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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

Rosalie Murphy

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

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. add additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan is a document that outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them. A strong, detailed plan will provide a road map for the business’s next three to five years, and you can share it with potential investors, lenders or other important partners.


ZenBusiness: Start Your Dream Business

Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing your business plan.

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

This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services offered, 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, which should contain 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, it should cover 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

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

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

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

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.

Your sales strategy.

Your distribution 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.

business plan charts

» 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.

You may also include 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.

» NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

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.

List any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere, such as resumes of key employees, licenses, equipment leases, permits, patents, receipts, bank statements, contracts and personal and business credit history. If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

Here are some tips to help your business plan stand out:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business loan at a local bank, the loan officer likely knows your market pretty well. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of loan approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors, taking their mind off your business and putting it on the mistakes you made. 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. You can search for a mentor or find a local SCORE chapter for more guidance.

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.

On a similar note...

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Venngage Business Plan Maker

Create a compelling and convincing business plan online with Venngage. Templates available for your every need, whether it's business plans, financial plans, marketing plans, and more.

business plan charts

Not a designer? No problem. With our easy-to-edit templates and online business plan generator, anyone can create a professional business plan for free. Over 40,000 businesses already use and trust Venngage.

Design from one of our business plan templates

Choose from hundreds of business plan templates. see all business plan templates, launch a profitable business with a visually engaging business plan.

business plan charts

Your business is unique and impactful — so should your business plan. Make sure the plan you share with investors, lenders, and other stakeholders is not only packed with key data and information but visually engaging too.

business plan charts

Looking to make your business plan stand out from the pack? Venngage's unique business plan templates add serious style to your ideas. Venngage's Business Plan Builder is a fraction of the cost of hiring a writer — you can even try creating a business plan for free.

business plan charts

Whether you're looking for a traditional business plan format or something more creative, Venngage's easy-to-edit business plan templates let anyone design business plans. No experience required. Free business plan templates available.

business plan charts

Nothing's better to convince your stakeholders than some sweet data that speaks volume. Engage and persuade your investors by visualizing your business plan data with Venngage's unique charts, graphs and diagrams.

Create a winning business plan with Venngage in 5 steps:

Create a winning business plan with Venngage in 5 steps:

Design an unforgettable and convincing business plan today:

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Download Business Plans

Download your document with one click as an image (PNG), PDF, Interactive PDF or PowerPoint file. Add it to your Google Docs or Slides, Word doc or existing PowerPoint slides (paid plans only).

Visualize Business Plan Data

Visualize Business Plan Data

Persuade your stakeholders and tell a story with your business plan data through charts, graphs, maps and diagrams. Copy and paste your data or upload it in a .csv file in one click.

Brand Your Business Plans

Brand Your Business Plans

Use Venngage's My Brand Kit to automatically import your brand identity. Then, add your brand colors and fonts to any business plan designs with one click.

Collaborate In Real Time

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Collaborate with your whole team with Venngage's real-time collaboration. Leave helpful feedback through comments and create impactful business plans.

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Easy-to-edit professional business plan templates

  • Our team of professional designers have created a collection of unique, online business plan templates that anyone can customize. Pick a simple template, add your text and data and you're done.
  • Or choose a more creative template and play around with the fonts, photos, icons, colors, and more.
  • Whatever the case, Venngage's drag-and-drop free business plan generator lets anyone create a beautiful, professional business plan without any design experience.
  • Share a public link for free from our online business plan creator. Don't worry. You can go back and edit your design at any time.

One-click branding with My Brand Kit

One-click branding with My Brand Kit

Show off important metrics with professional data visualizations

Collaborate with your whole team throughout the design process.

Collaborate with your whole team throughout the design process

Business Plan Maker FAQs

How much does venngage's business plan builder cost.

Anyone can make a business plan for free and share a link to their work. Our Premium ($19/month) and Business ($49/month) plans include premium, professional business plan templates and features, plus access to multiple download formats.

How can I write my own business plan?

Your business plan can include these sections: executive summary, company description, market analysis, organization management, service/product line, marketing & sales, funding requests, financial projections, etc. Add sections to your business plan as you see fit — depending on the kind of plan you're creating. No matter the type of business plans you're making, Venngage has a template for that.

Can I download my business plan?

Yes! You can download your business plan in PNG, PDF, Interactive PDF, or PowerPoint formats (paid plans only). It's free to share a public link. It's also free to create an account and test out our online business plan maker with a free business plan template.

Wow your clients and investors at first sight — Create a convincing and winning business plan with Venngage's online business plan generator

business plan charts

Popular business plan templates you can edit right away

business plan charts

business plan charts

Use This Business Plan Format to Expertly Write Your Plan

Written by Dave Lavinsky

Growthink.com Business Plan Format

In this guide, you’ll learn how to format your business plan professionally. Business plan structure and format helps readers look beyond distracting style to the real meat of your idea.

Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here >

How to Format Your Business Plan: The Cover Sheet

Every business plan should begin with a simple business plan cover page including the business name, your name and contact information. An easy to read table of contents should follow.

Example Business Plan Table of Contents

I: Executive Summary      a. Business Overview      b. Success Factors      c. Financial Highlights

II: Company Overview      a. Who is [Company Name]?      b. [Company Name]’s History      c. [Company Name]’s Products & Services

III: Industry Analysis      a. Industry Trends

IV: Customer Analysis      a. Customer Segmentation

V: Competitive Analysis      a. Direct & Indirect Competitors      b. Competitive Advantage

VI: Marketing Plan      a. The [Company Name] Brand      b. Promotions Strategy      c. Pricing Strategy

VII: Operations Plan      a. Functional Roles      b. Goals and Milestones

VIII: Management Team      a. Management Team Members      b. Hiring Plan

IX: Financial Plan      a. Revenue and Cost Drivers      b. Revenue and Cost Drivers      c. Key Assumptions & Forecasts

X: Appendix

The cover sheet should leave no question for readers to be able to identify the business plan when it is in a stack with dozens of others on their desk. The table of contents allows them to easily refer to sections within the plan. For example, after reading the executive summary , some investors with an eye for numbers may turn directly to the financial plan and statements. Proper business plan format allows readers to quickly get the information they want.

Example Business Plan Format

There are 10 business plan components or sections that every entrepreneur and business owner must include in their plan. These include:

  • Executive summary
  • Company overview
  • Industry analysis
  • Customer analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Marketing plan
  • Operations plan
  • Management team
  • Financial plan

You should recognize these if you’ve ever worked with a business plan template .

Formatting your business plan with charts and graphs is welcomed to break up long blocks of text. However, charts and graphs shouldn’t be used for their own sake. They must make the information easier to pass on than text would.

The business plan format that investors and lenders expect includes the following 10 sections. You can download our business plan format pdf here, to help you get started. We’ve included important notes in each section specific to business plan formatting to help you as you write your plan.

1. Start with Your Executive Summary

An executive summary gives readers a crisp overview of your business at the start of your plan. This section should not be more than two pages long and should include the following:

  • What is the business about?
  • Where and why did the idea of the business originate?
  • Who are the owners?
  • Which industry is it operating in?
  • What is its core function?
  • Where is it located?
  • How is it going to make money?
  • How much money (if any) is it already making?
  • What are its financial projections?

The best format for your executive summary is paragraphs. Utilizing bullets and headings is also useful formatting within an executive summary, as it aids the reader in scanning the content on the page.

2. Company Overview Section

The company overview is the perfect place to highlight the strengths of your business. This section gives the reader additional information about your products and/or services and describes your company’s past accomplishments.

Including the below in this section will provide further clarity about your business:

  • What type of business you are (e.g., C-Corporation, sole proprietor)
  • When your business started
  • Business’ accomplishments to date

The best formatting to use in this section is paragraphs to describe your company’s strengths and products/services. You should also include a chart that outlines your company’s achievements to date.

3. Industry or Market Analysis

The industry or market analysis gives the reader a clear understanding of your industry and the audience it serves. It includes a detailed explanation of your market size and trends.

Typically, the format of this section should be paragraphs. Feel free to include charts and graphs to best convey the information to the reader.

4. The Customer Analysis States Who Your Customers Are and What They Need

In this section of your plan, explain who your target customers are and identify their specific needs. Doing this will help you better target and attract customers.

5. Competitive Analysis

The Competitive Analysis section identifies your direct and indirect competitors. It discusses who they are and their strengths and weaknesses. It then details your areas of competitive advantages.

Whether your competitors are small or large businesses, describe them. Telling investors there are no competitors (big or small) often gives the impression that a market does not exist for your company.

With regards to formatting, use paragraphs to describe each competitor. As appropriate, adding a competitor matrix to show similarities and differences between your company and the competition can be very powerful.

6. Your Marketing Plan is a Key Section

The marketing & sales section of your business plan should outline how you plan to attract new customers and retain old ones. This section should outline the ways customers can be introduced to and engage with your offerings and describe how you will convert these prospects into paying customers.

Set marketing objectives that include the following (if applicable):

  • Introducing new products
  • Extending the market reach
  • Exploring new markets
  • Boosting sales
  • Cross-selling
  • Creating a long-term partnership with clients
  • Increasing prices without affecting sales
  • Creating a content marketing strategy

Organize your Marketing Plan into the 4 P’s – Price, Product, Promotions and Place. If you have multiple products or services, include a menu with each key item and its price.

7. The Operations Plan Format

Your Operations Plan identifies your key operational processes and milestones you expect to accomplish. Using a Gantt chart is a great way to show your expected future milestones. You can also format this section with tables that document the dates of future milestones.

8. You Need to Prove Your Management Team Can Execute

“A company is only as good as the people it keeps.” – Mary Kay Ash, American Entrepreneur and Businesswoman

The Management Team section of your business plan focuses on the people who run the business.

Who are the decision-makers, who is the product expert, who is the operations head, and who is running the entire show? A glimpse into the expertise and capabilities of your team members and how their experiences will help grow your business will boost stakeholder confidence.

To improve the formatting and best convey your management team to readers, consider adding an organizational chart that shows your team members and reporting structure.

9. Format Your Financial Plan

The goal of this section is to convince the reader that your business is stable and will be financially successful. Arm this section with past and/or forecasted cash flow statements, balance sheets, profit & loss statements, expense budgeting and sales forecasts.

If you run an operational business, include 3 years of historical data to help investors gain an understanding of how feasible your funding request is and if your business is capable of generating good returns.

Also include your funding request, if applicable, in this section. You should mention how much investment is required to take your business to the next significant milestone and how the money will be spent. You should also define if you are seeking debt or equity funding. If you are seeking debt financing like an SBA loan, ensure your financial projections include the debt and show steady repayments of both the principal and return under reasonable loan terms.

If you are seeking equity financing, you don’t need to include your valuation expectations in the business plan, but you should be aligned within your ownership team on the amount of equity you are willing to exchange before you pitch investors.

10. Appendix

This section includes supporting documentation of your business case. This could include renderings of a planned store location, market research reports referenced in the plan, key supplier or buyer contracts that substantiate your financial projections or historical marketing and sales data.

Formatting Your Business Plan

Overall, business plans should use simple and standard formatting. Twelve point font size in a standard font like Arial or Times New Roman is best, as well as the standard margin size of one inch on each side. Pages should be numbered, and the name of the company should appear on each page in the header or footer.

Use charts whenever possible as it makes it much easier for readers to consume the information in your plan.

How to Finish Your Business Plan in 1 Day!

Don’t you wish there was a faster, easier way to finish your business plan?

With Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template you can finish your plan in just 8 hours or less!

Click here to finish your business plan today.

OR, Let Us Develop Your Plan For You

Since 1999, Growthink has developed business plans for thousands of companies who have gone on to achieve tremendous success.

Click here to see how Growthink’s business plan consulting services can create your business plan for you.

Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Business Plan Template & Guide for Small Businesses

Free Small Business Plan Templates and Examples

By Kate Eby | April 27, 2022

Link copied

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

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

Small Business Plan Template

Small Business Plan Template

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

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

Small Business Plan Sample Template

Small Business Plan Sample Template

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

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

Simple Small Business Plan Template

Simple Small Business Plan Template

Download Simple Small Business Plan Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

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

Small Business Plan Chart Template

Small Business Plan Chart Template Powerpoint

Download Small Business Plan Chart Template Microsoft PowerPoint | Google Slides

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

Small Business Plan Outline Template

Small Business Plan Outline Template

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

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

Printable Small Business Plan Template

Printable Small Business Plan Template

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

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

Small Business Startup Plan Template

Small Business Startup Plan Template

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

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

Fill-in-the-Blank Small Business Plan Template

Fill-in-the-Blank Small Business Plan Template

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

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

One Page Small Business Plan Template

One Page Small Business Plan Template

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

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

One Page Small Business Plan Example

One Page Small Business Plan Example

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

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

What Is a Small Business Plan Template?

