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

AJ Beltis

Published: June 07, 2023

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

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

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

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

What is a business plan?

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

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

What is a business plan used for?

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

Business Plan Template [ Download Now ]

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

Purposes of a Business Plan

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

1. Securing financing from investors.

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

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

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

2. Documenting a company's strategy and goals.

A business plan should leave no stone unturned.

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

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

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

what is an initial business plan

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

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

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

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

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

4. Getting an A in your business class.

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

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

What does a business plan need to include?

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

1. Business Plan Subtitle

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

2. Executive Summary

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

3. Company Description

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

4. The Business Opportunity

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

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5. Competitive Analysis

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

6. Target Market

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

7. Marketing Plan

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

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

8. Financial Summary

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

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

10. Funding Requirements

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

Types of Business Plans

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

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

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

1. Startup Business Plan

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

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

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

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

2. Feasibility Business Plan

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

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

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

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

3. Internal Business Plan

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

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

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

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

4. Strategic Business Plan

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

These types of business plans may include:

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

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

5. Business Acquisition Plan

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

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

A business plan for an existing company will explain:

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

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

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

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

6. Business Repositioning Plan

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

This plan will:

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

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

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

7. Expansion or Growth Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Started With Your Business Plan

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

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

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

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What Is a Business Plan?

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

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

what is an initial business plan

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

Key Takeaways

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

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Types of Business Plans

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

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

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

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

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

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

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

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

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

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

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

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October 31, 2023

Block Advisors

How to Write a Business Plan Step-By-Step

October 31, 2023 • Block Advisors

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  • A business plan outlines your business’s goals, services, financing, and more.
  • Business plans vary in length and complexity but should always include an explanation of what your business will do and how it will do it.
  • Business plans serve as a guide for business owners and employees and are key to boosting investor confidence.

Whether you’re a serial entrepreneur or just getting your first small business idea off the ground, creating a business plan is an important step. Good business planning will help you clarify your goals and objectives, identify strategies, and note any potential issues or roadblocks you might face.

Not every business owner chooses to write a business plan, but many find it to be a valuable step to take when starting a business. Creating a business plan can seem daunting and confusing at first. But taking the time to plan and research can be very beneficial, especially for first-time small business owners.

If you want to learn how to create a business plan or if you feel you just need a little business plan help, read on!

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan serves as a comprehensive document that outlines your business’s goals, services, financing, leadership, and more details essential to its success. Think of the plan as the who, what, and why of your new business:

A small business owner learning how to write a business plan

Who are the major players in your business?

What goods or services do you offer and why are they important?

Why are you in business and why should customers choose you?

Business plans can range in complexity and length, but, at their core, all plans explain what the business will do and how it will do it. A business plan serves as a guide for business owners and employees and should boost investor confidence. Some important advantages of business plans include:

  • Shows investors you have an in-demand product or service, a solid team to achieve business goals, and the potential for growth and scalability.
  • Increases the likelihood of securing a business loan, locking in investments, or raising capital. >>Read: A Guide to Raising Capital as a Small Business Founder
  • Helps recognize partnership opportunities with other companies.
  • Identifies and defines competitors within your given industry.

Looking for an examples of a successful business plan? Check out the SBA’s business plan page for walkthroughs of different business plan outlines.

How to Write a Business Plan: 10 Simple Steps

Starting with a blank page is undoubtedly intimidating. So, begin with a structured business plan template including the key elements for each section. Once your outline is complete, it’ll be time to fill in the details. Don’t worry, you’ll know how to write a business plan in no time. We’ve broken each section down to help you write a business plan in a few simple steps.

1. Brainstorm and Draft an Executive Summary for Your Business Plan

This will be the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your business’ written elevator pitch. In this high level summary, include a mission statement, a short description of the products or services you will be providing, and a summary of your financial and growth projections.

This section will be the first part people read, but you may find it easier to write it last. Writing it after building out the rest of your plan may help you condense the most important information into a concise statement. You’ll need to streamline your thoughts from the other sections into a one page or less summary.

2. Create a Business Description

In this next section, describe your business. Add more specific details than the executive summary. You should include your business’s registered name, the address of your business’s location, basic information about your business structure , and the names of key people involved in the business.

The company description should also answer these two questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you plan to do?

Explain why you’re in business. Show how you are different from competitors. Tell investors why they should finance your company. This section is often more inspirational and emotional. Make sure you grab the reader’s attention. The goal is to get them to believe in your vision as much as you do.

What business structure is right for my company?

Answer these six questions to help you find your fit

3. Outline Your Business Goals

This section should serve as an objective statement. Explain what you want to accomplish and your timeline. Business goals and objectives give you a clear focus. They drive your business to success, so dream big. Include objectives that will help you reach each goal. Don’t forget to make your goals and objectives SMART – that is, they should be:

S pecific | M easurable | A ttainable | R elevant | T ime-bound

4. Conduct and Summarize Market Research

Next, outline your ideal customer with some research. Do the math to estimate the potential size of your target market. Make sure you are choosing the right market for your product, one with plenty of customers who want and need your product. Define your customer’s pain points. Explain your expertise in relation to the market. Show how your product or service fills an important gap and brings value to your customers. Use your findings to build out a value proposition statement.

5. Conduct a Competitive Analysis

In a similar way, you’ll also want to conduct and include a competitive analysis. The purpose of this analysis is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of competitors in your market, strategies that will give you a competitive advantage, and how your company is different. Some people choose to conduct a competitive analysis using the SWOT method .

6. Outline Your Marketing and Sales Strategies

Your marketing sales strategy can make or break your business. Your marketing plan should outline your current sales decisions as well as future marketing strategies. In this section, you should reiterate your value proposition, target markets, and customer segments. Then, include details such as:

  • A launch plan
  • Growth tactics and strategies
  • A customer retention plan
  • Advertising and promotion channels (i.e. social media, print, search engines, etc.)

7. Describe Your Product or Service

By this point, your products or services have probably been mentioned in several areas of the business plan. But it’s still important to include a separate section that outlines their key details. Describe what you’re offering and how it fits in the current market. Also include details about the benefits, production process, and life cycle of your products. If you have any trademarks or patents, include them here. This is also a good time to ask yourself, “Should my plan include visual aids?”

[ Read More Must-Have Tips to Start Your Small Business ]

8. Compile Financial Plans

Financial health is crucial to the success of any business. If you’re just starting your business, you likely won’t have financial data yet. However, you still need to prepare a budget and financial plan. If you have them, include income statements , balance sheets , and cash flow statements . You can also include reporting metrics such as net income and your ratio of liquidity to debt repayment ability.

If you haven’t launched your business yet, include realistic projections of the same information. Set clear financial goals and include projected milestones. Share information about the budget. What are the business operations costs? Ensure you are comprehensive when considering what costs you may need to prepare for.

9. Build a Management and Operations Plan

Identify your team members. Highlight their expertise and qualifications. Outline roles that still need to be filled now to establish your company and later as the business grows. Read More: 8 tax steps to take when hiring employees >>

Include a section detailing your logistics and operations plan. Consider all parts of your operation. Create a plan that provides details on suppliers, production, equipment, shipment and fulfillment, and inventory. This shows how your business will get done.

10. Create an Appendix – A Place for Additional Information and Documents

Lastly, assemble an organized appendix. This section can contain any other relevant information a reader might need to enhance their understanding of other sections. If you feel like the appendix is getting long, consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section. Appendices often include documents such as:

  • Licenses and permits
  • Bank statements
  • Resumes of key employees
  • Equipment leases

How to Create a Business Plan: The Bottom Line

A business plan helps you identify clear goals and provides your business direction. Many small business plans are 10-20 pages in length. But as long as the essentials are covered, feel empowered to build a plan that works for you and your company’s needs. Creating a business plan will help you identify your market and target customers, define business aims, and foster long-term financial health.

We’re ready to help you get your business started on the right foot today, and help you find long-term satisfaction as you pursue your business dream. Writing a business plan can be exciting. But if the steps to starting your business are feeling overwhelming, Block Advisors is here to help. Make an appointment today – our experts can assist you with tax prep , bookkeeping , payroll , business formation , and more .

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How to write a business plan in seven simple steps

When written effectively, a business plan can help raise capital, inform decisions, and draw new talent.

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Writing a business plan is often the first step in transforming your business from an idea into something tangible . As you write, your thoughts begin to solidify into strategy, and a path forward starts to emerge. But a business plan is not only the realm of startups; established companies can also benefit from revisiting and rewriting theirs. In any case, the formal documentation can provide the clarity needed to motivate staff , woo investors, or inform future decisions.  

No matter your industry or the size of your team, the task of writing a business plan—a document filled with so much detail and documentation—can feel daunting. Don’t let that stop you, however; there are easy steps to getting started. 

What is a business plan and why does it matter? 

A business plan is a formal document outlining the goals, direction, finances, team, and future planning of your business. It can be geared toward investors, in a bid to raise capital, or used as an internal document to align teams and provide direction. It typically includes extensive market research, competitor analysis, financial documentation, and an overview of your business and marketing strategy. When written effectively, a business plan can help prescribe action and keep business owners on track to meeting business goals. 

Who needs a business plan?

A business plan can be particularly helpful during a company’s initial growth and serve as a guiding force amid the uncertainty, distractions, and at-times rapid developments involved in starting a business . For enterprise companies, a business plan should be a living, breathing document that guides decision-making and facilitates intentional growth.

“You should have a game plan for every major commitment you’ll have, from early-stage founder agreements to onboarding legal professionals,” says Colin Keogh, CEO of the Rapid Foundation—a company that brings technology and training to communities in need—and a WeWork Labs mentor in the UK . “You can’t go out on funding rounds or take part in accelerators without any planning.”

How to make a business plan and seven components every plan needs

While there is no set format for writing a business plan, there are several elements that are typically included. Here’s what’s important to consider when writing your business plan. 

1. Executive summary 

No longer than half a page, the executive summary should briefly introduce your business and describe the purpose of the business plan. Are you writing the plan to attract capital? If so, specify how much money you hope to raise, and how you’re going to repay the loan. If you’re writing the plan to align your team and provide direction, explain at a high level what you hope to achieve with this alignment, as well as the size and state of your existing team.

The executive summary should explain what your business does, and provide an introductory overview of your financial health and major achievements to date.  

2. Company description 

To properly introduce your company, it’s important to also describe the wider industry. What is the financial worth of your market? Are there market trends that will affect the success of your company? What is the state of the industry and its future potential? Use data to support your claims and be sure to include the full gamut of information—both positive and negative—to provide investors and your employees a complete and accurate portrayal of your company’s milieu. 

Go on to describe your company and what it provides your customers. Are you a sole proprietor , LLC, partnership, or corporation? Are you an established company or a budding startup? What does your leadership team look like and how many employees do you have? This section should provide both historical and future context around your business, including its founding story, mission statement , and vision for the future. 

It’s essential to showcase your point of difference in your company description, as well as any advantages you may have in terms of expert talent or leading technology. This is typically one of the first pieces of the plan to be written.

3. Market analysis and opportunity

Research is key in completing a business plan and, ideally, more time should be spent on research and analysis than writing the plan itself. Understanding the size, growth, history, future potential, and current risks inherent to the wider market is essential for the success of your business, and these considerations should be described here. 

In addition to this, it’s important to include research into the target demographic of your product or service. This might be in the form of fictional customer personas, or a broader overview of the income, location, age, gender, and buying habits of your existing and potential customers. 

Though the research should be objective, the analysis in this section is a good place to reiterate your point of difference and the ways you plan to capture the market and surpass your competition.

4. Competitive analysis 

Beyond explaining the elements that differentiate you from your competition, it’s important to provide an in-depth analysis of your competitors themselves.

This research should delve into the operations, financials, history, leadership, and distribution channels of your direct and indirect competitors. It should explore the value propositions of these competitors, and explain the ways you can compete with, or exploit, their strengths and weaknesses. 

5. Execution plan: operations, development, management 

This segment provides details around how you’re going to do the work necessary to fulfill this plan. It should include information about your organizational structure and the everyday operations of your team, contractors, and physical and digital assets.

Consider including your company’s organizational chart, as well as more in-depth information on the leadership team: Who are they? What are their backgrounds? What do they bring to the table? Potentially include the résumés of key people on your team. 

For startups, your execution plan should include how long it will take to begin operations, and then how much longer to reach profitability. For established companies, it’s a good idea to outline how long it will take to execute your plan, and the ways in which you will change existing operations.

If applicable, it’s also beneficial to include your strategy for hiring new team members and scaling into different markets. 

6. Marketing plan 

It’s essential to have a comprehensive marketing plan in place as you scale operations or kick off a new strategy—and this should be shared with your stakeholders and employees. This segment of your business plan should show how you’re going to promote your business, attract customers, and retain existing clients.

Include brand messaging, marketing assets, and the timeline and budget for engaging consumers across different channels. Potentially include a marketing SWOT analysis into your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Evaluate the way your competitors market themselves, and how your target audience responds—or doesn’t respond—to these messages.

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7. Financial history and projections  

It’s essential to disclose all finances involved in running your company within your business plan. This is so your shareholders properly understand how you’re projected to perform going forward, and the progress you’ve made so far. 

You should include your income statement, which outlines annual net profits or losses; a cash flow statement, which shows how much money you need to launch or scale operations; and a balance sheet that shows financial liabilities and assets. 

“An income statement is the measure of your financial results for a certain period and the most accurate report of business activities during that time, [whereas a balance sheet] presents your assets, liabilities, and equity,” Amit Perry, a corporate finance expert, explained at a WeWork Labs educational session in Israel.

It’s crucial to understand the terms correctly so you know how to present your finances when you’re speaking to investors. Amit Perry, CEO and founder of Perryllion Ltd.

In addition, if you’re asking for funding, you will need to outline exactly how much money you need as well as where this money will go and how you plan to pay it back. 

12 quick tips for writing a business plan 

Now that you know what components are traditionally included in a business plan, it’s time to consider how you’ll actually construct the document.

Here are 12 key factors to keep in mind when writing a business plan. These overarching principles will help you write a business plan that serves its purpose (whatever that may be) and becomes an easy reference in the years ahead. 

1. Don’t be long-winded

Use clear, concise language and avoid jargon. When business plans are too long-winded, they’re less likely to be used as intended and more likely to be forgotten or glazed over by stakeholders. 

2. Show why you care

Let your passion for your business shine through; show employees and investors why you care (and why they should too). 

3. Provide supporting documents

Don’t be afraid to have an extensive list of appendices, including the CVs of team members, built-out customer personas, product demonstrations, and examples of internal or external messaging. 

4. Reference data

All information regarding the market, your competitors, and your customers should reference authoritative and relevant data points.  

5. Research, research, research

The research that goes into your business plan should take you longer than the writing itself. Consider tracking your research as supporting documentation. 

6. Clearly demonstrate your points of difference

At every opportunity, it’s important to drive home the way your product or service differentiates you from your competition and helps solve a problem for your target audience. Don’t shy away from reiterating these differentiating factors throughout the plan. 

7. Be objective in your research

As important as it is to showcase your company and the benefits you provide your customers, it’s also important to be objective in the data and research you reference. Showcase the good and the bad when it comes to market research and your financials; you want your shareholders to know you’ve thought through every possible contingency. 

8. Know the purpose of your plan

It’s important you understand the purpose of your plan before you begin researching and writing. Be clear about whether you’re writing this plan to attract investment, align teams, or provide direction. 

9. Identify your audience

The same way your business plan must have a clearly defined purpose, you must have a clearly defined audience. To whom are you writing? New investors? Current employees? Potential collaborators? Existing shareholders? 

