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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

Rosalie Murphy

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

1. Write an executive summary

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

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

Bizee

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

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

This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services offered, and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

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

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

Next up is your company description, which should contain information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

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

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

Lastly, it should cover the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

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

article on writing business plans

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

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

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

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

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

Your sales strategy.

Your distribution strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

You may also include metrics such as:

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

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

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

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

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

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

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

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

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

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

How much do you need?

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

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

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

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

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

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. You can search for a mentor or find a local SCORE chapter for more guidance.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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How to Write a Business Plan: Step-by-Step Guide + Examples

Determined female African-American entrepreneur scaling a mountain while wearing a large backpack. Represents the journey to starting and growing a business and needing to write a business plan to get there.

Noah Parsons

24 min. read

Updated February 2, 2024

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. 

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to write a business plan that’s detailed enough to impress bankers and potential investors, while giving you the tools to start, run, and grow a successful business.

  • The basics of business planning

If you’re reading this guide, then you already know why you need a business plan . 

You understand that planning helps you: 

  • Raise money
  • Grow strategically
  • Keep your business on the right track 

As you start to write your plan, it’s useful to zoom out and remember what a business plan is .

At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy: how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. 

A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. 

After completing your plan, you can use it as a management tool to track your progress toward your goals. Updating and adjusting your forecasts and budgets as you go is one of the most important steps you can take to run a healthier, smarter business. 

We’ll dive into how to use your plan later in this article.

There are many different types of plans , but we’ll go over the most common type here, which includes everything you need for an investor-ready plan. However, if you’re just starting out and are looking for something simpler—I recommend starting with a one-page business plan . It’s faster and easier to create. 

It’s also the perfect place to start if you’re just figuring out your idea, or need a simple strategic plan to use inside your business.

Dig deeper : How to write a one-page business plan

What’s your biggest business challenge right now?

  • What to include in your business plan

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally just one to two pages. Most people write it last because it’s a summary of the complete business plan.

Ideally, the executive summary can act as a stand-alone document that covers the highlights of your detailed plan. 

In fact, it’s common for investors to ask only for the executive summary when evaluating your business. If they like what they see in the executive summary, they’ll often follow up with a request for a complete plan, a pitch presentation , or more in-depth financial forecasts .

Your executive summary should include:

  • A summary of the problem you are solving
  • A description of your product or service
  • An overview of your target market
  • A brief description of your team
  • A summary of your financials
  • Your funding requirements (if you are raising money)

Dig Deeper: How to write an effective executive summary

Products and services description

This is where you describe exactly what you’re selling, and how it solves a problem for your target market. The best way to organize this part of your plan is to start by describing the problem that exists for your customers. After that, you can describe how you plan to solve that problem with your product or service. 

This is usually called a problem and solution statement .

To truly showcase the value of your products and services, you need to craft a compelling narrative around your offerings. How will your product or service transform your customers’ lives or jobs? A strong narrative will draw in your readers.

This is also the part of the business plan to discuss any competitive advantages you may have, like specific intellectual property or patents that protect your product. If you have any initial sales, contracts, or other evidence that your product or service is likely to sell, include that information as well. It will show that your idea has traction , which can help convince readers that your plan has a high chance of success.

Market analysis

Your target market is a description of the type of people that you plan to sell to. You might even have multiple target markets, depending on your business. 

A market analysis is the part of your plan where you bring together all of the information you know about your target market. Basically, it’s a thorough description of who your customers are and why they need what you’re selling. You’ll also include information about the growth of your market and your industry .

Try to be as specific as possible when you describe your market. 

Include information such as age, income level, and location—these are what’s called “demographics.” If you can, also describe your market’s interests and habits as they relate to your business—these are “psychographics.” 

Related: Target market examples

Essentially, you want to include any knowledge you have about your customers that is relevant to how your product or service is right for them. With a solid target market, it will be easier to create a sales and marketing plan that will reach your customers. That’s because you know who they are, what they like to do, and the best ways to reach them.

Next, provide any additional information you have about your market. 

What is the size of your market ? Is the market growing or shrinking? Ideally, you’ll want to demonstrate that your market is growing over time, and also explain how your business is positioned to take advantage of any expected changes in your industry.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write a market analysis

Competitive analysis

Part of defining your business opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage is. To do this effectively, you need to know as much about your competitors as your target customers. 

