the concept, vision, and long-term objectives of a business better than them.

The entrepreneurs and people in the senior position add strategic value to your plan. They bring their expertise and nuanced market understanding to the table and contribute significantly to setting the overall direction of the company.

Apart from strategy development, owners can also contribute to aspects such as financial planning, resource allocation, compliance, operations, and market analysis.

2. Management team

Involving a management team and departmental heads in the plan writing process can help devise feasible and attainable departmental goals. They can offer valuable insights about the internal processes and can help in designing a realistic implementation approach.

3. Financial advisors and accountants

The backbone of any business plan is the accuracy of its financial projections. This is exactly what the financial advisors and experts will help you with.

A financial expert can make realistic projections for different financial aspects (revenue, sales, cash flow) and can help evaluate the financial sustainability and viability of your business idea.

Additionally, inputs from the financial team can assist decision-makers in making significant strategic decisions. For instance, whether to start with a new product line, open a business in a new state, or hire an in-house developer team.

4. Marketing and sales experts

Marketing and sales professionals can help you devise optimum strategies for attracting your target consumers and converting them into sales.

These people are subject matter experts when it comes to understanding market trends, target markets, competition, and consumer behavior. With their assistance, you can create a feasible marketing and sales plan and assign responsibilities to suitable team members.

5. External consultants and mentors

Hiring consultants and subject matter experts from the external environment can help your business plan in multiple ways.

Firstly, these experts offer an unbiased perspective and fresh thought processes for your business plan. Their expertise can help you understand market trends, competition, product development, operations, and overall business management in a better light.

Additionally, these experts bring the expertise of working with multiple businesses. They help identify and address the pitfalls and opportunities that remained unrecognized earlier.

Lastly, involving external people can build support and buy-in for your business plan. Their support can build credibility and win the stakeholder’s confidence in your idea.

6. Legal advisors

Legal advisors can help ensure that your business complies with all the essential rules and governance applicable to your business.

Getting them on board with your business plan will help you get invaluable advice about business structuring, contract management, and the protection of intellectual property.

7. Human resources

HR teams can also contribute to writing your business plan. These experts can help in designing your hiring plans and setting up a company culture.

Since they are the ones directly in contact with the employees, it’s important to take their opinions and insights on hiring, training, and retention strategies.

Remember, it’s your team that will turn your ideas into a success. So anything that makes them productive, happy, and motivated should be given serious thought while designing your business plan.

That’s it. Now, identify which of these stakeholders and professionals from the above list can assist you in writing a business plan and get their help to prepare a comprehensive roadmap.

The collaborative process of business planning

the collaborative process of business planning

Business planning is a collaborative process that takes your business idea and tries to turn it into a success. Follow this step-by-step process to meet your end goal of creating an actionable business plan.

1. Initial planning meetings

The initial stages of business planning focus on building a solid foundation for your business ideas. It brings together all the stakeholders and instills clarity about the following core aspects:

  • The mission, vision, and long-term objective of your business.
  • The products and services you will offer.
  • Key milestones and overall business strategy.

When everyone has a clear understanding of what the business does and what it aims to achieve, it’s easier to set the direction of your plan.

2. Data collection and analysis

After setting the initial direction, collect and analyze the data thoroughly to help you with strategy development.

Assign people to gather data for the target market, competitors, and financials and analyze the raw data to get the following answers:

  • Target audience details
  • Market share of your product
  • Competitive advantage of your firm
  • Marketing strategies that can attract potential customers
  • Employee requirements for different business functions
  • Gaps in the current market offerings
  • Startup costs to kickstart your business
  • Revenue projections for the next few years
  • Profitability
  • Break-even point of your business and much more.

These answers are essential to help you write a comprehensive business plan.

3. Drafting the business plan

Now that you have all the information essential for a business plan, you can start writing one.

Depending on your purpose and needs, you can write a traditional detailed or quick lean plan. However, make sure you include the following business plan components to make it meaty.