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10. Avoid jargon

Avoid using industry-specific jargon, unless completely unavoidable, and try making your business plan as easy to understand as possible—for all potential stakeholders. 

11. Don’t be afraid to change it

Your business plan should evolve with your company’s growth, which means your business plan document should evolve as well. Revisit and rework your business plan as needed, and remember the most important factor: having a plan in place, even if it changes.

A business plan shouldn’t just be a line on your to-do list; it should be referenced and used as intended going forward. Keep your business plan close, and use it to inform decisions and guide your team in the years ahead. 

Creating a business plan is an important step in growing your company 

Whether you’re just starting out or running an existing operation, writing an effective business plan can be a key predictor of future success. It can be a foundational document from which you grow and thrive . It can serve as a constant reminder to employees and clients about what you stand for, and the direction in which you’re moving. Or, it can prove to investors that your business, team, and vision are worth their investment. 

No matter the size or stage of your business, WeWork can help you fulfill the objectives outlined in your business plan—and WeWork’s coworking spaces can be a hotbed for finding talent and investors, too. The benefits of coworking spaces include intentionally designed lounges, conference rooms, and private offices that foster connection and bolster creativity, while a global network of professionals allows you to expand your reach and meet new collaborators. 

Using these steps to write a business plan will put you in good stead to not only create a document that fulfills a purpose but one that also helps to more clearly understand your market, competition, point of difference, and plan for the future. 

For more tips on growing teams and building a business, check out all our articles on  Ideas by WeWork.

Caitlin Bishop is a writer for WeWork’s  Ideas by WeWork , based in New York City. Previously, she was a journalist and editor at  Mamamia  in Sydney, Australia, and a contributing reporter at  Gotham Gazette .

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What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained

Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.

what is an initial business plan

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

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

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

What is a business plan?

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

Why do you need a business plan?

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

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

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

What can you do with your plan?

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

Test an idea

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

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

Document your strategy and goals

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

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

Pursue funding

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

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

Better manage your business

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

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

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What should your business plan include?

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

Executive summary

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

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

Products & Services

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

Market analysis

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

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

Marketing & sales

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

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

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

Organization & management

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

Financial projections

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

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

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

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

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

Types of business plans explained

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

Traditional business plan

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

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

Business model canvas

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

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

One-page business plan

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

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

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

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

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

Try the LivePlan Method for Lean Business Planning

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

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

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

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

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Kody Wirth

Posted in Business Plan Writing

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How to Write a Business Plan in 8 Simple Steps

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Many or all of the products and brands we promote and feature including our ‘Partner Spotlights’ are from our partners who compensate us. However, this does not influence our editorial opinion found in articles, reviews and our ‘Best’ tables. Our opinion is our own. Read more on our methodology here .

A business plan is a written document that describes your business, usually covering strategies, objectives, marketing, sales and financial forecasts. More than that, it can be a way to provide a clear roadmap designed to take your business from where it is today to where you want it to be in the future.

But if you haven’t created one before, it can be hard to know where to start. That is why we have put together a guide on how to write a business plan, including the elements you might want to include, and the different small business plan formats you may want to consider.

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8 step business plan checklist

When writing a business plan, there are several factors to pay particular attention to.

  • Have you included an executive summary detailing your mission statement?
  • Are you clear on both your competitive advantages AND the key risks facing your business?
  • Do you have a detailed organisational chart showing the structure of your business personnel?
  • Are you on top of trends in your industry, and how your business can stand out?
  • Have you explained how you will attract and retain your customer base?
  • Are you explicit about how your product or service will benefit its intended audience?
  • Do you know how much funding you need, and in what form?
  • Have you included your latest financial projections?

This list is not necessarily exhaustive, but highlights some key things to pay attention to as you create your business plan.

Why should I write a business plan?

There are a range of reasons why you might consider writing a business plan, from clarifying your intentions to securing a business loan.

Clarify your business idea

By writing a business plan you can hone and sharpen your initial business idea, making it a stronger, more detailed proposition.

It will give you a top level overview of what you need to do and, importantly, how much money you need to do it.

Set out your goals

Going through the process of creating a business plan will help you set out tangible goals for different stages of your growth.

Where you want to be after year one will differ from what you want to have achieved by year five, and writing a plan will encourage you to engage with your targets on both a short- and long-term basis.

Spot potential problems

A business plan isn’t only about sharpening your idea and setting your goals. If done properly, it can help you spot potential problems that you may not have previously considered, or that were not obvious until you’d done the research a business plan requires.

Measure your progress

A business plan is only the beginning. Once it is in place, you will have a set of targets to measure your progress against.

These targets can act as points of reference to evaluate the various stages of your organisation’s development.

Securing funding

A business plan will be essential if you’re looking to secure a business loan or other form of credit from a bank. Potential investors will also want to see one before they consider partnering with you.

It can also help convince suppliers, customers and employees to support you in your endeavour.

How to write a traditional business plan

A traditional business plan is comprehensive and detail-oriented. For these reasons, it is the format most commonly requested by lenders and investors.

Let’s go through the sections you would expect to see in a traditional business plan – but remember, you don’t need to stick to an exact outline. Instead, use the sections that make the most sense to your business and its needs.

Step 1: Draft your executive summary

Outline briefly what your company is and why it will be a success. Include your mission statement, your product or service and basic information about your location, workforce and leadership team. And if you’re seeking funding, lay out your high-level growth plan and financial information.

Step 2: Write your company description

In this section, you can elaborate on the points laid out in your executive summary. Explain the problems your product or service solves, and list the specific organisations, businesses and consumers your company intends to serve.

Furthermore, lay out the competitive advantages that will help your business prosper. Perhaps you have industry experts on your team or have sourced the perfect location for your store.

There is no need to hold back on your company’s strengths.

Don’t be afraid to mention key risks to the business. Any lender or investor will likely identify them for themselves and will be reassured by the fact that you have identified them and have plans in place to protect the business.

Step 3: Detail your management and organisation structure

Who will be running your business? How will it be structured legally? Will it be a limited company, limited liability partnership, or partnership, or will you work as a sole trader ?

An organisational chart may help illustrate who will be in charge of what, and take the opportunity to describe how their credentials will contribute to your venture’s prosperity. You may even wish to include the CVs of key players.

Step 4: Carry out and explain your market analysis

You’ll need a solid understanding of both your target market and your industry outlook. Competitive research will shed light on trends and themes, as well as what other businesses are doing well, and how you could do it better.

Step 5: Define your marketing and sales strategy

There is no single way to approach your marketing strategy because it should evolve and adapt to your business’s individual needs as they arise. The goal in this section is to lay out how you will attract, and retain, a customer base. You’ll also need to describe how sales will actually happen.

You’ll likely need to refer to this section of your business plan later when you lay out your financial projections, so make sure your marketing and sales strategies are described in thorough detail.

» MORE: How to promote your small business online

Step 6: Describe your service or product line

Describe what you’re selling or what service you’re offering, as well as how it will benefit customers and what its life cycle will look like. If you have plans for intellectual property, such as patent filings or copyright, make sure that you share them. And if you’re conducting research and development for your product or service, explain it in detail.

Step 7: Detail your funding request

If you’re looking for funding as part of your small business plan, you’ll need to outline your requirements, preferably with a five-year projection and your future strategic financial plans, such as selling the business or paying off debt.

You’ll need to specify whether you require equity or debt, the terms you wish to be applied and the length of time your request will cover. Describe what your funds will go towards, such as paying salaries, purchasing materials and equipment or covering bills, until such time as revenue increases.

Step 8: Compile your financial projections

It’s a good idea to supplement your funding request with financial projections in order to convince readers that your business will be stable and successful.

If your business is already established, then include balance sheets, income statements and cash flow statements, preferably from at least the last three years, if not the last five. Be sure to list any other collateral you could secure against when applying for a business loan.

Provide a prospective financial outlook for the next five years, including forecast income statements, capital expenditure budgets and cash flow statements. For the first year, be even more specific, and break it down to quarterly, or even monthly, projections. Explain these clearly, and ensure they match your funding requests.

Your appendix can be filled with supporting documents and any other materials that have been specially requested. Items commonly added to the appendix include:

  • product pictures
  • credit histories
  • letters of reference
  • legal documents

How to write a lean start up business plan

This less traditional business plan format has a solely high-level focus. It is quick to write and contains only key elements. For these reasons, you may prefer a lean start-up business plan if you wish to explain or start your business in a short timeframe, or if your business is relatively simple.

It may also be a good format to use if you envisage regular change for your business or your business plan being regularly redefined.

These kinds of business plans are most applicable where you are building a business based on a new concept or product and people can understand that it is impossible to project exactly how it will develop at a more granular level of detail. However, many lenders will not consider such a high- level plan sufficient for the approval of a loan.

A lean start-up business plan is a useful summary of your infrastructure, value proposition, finances and customer base. As with the traditional business plan, it has commonly used elements, but they are not essential; you should mould your plan to your business’s particular needs.

Value proposition

You need to make a concise and compelling statement regarding the unique value that your company will deliver to customers, including the products and services you’ll be offering.will bring to the market.

Key partnerships

Make note of the other companies you’ll work alongside in bringing your business to fruition, be they suppliers, manufacturers, sub-contractors or other strategic partners.

Key activities

List the main ways your business will gain a competitive advantage in the market, from customer relations to revenue streams. highlighting It will highlight such factors as selling direct to consumers or leveraging tech to tap into the sharing economy.

Key resources

List any resource you’ll use to maximum advantage in creating value for your customers. Your key assets may include capital, staff and intellectual property.

Customer segments

Specify your target market and remember: your business won’t be for everyone. Who are your most important customers? Enter into your small business plan with a clear sense of who you will actually serve.

Customer relationships

Lay out how your customer base will interact with your business. Will it be automated, face -to -face or online? How will you grow your customer base and retain customers? Consider the customer experience from start to finish. Explain how you will find customers and retain them.

Cost structure

Will your company focus more on maximising value or reducing cost? Define your strategy, then list the key resources and most significant costs you’ll face.

Marketing and communication channels

How do you intend to talk to and communicate with your customers? How do your competitors communicate with their customers? And what are the most cost-efficient ways to do this? Most businesses make the most of a combination of marketing channels and optimise them over time.

Revenue streams

How will your company make money? What are your customers willing to pay for the value you’ll add? Will it be through direct sales, advertising space or membership fees? If you envisage multiple revenue streams, be sure to list them all.

» MORE: How to create a small business budget

Tips for writing a business plan

When writing your business plan, it is worth keeping the following tips in mind to ensure you get the most out of the process.

  • Have a clear goal: since there are many reasons why you might be writing a business plan, it is best to know exactly what you hope to get out of it before starting, as it will inform how you go about creating your document. For example, your aim may be to get funding or to convince potential hires to join.
  • Know your audience: just as there are different reasons why you might write a business plan, there are different audiences who will be reading it. By keeping a target audience in mind from the beginning, you can tailor your plan towards the right people.
  • Do your research: this cannot be overstated. The more research you do, the more detailed your plan can be, creating a stronger foundation for your business to launch from.
  • Keep things concise and consistent: while it is important to do your research, you don’t want to swamp your reader in unnecessary detail. Make sure your plan is to the point and consistent in tone throughout.
  • Check your spelling and grammar: it sounds basic, but poor grammar and spelling may undermine your business plan in the eyes of potential investors and partners. So make sure to give it a thorough read through – you may even want to consider hiring an editor or proofreader to review your plan.

Get your small business off to a great start

A well-written small business plan can be critical in helping secure funding and bring on new business partners. Remember, investors need to feel confident that they will see returns. Your business plan is the perfect tool to convince people to work with you, so put in the time, research and effort that your business deserves.

Not only will a plan help you be taken more seriously if you’re starting a business with little funding, but it will also help you understand every element of your business, better preparing you for the market.

Image source: Getty Images

About the Authors

Nic Redfern is Finance Director at NerdWallet and an accomplished business and finance strategist with over 26 years' experience. Nic has been instrumental in the growth of several regional and…

Connor is a lead writer and spokesperson for NerdWallet. Previously at Spreadex, his market commentary has been quoted in the likes of the BBC, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Reuters and…

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How to write a business plan in 12 steps (2024 edition) Add Add

How to write a business plan in 12 steps (2024 edition).

Updated 08 January 2024 • 12 min read

This guide breaks down how to write a business plan, step-by-step, detailing what your document needs to include and what you need to think about to make your business plan as persuasive as possible.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is an essential document that can provide immense value for new and existing companies of all sizes. It is an overview that includes an outline of your business, its key objectives and plan for achieving important goals.

This information can be used to communicate strategic actions to internal teams and also attract interest from potential partners and investors . However, writing a business plan can be a lengthy and involved process. For many, using a business plan template can be a good way to get started.

For best results, you’ll need to do a lot of thinking and planning before you start writing your business plan. This way you have all the information and resources you need at your fingertips and won’t be under time pressure to come up with something at the last minute. After all, a well-thought-out business plan can help you avoid generic information and set your company up for success.

Download your free business plan template .

Why write a business plan?

Writing your business plan helps to get your strategy nailed down and onto the page. A plan that stays in your head is probably going to be full of unrealistic assumptions and biases, whereas a strategically thought-out and organised approach forces you to notice your blind spots and find a way forward.

If you’re looking for financing, a bank or investor needs to be persuaded by your business proposal and the opportunity to work with you. Therefore, a well-written business plan can help provide potential financial partners with the confidence that your business can become profitable. Your business plan gives them a comprehensive view of all aspects of your business and details your strategy for achieving your goals.

What are the main sections of a business plan?

Whatever your line of work, your business plan will generally need to provide the following:

An executive summary

A business overview

The market opportunity

Your products/services

How to write a business plan

Make sure you cover each of the following steps when preparing your document:

1. Write an executive summary

This section of your business plan should be 1–2 pages in length and enables potential financiers or partners to get an overview of what your business does and – most importantly — what the opportunity is for them. If they’re interested in the opportunity, they’ll conduct their own due diligence - and this will start with going through your business plan and financials.

It’s a good idea to write your executive summary last, when you’ve clarified your thinking around every section of the document. As an overview section, you don’t want to add any new content that isn’t in your business plan. Aim to keep this summary succinct and engaging by using simple, plain language, as this is much more persuasive than complicated or academic wording.

Use sub-headings and bullet points to help your most important information stand out, especially as busy executives may simply scan your executive summary and use this to decide whether they want to find out more.

What to include in an executive summary?

Make sure you include details on:

What your business does

What the opportunity is

What your unique selling points / differentiators are

How much funding you’re looking for

What the funding will be used for

How you'll succeed

Remember, you’re providing the big picture overview of your business - the detail is in the rest of the document and in the appendices.

2. Write your business overview

This section of your business plan needs to be more than just a list of what your business does. Its purpose is to excite those you’re hoping will work with you or help to fund your business.

Information to address includes:

What's the purpose of your business?

What problem does your business’ product or service solve?

What niche could it fill?

What’s different about your offering?

How are you better than anyone else at what you do?

Consider what your customer value proposition is by deciding what you want to achieve and what your number 1 benefit is for your customer.

3. Identify your USP

Think about what your unique selling points (USP) or differentiators are, and what proof-points you can provide to back them up.

For example, you can use terms like “market-leading” but if you don’t provide any evidence to back up your claims, your reader will take them with a big pinch of salt!

You should certainly reference any awards or endorsements that position you as the best person to provide your product or service, as well as any client testimonials. Make sure you include any education or experience that makes you an expert in your field as well.

4. Describe the market opportunity

Show you understand your industry, market and where you fit in it. While no-one can predict the future, offer up where you think the opportunity is for your business and make sales projections based on that. 