Every business has some form of competition. If you don’t think you have competitors, then explore what alternatives there are in the market for your product or service. 

For example: In the early years of cars, their main competition was horses. For social media, the early competition was reading books, watching TV, and talking on the phone.

A good competitive analysis fully lays out the competitive landscape and then explains how your business is different. Maybe your products are better made, or cheaper, or your customer service is superior. Maybe your competitive advantage is your location – a wide variety of factors can ultimately give you an advantage.

Dig Deeper: How to write a competitive analysis for your business plan

Marketing and sales plan

The marketing and sales plan covers how you will position your product or service in the market, the marketing channels and messaging you will use, and your sales tactics. 

The best place to start with a marketing plan is with a positioning statement . 

This explains how your business fits into the overall market, and how you will explain the advantages of your product or service to customers. You’ll use the information from your competitive analysis to help you with your positioning. 

For example: You might position your company as the premium, most expensive but the highest quality option in the market. Or your positioning might focus on being locally owned and that shoppers support the local economy by buying your products.

Once you understand your positioning, you’ll bring this together with the information about your target market to create your marketing strategy . 

This is how you plan to communicate your message to potential customers. Depending on who your customers are and how they purchase products like yours, you might use many different strategies, from social media advertising to creating a podcast. Your marketing plan is all about how your customers discover who you are and why they should consider your products and services. 

While your marketing plan is about reaching your customers—your sales plan will describe the actual sales process once a customer has decided that they’re interested in what you have to offer. 

If your business requires salespeople and a long sales process, describe that in this section. If your customers can “self-serve” and just make purchases quickly on your website, describe that process. 

A good sales plan picks up where your marketing plan leaves off. The marketing plan brings customers in the door and the sales plan is how you close the deal.

Together, these specific plans paint a picture of how you will connect with your target audience, and how you will turn them into paying customers.

Dig deeper: What to include in your sales and marketing plan

Business operations

The operations section describes the necessary requirements for your business to run smoothly. It’s where you talk about how your business works and what day-to-day operations look like. 

Depending on how your business is structured, your operations plan may include elements of the business like:

  • Supply chain management
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Equipment and technology
  • Distribution

Some businesses distribute their products and reach their customers through large retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart, Target, and grocery store chains. 

These businesses should review how this part of their business works. The plan should discuss the logistics and costs of getting products onto store shelves and any potential hurdles the business may have to overcome.

If your business is much simpler than this, that’s OK. This section of your business plan can be either extremely short or more detailed, depending on the type of business you are building.

For businesses selling services, such as physical therapy or online software, you can use this section to describe the technology you’ll leverage, what goes into your service, and who you will partner with to deliver your services.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write the operations chapter of your plan

Key milestones and metrics

Although it’s not required to complete your business plan, mapping out key business milestones and the metrics can be incredibly useful for measuring your success.

Good milestones clearly lay out the parameters of the task and set expectations for their execution. You’ll want to include:

  • A description of each task
  • The proposed due date
  • Who is responsible for each task

If you have a budget, you can include projected costs to hit each milestone. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section—just list key milestones you want to hit and when you plan to hit them. This is your overall business roadmap. 

Possible milestones might be:

  • Website launch date
  • Store or office opening date
  • First significant sales
  • Break even date
  • Business licenses and approvals

You should also discuss the key numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common metrics worth tracking include:

  • Conversion rates
  • Customer acquisition costs
  • Profit per customer
  • Repeat purchases

It’s perfectly fine to start with just a few metrics and grow the number you are tracking over time. You also may find that some metrics simply aren’t relevant to your business and can narrow down what you’re tracking.

Dig Deeper: How to use milestones in your business plan

Organization and management team

Investors don’t just look for great ideas—they want to find great teams. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire . You should also provide a quick overview of your location and history if you’re already up and running.

Briefly highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member in the company. It’s important to make the case for why yours is the right team to turn an idea into a reality. 

Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before? 

If you still need to hire key team members, that’s OK. Just note those gaps in this section.

Your company overview should also include a summary of your company’s current business structure . The most common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietor
  • Partnership

Be sure to provide an overview of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided? 

Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.

Dig Deeper: How to write about your company structure and team

Financial plan

Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter. 

Entrepreneurs often find this section the most daunting. But, business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast. 

A typical financial forecast in a business plan includes the following:

  • Sales forecast : An estimate of the sales expected over a given period. You’ll break down your forecast into the key revenue streams that you expect to have.
  • Expense budget : Your planned spending such as personnel costs , marketing expenses, and taxes.
  • Profit & Loss : Brings together your sales and expenses and helps you calculate planned profits.
  • Cash Flow : Shows how cash moves into and out of your business. It can predict how much cash you’ll have on hand at any given point in the future.
  • Balance Sheet : A list of the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business. 

A strong business plan will include a description of assumptions about the future, and potential risks that could impact the financial plan. Including those will be especially important if you’re writing a business plan to pursue a loan or other investment.

Dig Deeper: How to create financial forecasts and budgets

This is the place for additional data, charts, or other information that supports your plan.

Including an appendix can significantly enhance the credibility of your plan by showing readers that you’ve thoroughly considered the details of your business idea, and are backing your ideas up with solid data.

Just remember that the information in the appendix is meant to be supplementary. Your business plan should stand on its own, even if the reader skips this section.

Dig Deeper : What to include in your business plan appendix

Optional: Business plan cover page

Adding a business plan cover page can make your plan, and by extension your business, seem more professional in the eyes of potential investors, lenders, and partners. It serves as the introduction to your document and provides necessary contact information for stakeholders to reference.

Your cover page should be simple and include:

  • Company logo
  • Business name
  • Value proposition (optional)
  • Business plan title
  • Completion and/or update date
  • Address and contact information
  • Confidentiality statement

Just remember, the cover page is optional. If you decide to include it, keep it very simple and only spend a short amount of time putting it together.

Dig Deeper: How to create a business plan cover page

How to use AI to help write your business plan

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can speed up the business plan writing process and help you think through concepts like market segmentation and competition. These tools are especially useful for taking ideas that you provide and converting them into polished text for your business plan.

The best way to use AI for your business plan is to leverage it as a collaborator , not a replacement for human creative thinking and ingenuity. 

AI can come up with lots of ideas and act as a brainstorming partner. It’s up to you to filter through those ideas and figure out which ones are realistic enough to resonate with your customers. 

There are pros and cons of using AI to help with your business plan . So, spend some time understanding how it can be most helpful before just outsourcing the job to AI.

Learn more: How to collaborate with AI on your business plan

  • Writing tips and strategies

To help streamline the business plan writing process, here are a few tips and key questions to answer to make sure you get the most out of your plan and avoid common mistakes .  

Determine why you are writing a business plan

Knowing why you are writing a business plan will determine your approach to your planning project. 

For example: If you are writing a business plan for yourself, or just to use inside your own business , you can probably skip the section about your team and organizational structure. 

If you’re raising money, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re looking to raise the funds and exactly how you will use them.

Regardless of how you intend to use your business plan , think about why you are writing and what you’re trying to get out of the process before you begin.

Keep things concise

Probably the most important tip is to keep your business plan short and simple. There are no prizes for long business plans . The longer your plan is, the less likely people are to read it. 

So focus on trimming things down to the essentials your readers need to know. Skip the extended, wordy descriptions and instead focus on creating a plan that is easy to read —using bullets and short sentences whenever possible.

Have someone review your business plan

Writing a business plan in a vacuum is never a good idea. Sometimes it’s helpful to zoom out and check if your plan makes sense to someone else. You also want to make sure that it’s easy to read and understand.

Don’t wait until your plan is “done” to get a second look. Start sharing your plan early, and find out from readers what questions your plan leaves unanswered. This early review cycle will help you spot shortcomings in your plan and address them quickly, rather than finding out about them right before you present your plan to a lender or investor.

If you need a more detailed review, you may want to explore hiring a professional plan writer to thoroughly examine it.

Use a free business plan template and business plan examples to get started

Knowing what information you need to cover in a business plan sometimes isn’t quite enough. If you’re struggling to get started or need additional guidance, it may be worth using a business plan template. 

If you’re looking for a free downloadable business plan template to get you started, download the template used by more than 1 million businesses. 