  • Executive summary
  • Company overview
  • Target market analysis
  • Competitors analysis
  • Products and services
  • Operations plan
  • Marketing and sales strategies
  • Key management team
  • Financial plan

Now structuring information within each of these components is equally essential. And no it’s not that difficult.

How? Using a business plan template or a business planning tool can make writing your business plan much easier and more efficient.

Say goodbye to boring templates

Build your business plan faster and easier with AI

Plans starting from $7/month

what should not be included in a business plan

4. Reviewing and finalizing the plan

Reviewing your business plan after writing it can help identify loopholes, errors, and unaligned context.

So whether you use it for internal or external purposes—review it thoroughly before putting it to use.

To make your review process more fruitful; bring legal experts, financial advisors, and prominent stakeholders on board. Ask them to review your plan and use their feedback and input to strengthen your plan.

You can now use your final plan to attract investors, communicate with an internal team, streamline your operations, or guide you with a roadmap.

A business plan is a crucial document that guides your business toward success. By involving different stakeholders and managerial heads in this process, you can make your business plan more thorough and insightful.

So why the wait? Quickly determine who could help you write a business plan and get them on board. However, instead of writing your plan from scratch, consider using a tool that can help you write faster and more structurally. Something like the Upmetrics business planning app .

With Upmetrics, you get access to 400+ business plan samples and an AI business plan generator that will help you create well-rounded business plans in no time.

Build your Business Plan Faster

with step-by-step Guidance & AI Assistance.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who should lead the creation of a business plan.

The owner or entrepreneur should lead the creation of a business plan. However, they should include people from managerial positions and subject matter experts to offer valuable input. Practically, everyone who would be involved in the implementation of the plan should be involved in creating plans.

Is it necessary to involve all department heads in the business plan?

Ideally yes. This way you can get insight and valuable feedback on strategies, goals, and the implementation approach. However, if you’re still building your team, you might not have departmental heads to guide you on specific subject matters. In such situations, consulting expert advisors from outside can be of great help.

Should investors be involved in the business plan creation?

Not really. However, consulting investors during the review phase can help you strengthen your plan. Their input can help ensure that your plan meets the expectations and criteria set by them.

How does business plan software improve the planning process?

Business plan software gives structure to your planning process and offers resources to make it a breeze. With business planning software like Upmetrics, you get help with financial projections, strategic planning, idea validation, pitch deck creation, and business plan writing. In short, everything you need to plan efficiently for your business.

Can a small business owner create a business plan alone?

Yes, they can. Although business planning requires a collaborative approach, entrepreneurs with small teams can create a business plan on their own. Using a business planning tool like Upmetrics can be useful for such businesses to create a plan from scratch.

About the Author

what should not be included in a business plan

Upmetrics Team

Upmetrics is the #1 business planning software that helps entrepreneurs and business owners create investment-ready business plans using AI. We regularly share business planning insights on our blog. Check out the Upmetrics blog for such interesting reads. Read more

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    Include a SWOT analysis in the market research section of the business plan by creating a section for each letter in a 2×2 grid. Under strengths, list your business characteristics that offer you a competitive edge. Under weaknesses, include the areas where you know you are not as developed as your competitors.

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    1. Executive Summary. The executive summary outlines the whole plan. You start with a clear introduction of who you are, what you sell, and what your ambitions are as a business. This section includes your mission statement, product description, and the basic overview of your company's structure. It should also include your financial plans.

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    Include the following to have a comprehensive company description: Your company's legal structure (corporation, dual proprietorship) A short history of your company. A short overview of your company's business operations. The demands your company meets for customers. A list of your company's products, services, current customers and suppliers.

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  26. Who Should be Involved in Creating a Business Plan?

    3. Drafting the business plan. Now that you have all the information essential for a business plan, you can start writing one. Depending on your purpose and needs, you can write a traditional detailed or quick lean plan. However, make sure you include the following business plan components to make it meaty. Executive summary; Company overview