For example, imagine your business is selling personalised cookies - there's little competition in your area and you see your market opportunity to create designs for all calendar and holiday events. You expect to increase sales by 30% in one year and 50% in three years, driven primarily by word-of-mouth referrals.

Make sure you also consider macro trends that may create opportunities for you, such as social, environmental, or technological changes that may affect buying behaviour.

5. Include a SWOT analysis

Whatever your business strengths or opportunities, they’ll always be known and unknown weaknesses and threats; there’s no such thing as certainty in business or in life!

However, you can demonstrate that you’ve examined your business through different lenses and have a thorough understanding of it by doing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.

Don’t worry about drawing attention to your business’ shortcomings - every opportunity has them and it’ll give investors and partners confidence in you that you won't bury your head in the sand. Naturally, it's important that you specify what you’re going to do to address these weaknesses and counter these threats.

Here are some areas you can think about to get started: reputation, technology, location, experience, staff, overheads, competition, suppliers and price.

6. Present a competitor analysis

Let’s face it, no matter what industry you’re in, or what you’re selling, there’s going to be other businesses offering the same thing. But instead of worrying about the competition, use this as a positive opportunity to up your game and work out the unique advantages you have that will keep you competitive.

Identify your top 3 competitors and analyse what they're doing well and where they’re coming up short. Try to be as objective as possible and identify how to differentiate yourself from them.

You should also look into who the industry leaders are and what the benchmarks are for your industry so that you can set yourself targets for continuous improvement.

7. Create a customer persona

A customer persona is a fictional person who represents your company's ideal customer. Naturally, the persona can be based on a real person - the more you get to know your ideal customer, the more targeted and successful your marketing efforts will be.

To create a customer persona, you need to conduct research into your ideal customer’s age, sex, income, employment, daily activities, interests and hobbies. If you’re feeling unsure about your customer persona, you may need to give your ideal customer further thought and download the customer persona template to get started.

8. Write your marketing strategy

When you’ve created your customer persona, you need to work out how you’re going to reach them. Do they hang out on social media apps, like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter or LinkedIn? Or are they more used to local, traditional marketing like free local papers or high foot traffic areas?

Once you’ve figured where your audience is likely to hang out, you can outline your strategies for promoting and advertising your products or services in the next 12 months.

Make a list of the marketing channels you’ll use to achieve your advertising strategy and be sure to include your budget. How much can you set aside for advertising? And where are you most likely to see a return on your efforts? Paid ads on Facebook? Half or full paid spreads in an industry magazine? Or even a direct mail out? 

For more structured help around this, check out free course: Business 101 | Get social with your business on Facebook . 

9. Design your customer retention strategy

Business success relies heavily on the relationship you’re able to build with your customers. What techniques will you use to keep them coming back? Consider the following:

What can your business do to increase the number of repeat customers? 

Does your business have a referral or loyalty program? 

Do you have a post-purchase follow up in place?

Will you use surveys to track customer satisfaction?

What ways can you continue delivering outstanding service?

Is there a way to continue educating and adding value to your customers?

10. Present your financials

Most people who are looking at investing their time and/or money in your business will want to see your financial statements - your performance to date and your projections over the short and medium term. They'll also want to know how much you’ve received in funding to date and what these other sources of funding are - including your own investment.

Current finances

You need to show how your business has performed financially over the last year, highlighting metrics such as positive cashflow , net profit and assets.

Financial forecasts

You should also provide a balance forecast projecting total assets, total liabilities and net assets over 1, 2 and 3 years, and a profit and loss forecast for the same periods detailing gross profit/net sales, total expenses and net profit/loss. Finally, you should also provide a cashflow forecast month by month over the next year.

It’s also a good idea to speak to an expert like an accountant or bookkeeper about your finances and get advice on how best to present them in this all-important section of your business plan.

11. Detail how much funding is needed

Naturally, you also need to be very clear about how much money you’re looking for and what you plan to do with it. If you’re looking for a loan , you need to detail what it’s for, over what period it’ll be repaid, and what collateral you have to secure it.

12. Propose an exit strategy

Any financial stakeholder in your business will want a return on investment. If you’re pursuing this type of funding, you should include some detail on your proposed exit strategy . For example, do you want to sell the company at some point or go public?

Similarly, you should outline your succession plan so the business can continue to operate if you decide to step away from it. Likewise, you need a plan for what happens if the business loses money and can’t sustain itself. Documenting this means that everyone is on the same page and potential investors have this information upfront.

Frequently asked questions about writing a business plan:

When to write a business plan.

Typically, entrepreneurs write their business plans within the first year of operations. A business plan is a tool that helps business owners refine their strategy, attract partners and financiers, and grow their business.

If a business plan is written too soon, it may lack the substance that comes with time in the market. However, it’s important to note that a business plan isn't a static document - it can and should change as the business evolves.

How long should your business plan be?

There are no hard and fast rules around how long your business plan should be - it just needs to include all the relevant information. Aim for clear, concise sections and build a business plan that is as easy to read and navigate as possible.

Using a business plan template can help you make sure you have everything covered off, while also having a document that looks as professional as possible. Make sure you run a spelling and grammar check too - any sloppy errors can undermine your credibility.

What’s a business plan on a page?

It’s important to write your business plan as it helps to embed your strategy - as well as communicate what you’re about to potential partners or investors. When you have a comprehensive business plan you can easily adapt it to suit different audiences. For example, a full business plan is essential for raising capital but a business plan on a page may be enough for potential partners or employees.

What do venture capitalists look for in a business plan?

Venture capitalists invest money into businesses with the goal of achieving a return on their investment within the short to medium term. As a result, they’re looking for an attractive market opportunity, a clear point of differentiation, a strong management team, a proven track record, solid financials and, importantly, an exit opportunity.

Where to go for help or more information?

There are many great resources out there to help you fine-tune your business strategy and write your business plan. The Australian Government has a comprehensive website dedicated to supporting businesses at all stages of their journey.

You can also get help from Business Enterprise Centres , business advisors, accountants and fellow business owners. MYOB also has a list of business advisors who can give you feedback on your business plan, so your venture has the very best chance of success. 

Related Guides

How to get a business loan arrow right, how to find investors: a guide for startups arrow right, business models: definitions, types and key components arrow right.

BUSINESS STRATEGIES

Free business plan template for small businesses

  • Cecilia Lazzaro Blasbalg
  • Dec 7, 2023

Free business plan template for your new business

Creating a successful business is about more than launching a business website or hanging a shingle on your front door. It requires a well-crafted plan that keeps you on track, anticipates obstacles and acts as a concrete roadmap for launching or improving your small business.

Business planning allows you to clarify your vision while providing information to both intrigue and reassure potential investors. The process may seem daunting, but creating a business plan isn’t difficult—and templates like the one below can help simplify the process even further.

Ready to launch your business? Create a website today.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is used by small business owners and entrepreneurs when starting a new business venture. It’s a strategic document that outlines the goals, objectives and strategies of your new or expanding business, including the company's vision, target market, financial projections and operational plans.

A business plan can attract potential partners, convince investors and banks to help you raise capital, and serve as a resource for future growth. Most importantly, you’ll be able to use your business plan as a roadmap for how to structure, operate and manage your new venture, whether it’s a sole proprietorship, a partnership or something larger.

Who needs a business plan?

Every business owner needs a business plan. They’re an essential tool for any person or entity interested in starting a business . There are many benefits, including:

Defining your business idea

Clarifying the market and competitive landscape

Outlining your marketing strategy

Stating your value proposition

Identifying/anticipating potential risks

Seeking investments from banks and other sources

Setting benchmarks, goals and key performance indicators (KPIs)

A business plan also gives you a way to assess the viability of a business before investing too much time or money into it. While all business involves risk, taking the time to create a plan can help mitigate fallout and avoid potentially costly mistakes.

When creating a business plan, it's important to establish your business goals up front and be prepared to spend time researching the market, performing a competitor analysis and understanding your target market .

Download Wix’s free business plan template

Creating a successful business plan is no easy feat. That’s why we’ve put together a simple, customizable, and free-to-download business plan template that takes the guesswork out of getting started. Use it to create a new business plan or to refresh an existing one.

Download your free Wix business plan template

Lean startup versus traditional business plan formats

In terms of types of business plans , there are two main formats to choose from: traditional and lean.

Traditional business plan format

A traditional business plan includes every detail and component that defines a business and contributes to its success. It's typically a sizable document of about 30 to 50 pages that includes:

Executive summary: The executive summary contains a high-level overview of everything included in the plan. It generally provides a short explanation of your business and its goals (e.g., your elevator pitch ). Many authors like to write this section last after fleshing out the sections below.

Company description: A company description should include essential details like your business name, the names of your founders, your locations and your company’s mission statement . Briefly describe your core services (or products if you’re writing an eCommerce business plan ), but don't go into too much detail since you’ll elaborate on this in the service/product section. Wix offers some helpful mission statement examples if you get stuck. It’s also a good idea to create a vision statement . While your mission statement clarifies your company’s purpose, a vision statement outlines what you want your company to achieve over time.

Market analysis: One of the most extensive sections of the business plan, this section requires that you conduct market research and write your conclusions. Include findings for the following: industry background, a SWOT analysis , barriers/obstacles, target market and your business differentiators.

Organization and management: This is where you outline how your business is structured and who's in charge, including founders, executive team members, board members, employees and key stakeholders. To this end, it can be helpful to create a visual layout (e.g., org chart) to illustrate your company structure.

Service or product line: Create a detailed list of your current and future products and services. If you’re still working on your idea, create a concept statement to describe your idea or product. You should also include a proof of concept (POC), which demonstrates the feasibility of your idea. Wherever applicable, include diagrams, product images and other visual components to illustrate the product life cycle.

Marketing and sales: Detail how your business idea translates into selling and delivering your offerings to potential customers. You can start by outlining your brand identity, which includes the colors and fonts you plan to use, your marketing and advertising strategy, and details about planned consumer touchpoints (like your website, mobile app or physical storefront).

Financial projections and funding requests: Include financial statements, such as a balance sheet, profit-and-loss statement (P&L), cash flow statement and break-even analysis. It's not uncommon for a business plan to include multiple pages of financial projections and information. You’ll also want to mention how much funding you seek and what you plan to do with it. If you’ve already secured funding, provide details about your investments.

essential parts of a business plan

Lean startup business plan format

A lean startup business plan—also referred to as a “lean canvas”—is presented as a problem/solution framework that provides a high-level description of your business idea. A lean plan is a single-page document that provides a basic overview of the most essential aspects of your business. It’s a good way to dip a toe into business planning since it doesn't require the same level of detail as a traditional plan. This includes:

Problem: What problem does your product or service solve, or what need does it fulfill?

Solution: How do you intend to solve it?

Unique value proposition (UVP): Why should people use your product or service versus someone else’s?

Unfair advantage: What do you have that other companies don’t?

Customers: Who are your ideal customers?

Channels: How will those customers find you?

Key metrics: How do you define success? How will you track and measure it?

Revenue streams: How will your business make money?

Cost structure: What will you spend money on (fixed and variable costs)?

Benefits of a business plan template

Business plan templates offer numerous benefits for entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners. Here are some key advantages:

1. Save time and effort: Templates provide a pre-defined structure, eliminating the need to start from scratch. This frees up valuable time and effort that can be invested in other crucial aspects of business development.

2. Improve structure: Templates ensure a consistent and organized approach to presenting your business plan. This makes it easier for potential investors, lenders and advisors to understand your vision and evaluate the feasibility of your business. 3. Enhance professionalism: Using a well-designed template demonstrates professionalism and seriousness to external stakeholders. This can significantly impact their perception of your business and increase their confidence in your venture. 4. Guide your thought process: Templates act as a helpful framework, prompting you to consider all the key elements of your business plan and ensuring you haven't overlooked any critical areas. 5. Ensure completeness: Templates often include checklists and prompts to ensure you cover all essential information, minimizing the risk of missing crucial details. 6. Standardize formatting: Templates ensure a consistent and uniform appearance throughout your business plan, contributing to a more polished and professional presentation. 7. Access to expert knowledge: Many templates are developed by experienced business professionals or organizations, incorporating best practices and insights gained from successful ventures. 8. Adaptability and customization: While templates offer a basic structure, they can be easily customized to reflect the unique characteristics and needs of your specific business. 9. Cost-effectiveness: Templates are generally available for free or at a low cost, making them an accessible and budget-friendly option for entrepreneurs. 10. Increased success rate: Studies have shown that businesses with well-developed plans are more likely to succeed. Templates can help you create a comprehensive and persuasive plan, increasing your chances of securing funding and achieving your business goals.

Tips for filling out your business plan template

The hardest part of a journey is always the first step, or so the saying goes. Filling out your business plan template can be daunting, but the template itself is meant to get you over that crucial first hurdle—getting started. We’ve provided some tips aimed at helping you get the most from our template.

These are best practices—they’re not rules. Do what works for you. The main thing to remember is that these tips can help you move more easily through the planning process, so that you can advance onto the next (exciting) step, which is launching your business.

Consider your goals: What is the purpose of your business? Are you looking to expand, launch a new product line or fund a specific project? Identifying your goals helps you prioritize important information in your business plan.

Fill out what you can: You may already have a vague—or specific—idea of what you want your business to achieve. Go through each section of the template and fill out what you can. We suggest leaving the executive summary blank for now, since it'll be the last thing you write.

Be realistic: Even though this document is meant to serve as a marketing tool for potential investors, don't exaggerate any numbers or make any false promises.

Dig into the research: Nothing's more motivating than getting some intel about your competitors and your market. If you're truly stuck, a little research can help motivate you and provide valuable insight about what direction to take your business. For example, if you plan to start a landscaping business, learn about the specific pricing offered in your area so that you can differentiate your services and potentially offer better options.

Get help from others: Bouncing your ideas off a friend, mentor or advisor is a great way to get feedback and discover approaches or products to incorporate into your plan. Your network can also give you valuable insight about the industry or even about potential customers. Plus, it's nice to be able to talk through the challenges with someone who understands you and your vision.

Revise and review: Once complete, step back from your plan and let it "cook." In a day or two, review your plan and make sure that everything is current. Have other people review it too, since having another set of eyes can help identify areas that may be lacking detail or need further explanation.

Once you’ve completed your business plan template, it can become a meaningful resource for developing your mission statement, writing business proposals and planning how to move forward with the marketing, distribution and growth of your products and services.

After launch, you can also analyze your value chain to identify key factors that create value for your customers and maximum profitability for you. This can help you develop a more effective business plan that considers the entire value chain, from research and development to sales and customer support.

Business plan template FAQ

What is the easiest way to write a business plan.

The easiest way to write a business plan is to utilize a template. Templates provide a structured format and guide you through each section, simplifying the process of creating a comprehensive plan.

Is there a template for how to write a business plan?

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The Business Planning Process: 6 Steps To Creating a New Plan

The Business Planning Process 6 Steps to Create a New Plan

In this article, we will define and explain the basic business planning process to help your business move in the right direction.

What is Business Planning?

Business planning is the process whereby an organization’s leaders figure out the best roadmap for growth and document their plan for success.

The business planning process includes diagnosing the company’s internal strengths and weaknesses, improving its efficiency, working out how it will compete against rival firms in the future, and setting milestones for progress so they can be measured.

The process includes writing a new business plan. What is a business plan? It is a written document that provides an outline and resources needed to achieve success. Whether you are writing your plan from scratch, from a simple business plan template , or working with an experienced business plan consultant or writer, business planning for startups, small businesses, and existing companies is the same.

Finish Your Business Plan Today!