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

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

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

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

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

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When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time.  Try Smartsheet for free, today.

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Gantt chart for business plans

business plan charts

Whether you’re in the first steps of launching a startup or you want to expand your existing business, a well-thought-out business plan is important. In fact, simply writing a business plan can increase your chances of success by more than 15% . Creating a Gantt chart for business plan purposes makes it easier for you to visualize the steps required to turn your idea into a reality.

In this article, we’ll look at what a Gantt chart is and how you can use it to plan for your business. We’ll also provide some tips for using monday.com as a business planning and management tool and highlight some templates you can use right away to bring everything and everyone together for increased success.

What is a Gantt chart?

A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that provides a visual representation of tasks across planned time periods.

Gantt chart tools are traditionally used to help team members manage project schedules, but you can customize them to help manage any series of tasks you need to accomplish over a set period of time.

Can you use a Gantt chart for business planning?

, You can use a Gantt chart for business planning purposes, whether you’re working on project plans for an existing business or want a way to better manage tasks when launching a startup. Here are some ways you can use Gantt chart software for business planning:

  • Create an action plan for a business launch:  Gantt chart templates let you turn the narrative format of an actual business plan into a visual action plan, with start and end dates, milestones, and dependencies that help you know what you need to do first to start working on your business dream.
  • Plan for a specific business-related project:  At any phase of your business, you can create simple Gantt charts to manage project tasks that help you work toward success. For example, you might want to open a new location. Customize your Gantt charts to lay out the task list for getting that done, so you can stay organized along the way.
  • Create a work breakdown structure for a specific department:  Established businesses can use project management tools like Gantt charts to manage time-dependent efforts for specific departments. For example, your marketing department may need to scale up their efforts during the holiday season.

You  can use a project Gantt chart for a variety of business plan and management purposes, but should you? Digging into the benefits of Gantt charts for business planning can help you make a good choice for your situation.

Benefits of a Gantt chart for business planning

Some benefits of a Gantt chart for business planning include:

  • Ability to view the big picture:  When you can visualize the overall picture of your business plan, you can avoid getting bogged down in the details. You can also make proactive decisions that are best for your business goals.
  • Better task tracking:  Gantt charts help you keep track of tasks in real-time, ensuring you or your team can work through the right assignments quickly.
  • Full transparency of dependencies:  Gantt charts make it easy to indicate and understand which tasks are dependent on others — i.e. if you have to complete one task before moving to another. It also helps you understand when teams can tackle tasks simultaneously, so they can get more done.
  • Increased insight for delegation:  If you see tasks that can run simultaneously, you know you can’t do both yourself. This can be a clue that it’s time to delegate some work to others.
  • Creation of realistic timelines:  Gantt charts force you to apply start and end dates to the entire project or effort, as well as all tasks that are part of it. Forcing you to think about how long each task might take helps ensure you understand how long the overall process might take.

monday.com’s robust Work OS includes a designated Gantt View — as one of 8+ views —, Gantt chart templates, and plenty of other project management functions for business planning.

Gantt charts and other features for business planning on monday.com

Whether you’re collaborating on a business plan document with others, are ready to market your business idea on social media, or want to integrate other software to manage business processes, monday.com can help. Here are some monday.com features you might use for business planning and management:

  • monday workdocs : Draft and co-edit documents in real-time, and discuss changes via comments with team members.
  • Automations : Save time and avoid unnecessary meetings with custom workflow automations that help drive seamless handoffs and ensure tasks never get lost in the shuffle.
  • Files Column: Keep all your files in one location to make it easy for teams to reference policies, brainstorming notes, and other information as they implement a business plan.
  • Integrations: Seamlessly integrate your favorite tools withmonday.com —Dropbox, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Google, Excel, and Zoom are just a few of the many available options.

We’ve also got plenty of curated templates to help you specifically work on business plans and get started faster

Related templates

Besides a Gantt chart example for projects, here are just a few free templates available exclusively on monday.com that can help you plan and manage business efforts more efficiently.

  • Simple Business Plan Template : Start with our Simple Business Plan Template if you’re working with a team to launch a new startup or service line. Collaborate with others easily on one intuitive and customizable board as you define vision and goals, customer needs, market size and scope, and everything in between for business success.
  • One-Page Business Plan Template : Quickly collaborate or capture your own ideas on our One-Page Business Plan Template. This simple template is customizable, and you can use it to document plans for each business idea and then ask for feedback or compare your options before choosing one to act on.

Still not sure if a Gantt chart is right for your business planning needs? We’ve got a couple of FAQ answers that might help.

FAQs about Gantt charts

What three things are included in a gantt chart.

Gantt charts are made of a variety of elements, but the three main items you’ll find on any Gantt chart are:

  • The overall timeline, which shows when a project or effort starts and ends
  • Tasks, which show up on the horizontal bars of the chart
  • Dependencies, which indicate which tasks are required before other tasks can begin

How do you create a Gantt chart in Excel?

You can download a Gantt chart template from Microsoft that helps you create a Gantt chart in Excel. You can also set up your own when you create a project by creating a horizontal axis that acts as a dated timeline and including color-coded tasks in cells on each row.

What makes a good Gantt chart?

A good Gantt chart requires planning project management, tasks, or efforts that can be tracked over time. The time period should be short enough that you can successfully capture it in a visual, and the project should have enough tasks to track to support the effort of making a Gantt chart to begin with.

Powerup your business plans with monday.com

Whether you want to collaborate on a Gantt chart for a business plan or automate activities to ensure the right people get things done, monday.com’s powerful Work OS can help.

Get started today with drag-and-drop capabilities that make it super easy to build a business plan, Gantt chart, and many other process tools. Then communicate in real-time over the life of your project or effort to ensure seamless collaboration and success.

  • Project schedule management

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24 Best Sample Business Plans & Examples to Help You Write Your Own

Clifford Chi

Published: August 17, 2023

Free Business Plan Template

business plan charts

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

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

Thank you for downloading the offer.

Reading sample business plans is essential when you’re writing your own. As you explore business plan examples from real companies and brands, you’ll learn how to write one that gets your business off on the right foot, convinces investors to provide funding, and confirms your venture is sustainable for the long term.

sample business plans and examples

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But what does a business plan look like? And how do you write one that is viable and convincing? Let's review the ideal business plan formally, then take a look at business plan templates and samples you can use to inspire your own.

Business Plan Format

Ask any successful sports coach how they win so many games, and they’ll tell you they have a unique plan for every single game. The same logic applies to business. If you want to build a thriving company that can pull ahead of the competition, you need to prepare for battle before breaking into a market.

Business plans guide you along the rocky journey of growing a company. Referencing one will keep you on the path toward success. And if your business plan is compelling enough, it can also convince investors to give you funding.

With so much at stake, you might be wondering, "Where do I start? How should I format this?"

Typically, a business plan is a document that will detail how a company will achieve its goals.

business plan charts

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Fill out the form to get your free template.

Most business plans include the following sections:

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary is arguably the most important section of the entire business plan. Essentially, it's the overview or introduction, written in a way to grab readers' attention and guide them through the rest of the business plan. This is important, because a business plan can be dozens or hundreds of pages long.

Most executive summaries include:

  • Mission statement
  • Company history and leadership
  • Competitive advantage overview
  • Financial projections
  • Company goals

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

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

This example was created with HubSpot’s business plan template:

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example

And the executive summary below tells potential investors a short story that covers all the most important details this business plan will cover in a succinct and interesting way.

Business plans examples: Executive Summary

Image Source

Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

  • Clearly define a problem, and explain how your product solves that problem, and show why the market needs your business.
  • Be sure to highlight your value proposition, market opportunity, and growth potential.
  • Keep it concise and support ideas with data.
  • Customize your summary to your audience. For example, emphasize finances and return on investment for venture capitalists.

Check out our tips for writing an effective executive summary for more guidance.

2. Market Opportunity

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

In this section, you might include:

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

To get a thorough understanding of the market opportunity, you'll want to conduct a TAM, SAM, and SOM analysis and perform market research on your industry. You may also benefit from creating a SWOT analysis to get some of the insights for this section.

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Market Opportunity

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

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

3. Competitive Landscape

Speaking of market share, you'll need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are. After all, your customers likely have more than one brand to choose from, and you'll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another. Performing a competitive analysis can help you uncover:

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

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

The competitive landscape section of the business plan below shows a clear outline of who the top competitors are. It also highlights specific industry knowledge and the importance of location, which shows useful experience in this specific industry. This can help build trust in your ability to execute your business plan.

Business plans examples: Competitive Landscape

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

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

4. Target Audience

This section will describe who your customer segments are in detail. What is the demographic and psychographic information of your audience?

If your immediate answer is "everyone," you'll need to dig deeper. Ask yourself:

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

It can be helpful to build a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be clear on why you're targeting them.

Target Audience Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Target Audience

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

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

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. You might consider including information on:

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

It can help to already have a marketing plan built out to help you with this part of your business plan.

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

This business plan example includes the marketing strategy for the town of Gawler. It offers a comprehensive picture of how it plans to use digital marketing to promote the community.

Business plans examples: Marketing Strategy

Tips for Writing Your Marketing Strategy

  • Include a section about how you believe your brand vision will appeal to customers.
  • Add the budget and resources you'll need to put your plan in place.
  • Outline strategies for specific marketing segments.
  • Connect strategies to earlier sections like target audience and competitive analysis.
  • Review how your marketing strategy will scale with the growth of your business.
  • Cover a range of channels and tactics to highlight your ability to adapt your plan in the face of change.

6. Key Features and Benefits

At some point in your business plan, you'll review the key features and benefits of your products and/or services. Laying these out can give readers an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use . It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.

Key Features and Benefits Business Plan Example

The example below outlines products and services for this business, along with why these qualities will attract the audience.

Business plans examples: Key Features and Benefits

Tips for Writing Your Key Features and Benefits

  • Emphasize why and how your product or service offers value to customers.
  • Use metrics and testimonials to support the ideas in this section.
  • Talk about how your products and services have the potential to scale.
  • Think about including a product roadmap.
  • Focus on customer needs, and how the features and benefits you are sharing meet those needs.
  • Offer proof of concept for your ideas, like case studies or pilot program feedback.
  • Proofread this section carefully, and remove any jargon or complex language.

7. Pricing and Revenue

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

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

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Pricing and Revenue

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

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

8. Financials

This section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to figure out funding strategies, investment opportunities, and more. According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:

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

While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details you'll want to include.

Financials Business Plan Example

This balance sheet example shows the level of detail you will need to include in the financials section of your business plan:

Business plans examples: Financials

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

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

As you create your business plan, keep in mind that each of these sections will be formatted differently. Some may be in paragraph format, while others could be charts or graphs.

Business Plan Types

The formats above apply to most types of business plans. That said, the format and structure of your plan will vary by your goals for that plan. So, we’ve added a quick review of different business plan types. For a more detailed overview, check out this post .

1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas.

If you’re planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business. You can check out this guide for more detailed business plan inspiration .

2. Feasibility Studies

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

3. Internal Use

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

4. Strategic Initiatives

Another business plan that's often for sharing internally is a strategic business plan. This plan covers long-term business objectives that might not have been included in the startup business plan.

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

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

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

Sample Business Plan Templates

Now that you know what's included and how to format a business plan, let's review some templates.

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

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

The business plan linked above was created here at HubSpot and is perfect for businesses of any size — no matter how many strategies we still have to develop.

Fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline give this one-page business plan a framework for how to build your brand and what tasks to keep track of as you grow. Then, as the business matures, you can expand on your original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.

Why We Like It

This one-page business plan is a fantastic choice for the new business owner who doesn’t have the time or resources to draft a full-blown business plan. It includes all the essential sections in an accessible, bullet-point-friendly format. That way, you can get the broad strokes down before honing in on the details.

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

We also created a business plan template for entrepreneurs.

The template is designed as a guide and checklist for starting your own business. You’ll learn what to include in each section of your business plan and how to do it. There’s also a list for you to check off when you finish each section of your business plan.

Strong game plans help coaches win games and help businesses rocket to the top of their industries. So if you dedicate the time and effort required to write a workable and convincing business plan, you’ll boost your chances of success and even dominance in your market.