Or, if you just want to see what a completed business plan looks like, check out our library of over 550 free business plan examples . 

We even have a growing list of industry business planning guides with tips for what to focus on depending on your business type.

Common pitfalls and how to avoid them

It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re writing your business plan. Some entrepreneurs get sucked into the writing and research process, and don’t focus enough on actually getting their business started. 

Here are a few common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Not talking to your customers : This is one of the most common mistakes. It’s easy to assume that your product or service is something that people want. Before you invest too much in your business and too much in the planning process, make sure you talk to your prospective customers and have a good understanding of their needs.

  • Overly optimistic sales and profit forecasts: By nature, entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. But it’s good to temper that optimism a little when you’re planning, and make sure your forecasts are grounded in reality. 
  • Spending too much time planning: Yes, planning is crucial. But you also need to get out and talk to customers, build prototypes of your product and figure out if there’s a market for your idea. Make sure to balance planning with building.
  • Not revising the plan: Planning is useful, but nothing ever goes exactly as planned. As you learn more about what’s working and what’s not—revise your plan, your budgets, and your revenue forecast. Doing so will provide a more realistic picture of where your business is going, and what your financial needs will be moving forward.
  • Not using the plan to manage your business: A good business plan is a management tool. Don’t just write it and put it on the shelf to collect dust – use it to track your progress and help you reach your goals.
  • Presenting your business plan

The planning process forces you to think through every aspect of your business and answer questions that you may not have thought of. That’s the real benefit of writing a business plan – the knowledge you gain about your business that you may not have been able to discover otherwise.

With all of this knowledge, you’re well prepared to convert your business plan into a pitch presentation to present your ideas. 

A pitch presentation is a summary of your plan, just hitting the highlights and key points. It’s the best way to present your business plan to investors and team members.

Dig Deeper: Learn what key slides should be included in your pitch deck

Use your business plan to manage your business

One of the biggest benefits of planning is that it gives you a tool to manage your business better. With a revenue forecast, expense budget, and projected cash flow, you know your targets and where you are headed.

And yet, nothing ever goes exactly as planned – it’s the nature of business.

That’s where using your plan as a management tool comes in. The key to leveraging it for your business is to review it periodically and compare your forecasts and projections to your actual results.

Start by setting up a regular time to review the plan – a monthly review is a good starting point. During this review, answer questions like:

  • Did you meet your sales goals?
  • Is spending following your budget?
  • Has anything gone differently than what you expected?

Now that you see whether you’re meeting your goals or are off track, you can make adjustments and set new targets. 

Maybe you’re exceeding your sales goals and should set new, more aggressive goals. In that case, maybe you should also explore more spending or hiring more employees. 

Or maybe expenses are rising faster than you projected. If that’s the case, you would need to look at where you can cut costs.

A plan, and a method for comparing your plan to your actual results , is the tool you need to steer your business toward success.

Learn More: How to run a regular plan review

Free business plan templates and examples

Kickstart your business plan writing with one of our free business plan templates or recommended tools.

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How to write a business plan FAQ

What is a business plan?

A document that describes your business , the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy, how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

What are the benefits of a business plan?

A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investors, and identifies areas for growth.

Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.

What are the 7 steps of a business plan?

The seven steps to writing a business plan include:

  • Write a brief executive summary
  • Describe your products and services.
  • Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis.
  • Describe your marketing and sales strategy.
  • Outline your organizational structure and management team.
  • Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow.
  • Add any additional documents to your appendix.

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

There are plenty of mistakes that can be made when writing a business plan. However, these are the 5 most common that you should do your best to avoid:

  • 1. Not taking the planning process seriously.
  • Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information.
  • Inconsistent information or simple mistakes.
  • Failing to establish a sound business model.
  • Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.

What questions should be answered in a business plan?

Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan.

However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan:

  • How will your business make money?
  • Is there a need for your product or service?
  • Who are your customers?
  • How are you different from the competition?
  • How will you reach your customers?
  • How will you measure success?

How long should a business plan be?

The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.

If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan to get all of the necessary information in place.

What are the different types of business plans?

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. 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 when applying for funding or pitching to investors. 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.

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.

One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most 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.