The best business planning process is to use our business plan template to streamline the creation of your plan: Download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template and finish your business plan & financial model in hours.

The Better Business Planning Process

The business plan process includes 6 steps as follows:

  • Do Your Research
  • Calculate Your Financial Forecast
  • Draft Your Plan
  • Revise & Proofread
  • Nail the Business Plan Presentation

We’ve provided more detail for each of these key business plan steps below.

1. Do Your Research

Conduct detailed research into the industry, target market, existing customer base,  competitors, and costs of the business begins the process. Consider each new step a new project that requires project planning and execution. You may ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your business goals?
  • What is the current state of your business?
  • What are the current industry trends?
  • What is your competition doing?

There are a variety of resources needed, ranging from databases and articles to direct interviews with other entrepreneurs, potential customers, or industry experts. The information gathered during this process should be documented and organized carefully, including the source as there is a need to cite sources within your business plan.

You may also want to complete a SWOT Analysis for your own business to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential risks as this will help you develop your strategies to highlight your competitive advantage.

2. Strategize

Now, you will use the research to determine the best strategy for your business. You may choose to develop new strategies or refine existing strategies that have demonstrated success in the industry. Pulling the best practices of the industry provides a foundation, but then you should expand on the different activities that focus on your competitive advantage.

This step of the planning process may include formulating a vision for the company’s future, which can be done by conducting intensive customer interviews and understanding their motivations for purchasing goods and services of interest. Dig deeper into decisions on an appropriate marketing plan, operational processes to execute your plan, and human resources required for the first five years of the company’s life.

3. Calculate Your Financial Forecast

All of the activities you choose for your strategy come at some cost and, hopefully, lead to some revenues. Sketch out the financial situation by looking at whether you can expect revenues to cover all costs and leave room for profit in the long run.

Begin to insert your financial assumptions and startup costs into a financial model which can produce a first-year cash flow statement for you, giving you the best sense of the cash you will need on hand to fund your early operations.

A full set of financial statements provides the details about the company’s operations and performance, including its expenses and profits by accounting period (quarterly or year-to-date). Financial statements also provide a snapshot of the company’s current financial position, including its assets and liabilities.

This is one of the most valued aspects of any business plan as it provides a straightforward summary of what a company does with its money, or how it grows from initial investment to become profitable.

4. Draft Your Plan

With financials more or less settled and a strategy decided, it is time to draft through the narrative of each component of your business plan . With the background work you have completed, the drafting itself should be a relatively painless process.

If you have trouble writing convincing prose, this is a time to seek the help of an experienced business plan writer who can put together the plan from this point.

5. Revise & Proofread

Revisit the entire plan to look for any ideas or wording that may be confusing, redundant, or irrelevant to the points you are making within the plan. You may want to work with other management team members in your business who are familiar with the company’s operations or marketing plan in order to fine-tune the plan.

Finally, proofread thoroughly for spelling, grammar, and formatting, enlisting the help of others to act as additional sets of eyes. You may begin to experience burnout from working on the plan for so long and have a need to set it aside for a bit to look at it again with fresh eyes.

6. Nail the Business Plan Presentation

The presentation of the business plan should succinctly highlight the key points outlined above and include additional material that would be helpful to potential investors such as financial information, resumes of key employees, or samples of marketing materials. It can also be beneficial to provide a report on past sales or financial performance and what the business has done to bring it back into positive territory.

Business Planning Process Conclusion

Every entrepreneur dreams of the day their business becomes wildly successful.

But what does that really mean? How do you know whether your idea is worth pursuing?

And how do you stay motivated when things are not going as planned? The answers to these questions can be found in your business plan. This document helps entrepreneurs make better decisions and avoid common pitfalls along the way. ​

Business plans are dynamic documents that can be revised and presented to different audiences throughout the course of a company’s life. For example, a business may have one plan for its initial investment proposal, another which focuses more on milestones and objectives for the first several years in existence, and yet one more which is used specifically when raising funds.

Business plans are a critical first step for any company looking to attract investors or receive grant money, as they allow a new organization to better convey its potential and business goals to those able to provide financial resources.

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1.4: Chapter 4 – Initial Business Plan Draft

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  • Page ID 21278

  • Lee A. Swanson
  • University of Saskatchewan

Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter, you will be able to

  • Develop a comprehensive business plan draft

This chapter describes an approach to writing your draft business plan. It also outlines the elements of a comprehensive business plan that can be used as a template for starting your business plan.

3.jpg

Figure 7 – Initial Business Plan Draft (Illustration by Lee A. Swanson)

Effective Business Plans

Effective business plans

  • Provide statements that are backed by evidence or data
  • Include context and references with every table, figure, or illustration
  • Include relevant, clear, concise tables and financial information, and exclude unnecessary material
  • Present timelines for distinct purposes
  • Use clear sections customized to the particular business or its environment rather than generic sections

Writing the Draft Business Plan

Although there are various ways to approach the task of writing a draft business plan, one effective approach is to do the following:

  • This will provide you with a template for the information needed for your plan.
  • You can copy and paste the results of your essential initial research into the sections of your business plan template where you believe that they can be used to support or justify the strategies and other decisions you will later describe in those sections. Of course, you can later move those parts of your environmental scan as needed as you develop your plan. In general, this strategy results in a stronger business plan .
  • Completing this step will give you the satisfaction of seeing some of your work so far taking shape in the form of a business plan.
  • Also, inserting the results from your environmental scan into the relevant sections of your plan should later provide you with the stimulus and support you will need to develop solid, realistic, evidence-based strategies and decisions for those sections.
  • Incorporate your business model into your new business plan template. As there is no section in a business plan in which you specifically describe your business model, you will need to incorporate your business model elements into appropriate sections of your plan.
  • You will normally include both information that you got from particular sources and information based on an assumption you made (and that you might intend to replace later with more accurate information from valid sources).

Follow these practices as you develop your plan:

  • When you do this, you help establish your credibility as a business plan writer, and your business plan’s credibility. It also might save you time later when you discover that you need to add a similar item along with its cost to your list.
  • Note: Do not reinvent the wheel by “inventing” your own method to reference your sources and do not use multiple methods. Use one (and only one) proper and well-established referencing method, like APA. This will improve the degree of professionalism of your plan.
  • Note: if you are an expert source on something—maybe you are a construction expert that business plan readers will trust to do estimates on building costs—you should establish your credentials and clearly indicate when some of the information in your plan is based on your own expert knowledge.
  • When you flag your assumptions in this way, you can quickly and easily see what information needs to be replaced with sourced information before you finalize your business plan.
  • Projecting realistic sales can be difficult, but setting up a method for doing so early gives business plan writers a significant start toward completing their business plan. A well-developed sales model that takes advantage of the powers of electronic spreadsheets gives business plan writers the opportunity to relatively quickly and easily make necessary changes to their assumptions and overall estimates when needed.
  • When you use the schedules provided on the spreadsheet templates, and any others that you add, you will be well on your way to developing the financial component of your business plan.

General Business Plan Format

Letter of transmittal.

A letter of transmittal is similar to the cover letter of a resume. The letter of transmittal should be tailored to the reader, clearly identifying the customized ask of the potential investor or lender. It should be short and succinct, delineating the ask (i.e. funding, specialized recruiting, purchasing a product or service, obtaining advice, etc.) within a few paragraphs. It should not summarize the business plan, as that is the job of the executive summary.

  • Includes nice, catchy, professional, appropriate graphics to make it appealing for targeted readers

Executive Summary

  • Can be longer than normal executive summaries—up to three pages
  • Written after remainder of plan is complete
  • Includes information relevant to targeted readers as this is the place where they are most likely to form their first impressions of the business idea and decide whether they wish to read the rest of the plan

Table of Contents

List of tables.

  • References every table, figure, and appendix within the text of the plan so the relevance of each of these elements is clear.

List of Figures

Introduction.

  • Indicates the purpose for the plan
  • Appeals to targeted readers

Business Idea

  • May include description of history behind the idea and the evolution of the business concept if relevant

Value Proposition

  • Explains how your business idea solves a problem for your expected customers or otherwise should make them want to purchase your product or service instead of a competitor’s
  • Outlines what you intend for the venture to be
  • Inspires all members of the organization
  • Helps stakeholders aspire to achieve greater things through the venture because of the general direction provided through the vision statement

After articulating a good vision, the business plan writer should consider what achieving the vision looks like. Many business plan writers write their vision and leave it at that. The problem with this approach is that they often then do not take the necessary steps to illustrate how the strategies they outline in their plan will move them toward achieving their vision. If they make this mistake, their strategies might indicate that they are fulfilling their current mission, but are not taking steps to move beyond that.

Vision statements should be clear with context throughout the business plan. For example, if the goal is to be the premier business operating in that industry in Saskatchewan, does that mean you have one location and are considered the best at what you do it even though you only have a small corner of the market, or does it mean that you have many locations across the province and enjoy a large market share?

  • Should be very brief—a few sentences or a short paragraph
  • Indicates what your organization does and why it exists—may describe the business strategy and philosophy
  • Consists of five to ten short statements indicating the important values that will guide everything the business will do
  • Outlines the personal commitments members of the organization must make, and what they should consider to be important
  • Defines how people behave and interact with each other
  • Should be reflected in all of the decisions outlined in the business plan, from hiring to promotions to location choices
  • Helps the reader understand the type of culture and operating environment this business intends to develop

Major Goals

  • Describes the major organizational goals
  • Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic, and Timely [SMART]
  • Realistic, Understandable, Measureable, Believable, and Achievable [RUMBA]
  • Aligns with everything in plan
  • Written, or re-written as the second last thing you do before finalizing your business plan by proofreading, polishing, and printing it (writing the Executive Summary is the final thing you should write)

Operating Environment

Trend analysis.

  • However, consider whether this is the right place for this analysis: it may be better positioned, for example, in the Financial Plan section to provide context to the analysis of the critical success factors, or in the Marketing Plan to help the reader understand the basis for the sales projections.

Industry Analysis

  • Includes an analysis of the industry in which this business will operate
  • As above, consider whether this is the right place for this analysis: it may be better placed, for example, in the Marketing Plan to enhance the competitor analysis, or in the Financial plan to provide context to the industry standard ratios in the Investment Analysis section.

Of course, your trend analysis will also include a market-level analysis (using a set of questions, like those listed in Chapter 2) and a firm-level analysis (using tools like a SWOT Analysis / TOWS Matrix, various forms of financial analyses, a founder fit analysis, and so on), but those analyses are usually best placed in other sections of your plan to support the strategies and decisions you present there. The market-level analysis will inevitably fit in the Marketing Plan section, but the firm-level analysis might be spread across some or all of the Operating Plan, Human Resources Plan, Marketing Plan, and Financial Plan sections.

Operations Plan

  • Given these constraints, what is your operating capacity (in terms of production, sales, etc.)?
  • What is the work flow plan for your operation?
  • What work will your company do and what work will you outsource?

Operations Timeline

  • When will you make the preparations, such as registering the business name and purchasing equipment, to start the venture?
  • When will you begin operations and make your first sales?
  • When will other milestone events occur such as moving operations to a larger facility, offering a new product line, hiring new key employees, and beginning to sell products internationally?
  • Sometimes it is useful to include a graphical timeline showing when these milestone events have occurred and are expected to occur.

Business Structure and other Set-up Elements

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited Partnership
  • Corporation
  • Cooperative

Note: Your financial statements, risk management strategy, and other elements of your plan are affected by the type of legal structure you choose for your business. For example, all partnerships should have a clear agreement outlining the duties, expectations, and compensation of all partners as well as the process of dissolution. Spreadsheet templates are formatted for corporations and will need to be formatted for other forms of businesses.

  • Zoning, equipment prices, suppliers, etc.
  • Leasing terms, leasehold improvements, signage, pay deposits, etc.
  • Getting business license, permits, etc.
  • Setting up banking arrangements
  • Setting up legal and accounting systems (or professionals)
  • Ordering equipment, locks and keys, furniture, etc.
  • Recruiting employees, setting up the payroll system and benefit programs, etc.
  • Training employees
  • Testing the products/services that will be offered
  • Testing the systems for supply, sales, delivery, and other functions
  • Creating graphics, logos, promotional methods, etc.
  • Ordering business cards, letter head, etc.
  • Setting up supplier agreements and outlining why those sellers are preferred
  • Buying inventory, insurance, etc.
  • Revising business plan
  • And many more things, including, when possible, attracting purchased orders in advance of start-up through personal selling (by the owner, a paid sales force, independent representatives, or by selling through brokers wholesalers, catalogue houses, retailers), a promotional campaign, or other means

Note: As part of your business set-up, you need to determine what kinds of control systems you should have in place, establish necessary relationships with suppliers prior to your start-up, and generally deal with a list of issues like those mentioned above.

  • What is required to start-up your business including the purchases and activities that must occur before you make your first sale?
  • When identifying capital requirements for start-up, a distinction should be made between fixed capital requirements and working capital requirements.

Fixed Capital Requirements

  • What fixed assets, including equipment and machinery, must be purchased so your venture can conduct its business?
  • May also show the financing required, often in the form of longer-term loans

Working Capital Requirements

  • What money is needed to operate the business (separately from the money needed to purchase fixed assets) including the money needed to purchase inventory and pay initial expenses?
  • May also show the financing required. Working capital is usually financed with operating loans, trade credit, credit card debt, or other forms of shorter-term loans

Risk Management Strategies

  • Enterprise – liability exposure for things like when someone accuses your employees or products you sell of injuring them
  • Financial – securing loans when needed and otherwise having the right amount of money when you need it
  • Operational – securing needed inventories, recruiting needed employees in tight labour markets, operating when customers you counted on not purchasing product as you had anticipated, managing theft, arson, and natural disasters like fires and floods, etc.
  • Avoid – choose to avoid doing something, outsource, etc.
  • Reduce – through training, assuming specific operational strategies, etc.
  • Transfer – insure against, outsource, etc.
  • Assume – self-insure, accept, etc.

Picture1.jpg

Figure 8 – Risk Management Strategies (Illustration by Lee A. Swanson)

Operating Processes

  • What operating processes will you apply?
  • How will you ensure your cash is managed effectively?
  • How will you schedule your employees?
  • How will you manage your inventories?
  • If you will have a workforce, how will you manage them?
  • How will you bill out your employee time?
  • How will you schedule work on your contracts?
  • How you will manufacture your product (process flow, job shop, etc.?)
  • How will you maintain quality?
  • How will you institute and manage effective financial monitoring and control systems that provide needed information in a timely manner?
  • How will you manage expansion?
  • May include planned layouts for facilities
  • What are your facility plans?
  • Expressed as a set physical location
  • Expressed as a set of requirements and characteristics
  • How large will your facility be and why must it be this size?
  • How much will it cost to buy or lease your facility?
  • What utility, parking, and other costs must you pay for this facility?
  • What expansion plans must be factored into the facility requirements?
  • What transportation and storage issues must be addressed by facility decisions?
  • What zoning and other legal issues must you deal with?
  • What will be the layout for your facility and how will this best accommodate customer and employee requirements?

Organizational Structure

  • May include information on Advisory Boards or Board of Directors from which the company will seek advice or guidance or direction
  • May include an organizational chart
  • Can be a nice lead-in to the Human Resources Plan

Human Resources Plan

  • How do you describe your desired corporate culture?
  • What are the key positions within your organization?
  • How many employees will you have?
  • What characteristics define your desired employees?
  • What is your recruitment strategy? What processes will you apply to hire the employees you require?
  • What is your leadership strategy and why have you chosen this approach?
  • What performance appraisal and employee development methods will you use?
  • What is your organizational structure and why is this the best way for your company to be organized?
  • How will you pay each employee (wage, salary, commission, etc.)? How much will you pay each employee?
  • What are your payroll costs, including benefits?
  • What work will be outsourced and what work will be completed in-house?
  • Have you shown and described an organizational chart?