This business plan kit is essential for the budding entrepreneur who needs a more extensive document to share with investors and other stakeholders. It not only includes sections for your executive summary, product line, market analysis, marketing plan, and sales plan, but it also offers hands-on guidance for filling out those sections.

3. LiveFlow’s Financial Planning Template with built-in automation

Sample Business Plan: LiveFLow

This free template from LiveFlow aims to make it easy for businesses to create a financial plan and track their progress on a monthly basis. The P&L Budget versus Actual format allows users to track their revenue, cost of sales, operating expenses, operating profit margin, net profit, and more.

The summary dashboard aggregates all of the data put into the financial plan sheet and will automatically update when changes are made. Instead of wasting hours manually importing your data to your spreadsheet, LiveFlow can also help you to automatically connect your accounting and banking data directly to your spreadsheet, so your numbers are always up-to-date.

With the dashboard, you can view your runway, cash balance, burn rate, gross margins, and other metrics. Having a simple way to track everything in one place will make it easier to complete the financials section of your business plan.

This is a fantastic template to track performance and alignment internally and to create a dependable process for documenting financial information across the business. It’s highly versatile and beginner-friendly. It’s especially useful if you don’t have an accountant on the team. (We always recommend you do, but for new businesses, having one might not be possible.)

4. ThoughtCo’s Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: ThoughtCo.

One of the more financially oriented sample business plans in this list, BPlan’s free business plan template dedicates many of its pages to your business’s financial plan and financial statements.

After filling this business plan out, your company will truly understand its financial health and the steps you need to take to maintain or improve it.

We absolutely love this business plan template because of its ease-of-use and hands-on instructions (in addition to its finance-centric components). If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of writing an entire business plan, consider using this template to help you with the process.

6. Harvard Business Review’s "How to Write a Winning Business Plan"

Most sample business plans teach you what to include in your business plan, but this Harvard Business Review article will take your business plan to the next level — it teaches you the why and how behind writing a business plan.

With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of " Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum ", you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service. You’ll also learn the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.

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

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know writing a business plan is one of the most challenging first steps to starting a business. Fortunately, with HubSpot's comprehensive guide to starting a business, you'll learn how to map out all the details by understanding what to include in your business plan and why it’s important to include them. The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you.

If you need further guidance on starting a business, HubSpot's guide can teach you how to make your business legal, choose and register your business name, and fund your business. It will also give small business tax information and includes marketing, sales, and service tips.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of starting a business, in addition to writing your business plan, with a high level of exactitude and detail. So if you’re in the midst of starting your business, this is an excellent guide for you. It also offers other resources you might need, such as market analysis templates.

8. Panda Doc’s Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Panda Doc

PandaDoc’s free business plan template is one of the more detailed and fleshed-out sample business plans on this list. It describes what you should include in each section, so you don't have to come up with everything from scratch.

Once you fill it out, you’ll fully understand your business’ nitty-gritty details and how all of its moving parts should work together to contribute to its success.

This template has two things we love: comprehensiveness and in-depth instructions. Plus, it’s synced with PandaDoc’s e-signature software so that you and other stakeholders can sign it with ease. For that reason, we especially love it for those starting a business with a partner or with a board of directors.

9. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan. Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need — a traditional or lean start-up plan.

Then, you can review the format for both of those plans and view examples of what they might look like.

We love both of the SBA’s templates because of their versatility. You can choose between two options and use the existing content in the templates to flesh out your own plan. Plus, if needed, you can get a free business counselor to help you along the way.

Top Business Plan Examples

Here are some completed business plan samples to get an idea of how to customize a plan for your business. We’ve chosen different types of business plan ideas to expand your imagination. Some are extensive, while others are fairly simple.

Take a look.

1. LiveFlow

business plan example: liveflow

One of the major business expenses is marketing. How you handle your marketing reflects your company’s revenue. We included this business plan to show you how you can ensure your marketing team is aligned with your overall business plan to get results. The plan also shows you how to track even the smallest metrics of your campaigns, like ROI and payback periods instead of just focusing on big metrics like gross and revenue.

Fintech startup, LiveFlow, allows users to sync real-time data from its accounting services, payment platforms, and banks into custom reports. This eliminates the task of pulling reports together manually, saving teams time and helping automate workflows.

When it came to including marketing strategy in its business plan, LiveFlow created a separate marketing profit and loss statement (P&L) to track how well the company was doing with its marketing initiatives. This is a great approach, allowing businesses to focus on where their marketing dollars are making the most impact.

"Using this framework over a traditional marketing plan will help you set a profitable marketing strategy taking things like CAC, LTV, Payback period, and P&L into consideration," explains LiveFlow co-founder, Lasse Kalkar .

Having this information handy will enable you to build out your business plan’s marketing section with confidence. LiveFlow has shared the template here . You can test it for yourself.

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

Sometimes all you need is a solid mission statement and core values to guide you on how to go about everything. You do this by creating a business plan revolving around how to fulfill your statement best. For example, Patagonia is an eco-friendly company, so their plan discusses how to make the best environmentally friendly products without causing harm.

A good mission statement should not only resonate with consumers but should also serve as a core value compass for employees as well.

Outdoor clothing retailer, Patagonia, has one of the most compelling mission statements we’ve seen:

"Together, let’s prioritise purpose over profit and protect this wondrous planet, our only home."

It reels you in from the start, and the environmentally friendly theme continues throughout the rest of the statement.

This mission goes on to explain that they are out to "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to protect nature."

Their mission statement is compelling and detailed, with each section outlining how they will accomplish their goal.

4. Vesta Home Automation

business plan example: Vesta executive summary

This is the kind of business plan you need when applying for business funds. It clearly illustrates the expected future of the company and how the business has been coming along over the years.

This executive summary for a smart home device startup is part of a business plan created by students at Mount Royal University . While it lacks some of the sleek visuals of the templates above, its executive summary does a great job of demonstrating how invested they are in the business.

Right away, they mention they’ve invested $200,000 into the company already, which shows investors they have skin in the game and aren’t just looking for someone else to foot the bill.

5. NALB Creative Center

business plan examples: nalb creative center

This fictional business plan for an art supply store includes everything one might need in a business plan: an executive summary, a company summary, a list of services, a market analysis summary, and more. Due to its comprehensiveness, it’s an excellent example to follow if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store and need to get external funding to start your business .

One of its most notable sections is its market analysis summary, which includes an overview of the population growth in the business’ target geographical area, as well as a breakdown of the types of potential customers they expect to welcome at the store. This sort of granular insight is essential for understanding and communicating your business’s growth potential. Plus, it lays a strong foundation for creating relevant and useful buyer personas .

It’s essential to keep this information up-to-date as your market and target buyer changes. For that reason, you should carry out market research as often as possible to ensure that you’re targeting the correct audience and sharing accurate information with your investors.

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

If you’re looking for a SaaS business plan example, look no further than this business plan for a fictional educational software company called Curriculum Companion Suites. Like the business plan for the NALB Creative Center, it includes plenty of information for prospective investors and other key stakeholders in the business.

One of the most notable features of this business plan is the executive summary, which includes an overview of the product, market, and mission. The first two are essential for software companies because the product offering is so often at the forefront of the company’s strategy. Without that information being immediately available to investors and executives, then you risk writing an unfocused business plan.

It’s also essential to front-load your company’s mission if it explains your "Why?" In other words, why do you do what you do, and why should stakeholders care? This is an important section to include if you feel that your mission will drive interest in the business and its offerings.

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

Culina's sample business plan is an excellent example of how to lay out your business plan so that it flows naturally, engages readers, and provides the critical information investors and stakeholders need. You can also use this template as a guide while you're gathering important details. After looking at this sample, you'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do for your own business plan.

8. Plum Sample Business Plan

Sample business plan: Plum

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How to Write a Business Plan Outline

A step-by-step guide to your best first impression

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

business plan charts

Business Plan Outline

  • Organize Your Business Plan
  • Title Page and Table of Contents
  • Appearance Matters

Adrian Mangel / The Balance

Are you an entrepreneur looking to turn your idea into a business? Do you have a business plan? There is some debate about whether new businesses need a business plan when just starting out, especially if they're not asking for money. According to Carl Schramm, author of "Burn the Business Plan," many large corporations didn't have business plans when they first started:

"If you look at all our older major corporations—U.S. Steel, General Electric, IBM, American Airlines—and then you look at our newer companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, none of these companies ever had a business plan before they got started."

The U.S. Small Business Administration takes a middle-of-the-road approach, recognizing that not all businesses need a comprehensive plan. Instead, it suggests that smaller businesses and startups use a "leaner" and more streamlined version to outline the essentials and highlight strengths. Lean or long, your business plan should cover the basics.

The outline below offers a brief overview of what each section of your business plan should cover. It is not a definitive guide, as you may wish to expand or combine sections, or add extra detail in a way that is customized to your particular venture. Keep in mind the idea is to present your venture in the most attractive and professional way possible.

Executive Summary

Though it appears first in the business plan, the executive summary is a section that is usually written last, as it encapsulates the entire plan. It provides an introduction and high-level overview of your business, including your mission statement and details about what product(s) and/or service(s) you offer.

Since the executive summary is your business's first impression, it's critical that it be outstanding, especially if you're seeking funding.

Business Description

Provide information about the business you're starting, including what sort of problem your products/services solve and your most likely buyers. You can also expand this description by offering an overview of the industry that your business will be a part of, including trends, major players, and estimated sales. This section should give a positive perspective on your place within the industry. Set your business apart from the competition by describing your or your team's expertise, as well as your competitive advantage.

Market Analysis

The market analysis is a crucial section of the business plan, as it identifies your best customers or clients. To create a compelling market analysis, thoroughly research the primary target market for your products/services, including geographic location, demographics, your target market's needs, and how these needs are currently being met. Your purpose here is to demonstrate that you have a solid and thorough understanding of the people you are planning to sell your products/services to so that you can make informed predictions about how much they might buy, and convince other interested parties.

Competitive Analysis

In preparing to write the competitive analysis section, you'll learn how successful your direct and indirect competitors are in the marketplace. This section of your business plan includes an assessment of your competition's strengths and weaknesses, any advantages they may have, and the unique qualities that make your business stand out from the competition. It also includes an analysis of how you will overcome any barriers to entry in your chosen market.

The primary goal here is to distinguish your business from the competition, but a strong competitive analysis will be able to persuade potential funding sources that your business can compete in the marketplace successfully . A useful tool to help articulate this section of the plan is sometimes referred to as a SWOT analysis, or a "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats" assessment.

Sales and Marketing Plan

The sales and marketing section offers a detailed explanation of your sales strategy, pricing plan, proposed advertising and promotion activities, and all the benefits of your products/services. This is where to outline your business's unique selling proposition, describe how you plan to get your products/services to market, and how you'll persuade people to buy them.

When developing your unique selling proposition, your goal is to answer the question: Why should people buy from me over my competition?

Ownership and Management Plan

This section outlines your business's legal structure and management resources, including the internal management team, external management resources, and human resources needs. Include any experience or special skills that each person in your management team brings to the business. If the goal of your business plan is to get funding, it's wise to include an advisory board as a management resource.

Operating Plan

The operating plan offers detailed information about how your business will be run. It provides your business's physical location, descriptions of facilities and equipment, types of employees needed, inventory requirements, suppliers, and any other applicable operating details that pertain to your precise type of business, such as a description of the manufacturing process, or specialty items needed in day-to-day operations.

Financial Plan

Starting a business is usually about making a profit, so it's important to demonstrate that you have a solid sense of your current finances, funding needs, as well as projected income. In the financial section , provide a description of your funding requirements, your detailed financial statements, and a financial statement analysis. This part of the business plan is where you present the three main financial documents of any business: the balance sheet, the income statement, and the cash flow statement, or in the case of a new business, a cash flow projection.

Appendices and Exhibits

In addition to the sections outlined above, at the end of your business plan, include any additional information that will help establish the credibility of your business idea, or bolster your potential success. You may choose to include marketing studies, photographs of your product, permits, patents and other intellectual property rights, credit histories, résumés, marketing materials, and any contracts or other legal agreements pertinent to your business.

How to Organize Your Business Plan

There is no set order to your business plan, the only exception being that the executive summary should always come first. Beyond that, the order depends on your goals.

If your purpose for writing a business plan is to help you organize, gather information, and create a roadmap, organize it in the way that is most intuitive to your process. You might group similar content together, such as all the material relating to markets (industry overview, marketing analysis, competitive analysis, and marketing plan).