Lean Plan: The Lean Plan 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’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.

However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.

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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.

article on writing business plans

Table of Contents

  • Use AI to help write your plan
  • Common planning mistakes
  • Manage with your business plan
  • Templates and examples

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Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice. 

Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.

A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:

  • Product goals and deadlines for each month
  • Monthly financials for the first two years
  • Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
  • Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years

Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.

While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.

For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .

Business Plan Steps

The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Description of business
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Description of organizational management
  • Description of product or services
  • Marketing plan
  • Sales strategy
  • Funding details (or request for funding)
  • Financial projections

If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.

Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.

Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.

In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.

Step 1: Executive Summary

The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the vision and mission of the company?
  • What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?

See our  roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.

Step 2: Description of Business

The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:

  • What business are we in?
  • What does our business do?

Step 3: Market Analysis

In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:

  • Who is our customer? 
  • What does that customer value?

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:

  • Who is the competition? 
  • What do they do best? 
  • What is our unique value proposition?

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

  • What is the product or service?
  • How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?

Step 7: Marketing Plan

In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:

  • Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
  • What channels will you use to reach your target market?
  • What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
  • If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
  • How will you measure success?

Step 8: Sales Plan

Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts. 

Start by answering the following questions:

  • What is the sales strategy?
  • What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
  • What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
  • What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
  • What are the metrics of success?

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
  • How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
  • What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?

Step 10: Financial Projections

Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years. 

While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:

  • How and when will the company first generate a profit?
  • How will the company maintain profit thereafter?

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.

For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy. 

If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.

Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .

  • Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. 
  • Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision. 
  • Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
  • Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
  • Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
  • Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
  • Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
  • Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
  • Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting. 
  • Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.

Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates . 

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.

While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:

  • Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
  • List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
  • Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
  • Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
  • Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.). 
  • Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
  • Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
  • Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.

See our wide variety of  startup business plan templates for more options.

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.

In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.

  • Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
  • Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
  • Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
  • Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
  • Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”

Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.

Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.

“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”

Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.

Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships. 

Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.

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

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

Bah. Sounds like homework, right?

Yes. Yes, it does.

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

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

Table of Contents

What Is a Business Plan?

Tips to Make Your Small Business Plan Ironclad

How to Write a Business Plan in 6 Steps

Startup Business Plan Template

Business Plan Examples

Work on Making Your Business Plan

How to Write a Business Plan FAQs

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

A business plan is a roadmap that outlines:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Skip: Business Startup Costs Checklist

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

Be Professional and Legit

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

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

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

Know Your Audience

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

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

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

Invest Time Researching

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

Your audience will want:

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

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

Stay Realistic

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

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

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How to Write a Business Plan—6 Essential Elements

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

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

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

1. Executive Summary

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

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

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

2. Business Overview

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

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

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

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

3. Products and Services

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

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

You’ll need to include:

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

4. Market Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Competitive Analysis

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

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

6. Financial Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

Read More: 16 Financial Concepts Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Startup Business Plan Template (Copy/Paste Outline)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Frame-Worthy Business Plan Examples

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

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

Get to Work on Making Your Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Learning: New Product Development Process in 8 Easy Steps

What financial information should be included in a business plan?

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

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

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

Who should review my business plan before I submit it?

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

Ready to Write Your Business Plan?

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

Let us help you get started.

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

Stuck on the ideas part? No problem. When you attend the masterclass, we’ll send you a free ebook with 100 of the hottest side hustle trends right now. It’s chock full of brilliant business ideas to get you up and running in the right direction.

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About Jesse Sumrak

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

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article on writing business plans

Guide to Creating a Business Plan With Template

Table of contents.

article on writing business plans

Having a road map helps you reach your journey’s end successfully. Business plans do the same for small businesses. They lay out the milestones you need to reach to build a profitable small business. They are also essential for identifying and overcoming obstacles along the way. Each part of a business plan helps you reach your goals, including the financial aspects, marketing, operations and sales.

Plenty of online business plan templates are available to take some of the pain out of the plan-writing process. You may benefit from simple, easy-to-follow business plan tools so you spend less time writing and more time launching your venture.

What is a business plan?

With most great business ideas , the best way to execute them is to have a plan. A business plan is a written outline that you present to others, such as investors, whom you want to recruit into your venture. It’s your pitch to your investors, sharing with them what the goals of your startup are and how you expect to be profitable. 