Recruitment and Retention Strategies

  • Includes how many employees are required at what times
  • Estimates time required to recruit needed employees
  • Employment advertisements
  • Contracts with employment agency or search firms
  • Travel and accommodations for potential employees to come for interviews
  • Travel and accommodations for interviewers
  • Facility, food, lost time, and other interviewing costs
  • Relocation allowances for those hired including flights, moving companies, housing allowances, spousal employment assistance, etc.
  • May include a schedule showing the costs of initial recruitment that then flows into your start-up expense schedules

Leadership and Management Strategies

  • Outlines your leadership philosophy
  • Explains why it is the most appropriate leadership approach for this venture
  • What training is required because of existing rules and regulations?
  • How will you ensure your employees are as capable as required?
  • Health and safety (legislation, WHMIS, first aid, defibulators, etc.)
  • Initial workplace orientation
  • Financial systems
  • Product features

Performance Appraisals

  • Identifies how you will manage your performance appraisal systems

Health and Safety

  • Notes any legal requirements (and also legal requirements for other issues that may be included in other parts of the plan)
  • Identifies accreditation you might pursue, such as ISO 9000, and if so, evaluates the costs, benefits, and time frame
  • Outlines training for employees, such as WHMIS training or machinery handling training

Compensation

  • Always justifies your planned employee compensation methods and amounts
  • Always includes all components of the compensation (CPP, EI, holiday pay, etc.)
  • Identifies how you will ensure both internal and external equity in your pay systems
  • Describes any incentive-based pay or profit sharing systems planned
  • May include a schedule that shows the financial implications of your compensation strategy and supports the cash flow and income statements shown later

Key Personnel

  • May include brief biographies of the key organizational people

Marketing Plan

  • You must show evidence of having done proper research, both primary and secondary. If you make a statement of fact, you must back it up with properly referenced supporting evidence. If you indicate a claim is based on your own assumptions, you must back this up with a description as to how you came to the conclusion.
  • It is a given that you must provide some assessment of the economic situation as it relates to your business. For example, you might conclude that the current economic crisis will reduce the potential to export your product and it may make it more difficult to acquire credit with which to operate your business. Of course, conclusions such as these should be matched with your assessment as to how your business will make the necessary adjustments to ensure it will thrive despite these challenges, or how it will take advantage of any opportunities your assessment uncovers.
  • If you apply the Five Forces Model, do so in the way in which it was meant to be used to avoid significantly reducing its usefulness while also harming the viability of your industry analysis. This model is meant to be used to consider the entire industry, not a subcomponent of it (and it usually cannot be used to analyze a single organization).
  • Your competitor analysis might fit within your assessment of the industry, or it might be best as a section within your marketing plan. Usually a fairly detailed description of your competitors is required, including an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. In some cases, your business may have direct and indirect competitors to consider. Maintain credibility by demonstrating that you fully understand the competitive environment.
  • Assessments of the economic conditions and the state of the industry appear incomplete without accompanying appraisals outlining the strategies the organization can/should employ to take advantage of these economic and industry situations. So, depending upon how you have organized your work, it is usually important to couple your appraisal of the economic and industry conditions with accompanying strategies for your venture. This shows the reader that you not only understand the operating environment, but that you have figured out how best to operate your business within that situation.
  • Outlines an effective analysis of your venture (see the Organizational Analysis section below)

Market Analysis

  • Usually contains customer profiles, constructed through primary and secondary research, for each market targeted
  • Contains detailed information on the major product benefits you will deliver to the markets targeted
  • Describes the methodology used and the relevant results from the primary market research completed
  • If there was little primary research completed, justifies why it is acceptable to have done little of this kind of research and/or indicate what will be done and by when
  • Includes a complete description of the secondary research conducted and the conclusions reached
  • Define your target market in terms of identifiable entities sharing common characteristics. For example, it is not meaningful to indicate you are targeting Canadian universities. It is, however, useful to define your target market as Canadian university students between the ages of 18 and 25, or as information technology managers at Canadian universities, or as student leaders at Canadian universities. Your targeted customer should generally be able to make or significantly influence the buying decision.
  • You must usually define your target market prior to describing your marketing mix, including your proposed product line. Sometimes the product descriptions in business plans seem to be at odds with the described target market characteristics. Ensure your defined target market aligns completely with your marketing mix (including product/service description, distribution channels, promotional methods, and pricing). For example, if the target market is defined as Canadian university students between the ages of 18 and 25, the product component of the marketing mix should clearly be something that appeals to this target market.
  • Carefully choose how you will target potential customers. Should you target them based on their demographic characteristics, psychographic characteristics, or geographic location?
  • You will need to access research to answer this question. Based on what you discover, you will need to figure out the optimum mix of pricing, distribution, promotions, and product decisions to best appeal to how your targeted customers make their buying decisions.

Competition

  • However, this information might fit instead under the market analysis section.
  • Describes all your direct competitors
  • Describes all your indirect competitors
  • If you include a competitor positioning map, insure that the x-axis and y-axis are meaningful. Often, competitor maps include quality and price as axes. Unless you can clearly articulate the distinction between high quality and low quality, it may be more valuable to have more meaningful axes or describe your value proposition relative to your competitors in the absence of a positioning map.

Figure-9.jpg

Figure 9 – Competitor Positioning Map (Illustration by Lee A. Swanson)

  • You must clearly communicate the answers to these questions in your business plan in order to attract the needed support for your business. One caution is that it may sound appealing to claim you will provide a superior service to the existing competitors, but the only meaningful judge of your success in this regard will be customers. Although it is possible some of your competitors might be complacent in their current way of doing things, it is very unlikely that all your competitors provide an inferior service to that which you will be able to provide.

Marketing Strategy

  • Covers all aspects of the marketing mix: your promotional decisions, product decisions, distribution decisions, and pricing decisions
  • Outlines how you plan to influence your targeted customers to buy from you (your optimum marketing mix, and why is this one better than the alternatives)

Organizational Analysis

  • Leads in to your marketing strategy or is positioned elsewhere depending upon how your business plan is best structured
  • If doing so, ALWAYS ensure this analysis results in more than a simple list of internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis should always prove to the reader that there are organizational strategies in place to address each of the weaknesses and threats identified and to leverage each of the strengths and opportunities identified.
  • An effective way to ensure an effective outcome to your SWOT Analysis is to apply a TOWS Matrix approach to develop strategies to take advantage of the identified strengths and opportunities while mitigating the weaknesses and threats. A TOWS Matrix evaluates each of the identified threats along with each of the weaknesses and then each of the strengths. It does the same with each of the identified opportunities. In this way strategies are developed by considering pairs of factors.
  • The TOWS Matrix is a framework with which to help you organize your thoughts into strategies. Most often you would not label a section of your business plan as a TOWS Matrix because this would not add value for the reader. Instead, you should describe the resultant strategies—perhaps while indicating how they were derived from your assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. For example, you could indicate that certain strategies were developed by considering how internal strengths could be employed toward mitigating external threats faced by the business.

Product Strategy

  • If your product or service is standardized, you will need to compete on the basis of something else—like a more appealing price, having a superior location, better branding, or improved service. If you can differentiate your product or service, you might be able to compete on the basis of better quality, more features, appealing style, or something else. When describing your product, you should demonstrate that you understand this.

Pricing Strategy

  • If you intend to accept payment by credit card (which is probably a necessity for most companies), you should be aware of the fee you are charged as a percentage of the value of each transaction. If you don’t account for this you risk overstating your actual revenues by perhaps one percent or more.
  • Sales forecasts must be done on at least a monthly basis if you are using a projected cash flow statement. These must be accompanied by explanations designed to establish their credibility for readers of your business plan. Remember that many readers will initially assume your planned time frames are too long, your revenues are overstated, and you have underestimated your expenses. Well crafted explanations for all of these numbers will help establish credibility.

Distribution Strategy

  • If you plan to use e-commerce, you should include all the costs associated with maintaining a website and accepting payments over the Internet.

Promotions Strategy

  • As a new entrant into the market, must you attract your customers away from your competitors they currently buy from or will you be creating new customers for your product or service (i.e. not attracting customers away from your competitors)?
  • If you are attracting customers away from competitors, how will these rivals respond to the threat you pose to them?
  • If you intend to create new customers, how will you convince them to reallocate their dollars toward your product or service (and away from other things they want to purchase)?
  • In what ways will you communicate with your targeted customers? When will you communicate with them? What specific messages do you plan to convey to them? How much will this promotions plan cost?
  • If your entry into the market will not be a threat to direct competitors, it is likely you must convince potential customers to spend their money with you rather than on what they had previously earmarked those dollars toward. In your business plan you must demonstrate an awareness of these issues.
  • Consider listing the promotional methods in rows on a spreadsheet with the columns representing weeks or months over probably about 18 months from the time of your first promotional expenditure. This can end up being a schedule that feeds the costs into your projected cash flow statement and from there into your projected income statements.
  • If you phone or visit newspapers, radio stations, or television stations seeking advertising costs, you must go only after you have figured out details like on which days you would like to advertise, at what times on those days, whether you want your print advertisements in color, and what size of print advertisements you want.
  • Carefully consider which promotional methods you will use. While using a medium like television may initially sound appealing, it is very expensive unless your ad runs during the non-prime times. If you think this type of medium might work for you, do a serious cost-benefit analysis to be sure.
  • Some promotional plans are developed around newspaper ads, promotional pamphlets, printing business cards, and other more obvious mediums of promotion. Be certain to, include the costs of advertising in telephone directories, sponsoring a little league soccer team, producing personalized pens and other promotional client give-always, donating items to charity auctions, printing and mailing client Christmas cards, and doing the many things businesses find they do on-the-fly. Many businesses find it to be useful to join the local chamber of commerce and relevant trade organizations with which to network. Some find that setting a booth up at a trade fair helps launch their business.
  • If you are concerned you might have missed some of these promotional expenses, or if you want to have a buffer in place in case you feel some of these opportunities are worthwhile when they arise, you should add some discretionary money to your promotional budget. A problem some companies get into is planning out their promotions in advance only to reallocate some of their newspaper advertisement money, for example, toward some of these other surprise purposes resulting in less newspaper advertising than had been intended.

Financial Plan

  • Contains financial statements
  • Various funding options and exit strategies for potential investors
  • Business valuation (be cautious not to over value your business)
  • Break-even analysis

Business Valuation

There are a multitude of sophisticated business valuation methodologies. A rule of thumb for business valuations is a multiple of its earnings. For example, if the chosen multiple is five and the business’ earnings before taxes are $55M, the business’ valuation would be approximately $275M.

Break-Even Analysis

Break-Even Point = FC/(P-VC)

  • FC = Fixed Costs
  • P = Unit Price
  • VC = Variable Cost

Example: If the business’ total fixed costs are $1,000,000.00, it costs $5.00 to produce the widget, and the business sells the widget for $7.00, the break-even point is 500,000 widgets.

  • You will most certainly need to make monthly cash flow projections from business inception to possibly three years out. Your projections will show the months in which the activities shown on your fixed capital and working capital schedules will occur. This is nearly the only way to clearly estimate your working capital needs and, specifically, important things like the times when you will need to draw on or can pay down your operating loans and the months when you will need to take out longer-term loans with which to purchase your fixed assets. Without a tool like this you will be severely handicapped when talking with bankers about your expected needs. They will want to know how large of a line of credit you will need and when you anticipate needing to borrow longer-term money. It is only through doing cash flow projections that you will be able to answer these questions. This information is also needed to determine things like the changes to your required loan payments and when you can take owner draws or pay dividends.
  • Your projected cash flows are also used to develop your projected income statements and balance sheets.

Pro forma Cash Flow Statements

Pro forma income statements, pro forma balance sheets, investment analysis, projected financial ratios and industry standard ratios, critical success factors (sensitivity analysis), list of items a business may need to purchase.

  • Business license
  • Registration for name, etc.
  • Domain name registration
  • Initial product inventory
  • All the little things like curtains/blinds, decorations, microwave for staff room, etc.
  • All the things needed to run the business from day #1 (like cutlery, plates, cooking pots, table settings etc. for restaurants; like towels, soap, etc. for gyms; like equipment and so on for manufacturing and service places)
  • Set-up and testing of new facilities—new factories and offices do not operate at peak efficiency for some time after start-up because it takes time for the new systems to kick into high gear
  • Professional services needed
  • Lawyer’s fees to make sure agreements are solid
  • Graphic designer or design company needed to develop visuals
  • Accounting firm needed to set up initial systems
  • Insurance—maybe not a direct cost to this one to account for
  • Accounting system software
  • Computer, printer, other things needed like scanner
  • Office furniture
  • Initial office supplies—paper, pens, etc.
  • Internet/wifi
  • Microwave and coffee maker and similar supplies for staff room or coffee room
  • Bank fees—business banking is normally not free—might also need to have business cheques

Customer Interaction

  • Cash register
  • Loyalty cards/system

Production/Operations

  • Safety equipment (fire extinguishers, AED)
  • Security systems
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Janitorial services and cleaning supplies
  • Bathroom supplies—toilet paper, soap, towels
  • Membership costs for various associations, including the local chamber of commerce, any professional associations for the relevant industry, etc.
  • Subscriptions for things like important trade publications, etc.
  • Shelving and storage systems
  • Even when not full restaurant, operations like coffee shops still require equipment like dishwasher
  • Safety—prior to start-up and ongoing and for new employees
  • Ads, travel expenses—flights, hotels, taxi rides, meal allowances, etc.—to recruit people through interviews, meeting meals, set up with real estate agents, etc.
  • Website development
  • Costs for setting up and managing social media (can take a lot of an employee’s time)
  • Grand opening costs
  • If buying, include property taxes and all utilities in cash flows and income statement and include building maintenance and maybe build up a reserve fund to pay for things like future roof repairs and needed renovations and upgrades
  • If renting/leasing, include rental/least cost and whatever utilities are not included in rental/lease payment

Renovations

  • Construction
  • Utility hookups
  • Inspections
  • Interior signage
  • Fencing, parking lot, exterior lighting, other exterior things

Risk Management

  • Insurance (need to choose the types needed)
  • Training costs
  • Things like snow removal, de-icing sidewalks, etc.

Chapter Summary

This chapter described the basic elements of a comprehensive business plan.

Do This One Thing Before You Write Your Business Plan

Male and female entrepreneurs sitting at a table outside of a coffee shop with laptops opening. Trying to figure out what to do before writing their business plan.

Noah Parsons

6 min. read

Updated October 27, 2023

So, you’ve been asked to write a business plan. It’s likely that your mind is filled with images of long documents, bad memories of writing term papers, and worries about doing market research and creating financial forecasts.

Take a deep breath.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Today, I’m going to walk you through an easier way to get your business plan started, and show you how to develop a winning strategy.

Start with why you’re writing a business plan

But first, let’s talk about why you’re writing a business plan .

There are a lot of reasons why writing a business plan is important . Most businesses start the planning process because they are applying for a loan or seeking funding from investors . 

But, beyond needing to develop a plan that will impress the bank or your investors, you want to build a solid company. You want to develop a sound strategy that will help your business grow and be successful.

Unfortunately, while traditional business plans will help you develop strategy, they have several drawbacks.

Traditional business plans take too long to write, they’re rarely updated, and they are time-consuming to read.

Now, there may be a point in your business career that you will need to deliver a formal business plan to a bank, investors, or other business partners. But, until that point, I recommend that you start your planning with a simpler process— a one-page plan —that will help you develop your business strategy.