If your goal is to seek funding, organize the plan based on what your audience values, and lead with the best, most convincing material first. If you have a stellar group of people serving on your new business's advisory board, put that section directly after the executive summary. Highlighting your new business's strengths will encourage your reader to continue reading your plan.

Add a Title Page and Table of Contents

After completing all the sections, don't forget to insert a title page at the beginning of the plan followed by a table of contents listing each section with page numbers.

The Appearance of Your Business Plan Matters

If you're writing a business plan as an organizational exercise—for your eyes only—feel free to get loose with the style and organization; the simple act of putting all your ideas into a practical template may be a valuable brainstorming tool. However, if you're looking for funding or investors, the business plan is a formal document, so it should look like one. Every aspect of your business plan should impress your potential funding source.

Pay attention to margins and formatting; make sure it's spell-checked and grammatically sound. If you're not good at this, pay a professional to do it.

Hiring a professional to design, edit, or review your business plan may be a good idea, regardless of how skilled you are; a fresh pair of eyes can often spot issues that the original writer missed.

If you need printed copies, get them professionally printed and bound. Keep in mind that you may only have a short amount of time to sell your idea, and first impressions pack a powerful punch.

How Long Should a Business Plan Be?

A good business plan can't be pinned to a minimum or maximum page count. This is because the right length depends on your business. Your business plan should be brief enough to convey the essentials without redundancy or fluff content, yet long enough to demonstrate to your audience that your business is well-researched and fully considered. A simple plan for a modest startup might be around 40 pages, while a more complex business plan may need 100 pages to convey an ambitious financing strategy, product diagrams, industry data, or the full scope of the venture. The goal is to allow for a full explanation of the pertinent information about your business, presented in a concise and well-organized fashion.

Knowledge@Wharton. " Why Creating a Business Plan Is a ‘Waste of Time’ ."

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

Corporate Finance Institute. " Barriers to Entry ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " SBA Recommended Business Plans and Length ."

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Example business plan format

Before you start exploring our library of business plan examples, it's worth taking the time to understand the traditional business plan format . You'll find that the plans in this library and most investor-approved business plans will include the following sections:

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally only one to two pages. You should also plan to write this section last after you've written your full business plan.

Your executive summary should include a summary of the problem you are solving, a description of your product or service, an overview of your target market, a brief description of your team, a summary of your financials, and your funding requirements (if you are raising money).

Products & services

The products & services chapter of your business plan is where the real meat of your plan lives. It includes information about the problem that you're solving, your solution, and any traction that proves that it truly meets the need you identified.

This is your chance to explain why you're in business and that people care about what you offer. It needs to go beyond a simple product or service description and get to the heart of why your business works and benefits your customers.

Market analysis

Conducting a market analysis ensures that you fully understand the market that you're entering and who you'll be selling to. This section is where you will showcase all of the information about your potential customers. You'll cover your target market as well as information about the growth of your market and your industry. Focus on outlining why the market you're entering is viable and creating a realistic persona for your ideal customer base.


Part of defining your opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage may be. To do this effectively you need to get to know your competitors just as well as your target customers. Every business will have competition, if you don't then you're either in a very young industry or there's a good reason no one is pursuing this specific venture.

To succeed, you want to be sure you know who your competitors are, how they operate, necessary financial benchmarks, and how you're business will be positioned. Start by identifying who your competitors are or will be during your market research. Then leverage competitive analysis tools like the competitive matrix and positioning map to solidify where your business stands in relation to the competition.

Marketing & sales

The marketing and sales plan section of your business plan details how you plan to reach your target market segments. You'll address how you plan on selling to those target markets, what your pricing plan is, and what types of activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success.

The operations section covers the day-to-day workflows for your business to deliver your product or service. What's included here fully depends on the type of business. Typically you can expect to add details on your business location, sourcing and fulfillment, use of technology, and any partnerships or agreements that are in place.

Milestones & metrics

The milestones section is where you lay out strategic milestones to reach your business goals.

A good milestone clearly lays out the parameters of the task at hand and sets expectations for its execution. You'll want to include a description of the task, a proposed due date, who is responsible, and eventually a budget that's attached. You don't need extensive project planning in this section, just key milestones that you want to hit and when you plan to hit them.

You should also discuss key metrics, which are the numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common data points worth tracking include conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, profit, etc.

Company & team

Use this section to describe your current team and who you need to hire. If you intend to pursue funding, you'll need to highlight the relevant experience of your team members. Basically, this is where you prove that this is the right team to successfully start and grow the business. You will also need to provide a quick overview of your legal structure and history if you're already up and running.

Financial projections

Your financial plan should include a sales and revenue forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and a balance sheet. You may not have established financials of any kind at this stage. Not to worry, rather than getting all of the details ironed out, focus on making projections and strategic forecasts for your business. You can always update your financial statements as you begin operations and start bringing in actual accounting data.

Now, if you intend to pitch to investors or submit a loan application, you'll also need a "use of funds" report in this section. This outlines how you intend to leverage any funding for your business and how much you're looking to acquire. Like the rest of your financials, this can always be updated later on.

The appendix isn't a required element of your business plan. However, it is a useful place to add any charts, tables, definitions, legal notes, or other critical information that supports your plan. These are often lengthier or out-of-place information that simply didn't work naturally into the structure of your plan. You'll notice that in these business plan examples, the appendix mainly includes extended financial statements.

Types of business plans explained

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

Traditional business plan

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

Business model canvas

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

The structure ditches a linear format in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It's faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations.

One-page business plan

The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan . This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business.

By starting with a one-page plan , you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You'll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan.

Growth planning

Growth planning is more than a specific type of business plan. It's a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, forecast, review, and refine based on your performance.

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

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

Download a free sample business plan template

Ready to start writing your own plan but aren't sure where to start? Download our free business plan template that's been updated for 2023.

This simple, modern, investor-approved business plan template is designed to make planning easy. It's a proven format that has helped over 1 million businesses write business plans for bank loans, funding pitches, business expansion, and even business sales. It includes additional instructions for how to write each section and is formatted to be SBA-lender approved. All you need to do is fill in the blanks.

How to use an example business plan to help you write your own

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How do you know what elements need to be included in your business plan, especially if you've never written one before? Looking at examples can help you visualize what a full, traditional plan looks like, so you know what you're aiming for before you get started. Here's how to get the most out of a sample business plan.

Choose a business plan example from a similar type of company

You don't need to find an example business plan that's an exact fit for your business. Your business location, target market, and even your particular product or service may not match up exactly with the plans in our gallery. But, you don't need an exact match for it to be helpful. Instead, look for a plan that's related to the type of business you're starting.

For example, if you want to start a vegetarian restaurant, a plan for a steakhouse can be a great match. While the specifics of your actual startup will differ, the elements you'd want to include in your restaurant's business plan are likely to be very similar.

Use a business plan example as a guide

Every startup and small business is unique, so you'll want to avoid copying an example business plan word for word. It just won't be as helpful, since each business is unique. You want your plan to be a useful tool for starting a business —and getting funding if you need it.

One of the key benefits of writing a business plan is simply going through the process. When you sit down to write, you'll naturally think through important pieces, like your startup costs, your target market , and any market analysis or research you'll need to do to be successful.

You'll also look at where you stand among your competition (and everyone has competition), and lay out your goals and the milestones you'll need to meet. Looking at an example business plan's financials section can be helpful because you can see what should be included, but take them with a grain of salt. Don't assume that financial projections for a sample company will fit your own small business.

If you're looking for more resources to help you get started, our business planning guide is a good place to start. You can also download our free business plan template , or get started right away with LivePlan .

Think of business planning as a process, instead of a document

Think about business planning as something you do often , rather than a document you create once and never look at again. If you take the time to write a plan that really fits your own company, it will be a better, more useful tool to grow your business. It should also make it easier to share your vision and strategy so everyone on your team is on the same page.

Adjust your plan regularly to use it as a business management tool

Keep in mind that businesses that use their plan as a management tool to help run their business grow 30 percent faster than those businesses that don't. For that to be true for your company, you'll think of a part of your business planning process as tracking your actual results against your financial forecast on a regular basis.

If things are going well, your plan will help you think about how you can re-invest in your business. If you find that you're not meeting goals, you might need to adjust your budgets or your sales forecast. Either way, tracking your progress compared to your plan can help you adjust quickly when you identify challenges and opportunities—it's one of the most powerful things you can do to grow your business.

Prepare to pitch your business

If you're planning to pitch your business to investors or seek out any funding, you'll need a pitch deck to accompany your business plan. A pitch deck is designed to inform people about your business. You want your pitch deck to be short and easy to follow, so it's best to keep your presentation under 20 slides.

Your pitch deck and pitch presentation are likely some of the first things that an investor will see to learn more about your company. So, you need to be informative and pique their interest. Luckily, just like you can leverage an example business plan template to write your plan, we also have a gallery of over 50 pitch decks for you to reference.

With this gallery, you have the option to view specific industry pitches or get inspired by real-world pitch deck examples. Or for a modern pitch solution that helps you create a business plan and pitch deck side-by-side, you may want to check out LivePlan . It will help you build everything needed for outside investment and to better manage your business.

Get LivePlan in your classroom

Are you an educator looking for real-world business plan examples for your students? With LivePlan, you give your students access to industry-best business plans and help them set goals and track metrics with spreadsheet-free financial forecasts. All of this within a single tool that includes additional instructional resources that work seamlessly alongside your current classroom setup.

With LivePlan, it's not just a classroom project. It's your students planning for their futures. Click here to learn more about business planning for students .

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More From Forbes

Business Plans: The Ultimate Guide To Building A Good Plan

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When starting a business, a business plan is essential. Whether you are launching an online store or opening a brick-and-mortar shop, having a well-written business plan is crucial to your success.

A business plan is essentially a roadmap that outlines your goals, strategies, and potential hurdles. It not only helps you stay organized but also provides a clear vision of your business to potential investors and stakeholders.

Think of the business plan as a blueprint that guides you towards building a profitable and sustainable business. If you're serious about starting a business, take the time to create a well-crafted business plan.

How a business plan benefits you

A business plan is not just a document for investors or loan officers - a business plan can be an invaluable tool for yourself as well. By taking the time to write out your idea and flesh out the details, you gain a deeper understanding of your business and what it takes to make it a reality.

Plus, having a plan in place helps you stay focused and motivated when the going gets tough, and can save you time and money in the long run.

Don't underestimate the power of a solid business plan. Not only does it benefit your bottom line, but it can also be a source of inspiration and guidance as you navigate the exciting world of entrepreneurship.

A 60-Year-Old Russian Tank Apparently Tried Attacking The Ukrainian Marines’ Dnipro Bridgehead. The Tank Didn’t Survive.

New galaxy s24 ultra leak reveals samsung s curious decision, these are the 44 best black friday deals of 2023 so far, how a business plan benefits the lender.

It's no secret that starting a business requires ample financing. But if you're an entrepreneur, how do you convince lenders to invest in your vision?

The answer is simple: a well-crafted business plan.

Not only does a business plan outline your company's goals and strategies, but it also shows lenders that you've done your homework and have a clear understanding of your market and competitors. By presenting a comprehensive plan, you give lenders the confidence to trust that their investment will yield a return.

A business plan benefits not only the entrepreneur but also the lender, providing a roadmap to success and building a foundation of trust and accountability.

A strong business plan is a key factor that lenders consider when deciding whether to loan you money. It shows them that you have a solid plan in place for repaying the loan and growing your business.

By putting in the effort to create a comprehensive business plan, you’ll be setting your company up for success while also gaining the confidence of potential lenders.

Let’s explore the essential elements of a business plan that should be included:

1. executive summary.

When it comes to crafting a business plan, the executive summary is a critical segment. This section sets the stage for the rest of your plan, acting as a teaser for what’s to come.

The executive summary provides a clear and concise snapshot of your business, highlighting why it’s a worthwhile investment opportunity. If you’re seeking funding from potential investors, this section is your golden ticket, as it is their first impression of your business and your chance to captivate their attention from the onset.

It’s essential to craft an executive summary that’s not only informative but also compelling. Think of it as the ultimate elevator pitch - if you can’t sell your business in a few short paragraphs, investors won’t be sold on your vision.

2. Company description

The company description section of your business plan serves as the foundation for everything that follows. In this section, you'll provide a detailed account of your business's history, including how it came to be and what milestones it has achieved thus far.