It also serves as your company’s road map, keeping your business on track and ensuring your operations grow and evolve to meet the goals outlined in your plan. As circumstances change, a business plan can serve as a living document but it should always include the core goals of your business.

Starting a new business comes with challenges. Being prepared for those challenges can decrease their impact on your business greatly. One important step in preparing for the challenges your startup may face is writing a solid business plan.

Writing a business plan helps you understand more clearly what you need to do to reach your goals. The finished business plan also serves as a reminder to you of these goals. It’s a valuable tool that you can refer back to, helping you stay focused and on track.

What is the purpose of a business plan? 

Before you write your business plan, it’s important to understand the purpose of creating it in the first place. These are the three main reasons you should have a business plan:

  • Establish a business focus: The primary purpose of a business plan is to establish your plans for the future. These plans should include goals or milestones alongside detailed steps of how your company will reach each step. The process of creating a road map to your goals will help you determine your business focus and pursue growth.
  • Secure funding: One of the first things private investors , banks or other lenders look for before investing in your business is a well-researched business plan. Investors want to know how you operate your business, what your revenue and expense projections are and, most importantly, how they will receive a return on their investment. 
  • Attract executives:  As your business grows, you’ll likely need to add executives to your team. A business plan helps you attract executive talent and determine whether or not they are a good fit for your company.  

There is no one-size-fits-all for securing a loan for your business. Check out our recommendations for the best business loan options .

Your business plan can be written as a document or designed as a slideshow, such as a PowerPoint presentation. It may be beneficial to create both versions. For example, the PowerPoint can be used to pull people in, and the document version that contains more detail can be given to viewers as a follow-up.

What are the types of business plans?

There are two main types of business plans: lean startup and traditional. Traditional business plans are long, detailed plans that expound on both short-term and long-term objectives. In comparison, a lean startup business plan focuses on a high-level summary with a few key metrics in concise detail to quickly share data with investors.

Lean startup business plan

Business model expert Ash Maurya has developed a basic type of business plan called a lean canvas. The model, which was developed in 2010, is still one of the most popular types of business plans emulated today.

A lean canvas comprises nine sections, with each part of the plan containing high-value information and metrics to attract investors. This lean business plan often consists of a single page of information with the following listed:

  • Key metrics
  • Unique proposition
  • Unfair advantage
  • Customer segments
  • Cost structures
  • Revenue streams

Traditional business plan 

Traditional plans are lengthy documents, sometimes as long as 30 or 40 pages. A traditional business plan acts as a blueprint of a new business, detailing its progress from the time it launches to several years in the future when the startup is an established business. The following areas are covered in a traditional business plan:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Products and services
  • Market analysis
  • Management team
  • Financial plan
  • Operational plan

What is included in a business plan?

1. executive summary .

The executive summary is the most important section of your business plan because it needs to draw your readers into your plan and entice them to continue reading. If your executive summary doesn’t capture the reader’s attention, they won’t read further and their interest in your business won’t be piqued.

Even though the executive summary is the first section of your business plan, you should write it last. When you are ready to write this section, we recommend that you summarize the problem (or market need) you aim to solve, your solution for consumers, an overview of the founders and/or owners and key financial details. Knowing the alternate solutions that currently exist for the problem/market need will highlight to a potential investor how well you know the market. The key to this section is to be brief yet engaging.

2. Company description 

This section is an overview of your entire business. Make sure you include basic information, such as when your company was founded, the type of business entity it is ― limited liability company, sole proprietorship, partnership , C corporation or S corporation ― and the state in which it is registered. If you plan to do business in a state other than the one you have registered in, be sure to highlight which states. Provide a summary of your company’s history to give the readers a solid understanding of its foundation. Learn more about articles of incorporation and what you need to know to start a business.

3. Products and services 

Next, describe the products and/or services your business provides. Focus on your customers’ perspective ― and needs ― by demonstrating the problem you are trying to solve by providing this product or service. The goal of this section is to prove that your business fills a bona fide market need and will remain viable for the foreseeable future.

4. Market analysis 

In this section, clearly define who your target audience is, where you will find customers, how you will reach them and, most importantly, how you will deliver your product or service to them. Provide a deep analysis of your ideal customer and how your business provides a solution for them. 