Building a one-page plan takes less than 20 minutes . You can even build several of them in an afternoon to try out different business ideas.

A Lean Plan forces you to distill your ideas for your business into the core of your strategy. As planning expert Tim Berry says, “a good strategy is about what you’re not doing.”

And, once you have nailed down your business strategy, you can expand on it with a longer business plan document that fleshes out the details of your plan.

What to include:

Your one-page plan is a very high-level overview of your business. Each section should only be a few bullet points, so you should be able to complete an initial draft of your plan in 20 minutes or less.

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  • 1. Your identity

What sets your business apart from others? What’s your focus? For example, a bike shop’s identity might be, “High-quality biking gear for families and regular people, not just for gearheads.” With this identity, this bike shop has focus. It describes who they are and what they are trying to do. Ideally, you should be able to describe your identity in one or two short sentences.

  • 2. The problem you are solving

How are you helping your customers? What problem will they go to you to solve? Don’t think that your business doesn’t solve a problem; for example, a new restaurant would fill a need for a particular type of cuisine or a certain atmosphere that is not currently available in a certain neighborhood.

  • 3. Your solution to the problem

How does your business solve a customer’s problem? What is your product or service? Make sure your product or service is addressing your customer’s needs.

  • 4. Your customer

Who is your ideal customer? A great exercise is to create a buyer persona, but you can just jot down some notes at this stage about who your customer is. Focus on a specific type of customer or certain groups. Focusing on “everyone” is not a sound business strategy.

  • 5. The competition

Who is your competition , and what sets you apart? How are you better or different than other options available to your customers?

  • 6. Sales channels

How will you reach your target customers ? Do you have a single storefront? Are you selling online? Do you rely on distributors to get your products onto store shelves?

  • 7. Marketing activities

How will you let your customers know about your product or service? Do you need to go to trade shows? Will you buy online advertising?

  • 8. Your team

Probably the single key to a successful business is a great group of people to turn an idea into reality. Do you have the right people? If you need additional key team members to help you build the business, identify them here.

  • 9. Your business model

“ Business model ” sounds like a confusing term, but really it’s just a fancy way of talking about how you will make money. In the early stages of fleshing out your business idea, you can just write down a few bullet points about how you will make money and what your key expenses will be. 

As you refine your business idea, you will want to turn these initial notes into a sales forecast and an expense budget . But for your initial 20-minute plan, just write down a short list of the things you will charge for and the important expenses that you will have as you run the business.

  • 10. Milestones

Ideas are nothing without execution—you need to turn your idea into a real business. Use the “ Milestones ” section of your one-page plan to list the critical things that need to be accomplished to start your business. Do you need to find a location? Maybe you need to get FDA approval for a new medical device. List the key milestones you need to accomplish here. Ideally, add approximate dates and list who will accomplish each task.

  • 11. Partners and resources

If you need to work with other companies or business partners to get your idea off the ground, list those partners and resources here. Do you need a manufacturer or supplier for your products? Do you need a distributor to get your product on store shelves?

That’s it! A first pass at creating a one-page plan should only take 20 minutes or so. Set a timer and jump right in. Just getting everything down on paper is a great first step. The beauty of the one-page format is that you can come back and revise as you go.

  • How to use your one-page plan

Now that you have the first draft of your Lean Plan, or maybe even several different mini-plans, you need to put it to use.

First, you’ll want to use your plan to identify the key assumptions about your business. Typically, those assumptions are around what famous entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen calls “product/market fit.” What that really means is that you’ve found a group of potential customers who have the problem you say they have, and who are willing to spend money on your solution.

Your Lean Plan includes assumptions about who your customer is, what problem they have, and what kind of solution they want.

As a next step, you’ll want to go out and talk to potential customers and verify that they do indeed have the problem you’ve assumed they have and that they’re willing to spend money on your solution.

As you gather feedback from potential customers, you’ll refine your plan . This is where you’ll be glad that you started with a one-page plan instead of a detailed business plan. It’s easy to update and revise as you go. You can quickly update it with new information as needed.

Now, if you don’t need to present a plan to outsiders, this may be all the business plan that you need. But, if you do need to create that formal business plan document, you can use your one-page plan as the key outline for that document. The business plan may also document more details about your marketing plan, product plan, or hiring plans, but ultimately, your business plan will just expand on and provide additional detail for each section of your one-page plan.

See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. He started his career at Yahoo! and then helped start the user review site Epinions.com. From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.

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

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

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

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

What is a business plan?

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

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

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

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These are the following purpose of business plan:

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

What are the essential components of a business plan?

The Essential Components of a Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Types of business plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons why Business Plans Dont Success

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

What are the benefits of having a business plan?

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

How to write a business plan?

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

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

How to write a business plan step by step?

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

Why do I need a business plan for my startup?

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

What are the key components of a business plan?

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

Can a business plan help secure funding for my business?

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

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Business Planning Process: Create a Business Plan That Works

Business Startup Checklist

Free Business Startup Checklist

Radhika Agarwal

  • December 15, 2023

Business Planning Process

If you are planning to start or grow your business, you might have heard about the importance of the business planning process countless times. And yes, it is necessary to have a plan. After all, it’ll be your roadmap to success.

But how would you go about it? Where will you start? And most importantly is there a tried and tested process that can make your job easier? What if we told you there is such a process?

And through this article, we’ll walk you through everything from what is business planning to the steps of the business planning process .

What is Business Planning?

Business planning is the process of giving structure to your business idea. It acts as a roadmap to your business journey, helps you get through obstacles, and maximizes opportunities.

It also helps you set realistic goals and pursue the same with a structured action plan.

Moreover, through a business plan, you can analyze your company’s strengths and weaknesses, and understand how that would impact your company while dealing with market competition and how your strengths would help you achieve your goal.

Above all, doing business with a well-written business plan increases your chances of success.

Steps of the Business Planning Process

Although there’s no sole right way to go about the process of planning your business, here’s a compilation of steps that’ll make your planning process faster and easier.

1. Carry out your research

Carry out your Research

The first step to creating a business plan is to do thorough research about the business and industry you are trying to get into. Tap into all the information you can get about your target audience, potential customer base, competitors, market and industry trends, cost of business, etc.

You can give a form to your research by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are your goals?
  • Where does your business stand currently?
  • What are the prevailing market trends?
  • What strategies is your competitor following?

You can find your answers by conducting market surveys , talking to customers and industry experts, designing good questionnaires, reading articles, blogs, and news updates about your industry and related ones, and so on.

Also, it is a good practice to conduct a SWOT analysis for your company to understand how your company’s strengths and weaknesses would help you stand apart from your competitors based on the current market statistics.

2. Make a Framework

Make a Framework

Once you’re done with your research the next step is to make a framework or a set of strategies for your business based on your research and business goals. You can either design strategies from scratch or reframe previously tried and tested successful strategies to fit your business goals.

But remember that you’ll have to tweak strategies to fit your unique competitive advantages and goals. Hence, strategies that are already being used can act as a good foundation, but it is essential to remember that you’ll have to expand upon them or improvise them for your business.

This step can be completed by taking a deep dive into your customer’s buying motivations and challenges that your product can help solve. Based on that, make a marketing plan, operations plan, and cost structure for your business at least for the first few years of your business.

3. Formulate your Financial Forecasts

Formulate your Financial Forecasts

No matter how tedious finances might seem, they are an integral part of any business. When you map out your finances it is essential to note down all the costs you’ll incur as you grow and run your business for the next five years and what would be your potential revenue , and if or not it would leave room for profit.

You can get your financial forecast by adding your financial assumptions to a financial system which will give you your cash flow statements and give you an idea of what amount of funds you’ll need to start and run your business for the first year.

This step is especially helpful if you want to acquire funding for your business. Nonetheless, it helps you prepare to deal with the financial aspects of your business.

A financial statement essentially provides details of a company’s expenses and profits. It also provides an overview of the company’s current financial stance, including its assets and liabilities.

Through this section try to write down and explain how you plan to use your investments and how would the same give a return.

4. Draft a Plan

Draft a Plan

As you’re done with creating business strategies and planning your finances, it is time to draft your business plan and compile everything into a single document. As you are done with all the technical aspects, this step should feel relatively easy.

But if you need help drafting a business plan and making it look presentable, you can subscribe to business plan software that comes with predesigned templates and tools to make your work easier .

5. Recheck and Improvise

Recheck and Improvise

Now as you’re done with writing your plan, it is a good idea to give it enough time to edit it. Check for any unclear sentences, irrelevant phrases, or confusing terms.

Take suggestions from your team members who are familiar with the functioning of your business. Finally, proofread for any grammar or punctuation errors. One of the most popular and useful pieces of editing advice is to put your work aside for a while and then look at it with fresh eyes to edit it better.

6. Create an Impressive Business Plan Presentation

Create an Impressive Business Plan Presentation

Now, as you’re done with writing your business plan, it is time to create a presentation that leaves an excellent impression on your audience. Highlight all the important and relevant points.

Also, add references for your investors like your financial reports, resumes of your key team members, snippets of your marketing plan, and past sales reports to have a well-rounded presentation.

It is true that starting a business is intimidating. It includes a bunch of emotions, chaotic ideas, and a will to take risks. ( Risks are a part and parcel of starting a business, no matter how much you plan, but yes planning helps you prepare for it.) But in the end, all of us know that all of it is worth it if you have a profitable business in the end.

And business planning is something that takes you one step closer to your idea of success. Moreover, a plan keeps you going in the face of challenges and adversities, and helps you push yourself a little harder to achieve your dreams when things get tougher.

Above all, a business plan helps you take action and turn ideas into a real and functioning business. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and start planning !

And while you’re at it, to check out Upmetrics’s business planning software to make business planning easier and faster.

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About the Author

what is an initial business plan

Radhika is an economics graduate and likes to read about every subject and idea she comes across. Apart from that she can discuss her favorite books to lengths( to the point you\'ll start feeling a little annoyed) and spends most of her free time on Google word coach.

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How to start a franchise

12 steps to franchising a business..

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In this guide

How to start a franchise business

How to buy a franchise with no money, buying a franchise vs. starting a business, bottom line, frequently asked questions.

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Business formation

Opening a franchise allows you to flex your entrepreneurial skills without starting from scratch. You get a proven business model while still being your own boss. However, the startup fees can be pricey, and you must sign a contract committing to the franchisor’s playbook.

Starting a franchise can take three to four months from your initial research to the final purchase, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA) (1) .1 After you’ve signed the contract, it could take another two to six months until you’re ready to welcome customers.

That said, running your own franchise can be rewarding — and lucrative. These 12 steps can help guide you from conception to opening day.

1. List your top companies or businesses

When putting together a list of franchises you’d like to own, start by thinking about your favorite businesses. Consider your strengths, weaknesses and passions against what you think could make you money.

Franchises are available in nearly every industry:

  • Business services
  • Convenience stores
  • Real estate
  • Educational and learning
  • Entertainment
  • Specialty retailers
  • Travel agents
  • Health and fitness
  • Home healthcare

2. Research the franchise market

You can gather information about market conditions in your area, including demand and predictions for economic growth, through the SBA, the Census Bureau and private market firms to help you choose which franchise to open.

Take advantage of the resources at your local Small Business Development Center or a business school at a nearby college or university.

People who already own franchises can be invaluable resources. Ask about their experience and whether the process was worth it.

3. Evaluate investment and franchise costs

After you’ve pinpointed a market, research and compare the costs associated with your top picks. Franchise costs vary widely depending on the industry and business you choose to invest in, not to mention where you live or plan to do business. (2)

Note that some franchise owners — called franchisors — require a minimum net worth for franchisees.

When calculating the cost of starting your chosen franchise, look beyond upfront fees to costs that come with everyday business ownership.

4. Request a franchise disclosure statement

Reach out to the franchisor for a copy of its franchise disclosure document (FDD), which contains detailed legal information about its franchise group, along with financial data like the average gross revenue of its locations.

Sometimes you can find FDDs available for free from online databases around the web. Just make sure you obtain the most recent version, as franchisors release a new FDD every year.

Also, consider the retention rates for your chosen franchise. A retention rate is the percentage of locations that close each year. Section 20 of the FDD breaks down closures by state, so you can see how many have closed in your area compared to those in operation.

What else can I find in the franchise disclosure document?

An FDD covers more than 20 elements of buying a franchise, such as fee requirements, estimated initial investments and performance and revenue details.

It’s the legal information a franchisor is required to disclose to you, the franchisee, as part of due diligence before you invest.

The franchisor must provide you with the FDD at least 14 days before you sign a contract, though it’s a good idea to request a copy for your initial research. You can typically download a PDF of the FDD, though some franchisors might send you a hard copy.

5. Consider forming an LLC or corporation

Purchasing a franchise as a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation, rather than as a sole proprietor , provides financial and legal protection of your personal assets.

As an LLC or corporation, you aren’t held personally accountable for debt incurred by the franchise. If you remain a sole proprietor, you’re legally indistinguishable from your business — so you must cover business debt out of pocket, if necessary.

The same goes for lawsuits. As an LLC or corporation, your personal assets are covered if someone decides to sue your franchise.

6. Write a comprehensive business plan

A good business plan can help you analyze costs, predict sales and estimate profits before signing an agreement. Research what to expect in the months and years ahead to gather the information you need to take the next step — or pause if you’re not ready.

A successful business plan typically includes eight key components:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market research
  • Organization structure
  • Product research
  • Financial analysis and funding needs
  • Financial projections

A business plan is necessary if you plan to apply for funding. Lenders want to see a viable plan for turning a profit and sustaining your business over the long haul, as it helps them evaluate if you’ll repay.

7. Get the financing you need.

If you don’t have the initial investment costs at the ready, you may need outside financing to launch or run your franchise. Many banks, the SBA and franchise-specific lenders offer financial help for would-be franchisees.

Other options include crowdfunding or lenders based entirely online. Online lenders like Kiva and Bluevine tend to leverage technology for more streamlined or automated approval processes. You could also use an online business marketplace like Lendio or Fundera to compare a network of funding options in one spot.

Some franchisors, like the UPS Store, Chem-Dry Carpet Cleaning and Cruise Planners, offer financing assistance, either through in-house programs or partnerships with third-party lenders. For example, Cruise Planners finances 50% of your franchise costs over the first 12 months, while Chem-Dry offers in-house financing for the initial licensing fee. This information is available in section 10 of the FDD.

8. Apply for the franchise and an interview

How you apply depends on the franchise you choose. For example, McDonald’s allows you to fill out an application online, while Chick-fil-A requires an expression of interest form to get the ball rolling.

Plan to attend interviews with the company, which allows time to parse through important details and determine if you’re a match for the franchise.

Expect questions that cover your plans, experience, finances and support, including your:

  • Goals, timeline and territory
  • Previous franchise and industry experience
  • Reasons for choosing the industry and franchise
  • Personal support system
  • Financial capital and business plan
  • Leadership experience
  • An exit strategy

9. Review and sign the franchise contract or agreement

If after your interview you and the franchisor decide it’s a good match, it’s time for the paperwork. You’re required to complete a franchise contract, which is a binding legal document that details:

  • Location and territory
  • Equipment and operations
  • Royalties and ongoing fees
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Trademarks, patents and signage
  • Training and ongoing support
  • Quality control and insurance
  • Dispute resolution
  • Renewal rights
  • Termination and cancellation policies
  • Exit strategies

Franchise contracts come with terms of five to 20 years. At the term’s end, you can often choose whether to renew the contract or discontinue your franchise.

At contract signing, you’ll likely need to also pay any upfront fees or initial investment expenses. Talk with the franchisor about preferred payment methods so you’re prepared.