You'll also shine a light on your company's unique qualities and competitive advantages, setting the tone for the rest of your plan. Beyond that, you'll outline the legal ins and outs of your company to help investors understand the ownership and management structure.

This section serves as your chance to make a memorable first impression and lay the groundwork for a successful venture.

3. Market analysis

The marketing section of a business plan is a crucial component that serves as a guide to identifying the industry, competition, and target market. This section needs to be thorough and well-researched, taking into consideration factors such as the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that the business may face.

By taking the time to analyze these factors, businesses are better equipped to develop sound marketing strategies that not only address potential risks, but also capitalize on opportunities for growth.

It’s important to remember that the marketing section of the business plan should be engaging and professional, conveying the business’s goals and objectives in a way that resonates with potential investors and customers alike.

4. Products and services

At the heart of any successful business lies a solid understanding of its products and services. In your business plan, this knowledge is communicated through the products and services section where you can showcase what sets your offerings apart from the competition.

This is where you delve into the specifics of how your products and services meet the needs of your target market and the ways in which you provide value to your customers.

You'll also want to highlight your pricing strategy and any intellectual property rights that add unique value to your business. By bringing these essential components of your business to life, you'll ensure that your business plan demonstrates a clear understanding of what your company is all about.

5. Competitive analysis

As an entrepreneur, it's important to recognize that no matter what product or service you're offering, there will always be competition out there. That's why your business plan should highlight what sets you apart from your competitors in the competitive analysis section .

Take some time to reflect on your unique selling proposition. Maybe you provide a more personalized experience for your customers, or maybe you use higher quality materials in your products. Whatever it may be, make sure to convey it in a clear and concise manner.

By doing so, you'll demonstrate to investors and potential customers alike that you have a clear understanding of what sets your business apart from the pack.

6. Strategy and implementation plans

When it comes to starting a business, having a solid plan of attack is essential. That's why the strategy and implementation plan section of your business plan is so important. This is where you get to showcase your vision for success and demonstrate just how you plan to achieve it.

Whether it's outlining your marketing strategies, detailing your management structure, or simply laying out your timeline for growth, this section offers you the opportunity to put your best foot forward and show investors, partners, and potential clients that you mean business.

Don't hold back. Be bold, be thorough, and above all, be confident in your plan.

If your strategy is solid and your implementation is top-notch, the opportunities are endless.

7. Financial projections

Don’t underestimate the importance of the financial projection section. In this section of your business plan, you will dive into the details of your financial projections, including your revenue, expenses, and cash flow.

But this section isn't just about crunching numbers . It's about showing potential investors that your business is not only financially viable but has the potential to succeed. And with a break-even analysis and a profit and loss statement, you'll give those investors a comprehensive look at what your business can achieve.

8. Closing statement

The closing statement is your final chance to convey the enthusiasm and passion you have for your vision while demonstrating your business acumen. A successful closing statement should be concise, professional, and leave the reader feeling excited and eager to learn more about your business.

Whether you want to leave the reader with a call to action, highlight your competitive advantages, or simply express your gratitude for their time and consideration, your closing statement is an integral part of the business plan.

As you craft your final words, remember that they can make all the difference and leave a lasting impression on potential partners, investors, and other stakeholders.

The bottom line is that building a business plan takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it. A well-crafted plan can help you secure funding, set goals, and measure progress. Remember to tailor your plan to your specific needs and be realistic in your projections. With a strong business plan in place, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions and achieve success in your endeavors.

Melissa Houston, CPA is the author of Cash Confident: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Creating a Profitable Business . She is the founder of She Means Profit, which is a podcast and blog . As a Finance Strategist for small business owners, Melissa helps successful business owners increase their profit margins so that they keep more money in their pocket and increase their net worth.

The opinions expressed in this article are not intended to replace any professional or expert accounting and/or tax advice whatsoever.

Melissa Houston

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Standard Tables and Charts

So those three main tables are just about essential for a complete business plan: you have to project income, balance, and cash flow. Cash flow is the single most important numerical analysis in a plan, and should never be missing. Most plans will also have a sales forecast, and profit and loss statements. I believe they should also have separate personnel listings, a projected balance sheet, projected business ratios, and market analysis. There are others that are common, but not necessarily required (depending on the situation and exact context of the plan). Those might include the following:

  • Startup costs , and startup funding . We’ve already talked about startup costs, but most business plans for startups also need to show where the money to pay for startup costs is coming from. That’s a combination of investment and borrowed money. Your balances have to balance, and they don’t balance without startup funding. Sometimes the startup funding will produce a useful business chart, a bar chart showing investment vs. borrowed money.
  • Past Performance . When a plan is doing a complete financial forecast for an existing company, past performance is required to set the starting balances for the future. The last balance of the past is the first balance of the future. In practice, people often have to project a few months forward to estimate what the final balance will be on the day the new plan starts. For example, if you’re doing a plan for next year starting in January, and it’s only October, then you have to guess what happens to balances between October and December.
  • Break-even analysis . A break-even analysis is a standard routine that compares sales to fixed and variable costs to determine how much sales will it take to cover costs. It can be an annoying analysis sometimes, because it requires averaging variable costs and unit prices over an entire business, but it can still be useful as a first look at the risks related to fixed and variable costs.
  • Market analysis . The market analysis is usually an important core component of the market information, supporting information that is required when you’re working on a plan for outsiders. Investors, bankers, professors of business, consultants, and others like to see proof of market. The market analysis table shows what data you have, usually a market growth projection, in general by segment. It’s really a good idea to break the market into useful subsets, called segments. Market analysis can produce some good-looking charts too, like pie charts breaking the market into segments, and bar charts showing market growth as projected into the future.
  • Ratios analysis . When you’re projecting your income and balances, you can then use math and formulas to project standard business ratios. There are a couple dozen standard ratios that accountants and analysts often like to see. These are things like return on investment, profits to sales, inventory turnover, collection days, and so on.
  • Use of funds . For plans intended to go to either investors or lenders, use of funds is a list showing how the money coming in will be spent. Use this to convince investors that you will put their money to good use.

You should also use business charts, like bar charts and pie charts, to illustrate your projected numbers as much as possible. Graphics illustrate numbers very well. They are easier than numbers alone to see and understand.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry .

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Create a Great Visual Business Plan

Create a great visual business plan

Writing a business plan isn't something to be taken lightly. A survey by the University of Oregon's Department of Economics found that companies that complete a business plan are twice as likely to grow and secure investment capital as those that don't.

This may seem like an insurmountable task. But it doesn't need to be.

We've boiled the important elements down to a few diagrams. Complete these and you'll have a great, visual business plan that will take a fraction of the time to complete than a traditional narrative one. It will also be appreciated by readers, who can see and understand the key elements of your plan quickly, without wasting a lot of time.

Step 1. Mission: Explain Why the Business Exists

Too many businesses fail because the entrepreneur(s) weren't in business for the right reason. All too often, the drive is a desire to get rich or leave a job one doesn't like. Unfortunately, emotional motives usually doom a new enterprise.

Pyramid chart business plan

Focus on the "why" of your business—its purpose for existing. Richard Branson believes that a sense of frustration is the key to business success. His first venture, Virgin Records, was launched because he didn't like how a few high-priced London record outlets controlled the market. His company's mission was to ease this frustration by making it easier and cheaper for people to buy music.

A good way to summarize your mission is with a process list diagram. It has five key questions about what your business is, who your customers are, and why it will succeed within its market space. Each answer needs to be brief—no more than a couple of sentences. Keep your thinking very "high level" in this exercise.

Process list diagram

Step 2. Objectives: Create Milestones for Important Events

What are your primary objectives over a specific time period? How long a time period? For most businesses, this timeframe should be long enough to get the business to at least its first major milestone—profitability, an equity event, etc. It should not be less than a year nor should it be longer than five years.

A timeline diagram is a good way to present this.


Step 3. Team: Show Them You're the Right People for the Job

Lenders, angel investors, and venture capital firms want to know who comprises the team. Do your backgrounds, qualifications, and experiences fit the mission?

An organizational chart should be included, along with a brief bio of each key individual. Make it clear why each person is the right "fit" for the mission.

Organizational chart

Step 4. Marketing: Show How Your Price, Product, and Promotions will Differ

Getting your product into your customers' hands requires a clear and concise strategy. In today's world, having a well-thought-out marketing plan is essential.

A good starting place for this is a 4Ps diagram. It looks at your product, who the potential buyers are, how to reach them, and at what price point they will buy.

4P diagram

Step 5. Tactics: Show Off Your Process

Here's where you want to show you can deliver on your promises. This means getting the product from concept to customers' hands within a timeframe that meets or exceeds their expectations.

There are a number of ways to present this. For most businesses, a basic flowchart, such as a workflow diagram or business process map will work well.

Workflow or business process map

For manufacturing companies, a value stream map is an excellent tool. It not only explains a potentially complicated process succinctly, it also helps your management and production teams to evaluate and streamline operational efficiency.

Value stream map

Step 6. Finances: Presenting the Right Numbers the Right Way is Crucial

What numbers should you present in your business plan? There are many possible answers to this question. It really depends on the purpose of your business plan and who will be receiving it.

For example, say you are writing a business plan for the internal purposes of management. You may not need to document historical data or validate projections to the degree you should, say, for a bank loan.

If you're seeking investment capital, then you need to make sure your forecasts are extremely well thought out, and they show the investor(s) a clear plan for how and when they will be compensated.

Regardless of your intended audience, there are a few financial documents you should include in your business plan.


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Top 5 Business Plan Chart Example Templates with Samples

Top 5 Business Plan Chart Example Templates with Samples

Kavesh Malhotra


Tim Fargo once said,  " Good intentions might sound nice, but it’s positive actions that matter. "  

This quote highlights the importance of not only creating a business plan but also executing it effectively. This is where business plan charts come in; they provide a roadmap for businesses to follow which ensures that they stay on track in achieving their goals.

There is no doubt that business planning is an essential element of any successful venture, and a well-executed plan can make a significant difference to business success. As mentioned above, one of the most critical components of a business plan is the use of charts to display information in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand manner. 

SlideTeam is delighted to present its selection of the Top 5 Business Plan Chart Templates with Samples . These templates are designed to assist owners, managers, and other professionals involved in business management to create a comprehensive and effective business plan that fulfills the needs of end-users and stakeholders alike.

Utilizing these top 5 business plan chart templates can help companies in prioritizing tasks, creating a clear and concise communication plan , focusing on their strategy and critical goals, tracking their progress toward achieving their revenue targets, and expanding into new markets. 

Unlock your true potential as a business manager with our pre-designed PowerPoint Slides. These templates are the ultimate solution to all your business needs, providing you with the power to customize your tasks and plans in ways you never thought possible. With our structured content-ready slides, you'll have everything you need at your fingertips to streamline your workflow and optimize your productivity. 

We're here to have a closer look at each of these templates and help you choose the one that suits your specific business requirements. So, what are you waiting for? Download one of these templates today and become a master in designing a breakthrough plan!

Check Out our Top 5 Business Plan Chart Templates

Template 1: initial six-month business plan gantt chart.

This PowerPoint Slide presents a comprehensive roadmap for developing a successful business plan. It covers critical areas such as strategy, finance, personnel, customers, and finances. This PPT Template allows you to create a clear project plan by outlining important details like project start and end dates, status updates, and assigned teams. This chart facilitates effective collaboration among team members, enables you to share your product plans, and provides a platform for discussing project progress with executives. Additionally, the task management chart helps align your activities efficiently, while the template's versatility allows for high-level resource planning and flexible implementation, benefiting your business. Seize the opportunity to elevate your business plan with this top-rated template.

Initial Six Month Business Plan Gantt Chart

Download Now!

Template 2: Strategic Business Plan Flow Chart with Key Goals

This chart is an essential tool for an organization's strategic business planning. Its comprehensive set of slides covers key areas such as marketing strategy, SWOT analysis , and other vital tools that can help businesses identify their target customers and develop a successful business strategy . With this chart, companies can create a clear and concise communication plan that outlines their process and how it aligns with their target customers and market evaluation . Download this set of slides and take your business to the next level.

Strategic Business Plan Flow Chart with Key Goals

Template 3: Marketing Gantt Chart for Business Plan

This chart is ideal for businesses focusing on their digital marketing strategy and revenue sources . With this chart, companies can create a timeline for their marketing initiatives, such as advertising campaigns and social media promotions, and track their progress in achieving the revenue targets. This PowerPoint Template is a valuable tool for digital managers and social media team members for monitoring project progress and highlighting key milestones. It features a Gantt chart design that effectively showcases different social channels, timelines, and progress percentages. This template is a must-have for anyone looking to stay organized and efficiently manage their social marketing projects.