You should also include your competitors in this section and illustrate how your business is uniquely different from the established companies in the industry or market. What are their strengths and weaknesses and how will you differentiate yourself from the pack?

Follow this step-by-step guide on how to conduct a competitor analysis and what details it should include.

You will also need to write a marketing plan based on the context of your business. For example, if you’re a small local business, you’ll want to analyze your competitors who are located nearby. Franchises need to conduct a large-scale analysis, potentially on a national level. Competitor data helps you know the current trends in your target industry and the growth potential. These details also prove to investors that you’re very familiar with the industry.

For this section, the listed target market paints a picture of what your ideal customer looks like. Data to include may be the age range, gender, income levels, location, marital status and geographical regions of target consumers.

A SWOT analysis is a common tool entrepreneurs use to bring all collected data together in a market analysis. “SWOT” stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.” Strengths and weaknesses analyze the advantages and disadvantages unique to your company, while opportunities and threats analyze the current market risks and rewards.

5. Management team 

Before anyone invests in your business, they’ll want a complete understanding of the potential investment. This section should illustrate how your business is organized. It should list key members of the management team, the founders/owners, board members, advisors and more.

As you list each individual, provide a summary of their experience and their role within your company. Treat this section as a series of mini resumes and consider adding full-length resumes to the appendix of your business plan.

6. Financial plan 

The financial plan should include a detailed overview of your finances. At the very least, you should include cash flow statements and profit and loss projections over the next three to five years. You can also include historical financial data from the past few years, your sales forecast and balance sheet. Consider these items to include:

  • Income statement: Investors want detailed information to confirm the viability of your business idea. Expect to provide an income statement for the business plan that includes a complete snapshot of your business. The income statement will list revenue, expenses and profits. Income statements are generated monthly for startups and quarterly for established businesses.
  • Cash flow projection: Another element of your financial plan is your projection for cash flow. In this section, you estimate the expected amount of money coming in and going out of your business. There are two benefits to including a cash flow projection. The first is that this forecast demonstrates whether your business is a high-risk or low-risk venture. The second benefit of doing a cash flow projection is that it shows you whether you would benefit most from short-term or long-term financing.
  • Analysis of break-even point: Your financial plan should include a break-even analysis. The break-even point is the point at which your company’s sales totals cover all of its expenses. Investors want to see your revenue requirements to assess whether your business is capable of reaching the financial milestones you’ve laid out in your business plan.

Make sure this section is precise and accurate. It’s often best to create this section with a professional accountant. If you’re seeking outside funding for your business , highlight why you’re seeking financing, how you will use that money and when investors can expect a return on investment .

Are you struggling for cash flow? Here are eight cash flow strategies for survival.

If you want to master your financial plan, Jennifer Spaziano, vice president of business development at ACCION, offers these helpful tips:

  • Follow generally accepted accounting principles : As a rule, the financial part of your plan should follow the accounting principles set by the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board, especially if you’re creating the plan to obtain a loan or a line of credit.
  • Get fluent in spreadsheets: Spreadsheets are the best and most accepted way to present financial information.
  • Seek outside assistance: Obtaining advice from your financial planner or accountant can help you put the numbers together and present them properly. If you use an accountant and your financial statements have been audited, state that in the plan.
  • Look up templates: If you want to attempt writing the financial section on your own, there are resources. 

7. Operational plan

The operational plan section details the physical needs of your business. This section discusses the location of the business , as well as required equipment or critical facilities needed to make your products. Some companies ― depending on their business type ― may also need to detail their inventory needs, including information about suppliers. For manufacturing companies, all processing details are spelled out in the operational plan section.

For startups, you want to divide the operational plan into two distinct phases: the developmental plan and the production plan: 

  • Developmental plan: The developmental plan details each step in the process of bringing your product or service to market. You want to outline the risks and the protocols you’re taking to demonstrate to investors that you’ve examined all potential liabilities and that your business is well-positioned for success. For instance, if workers (or your products) are exposed to toxic materials during the production process, in your developmental plan, you want to list the safety measures you will follow to minimize the risk of illness and injury to workers and consumers and how you plan to minimize any potential culpability to your business.
  • Production plan: The production plan includes the day-to-day operation information, such as your business hours, the work site(s), company assets, equipment pieces, raw materials and any special requirements.