10. Comply with state and local permit requirements

Most state and local governments require you to obtain licenses before launching your franchise — including health permits, occupational licenses, tax registrations and business licenses — or face fees.

While most states require the franchisor to apply for business licensing, a handful of states require a franchisee to register:

  • Connecticut
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island

You may also need to register for a license on a county or city level. Your franchisor should be able to help you anticipate permits required for your area and navigate the legal requirements. The SBA also provides information about franchise licenses that depend on your industry and state.

11. Build your location and assemble your team

The franchisor provides you with the essential elements of preparing your space — like signage, blueprints, fixtures and general decor — but you’re in charge of hiring contractors for the construction work.

You’re also responsible for hiring and training employees . Most franchisors provide training resources for franchisees, even sending a representative to help bring everyone up to speed about company branding, culture and expectations.

12. Stage a grand opening

In the days and weeks leading up to opening day, generate an awareness of your brand within the surrounding community. Most franchisors provide a marketing game plan and might even send a corporate team to help with your grand opening.

When preparing for your big day, a few tips can help make it a success:

  • Choose a date with high traffic to attract as many people as possible.
  • Send press releases to local media and advertise to your market.
  • Invite friends, family and city officials.
  • Decorate the store to attract attention and generate a festive feeling.
  • Organize exciting activities on opening day, like door prizes or giveaways.

If you’re short on cash, you aren’t disqualified from starting a franchise — but you’re going to need to explore funding and financing to get from planning to opening day.

  • Small business loan . Available amounts for small business loans range from $5,000 to $5 million, and rates start at around 5%.
  • Personal loan for business . A personal loan typically comes with fewer requirements. However, they often max out at $50,000, and expect rates from 4% to 36%.
  • SBA loan . Loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) are known for low interest rates, but strict requirements and a lengthy application.
  • Home equity loan or HELOC . Consider borrowing against the equity in your home as a home equity loan or line of credit . But, because your financing is tied to your home, you risk losing your property.
  • Rollovers for business startups . A rollover for business startups — or ROBS — allows you to invest retirement funds into your business without paying taxes, fees or interest. However, this puts your retirement at risk.
  • Business partnership . Partners can assume part of the financial risk if you can’t fund the business alone. However, while you split the funding, you also split the profit.

When deciding between buying a franchise and starting your own business from scratch, a major difference is the initial investment compared to the ongoing fees. Buying a franchise usually costs more upfront, while the expense of starting your own business varies widely but is typically cheaper in the beginning. (3)

How important is autonomy to you? With a franchise, you’re buying into an existing business with limited control, as you’ll need to follow strict branding, marketing and legal guidelines. Starting your own business, on the other hand, offers more creative freedom. But, that comes with the challenge of building a customer base from nothing.

Overall, buying a franchise means you’re part of a proven system with more restrictions, but also with the benefit of brand recognition and corporate support. A new business means you’re building everything from the ground up, with more risk but also more freedom.

Case study : Opening a Critter Control franchise

Let’s say you want to open a Critter Control franchise in San Jose, California — a city with a population of about 1 million people. At an average of $582,828 gross revenue for that market, according to Critter Control, here’s what you could reasonably expect.

To estimate your profits in the first year of opening, you’d subtract the franchise fee, initial investment, operating costs and royalties from the average gross revenue.

Average gross revenue – (franchise fee + estimated initial investment) – operating costs – royalties

= First-year profit

$582,828 – ($70,100 + $116,550) – $326,384 – $46,626

Using this equation, you can expect to pocket about $23,168 after your first year in business. Because the franchise fee and initial investment are one-time fees, you should be able to make more money in the following year — some $209,818, assuming your average gross revenue stays about the same. As the business grows — and your gross sales increase — your profit is expected to increase over time, barring unforeseen circumstances in the market and industry.

Starting a franchise might be the right choice if you’ve got a solid game plan for raising funds and like the idea of following a tried-and-true business model. But if you’re still on the fence or want to research other options, browse our small business guides to starting, buying or growing a business.

How much money do you need to start a franchise?

The cost of buying a franchise depends on various factors, such as the location and industry. A restaurant in New York will cost significantly more than one in a small town — even just for the real estate alone. Startup costs can range from $10,000 to $5 million, with the average falling between $100,000 and $300,000, according to APD.2

How profitable is owning a franchise?

The profitability of a franchise varies significantly based on the brand’s strength, industry, startup costs and other factors. Data from 2017 shows that for food and beverage franchises, the median annual income is around $70,000 for two years or more in business and around $50,000 for startups. Only 34 percent earned more than $100,000, while many earned much less, according to a survey by the Franchise Business Review.3

How do franchise owners get paid?

Franchise owners and franchisors profit from the business’ success. Franchisors earn income through the royalties and fees paid by their franchisees, while franchise owners generate income from the net profits of sales and services, which is the remaining revenue after deducting overhead expenses. These overhead expenses include the cost of equipment, inventory, staffing and maintenance of a physical location, including utilities like electricity and internet.

  • “How long does it take to start a franchise?,” US Small Business Administration, September 6, 2018
  • “Franchise startup costs,” ADP
  • “How much do franchise owners make and is it profitable?,” Franchise Business Review, October 6, 2018

what is an initial business plan

Holly Jennings

Holly Jennings is an editor and updates writer at Finder, working with writers across all niches to deliver quality content to readers. She’s edited hundreds of financial articles ranging from credit cards to investments. With empathy at heart, she especially enjoys content that breaks down complex financial situations into easy-to-understand information. Prior to her role at Finder, she collaborated with dozens of small businesses to maximize the reach and impact of their blog posts, website copy and other content. In her spare time, she is an award-winning author for Penguin Random House, writing about virtual reality worlds, magical girls and lasers that go pew-pew.

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what is an initial business plan

Small Business Trends

How to start a medical supply business.

Medical supply businesses ensure hospitals have everything from gloves and syringes to diagnostic machines and ventilators. The market is expected to grow with the expanding hospital infrastructure worldwide. Research shows the market size for medical supplies will be worth $82.29 billion by 2028.

The Market for Medical Supplies

The medical supply business is expanding rapidly, further propelled by the aftermath of COVID-19.  The industry focuses on supplying echo-friendly products and incorporates other trends, including telemedicine and personalized healthcare. 

 The medical supply market was valued at $8.4 billion in 2021. It’s expected to reach $13.16 billion by 2032.

how to start a medical supply business

Why Start Your Own Medical Supply Business?

Medical supply sales are among the top healthcare business ideas today. Starting a medical supply business comes with a range of benefits, particularly in the current global context, where demographic shifts and policy changes are influencing market dynamics. Here are some key advantages:

  • An aging global population leads to increased chronic conditions and healthcare needs, driving demand for medical supplies.
  • Hospitals, healthcare facilities, and clinics continuously require a wide range of medical supplies, from consumables to sophisticated equipment, ensuring a steady market.
  • Many developing nations are experiencing rapid growth in their healthcare sectors, offering new markets for medical supply businesses.
  • Infrastructure improvements and increased healthcare spending in these regions provide a fertile ground for healthcare businesses.
  • The medical supply industry encompasses a wide array of products, allowing businesses to cater to various specialties and healthcare needs.
  • Diversification within your product offerings can mitigate risk by not relying on a single market segment.
  • Some regions offer supportive regulatory environments that streamline the process of introducing new medical supplies to the market.
  • Governments may provide incentives for healthcare innovation, including tax breaks, grants, and subsidies, making it financially attractive to start and grow a medical supply business.
  • Continuous innovation in medical technology opens new product lines and improves existing ones, offering businesses the chance to be at the forefront of healthcare advancements.
  • Integration of digital health solutions with traditional medical supplies, such as wearable monitoring devices, enhances product offerings.
  • There is potential for strong partnerships with healthcare providers, research institutions, and other stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem.
  • Collaborations can lead to the development of customized solutions for specific healthcare needs, expanding market reach.
  • By providing essential medical supplies, businesses contribute significantly to improving public health outcomes.
  • Ensuring the availability of quality medical supplies can lead to better healthcare services and patient care.
  • The healthcare sector often remains stable even during economic downturns, as medical needs persist regardless of the economic climate.
  • This resilience offers a level of economic security to businesses within the healthcare supply chain.

Starting a medical supply business not only offers lucrative financial opportunities but also allows entrepreneurs to contribute meaningfully to global healthcare improvements. The diverse and growing demand, coupled with supportive regulatory environments in certain regions, makes this industry an attractive venture.

how to start a medical supply business

Small Business Deals

Initial steps to starting a medical supply business.

Developing a medical supply business usually involves some proven steps. Read on for some essential building blocks for new businesses to succeed in this exciting field.

Developing a Medical Supply Business Plan

A business plan represents a comprehensive roadmap for launching and growing one of these businesses. It needs to have several detailed categories, including:

  • An executive summary outlining the business’s core values, mission statement and overview of the products and services.
  •  A list of the business objectives, including long-term and short-term goals, timelines, and milestones, should be included.
  •  Other areas include market research. This category should consist of industry trends and a target market analysis. 

Other sections of a business plan include financial projections, operational plans, common business structures , and marketing and sales strategies.

Legal Requirements and Compliance

Small businesses must follow legal steps, and a medical supply enterprise is no different.

  • The first step is business registration. You must choose from options like a sole proprietorship, partnership, Corporation, or LLC. The IRS will require that you get an Employer Identification Number(EIN).
  • You’ll need business licenses and permits. Common ones include health department permits and a Food and Drug Administration license.
  •  If you’re handling patient information, you must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

With the required information, you can set up a business bank account. Healthcare regulations and compliance standards will apply, so you’ll need to consult with accountants and legal advisors before you buy medical equipment.

how to start a medical supply business

Funding and Initial Investment

 You’ll need money to start a medical supply company. Some of the different funding options include: 

  • A traditional credit union or bank loan to purchase durable medical equipment. You’ll need good credit and a solid business plan.
  •  There are a variety of SBA Loans available. The US Small Business Administration offers excellent terms to medical supply businesses.
  • Crowdfunding is an online platform for raising money. Typically, you’ll receive small amounts from many different people. 
  •   Venture capitalists will offer you the cash you need in exchange for equity. This is a good route for large medical supply companies.

 Remember to incorporate the costs for registering a business, legal advice, and obtaining licenses. Other costs include an IT infrastructure, warehouse equipment, and an office. Of course, you’ll need an initial stock of supplies to get started. 

Building Relationships with Manufacturers and Suppliers

Establishing good connections with outstanding suppliers is critical. It’s also a good idea to schedule performance reviews to discuss delivery timelines, product quality, and other areas that need improvement. 

how to start a medical supply business

How to Start a Medical Supply Business: Step-by-Step

Here are some steps for starting a medical supply business.

Choosing Your Medical Supply Business Model

An excellent business model leverages technology and implements outstanding customer service. You might consider focusing on niche markets that serve specific medical conditions.

Identifying Your Market Segment within the Medical Business

Find the right market. Reviewing medical publications, attending conferences and reviewing industry reports are good practices. This is a big part of a successful medical supply business.

Connect with medical professionals.

Setting Up Your Medical Supply Distribution Network

Set up regional distribution centers near key healthcare hubs or densely populated urban centers. This lowers shipping costs and reduces delivery times. A startup can look into forming partnerships with established logistics outfits.

Stocking Your Inventory

 Inventory management is a critical aspect of working in the healthcare sector. Here are a few recommended approaches.

 Centralized Inventory Management

This is an excellent way to reduce redundancies and leverage bulk purchasing. Creating a preferred product list and focusing on supplier reliability and quality is essential.

Warehouse management systems can help you get the most from layout.

Demand Planning and Forecasting

Predictive analytics and historical data work together for medical supplies, equipment inventory, and storage. Based on demand forecasting, you can allocate the storage you need efficiently.

The idea is to use a software system to track real-time reorder points, stock levels and expert dates. 

how to start a medical supply business

Marketing Your Medical Supply Business

Online marketing and digital platforms market your business.

  • Hosting webinars and workshops that educate healthcare professionals works.
  •  Building partnerships with medical associations, influential practitioners, and institutions can help you get credibility. Network at seminars, trade shows, and conferences.

Digital marketing strategies like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) target healthcare professionals’ keywords. Remember, retargeting campaigns on LinkedIn.

Marketing Strategies for Medical Supply Business Online

A startup should consider content marketing. The strategy should address the interests of niche medical fields a nd their concerns and challenges. Focusing on dentistry, pediatrics, and orthopedic surgery resonates with professionals in those fields. 

how to start a medical supply business

Launching Your Medical Supply Business Idea

Host a launch event. It can be either online, in-person, or hybrid. Get local media coverage. You must invite critical people, like local business leaders and potential clients.

Personalized email campaigns are a great way to start reaching out. You can also use a website startup guide to create an online presence that will help you gain customers. Remember to add a clear Call to Action (CTA). 

FAQs: How to Start a Medical Supply Business

Here are some answers to questions about how to start a business in the medical supply industry.

Is selling medical supplies profitable?

There are good profits for small businesses that can create and maintain supply chain relationships. Profitable companies fulfill the consistent demands of the healthcare industry and follow a business startup checklist to stay on track through the early stages.

How do medical supply companies make money?

They can use different business models, including direct sales, subscription services, and distribution agreements. Some of these medical supply companies can even lease medical equipment. Others can offer value-added services like training, consulting, and equipment maintenance. 

How do I choose the right vendors for medical supplies ?

Vendors must comply with FDA regulations, some of which include pre-market approval and different Quality Systems Regulations. You should also choose vendors who have an excellent track record and are reliable. 

How has the healthcare Industry changed since the pandemic?

The healthcare industry has been evolving since the pandemic. There’s been more of a focus on worldwide preparedness for infectious diseases. Innovators are taking advantage of digital innovations like telehealth. 

Image: Envato Elements

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Expert Q&A: Pilot answers questions about Naples plane crash

what is an initial business plan

Note to readers: On Friday, Feb. 9 a Bombardier Challenger 600-series jet crash-landed on the southbound side of I-75 outside of Naples, just north of the highway's eastern turn, which runs along the area known as Alligator Alley. The plane hit an SUV and a truck; the drivers and passengers in those vehicles survived. Five were onboard the jet: a pilot, copilot, a crew member and two passengers. The pilot and co-pilot were killed. The Collier County Sheriff's Office identified the dead as pilot Edward Daniel Murphy, 50, of Oakland Park, Fla., and Ian Fredrick Hoffman, 65, of Pompano Beach, Fla.

Kevin Sullivan, 62, is a pilot who lives in Denver. He's been a pilot for 29 years, ever since graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He has experience with Bombardier jet products. His current status as a pilot is: retired/recreationally. He's also been a writer for Privatejetclubs.com for three years. 

Q. What was your reaction when you first heard about the crash?

SULLIVAN: When I first heard about the crash, my immediate concern was for the safety of those involved. I know the aviation community is tightly-knit, so news of such an incident is always distressing. My thoughts went out to the families of the victims and the survivors, and I hoped for the best possible outcome amidst such a tragic event.

Q. The pilot is heard saying that both engines stopped working, does this surprise you to hear that?

SULLIVAN: Yes, it's indeed surprising to hear that both engines had shut down. While it's not unheard of, it's extremely rare for both engines to fail simultaneously, especially in modern aircraft with redundant systems. Such a scenario would be a pilot's worst nightmare. However, it's crucial to wait for the results of the investigation to understand the exact circumstances surrounding the engine failure.