Marketing Gantt Chart for Business Plan

Template 4: New Business Development Planning Chart with Market Evaluation

This PPT Chart is perfect for enterprises looking to expand into fresh markets or launch new products or services. With this PPT Layout, businesses can conduct a SWOT analysis to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and create a clear plan for entering new markets. It also clearly defines the New Business snapshot , Market evaluation , Expense Sources, and expected Revenue Sources . Download now and unleash the full potential of your new business development efforts.

New Business Development Planning Chart with Market Evaluation

Template 5: Business Plan Chart for Data Flat PowerPoint Design

This chart is perfect for businesses wanting to create a snapshot that provides a quick overview of their business plan. With this chart, businesses can display key information such as their target customers, revenue sources , and market evaluation in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand format. Download these templates via the link below, and start executing your business plan with confidence.

Business Plan Chart For Data

Bottom Line

Business plan charts are crucial for any business owner or manager looking to create a roadmap for success. Whether you're looking to visualize your business strategy, set key goals , conduct a SWOT analysis , plan a task timeline , develop strategies, or communicate plans to team members and stakeholders, we have a business plan chart template that can help you achieve your goals. By incorporating these templates into business planning, professionals can easily create visual representations of their plans, track progress, and make informed decisions based on their business snapshot , market evaluation , and revenue sources .

Professional Note:

Please visit here for more information on strategic business plan templates, business approaches, and other related topics. These templates incorporate many resources, including samples, descriptions, and USPs (unique selling points), to help professionals develop effective business plans and management strategies.

FAQs on Business Plan Chart

How do i make a business plan chart.

Making a business plan chart involves several steps that can be streamlined using pre-designed PowerPoint templates. Start by identifying the purpose of your business plan and defining key goals and objectives. Then, create a task timeline and identify the resources needed to achieve those goals. This can be done using a Gantt or flow chart, which helps you visualize your plan and track progress.

What Are The Four Types of Business Plans?

There are four types of business plans: strategic plans, operational plans, internal plans, and growth plans. 

Each plan serves a different purpose, such as outlining the company's business strategy , setting key goals , or evaluating market opportunities. A business plan often includes a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Why is a Business Plan Important?

A business plan is vital because it is a roadmap for the company's success. It outlines the company's key goals , strategies, and revenue sources and helps in identifying potential challenges and risks. A business plan also serves as a communication plan , allowing stakeholders to understand the company's vision and goals.

What Are the Elements of Business Plan?

The key elements of a business plan include:

  • Business snapshot- It outlines the company's mission and values. 
  • Market evaluation - It analyzes the target customers and competitors.
  • Revenue sources - It identifies the company’s sources of income. 
  • Marketing Gantt - It outlines the company's marketing strategy and task timeline.  

Other essential elements include financial, operational, and risk management plans. 

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  • Top 7 Corporate Strategy Templates with Samples and Examples
  • Top 25 Small Business Plan Templates in PowerPoint to Streamline Your Operations

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Home Blog Business Plan Formatting Tips for Business Plans: Use of Charts and Graphs

Formatting Tips for Business Plans: Use of Charts and Graphs

Ishan Jetley

Home » Formatting Tips for Business Plans: Use of Charts and Graphs

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People usually ask how many charts or graphs should be put in business plans. It really depends. There are key factors that determine the number of charts and graphs needed in every business plan.

To start, the essential point to think about in creating your business plan is the time constraints of your target audience. If he or she is a retired angel investor, he might have other duties but could spend an hour reviewing your business plan. The more probable situation is a venture capitalist, loan officer or corporate buyer reviewing your business plan on his or her desk topped with numerous other business plans. Therefore, it is crucial that your business plan conveys the important key points easily and quickly. This is where charts or graphs come into picture.

In deciding whether to use a chart or graph, think about the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” The purpose here is that the image should save a thousand words. In other words, the chart or graph must supplement the text; it should not be discussed in the text, or that defeats its purpose. Likewise, the chart or graph should be relevant and should support the text rather than veer away from it.

Apart from respecting the time restraints of the targeted audience in the business plan, there must also be respect given to the audience’s level of energy. In other words, after reviewing several business plans, the investor will most probably skip pages with 400 or more words of straight text. Even though no charts would be applicable to supplement the page, business plan consultants highly suggest using the appropriate spacing and callout boxes to make pages more readable.

Certainly, operational designs and technical drawings must be visually and adequately presented in business plans. Without them, enormous volumes of text are usually needed to describe relatively simple procedures. Significantly, once the text references the graphs, the graphs should be readily accessible. In other words, the graph should be on the exact same page as the text, instead of forcing the reader to turn to the appendix. If the graph is referenced on multiple pages, every page must demonstrate the piece of the graph that reflects the text, together with the entire graph appearing just once in the business plan.

Lastly, when the business plan is being reported to one or more investors, then the number of charts and graphs should reflect the needs, wants and sophistication of the few readers. As an example, if the readers are strategic investors, who know and understand the industry, the business plan should be presented with more charts to convey the message which these strategic investors have knowledge on.

Always remember that the business plan is not a PowerPoint presentation. Too many charts and graphs may give the impression that the business is too lazy to finish formulating a formal business plan.

In summary, the number of graphs and charts used in business plans should reflect important points of the business plan for an audience that is usually energy and time constrained. The graphs and charts must supplement the text and allow the audience to easily and readily digest the data, and influence the audience in progressing to the next step (e.g., scheduling a personal meeting) in the investment process.

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How to make the best org chart for your business

No matter where you work, knowing who does what and where they fit in can help everybody do their jobs better. An organizational chart gives everyone a quick glance into how the business is structured, whether it’s an established office, a startup, a manufacturing plant or something else. 

What’s an organizational chart? 

Chances are, you’ve seen one before. Organizational charts, also called org charts or organograms, feature boxes, shapes or photos that represent people and positions. They can also include contact information, page links, icons and illustrations.

org chart example

When connected with lines, those boxes form a chart that depicts the internal structure of an organization. It shows who reports to whom, where divisions lie and how departments are connected.  

What is the purpose of an organizational chart? 

Org charts can help new hires or volunteers get to know a company quickly by assisting them in putting names and faces to roles and responsibilities. Even long-time staffers, HR departments and business owners can benefit from having an organizational chart at their fingertips.

Here’s what they do: 

  • Show the internal structure and hierarchies 
  • Help employees figure out who to report and who to contact if problems occur 
  • Assist in clarifying roles and responsibilities  
  • Make it easy to keep employee contact info in one convenient place 
  • Help management see how many employees are in each department and how to allocate staff and other resources best 
  • Give staff insight into promotion channels 

One organogram can’t do everything. Let’s take a look at the types of org charts companies use most. 

What are the four types of organizational structures? 

The type of org chart you use will depend on your audience, your organization and what you want to convey. You may need just one sample of chart for your entire company or a few for several different audiences or divisions.  

While each type of organizational chart can be modified and edited, most companies use org charts that fall into one of these four categories:  

1. Functional top-down hierarchy 

Perfect for showing a traditional business structure, the hierarchy chart starts with the C-Suite at the top, then it’s broken into departments or divisions. Within each division, you’ll list senior management, middle managers, senior staffers, mid-level personnel and junior staff members. In the end, the hierarchy chart looks like a pyramid with every department rolling up to the CEO. 

NOTE : Hierarchical org charts are generally easy to understand. But when there are multiple layers in the chain of command, knowing who to connect with and when can seem difficult, especially if there’s a problem or if someone has a new idea.   

2. Divisional organizational chart 

This form is a safe choice if your company is organized along product lines or geographic regions. If they’re independent of one another, a divisional org chart is also an excellent way to reflect that clearly. Like an organizational hierarchy chart, the divisional chart starts with a president or CEO, but instead of a division into departments with shared resources, it’s divided into lines of business (LOBs). The chart covers each LOB’s departments, like HR, accounting, legal and marketing and the people or positions within those departments.  

NOTE : Because organizations like this often have redundant departments within each division, a divisional structure can result in staff bloat and unnecessary overhead expenses. 

3. Matrix organizational chart 

This type of organogram usually applies to companies with teams or team members who have more than one manager. For instance, at a newspaper, a reporter may cover a local news beat as well as a financial beat, which means they would have two managers. Or a graphic designer at an energy provider may report to the head of graphic design. But because he or she works on projects for the renewable energy division, then the designer may also communicate up to someone on that team.  

NOTE : When team members work across departments, organizations can usually find more creative ways to solve problems. This creates a more cooperative environment. However, when teams or team members have more than one supervisor, it can increase confusion and conflicts.  

4. Flat organizational chart 

Used almost exclusively by small businesses, flat or “horizontal” org charts usually have two levels: administrative officials and workers. Within the chart, solid lines show the principal chain of command, and dotted lines show secondary lines of authority. On paper, companies with a flat org structure may look similar to a small fire department, with a chief, three captains and several firefighters who work under the captains. Or it might be a supervisor or department head with a handful of employees who are his or her direct reports. 

NOTE : In a flat structure, supervisors and their teams often have close relationships and share in decision making. Employees usually have more responsibility and more autonomy than in other organizational structures. This means that that building trust is critical—and teamwork is, too. But because the matrix is so compact, if there are conflicts between employees, they can be more pronounced due to the simple fact that the team is so small.  

Building org charts with software 

Org chart software makes building new organograms and revising old ones simple. Let’s take a look at how to create an org chart online using some of the most popular software options available. 

Org charts in PowerPoint  

PowerPoint  may have been designed as a presentation tool, but you can also use it to develop org charts. To get started: 

  • Open a new PowerPoint document 
  • Go to the Insert tab and click SmartArt 
  • Navigate to the Hierarchy group and select the org chart template you need 
  • Click into the shapes to add text 
  • Add more shapes (or people) as needed 

Once everyone is accounted for, you can start reorganizing your org chart in PowerPoint. Just go back to the SmartArt Tools Design tab and using the Promote/Demote buttons to move shapes vertically. Use the Move Up/Move Down buttons to move your shapes horizontally.  

Org charts in Word  

It may not be a traditional way to create org charts, but  Microsoft Word  can help design basic diagrams that show how your organization functions. To create an org chart in Word, all you need to do is: 

  • Go to the Insert tab and click SmartArt.  
  • Go to the Hierarchy group and choose the org chart template you want to use. 
  • Next, you’ll see a menu with shapes that represent people. Just enter text to represent each person in your chart. 
  • If you need to add shapes to your org chart template, click the SmartArt Tools Design tab, then click Add Shape. 
  • To order someone in your org chart, click their name in the Text Dialog box. Press Tab to move them up or Shift + Tab to move them down. Or, you can manage your hierarchies in the SmartArt Design tab. 

You can adjust your colors, fonts and sizes, via the SmartArt Tools Design and Format tabs.  

Org charts in Visio from Excel 

Visio  is a visual, drag-and-drop canvas tool that allows people to create org charts, and it also has the power to connect with data in existing  Excel  files or Active Directories to help you  automatically create org charts . But when you combine the two, you can create eye-catching org charts for companies of any size. To get going, open Visio and click the Organization Chart Wizard, then: 

  • Click “Information that’s already stored in a file or database” 
  • Answer questions when prompted 
  • Import pictures or images if you’d like 
  • Click finish 

Along with importing information to your org chart from Excel, you can also add info directly into the Organization Chart Wizard. 

More org chart tips  

Even with org chart software, organograms can quickly become a blur of shapes and words. But with a little design work, they can capture people’s attention the proper way. So, when finessing your chart try to: 

  • Right size it . If your chart is too large, it will be overwhelming. If you need to create three charts rather than one, do it. This way, your audience can get an overview of the organizational structure, then take a deeper dive into departments or divisions when they’re ready. Just make sure that everything leads back to your organization’s highest level.  
  • Use shapes and colors consistently . By using the same shape for supervisors, another shape for mid-level staff and yet another for junior employees, you can help people understand your chart better. Use one color for each division in your company, as well. 
  • Add pertinent information . Be sure to add details about your staff, like contact information, location, clients or specialties. This way if someone’s looking for help, they can tell who does what and where. 
  • Show assistants with a sidebar below the manager . This formatting style can help denote the assistant role while still clearly showing the manager’s direct reports. And it can also help people know who to contact if you need to reach the manager. 
  • Pay attention to spacing . Keep boxes equidistant from each other. Your chart will be easier to read and have a more professional appearance. 

Once your chart is complete, have someone who knows the organization well (and someone who doesn’t) take a look. This way, you can make sure that it’s not only correct but clear and informative for those at every level. You can learn more about creating org charts with  software and templates  with this step-by-step  guide.  

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What Is a Gantt Chart? A Complete Guide (2023)

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Kara is an editor from North Carolina with experience in business technology and services topics as well as health. She is dedicated to delivering clear and captivating content to readers who want to make well-informed choices. Throughout her career, Kara has collaborated with and advised many small businesses in diverse marketing roles. Such experiences offer her a distinct viewpoint on how appropriate technology and services can drive growth for entrepreneurs. Kara’s writing has appeared on Verywellfamily.com, Labroots.com, and SkinnyMs.com. 

A Gantt chart is a project management tool that outlines the project tasks and timeline using a horizontal bar chart. Small business owners and managers who use a Gantt chart can easily plan, schedule and track their projects to ensure they complete them successfully — but the Gantt chart must be set up properly to experience these benefits. 

We at the MarketWatch Guides team have created this article to explain everything you need to know about Gantt charts. Some of the things we cover include making a Gantt chart and available Gantt chart software.

What Is a Gantt Chart?

What are the elements of a gantt chart, what are the benefits of using gantt charts, how do you make a gantt chart, what are the best gantt chart tools and templates, what are the limitations of gantt charts, gantt chart alternatives, history of gantt charts, common uses of gantt charts, the bottom line, frequently asked questions about gantt charts.

A Gantt chart showcases the sequence in which project tasks should be done and the amount of time allotted to complete each task. This information is presented vertically and horizontally. The vertical axis of a Gantt chart lists the project tasks, while the horizontal axis shows a bar to illustrate the timeline for each task.

business plan charts

Picture what a Gantt chart looks like: an advertising agency wants to find a new meeting tool for its remote workforce, so it creates a Gantt chart to outline the project. The tasks — including conducting research, choosing the best tool and installing the tool — are listed vertically. How many days it should take to finish each task is shown horizontally, with the days listed at the bottom of the chart and a bar for each task shown on the chart to illustrate duration.

A Gantt chart is detailed but easy to understand. It can showcase multiple factors, depending on the nuances of your project.

A horizontal bar exists for every task on a Gantt chart. Together, they showcase the project timeline. Separately, a bar illustrates the time needed to complete a task. The length of the bars may vary depending on the timeline for each task. 

These are the critical project phases that indicate whether or not you’re on track. Including milestones on your Gantt chart is a great way to ensure your project team knows the big goals it needs to achieve.

Critical Path

A critical path shows all the dependent tasks in your project and how long it’ll take to complete them. This element is helpful because it shows which specific tasks will cause a delay and push back the project timeline.


This element shows how tasks relate to each other. There may be a task, for example, that can’t start until the previous one is finished — this scenario is called a finish-to-start task dependency and is the most common on a Gantt chart. The easiest way to show dependencies is to use an arrow between related tasks.

business plan charts

The main advantage of a Gantt chart is that you can get a high-level overview of project tasks and duration. These two advantages enable you to monitor the progress of your project, but they’re not the only benefits of a Gantt chart. Here are several other reasons you should use this project management tool. 

  • Visualize project tasks and schedules: A Gantt chart provides a picture of the entire project timeline, including what needs to be done and when it should be completed. This visual is easy to understand and showcases critical details at a glance. 
  • Identify dependencies between tasks: Dependencies will provide visibility into how tasks intersect and what needs to be completed to move a project forward. 
  • Allocate resources efficiently: Seeing a project timeline and tasks will ensure you know where to allocate resources and attention to complete your project on time. 
  • Monitor project progress: A Gantt chart showcases the order in which tasks should be completed to finish a project. This structure helps you easily track progress.
  • Improve team productivity: Your team will know which tasks to prioritize since a Gantt chart lists the steps to project completion. This transparency will increase productivity by holding team members accountable for finishing their deliverables. 
  • Meet deadlines and milestones: The timeline for each task is clear on a Gantt chart, making it easier for your project team to hit deadlines and complete milestones.

Using a Gantt chart is ultimately beneficial for various reasons. That’s why it’s a common project management tool for small business owners and managers.

Various tools can help you make a Gantt chart, but they all require similar steps. Here are several things you’ll need to do to build a Gantt chart. 

  • Determine all project tasks: Create a list of all the tasks that must be completed to finish your project. This list can be long or short, depending on your project. The most important thing is to include all the tasks.
  • Organize tasks sequentially: Organize project tasks based on the order in which they must be completed to ensure a clear understanding of what needs to happen from beginning to end. 
  • Estimate duration of each task: Determine how long it’ll take to complete each task within your project timeline. Consider brainstorming each task’s duration with the team member who will be directly responsible for it.  
  • Schedule start and end dates: Indicate the start and end date for each task within your project timeline. It’s possible that some tasks may be performed simultaneously but by different people on your team. 
  • Map dependencies: Identify whether a task depends on another to be completed. Make sure to determine how the related tasks affect each other.
  • Add milestones: Clarify the end of a work phase by including milestones. These should be markers that show major progress in your project. 
  • Indicate resources needed for each task: Brainstorm the resources you’ll need to allocate for each step of your project. It’s possible you’ll need to reallocate resources if your project progresses in unexpected ways. 
  • Format chart vertically and horizontally: Organize your Gantt chart so that the project tasks are listed vertically and the number of days within the project timeline is listed horizontally at the bottom. The bars showcasing the duration of the tasks should be horizontal as well. 

How Do You Make a Gantt Chart in Excel?

There are several steps you should take when making a Gantt chart in Microsoft Excel . The first is to create a project table using the first four columns. Column A should list the project tasks. Column B should have the start date for each task. Column C should have the end date for each task. Column D should indicate the days it’ll take to complete each task. You can calculate what should be in each row of Column D by using this formula: C2 – B2, which is the end date minus the start date. 

The next major step is to create a bar chart to visualize the data you’ve inputted into the project table. You can do this by selecting column B and clicking “insert.” Then, select “chart” and choose “stacked bar.”   

The final steps will bring your Gantt chart to life. First, you’ll need to input the duration data for each task. This formula can help you accomplish this step: =’[TABLE NAME]’!$[COLUMN]$[ROW]:$[COLUMN]$[ROW]. Then, you must add the task names to your chart to replace the visible row numbers. The last step is to transform the chart into an official Gantt chart. 

Microsoft Excel is easy to use compared to other tools. It also offers Gantt chart templates you can use and customize for free, so you won’t have to spend any money.

Microsoft Excel isn’t the only tool you can use to make a Gantt chart — other options exist. Microsoft Word, for example, is a good choice if you want to stick with the free route. It’ll let you build a basic Gantt chart originating from a stacked bar chart. However, unlike Excel, Microsoft Word doesn’t offer any Gantt chart templates. Microsoft Project is another option. However, it’s not free, and it doesn’t come with templates, though you can create one. Its cheapest plan is $10 per user per month.  

More robust Gantt chart software is available. A popular tool is Smartsheet . This software has drag-and-drop features and offers tools to help you create a critical path, task dependencies, milestones and even subtasks. Smartsheet is free for one user. A bigger team will need a paid plan, which starts at $7 per user per month. 

Another Gantt chart software is called TeamGantt . It has some of the same features as Smartsheet. You can access drag-and-drop tools and easily add task dependencies. However, TeamGantt has unique features that separate it from the pack. This software lets you see all of your projects on one screen, monitor team availability and workload and discover the status of your projects in one report. TeamGantt isn’t free, though. Its cheapest plan is $19 per month per manager.

No project management tool is perfect, and that goes for Gantt charts as well. It has a handful of limitations, including the following: 

  • Hard to accommodate changing priorities: A Gantt chart presents the order in which tasks should happen, but if priorities change, it’s hard to update the chart. 
  • Can oversimplify complex projects: A horizontal bar chart isn’t always the best way to present a project, especially when the project is complex. Gantt charts can oversimplify a project to the point that it may mislead your team. 
  • Can be time-consuming to set up: Creating a Gantt chart can take a long time, especially if the tool you’re using doesn’t offer templates or you’re trying to outline a complex project. 
  • Rigid schedules don’t accommodate the flexibility needed: There isn’t much flexibility with a project timeline when it’s presented in a Gantt chart. Deadlines are black and white, which doesn’t leave space for changes that could alter the project schedule. 

These limitations aren’t major disadvantages that should prevent you from using a Gantt chart, but they should be factors you consider when determining the best project management tool to use.

There are other ways you can manage your project if you decide not to use a Gantt chart. One method is a Kanban board, which provides a visual representation of project tasks that need to be completed and the progress that’s been made. However, a Kanban board is different from a Gantt chart because it emphasizes the amount of work that hasn’t been done, is currently in progress or has been completed. A Kanban board also relies on cards and columns to illustrate a project. 

A Pareto chart is another Gantt chart alternative, but it’s mainly used to show the problems and complications in a project. Flow charts are also options. You can use one to outline project tasks from beginning to end and show when a task should be performed. However, the main downside is that flow charts can look convoluted and jumbled when a project is too complex. 

A simpler Gantt chart alternative is a traditional checklist. This tool is straightforward and easy to understand — but you’ll have to ensure team members aren’t searching for quick wins to get that satisfying rush when crossing off a task. A checklist makes it easy to skip priorities, while a Gantt chart encourages team members to complete tasks in a certain sequence, regardless of difficulty.

Gantt charts have a long history. They date back to the late 1800s when Karol Adamiecki, a Polish engineer, created a diagram called the harmonograph. This diagram was designed to enhance how production schedules were displayed. Decades passed, and Henry Gantt, an American mechanical engineer and project management consultant, started creating a more thorough and practical chart for project planning. 

Gantt wanted his chart to help manufacturing managers visualize their work tasks. He began designing his chart in 1910, which became widely known and accepted.

What Does Gantt Stand For?

Gantt is a name, not an acronym. It points to the inventor of Gantt charts, Henry Gantt.

Businesses from different industries have used Gantt charts to plan and schedule their projects. The most common uses for the tool include the following: 

  • Construction schedules: These projects usually have timelines, milestones, deliverables and steps that must be completed in a specific sequence. Those elements are all accounted for on Gantt charts.
  • Product launch plans: A product launch has many moving parts and a tight timeline. Gantt charts make it easy to plan project tasks and monitor progress to prevent delays. 
  • Marketing campaigns: There’s a specific sequence of tasks that must happen to launch a marketing campaign. For example, you have to write copy before designing ads. This linear format is great for a Gantt chart. 
  • Event planning: Typically, you can’t adjust the date of an event. Having a Gantt chart with tasks, dependencies and milestones will ensure everyone knows what needs to get done for an event to happen as scheduled.
  • Production workflows: A Gantt chart is great for production planning since these workflows have little room for delays and many steps that depend on one another.

Many project management tools exist, but Gantt charts have stuck around for a reason: they’re effective. They include the main elements you need to consider when planning a project, and Gantt charts increase the likelihood of completing projects on time. However, this doesn’t mean you should rely on this tool alone. 

We recommend using Gantt charts alongside other project management methodologies. Having various tools at your fingertips will enhance the success of your projects and empower you to rely on the strengths of different methods.

What does Gantt mean?

Gantt is not an acronym. It’s the name of Henry Gantt, who created Gantt charts. 

Who invented the Gantt chart?

Henry Gantt invented the Gantt chart in 1910. 

What are the limitations of Gantt charts?

A Gantt chart offers a simple visual of a project’s tasks and duration. Its simplicity doesn’t adequately show the complexity of a project, and it can be time-consuming to create a Gantt chart that illustrates nuances. Also, Gantt charts showcase rigid schedules that don’t leave room for changing priorities. 

Can Gantt charts be used for agile projects?

You can use a Gantt chart for agile projects, but it can be challenging. The best way to ensure success is to build contingencies for unexpected events. 

Should individuals use Gantt charts?

Individuals use a Gantt chart for project planning, but it shouldn’t be the only tool they use. A Gantt chart is best used alongside other project management software. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of Gantt charts?

A Gantt chart allows you to meet deadlines more successfully, track project progress, improve team productivity, allocate resources effectively and identify how tasks affect each other. The limitations include the inability to accommodate new priorities, rigid schedules that don’t allow flexibility and the oversimplification of complex projects.

How do I print a Gantt chart?

Printing a Gantt chart will depend on the software you’re using. Check the printing instructions that the Gantt chart software company has provided.  