Q. What could be the causes of both engines not working?

SULLIVAN: The simultaneous loss of both engines could be due to various factors. Bird strikes are a possibility, especially during takeoff or landing phases when the aircraft is at lower altitudes. Fuel exhaustion or contamination are also potential causes, although modern aircraft are equipped with systems to prevent such occurrences. Mechanical failures or other system malfunctions cannot be ruled out either. Each possibility must be thoroughly investigated by the relevant authorities to determine the root cause. As a pilot, it's imperative to remain open to all possibilities until the investigation is complete, rather than speculating prematurely.

Q. If the aircraft was out of fuel, could there still be the kind of fire we see in the videos just after the crash?

SULLIVAN: Yes, even if the aircraft is out of fuel, other flammable materials such as hydraulic fluid, engine oil, or materials in the cabin could ignite upon impact.

Q. What is the training or protocols for a pilot who has lost and engine or engines? Can you detail what might have been going on in the cockpit?

SULLIVAN: Pilots are trained to handle engine failures through procedures outlined in the aircraft's emergency checklist. In the event of an engine failure, the pilots would attempt to identify the issue, possibly restart the engine if feasible, and then consider alternative options for landing safely. In the cockpit, they would be focused on troubleshooting the issue, communicating with air traffic control, and assessing available landing options.

Q. Have you ever experienced engine failure when you were piloting a plane?

SULLIVAN: No. It's a scenario that pilots train for and are prepared to handle through regular training and simulation exercises.

Q. When the engine(s) go, what happens? No power? No steering? Just gliding and dropping?

SULLIVAN: In the event of an engine failure, there would be a loss of thrust, resulting in a decrease in airspeed and altitude. However, the aircraft's control surfaces would still be functional for steering, allowing the pilot to maintain control and attempt a safe landing.

Q. What is the training for knowing you aren't going to make the runway? What are the priorities for landing options — highways, rivers, lakes, open spaces of land?

SULLIVAN: Pilots are trained to prioritize safety and assess available landing options if they determine they cannot reach a runway. Factors such as terrain, obstacles, and the presence of people are considered when choosing a landing site. Highways, rivers, lakes, and open spaces of land are all potential options depending on the circumstances of the emergency.

Q. Once it is determined the airport can't be reached — in this case the jet was 4.7 miles away from the Naples Airport — what is a pilot doing in terms of looking for a place to land?

SULLIVAN: The pilot would scan the surrounding area for suitable landing sites, considering factors such as accessibility, terrain, and obstacles. They would communicate with air traffic control and assess their options while maintaining control of the aircraft.

Q. Being that close to the airport in miles, can you say time-wise how close the plane was to landing at the airport when it crashed?

SULLIVAN: Without specific flight data, it's challenging to determine the exact time it would have taken to reach the airport. Factors such as altitude, airspeed, and the aircraft's glide ratio would affect the time it would take to reach the airport.

Q. Some have speculated that the pilot might have been attempting to land the jet on a golf course on the other side of the sound barrier along I-75. Would that make sense to you?

SULLIVAN: In an emergency situation, pilots are trained to consider all available landing options, including nearby open areas like golf courses, if they can be safely reached. Without further investigation, it's difficult to confirm the pilot's intentions.  Its very situational, it sounded on the ATC recording that a quick decision was being made, the Investigation will have to play out to identify 

Q. There were five people on the jet. How many passenger can that particular jet accommodate?

SULLIVAN: The Bombardier Challenger 604 typically accommodates around 10 to 12 passengers in a standard configuration, depending on the seating arrangement chosen by the operator. This Aircraft in the private aviation is considered a Heavy Jet.

Q. Are you surprised three people walked away from this crash?

SULLIVAN: As a pilot, I'm relieved to hear that some individuals survived the crash. However, each situation is unique, and survival depends on various factors such as the severity of the crash and the preparedness of the passengers and crew. This crew put the aircraft in the best possible situation for an outcome of lives being saved.

Q. How close was the jet to making the airport in terms of time?

SULLIVAN: Unfortunately, it was very close to the airport, Within 20-30 seconds however at low altitude and no engine power it is an impossible task to make it to the runway.

Q. Considering everything, and from what you have read and seen, does it appear the pilot did everything he could have done to limit the damage and harm to people?

SULLIVAN: It appears that the crew of the aircraft positioned it in the best possible manner to prioritize the safety of those on board and prevent any loss of life on the ground. Their actions suggest a commitment to mitigating the severity of the incident and ensuring the well-being of both passengers and individuals in the surrounding area. By their quick thinking and decisive actions, they demonstrated exemplary professionalism and dedication to preserving lives amidst challenging circumstances.

Q. What was the NTSB looking for in its investigation at the scene?

SULLIVAN: During an investigation at the scene of an aviation accident, the National Transportation Safety Board meticulously examines wreckage to assess damage and identify signs of mechanical failure or structural issues, recovers and analyzes the black boxes (Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder) for crucial data and audio recordings, analyzes environmental factors such as weather conditions and terrain features, conducts interviews with surviving crew member and witnesses to reconstruct the sequence of events, reviews maintenance records to assess prior mechanical issues, examines air traffic control communications and radar data to understand the aircraft's flight path and communication exchanges, evaluates human factors including crew performance and workload, and verifies compliance with aviation regulations, all in an effort to determine the probable cause of the accident and make recommendations for improving aviation safety.

Q. What else can you tell us about this particular aircraft that crashed?

SULLIVAN: The Bombardier Challenger 604 is a top-notch business jet known for its excellent performance and luxury. It was introduced in 1995 and quickly became popular for its upgrades from the previous Challenger 601 series. With powerful General Electric CF34-3B turbofan engines, it can fly up to 4,000 nautical miles without stopping, making it great for long trips. It cruises at Mach 0.74 and reaches a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet, ensuring a smooth and fast ride to various airports.

Inside, the cockpit is equipped with advanced avionics like the Collins Pro Line 4 suite, making flying safer and more efficient. Pilots benefit from features like the Enhanced Vision System for better visibility in bad weather and the Integrated Flight Management System for easier navigation. The cabin is spacious and luxurious, with comfortable seats, high-end furnishings, and modern entertainment systems including high-speed internet. With amenities like a gourmet kitchen and room for up to 12 passengers, the Challenger 604 offers the ultimate luxury experience for both leisure and business travelers.

Q. Any closing thoughts?

SULLIVAN: I consider these pilots heroes in the situation they were in. Based on the ATC recordings, there was little time to make a quick decision. The cabin hostess (flight attendant) being able to assist the passengers off of this aircraft shows that she was able to handle unimaginable pressure. 

I will note an important finding that Hop-A-Jet had an intensely close call in Boston on Feb. 27 last year when it took off with out clearance, nearing a collision with a JetBlue aircraft.

An FBI source, a Burisma deal, the Bidens and details that don’t match up

what is an initial business plan

“They [Burisma] were wanting to enter into the U.S. energy market through an IPO, and they felt like they couldn’t conduct an initial public offering if they were under investigation for corruption in Ukraine. So that’s what it all pertained to. That’s where the supposed bribe happened … They also wanted to buy an existing energy company, and I believe it was in Texas.” — Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chair of the House Oversight committee, in an interview on Fox Business Network , June 12

This article was originally pubished on Aug. 30, 2023 and has been updated.

Congressional Republicans recently released an FBI document from 2020 that makes a shocking allegation about President Biden — that he and his son Hunter were involved in a foreign bribery scheme with a Ukrainian business executive. Republicans have long been investigating Hunter Biden’s business affairs, as recounted on a recovered laptop, and some have suggested the claim could be the basis for a possible impeachment inquiry of the president.

The four-page document that the Republicans released, an FD-1023 form, is the kind used to record information from a person the FBI considers a “confidential human source” (CHS). That means the information would not be a tip from an unknown walk-in, but from someone who had been vetted and assessed by the FBI as potentially helpful for investigations. Still, such individuals can be unreliable and any statements by a CHS are basically unverified tips.

The identity of this FBI source and any connection to Ukraine remain unknown , and the FBI has not publicly confirmed any tips the person supplied in the document. Moreover, the person was interviewed by telephone in 2020 about conversations that took place as many as four years earlier. Nonetheless, some Republicans have treated the document’s allegations as true. “As Vice President Joe Biden sold his influence to the highest bidder,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Republican leadership, said on social media in May. “He is unfit to be President of the United States.”

[ Update, Feb. 15 : Alexander Smirnov, 43, was charged with making a false statement to the FBI and creating a false and fictitious record. The indictment reveals he is the confidential human source who provided the information used for the FBI document.]

While the document recounts conversations that cannot be independently verified, The Fact Checker can shed light on a business transaction described in those conversations, comparing the document’s account with publicly available information. The transaction concerned the alleged desire of Mykola Zlochevsky, the chief executive of the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma, to purchase a U.S.-based company. During the period described in the document as starting in late 2015 and extending two or three months into 2016, Burisma did make a deal with a company based in Texas. This agreement sparked the interest of conservative media , as there are similarities to the FBI source’s account of what Burisma sought.

But upon examination, the facts don’t add up.

To test whether any other business transaction might match with the FBI source’s account, The Fact Checker examined all available news reports in Ukrainian, English and Russian concerning Burisma from September 2015 to April 2016. We also scoured emails from that period in Hunter Biden’s apparently abandoned laptop. No other deal matches this one. Because conservative outlets have speculated that the Texas deal is the one discussed by the person in the FBI document, that is the one we will fact-check. A representative for Hunter Biden declined to comment.

In a way, as Comer’s comment to Fox Business indicates, the Burisma deal in question is the linchpin of the GOP accusation that the Bidens were bribed.

Hunter Biden in Ukraine

Hunter Biden was a board member of Burisma, and the FBI’s CHS suggests that, according to Zlochevsky, Hunter was hired so that problems faced by the company could be handled by his father, who was then vice president. Chief among those problems, according to the FBI source, was Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin.

The FBI source alleges that Zlochevsky said he paid Joe and Hunter Biden each $5 million to “deal with Shokin.” The Shokin reference — suggesting Burisma wanted him fired — raises an immediate red flag about the accuracy of the allegation, as we have documented previously that Shokin was actually in Burisma’s camp, having not taken action against corruption to the frustration of the international community.

Devon Archer, a fellow Burisma board member, said in a closed-door interview with lawmakers on July 31 that he was told at the time of Shokin’s firing that it was a setback for the company, according to a transcript . “That’s what was I told, that it was bad for Burisma,” he said. “But I don’t know. I don’t know if it was good or bad.”

Archer noted that Ukrainian business executives have a tendency to “exaggerate, tell fibs” — a point he noted is also acknowledged in the FBI document , which he indicated he had read. “CHS explained it is very common for businessmen in post-Soviet countries to brag or showoff,” the FBI document says in describing the individual’s account.

An alleged plan for an initial public offering

In the first of two meetings recounted by the FBI’s source, which is described as having taken place in Kyiv in late 2015 or 2016, the source details learning from a Burisma official of the company’s “interest in purchasing a US-based oil and gas business, for purposes of merging it with Burisma for purposes of conducting an IPO in the US.” The individual says Burisma was willing to spend $20 million to $30 million.

The meetings took place as U.S. and European officials made clear their displeasure at Shokin’s performance. On Dec. 8, 2015, Biden addressed the Ukrainian parliament and decried the “cancer of corruption” in the country. “The Office of the General Prosecutor desperately needs reform,” he said. Shokin was dismissed by the Ukrainian parliament March 29, 2016.

One or two months after the Kyiv meeting, the confidential source says he met with Zlochevsky in a coffee shop in Vienna. The person says he asked Zlochevsky “why Burisma would pay $20-30 million to buy a US company for IPO purposes when it would be cheaper to just form a new US-entity or purchase a corporate shell that was already listed on an exchange.”

The timing of these alleged conversations does not track with the information provided by Archer to congressional investigators. Archer said that when he and Hunter Biden were brought on the Burisma board in 2014, “the initial idea was expansion into the U.S. by a small U.S. company.” But “things got a little dicey” because of scrutiny of alleged corruption at Burisma, and instead they turned to finding Asian investors for global expansion, which Archer described as “very successful.”

As an example, he cited Burisma Geothermal, which was created in 2015 . In other words, if Archer is to be believed, the idea of expanding into the United States had been put on the back burner by 2016 — when the FBI’s source claimed Zlochevsky was still talking about it. However, we cannot rule out the possibility that Zlochevsky still had this aspiration or that he was simply showing off, as the person had indicated was common practice among business executives in that part of the world.

A ‘Texas’ connection

In the second meeting, according to the individual, Zlochevsky supposedly said Hunter Biden had “advised Burisma it could raise much more capital if Burisma purchased a larger US-based business that already had a history in the US oil and gas sector.” The person said Zlochevsky mentioned some U.S.-based gas businesses in Texas, the names of which the person did not recall.

As it happens, Burisma announced on Jan. 2, 2016, that it was acquiring 70 percent of a Canadian company for $30 million. There is even a Texas connection.

That would seem like a tantalizing confirmation that a deal took place as discussed. But here’s the catch: The assets acquired by Burisma were gas fields in Ukraine — nothing was obtained in the United States — which would accord with Archer’s suggestion that Burisma had ceased looking to expand in the United States.

A Ukrainian gas company

What’s the Texas connection? The part of the Canadian company not acquired by Burisma was owned by a Houston-based company called Cub Energy, which then acquired an additional 5 percent from Burisma.

But again, this deal would not have provided any access to the U.S. market. Cub Energy, despite its Texas address, was consistently described as a Ukrainian gas company. Its archived webpages from 2012 show a map of Ukraine and declare: “Cub Energy Inc, with offices in Houston and Kyiv, is one of the five largest oil and gas operators in energy-rich Ukraine.”

When Cub Energy founder Mikhail Afendikov died in 2021, the news release described the company as “an upstream oil and gas company, with a proven track record of exploration and production cost efficiency in Ukraine.” The release added: “The Company’s strategy is to implement western technology and capital, combined with local expertise and ownership, to increase value in its undeveloped land base, creating and further building a portfolio of producing oil and gas assets within a high pricing environment.”

Burisma’s connection to Cub Energy pops up occasionally in emails found on Hunter Biden’s laptop, but none discussed it as part of a planned entry into the United States or the basis for a public offering. He communicates every so often with a Cub Energy director named Frank Mermoud and appears to have introduced Mermoud to Zlochevsky. But these exchanges do not describe the transaction as a backdoor way into the U.S. market either. (These emails have not been verified by experts hired by The Washington Post, so we are not linking to them or describing them in detail.)

Mermoud, who did not respond to phone or email messages, is now reported to be a fundraising bundler for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis , Trump’s main rival for the GOP presidential nomination.

A superficial similarity

On a superficial level, Burisma’s arrangement with Cub Energy matches up with the account in the FBI document: Burisma made a deal in 2016, the purchase price was $30 million, and a Texas-based company was involved.

The individual in the document repeatedly describes the transaction as a way for Burisma to enter the U.S. market, even a backdoor way to offer shares in the United States. Instead, this deal expanded Burisma’s reach in Ukraine. And Hunter Biden’s email stash, assiduously mined by Republicans, also does not confirm that Burisma was seeking entry in the U.S. market when these alleged conversations took place. Moreover, the deal was completed before Shokin was fired under pressure from the international community for not acting against corruption.

Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who released the FD-1023, pointed to reporting in conservative media that the Pittsburgh FBI office obtained travel records for the source and confirmed that the person had been in the locales referenced in the document. “There are details here that track with open source records as well as what the DOJ/FBI knows regarding the CHS’s travel,” Foy said. “This is exactly why we need to know whether DOJ/FBI followed normal procedure to further investigate.”

Spokespeople for Comer, who has led the House investigation into Hunter Biden, did not respond to requests for comment.

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