What should I look for in Gantt chart software?

Try to find a Gantt chart software that offers templates, drag-and-drop features, a cost-effective rate and an easy way to include all the elements of a Gantt chart. 

Find the best [category]

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5 Little-Known Perks of Smart Financial Planning for New Businesses

Posted: November 20, 2023 | Last updated: November 20, 2023

Creating a financial plan for your new small business may seem like a task you can tackle after you've been in business for a few years. After all, isn't it more important to just jump in and get started than to plan out financial liabilities and goals?

While it may seem natural to put financial planning off, you could be overlooking some significant benefits that come with it. Consider that you're going to have to deal with managing payroll , inventory, expenses, sales projections, profits, and losses anyway -- you might as well have a plan to address them.

Here are a few perks of developing a smart financial plan at the start of your new endeavor.

1. It helps you understand your business better

You might already have a clear idea of your new business and why you're starting it, but do you know the details of how it will make money and when your company will be profitable ?

Mapping out your sales projections and estimated costs ahead of time will help you understand your business in a new way -- beyond your product or services -- and see it from a financial angle.

It's important not to think of this as hindering your motivation to start the business. After all, if you end up loving your new business but don't understand how to make money from it, you won't be able to do it for long.

2. It can give you access to more capital

This may be the best perk of creating a financial plan. The average small business spends $40,000 in expenses in the first year. If you don't have that amount sitting around in your bank account , then you'll likely need to borrow it from a bank, tap credit cards, or get it from investors.

While using a business credit card will likely be necessary for covering some expenses, it's not the cheapest route. Taking out a loan or convincing investors to put money toward your business could be your best option for lower repayment rates.

But they will likely want some financial projections before they open their checkbooks. Creating a clear financial plan for your business can go a long way in convincing them that you know exactly when you'll break even, how much money you need, what you'll use it for, and how they'll be paid back.

3. It keeps you focused on long-term goals

Many small business owners are focused on their business's day-to-day operations. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but sometimes, the intense focus on keeping the business running every day comes at the cost of considering long-term goals.

Creating a financial roadmap to follow when you start your business will help you assess whether your daily hard work is helping you meet your long-term goals. With it, you will have a metric to decide whether your current business strategy is paying off.

4. It can help you launch new products and services

You may want to launch new products or services at some point, which will probably cost your business more time and money. But you will only have a clear picture of whether your new ideas will help or hurt your business if you have a financial plan in place.

For example, if you know exactly which year your new business will be profitable because you created a clear financial plan, you'll know when you might have extra cash to spend on expanding your business.

5. It helps you plan for risks

Knowing what's coming around the corner for your new business is impossible, but you can help yourself prepare for it with a financial plan. Understanding your business' finances inside and out will help you manage your money when unplanned expenses arise.

You don't have to figure it out all by yourself

Fortunately, there's a lot of great small business software out there that can help you keep track of expenses , manage payroll, track inventory spending, and do your taxes. Taking advantage of this will help you see in real time whether you're meeting your financial goals and give you data for where and how to make adjustments.

Starting a new business can be a fun and exciting adventure. Think of your financial plan as a compass to help guide you. It won't tell you exactly where to go, but it will help steer you in the right direction.

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We're firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

5 Little-Known Perks of Smart Financial Planning for New Businesses

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WASHINGTON — With the nation's tax season rapidly approaching, the Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers there are important steps they can take now to help "get ready" to file their 2023 federal tax return.

This is the first in a series of special IRS "Get Ready" reminders to help taxpayers prepare for the upcoming tax filing season in early 2024. A little advance work now can help people have the paperwork and information ready to file their tax returns quickly and accurately. As part of this education effort, the IRS has a special page outlining items taxpayers can look into now to get ready to file their 2023 tax returns.

Get helpful information to file through IRS Online Account

Taxpayers can create or access their Online Account at IRS.gov/account . New users should have their photo identification ready.

With an Online Account taxpayers can access a variety of helpful information to help them during the 2024 filing season, including:

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CHART OF THE DAY: What recession? A record number of US consumers plan to vacation in a foreign country in the next 6 months

  • The share of US consumers who plan to visit a foreign country in the next six months is at a record high.
  • Apollo said the strong demand in consumer services means inflation could be difficult to contain.
  • "The bottom line is that rates will stay higher for longer because the Fed is still trying to get non-housing service sector inflation under control."

Insider Today

Our Chart of the Day is from Apollo, which shows that the share of US consumers who are planning to go abroad for vacation in the next six months has surged to a record high.

About 24% plan to visit a foreign country, well above pre-pandemic levels of 10%-14%.

The data, which is sourced from the Conference Board's consumer confidence survey, calls into question warnings that an economic recession is imminent. It also highlights that the Federal Reserve's goal of taming inflation is not yet over.

"US households want to travel on airplanes, stay at hotels, eat at restaurants, go to sporting events, amusement parks, and concerts, and that is why inflation in the non-housing service sector continues to be so high," Apollo chief economist Torsten Sløk said earlier this week.

That suggests the Fed is likely to keep interest rates higher for longer even though markets are starting to warm up to the idea of interest rate cuts in 2024.

While the October CPI report showed continued cooling in the pace of inflation to an annual rate of 3.2%, that was mostly driven by price declines in the auto sector, a slowdown in rent increases, and a sharp drop in energy prices.

Meanwhile, alternate inflation gauges tell a slightly different story.

The year-over-year change in the "supercore" PCE price index, excluding housing, has hovered just below the 4% range in recent months, according to data from Apollo, which is about double the Fed's long-term inflation target of 2%.

"The bottom line is that rates will stay higher for longer because the Fed is still trying to get non-housing service sector inflation under control," Sløk said.

business plan charts

Watch: Goldman Sachs is telling its multimillionaire clients not to worry about valuations or inflation

business plan charts


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  1. Write your business plan

    Executive summary Briefly tell your reader what your company is and why it will be successful. Include your mission statement, your product or service, and basic information about your company's leadership team, employees, and location. You should also include financial information and high-level growth plans if you plan to ask for financing.

  2. How To Write A Business Plan (2023 Guide)

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

  3. How to Write a Simple Business Plan

    That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks: Product goals and deadlines for each month. Monthly financials for the first two years. Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years. Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years. Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create ...

  4. How to Create a Business Plan (7+ Business Plan Templates)

    1. How to format your business plan To format your business plan: Start with a clear title page. Include an executive summary. Provide a company description. Conduct a market analysis. Describe your product or service offering. Outline your marketing and sales strategy. Include organizational structure and management information.

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

    Noah Parsons | Nov 20, 2023 Writing a business plan doesn't have to be complicated. In this step-by-step guide, you'll learn how to write a business plan that's detailed enough to impress bankers and potential investors, while giving you the tools to start, run, and grow a successful business. The basics of business planning

  6. How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

    A business plan should explain what your business does now and where you hope to be in three to five years. ... This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those ...

  7. Create Your Custom Business Plan Online

    1 Create a free Venngage account using your email, Google or Facebook profiles. 2 Select the perfect business plan template from our library of professionally designed templates. 3 Use our online Business Plan Creator to add your information, data and more to your business plan template.

  8. Business Plan Format & Structure

    I: Executive Summary a. Business Overview b. Success Factors c. Financial Highlights II: Company Overview a. Who is [Company Name]? b. [Company Name]'s History c. [Company Name]'s Products & Services III: Industry Analysis a. Industry Trends IV: Customer Analysis a. Customer Segmentation V: Competitive Analysis a.

  9. Free Small Business Plan Templates

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

  10. Free Business Plan Template

    Create Business Plans Professional Business Plan Template to Customize Create Your Business Plan It's free and easy to use. Create a comprehensive business plan. Easily customize your slides to fit your needs. Showcase data with 40+ chart options. Chosen by brands large and small

  11. Gantt Chart for Business Plan to Grow or Manage Your Company

    Some benefits of a Gantt chart for business planning include: Ability to view the big picture: When you can visualize the overall picture of your business plan, you can avoid getting bogged down in the details. You can also make proactive decisions that are best for your business goals. Better task tracking: Gantt charts help you keep track of ...

  12. How to Use Graphs and Charts In Your Business Plan

    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion F.A.Q. A picture is worth a thousand words... but that doesn't mean you need a graph or chart for every statistic or projection in your business plan. Find out when graphs and charts can help your business plan, and when they can hurt it.

  13. 24 Best Sample Business Plans & Examples to Help You Write Your Own

    When creating your own business plan, make sure the pictures and design you use make sense for your branding. Additionally, the financial charts included are an excellent guide if you're not sure what financial information to include. 9. LiveShopBuy Sample Business Plan. With this business plan, the focus is the investment opportunity.

  14. Bplans: Business Planning Resources and Free Business Plan Samples

    Bplans Blog. Check out the latest business planning insights from the Bplans Blog. Bplans offers free business plan samples and templates, business planning resources, how-to articles, financial calculators, industry reports and entrepreneurship webinars.

  15. How to Write a Business Plan Outline

    Market Analysis . The market analysis is a crucial section of the business plan, as it identifies your best customers or clients. To create a compelling market analysis, thoroughly research the primary target market for your products/services, including geographic location, demographics, your target market's needs, and how these needs are currently being met.

  16. 550+ Sample Business Plan Examples to Inspire Your Own

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

  17. How To Write a Business Plan (With 5 Types and Example)

    A startup business plan typically includes descriptions of the company, the goods and services it plans on selling, an analysis of the markets it plans to compete in and the management structure. 2. Strategic business plans. A strategic business plan focuses on what the company's major goals are and how the entire staff can contribute to these ...

  18. Business Plans: The Ultimate Guide To Building A Good Plan

    6. Strategy and implementation plans. When it comes to starting a business, having a solid plan of attack is essential. That's why the strategy and implementation plan section of your business ...

  19. Standard Tables and Charts

    So those three main tables are just about essential for a complete business plan: you have to project income, balance, and cash flow. Cash flow is the single most important numerical analysis in a plan, and should never be missing. Most plans will also have a sales forecast, and profit and loss statements.

  20. Create a Great Visual Business Plan

    An organizational chart should be included, along with a brief bio of each key individual. Make it clear why each person is the right "fit" for the mission. Step 4. Marketing: Show How Your Price, Product, and Promotions will Differ. Getting your product into your customers' hands requires a clear and concise strategy.

  21. Top 5 Business Plan Chart Example Templates with Samples

    Utilizing these top 5 business plan chart templates can help companies in prioritizing tasks, creating a clear and concise communication plan, focusing on their strategy and critical goals, tracking their progress toward achieving their revenue targets, and expanding into new markets.

  22. Free editable and printable business plan templates

    Skip to start of list. 650 templates. Create a blank Business Plan. Dark Blue And Green Modern Business Plan Cover Page. Document by shadow.diamond. Navy and Gray Modern Business Plan Cover Document. Document by Banuaa. Orange Grey Professional Business Plan Cover. Document by Ubara.

  23. Formatting Tips for Business Plans: Use of Charts and Graphs

    People usually ask how many charts or graphs should be put in business plans. Learn how to use charts and graphs for your business plan.

  24. How to make the best org chart for your business

    1. Functional top-down hierarchy Perfect for showing a traditional business structure, the hierarchy chart starts with the C-Suite at the top, then it's broken into departments or divisions. Within each division, you'll list senior management, middle managers, senior staffers, mid-level personnel and junior staff members.

  25. What is a Gantt Chart? A Complete Guide (2023)

    A Gantt chart is a project management tool that outlines the project tasks and timeline using a horizontal bar chart. Small business owners and managers who use a Gantt chart can easily plan ...

  26. 5 Little-Known Perks of Smart Financial Planning for New Businesses

    Here are a few perks of developing a smart financial plan at the start of your new endeavor. 1. It helps you understand your business better. You might already have a clear idea of your new ...

  27. IRS announces new income tax brackets

    For tax year 2024, each of the seven rates will apply to the following new income tax brackets: 10%: Income up to $11,600 ($23,200 for married couples filing jointly) 12%: Income over $11,600 ...

  28. Tax season rapidly approaching: Get ready now to file 2023 federal

    IR-2023-210, Nov. 13, 2023 — With the nation's tax season rapidly approaching, the Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers there are important steps they can take now to help "get ready" to file their 2023 federal tax return.

  29. CHART OF THE DAY: What recession? A record number of US consumers plan

    Our Chart of the Day is from Apollo, which shows that the share of US consumers who are planning to go abroad for vacation in the next six months has surged to a record high. About 24% plan to ...