8. Appendices

The appendices will contain all the extra information that is not immediately necessary to the business plan but helpful to have. Resumes of the management team usually are provided here as well as long-term financial projections. This section can be as long or short as you want it to be. Most business plans will have something in the appendix, which is referred to in the main section of the business plan.

What are the challenges of writing a business plan?

The challenges of writing a business plan vary. Do you have all the information about your business that you need? Does your industry have strict guidelines that you must adhere to? 

Writing a business plan will prompt you to evolve your business idea into a blueprint that you can follow. Challenges will come if you have not fully considered all the aspects of a business idea, such as the location to sell your product or the marketing you will do to help bring in business. Writing a good business plan will have you thinking about the “what if” to your business and allow you to come up with strong answers to address those questions.

However, certain challenges may prove more difficult to answer than others. If you aren’t familiar with certain terminologies or have trouble using spreadsheet processing software, you might have difficulty answering cash flow or financial projections. Especially if you have a new product or service to address a problem in the market, you might have no clear road map on how to market this new product which has never been thought of before.

To help you prepare, we identified 10 of the most common issues you may face:

  • Getting started
  • Identifying cash flow and financial projections
  • Knowing your target market
  • Being concise
  • Making it interesting
  • Establishing workable goals
  • Being realistic about business growth
  • Proving that your idea is worth the risk
  • Finding the right amount of flexibility
  • Creating a strategy that you can implement

Crafting a business plan around these 10 challenges can prepare your business ― and anyone who joins it ― for a prosperous future.

How do you overcome the challenges of writing a business plan?

Although you won’t predict everything for your business accurately, you can take preemptive steps to reduce the number of complications that may arise. For example, familiarize yourself with the business plan process by researching business plans and identifying how others executed their plans successfully.

You can use these plans as a basis. However, Rick Cottrell, CEO of Tesseon, recommends taking it one step further: Talk to small business owners and others who have experience.

“The business owner should talk to an accountant, banker and those who deal with these plans on a daily basis and learn how others have done it,” Cottrell said. “They can join startup and investment groups and speak to peers and others who are getting ready to launch a business and gain insights from them. They can seek out capital innovation clubs in their area and get additional expertise.”

If you research how to write a business plan and still don’t feel comfortable writing one, you can always hire a consultant to help you with the process. Guidance is crucial when you don’t know what you don’t know. There are freelancers who will write business plans for you for a small fee which can be a good stepping stone to something more concrete.

“It is simply a time-consuming process that cannot be rushed,” Cottrell added. “Millions of dollars can be at stake and, in many cases, requires a high level of expertise that either needs to be learned or executed in conjunction with an experienced business consultant.” 

Should I use free or paid business plan templates?

You have the option of choosing between free and paid business templates. Both come with their own benefits and limitations, so the best one for you will depend on your specific needs and budget. Evaluating the pros and cons of each can help you decide.

Free templates

The biggest advantage of using a free template is the cost savings it offers to your business. Startups are often strapped for cash, making it a desirable choice for new business owners to access a free template. Although it’s nice to use templates at no cost, there are some drawbacks to free business plan templates ― the biggest one being limited customizability.

“The process of writing a business plan lets you personally find the kinks in your business and work them out,” Attiyya Atkins, founder of A+ Editing, told Business News Daily. “Starting with an online template is a good start, but it needs to be reviewed and targeted to your market. Downloadable business plans may have dated market prices, making the budget inaccurate. If you’re looking to get money from investors, you need a customized business plan with zero errors.” 

Janil Jean, head of overseas operations at LogoDesign.net, agreed that free templates offer limited customization, such as the company name and some text. She added that they are often used by a ton of people, so if you use one to secure funds, investors might be tired of seeing that business plan format.

Paid templates

The benefit of paying for business plan templates ― or paying for an expert to review your business plan ― is the accuracy of information and high customization.

“Your audience gets thousands of applications per day. What’s to make your business plan stand out from the crowd when you’re not there in the room when they make the decisions about your enterprise?” Jean said. “Visuals are the best way to impress and get attention. It makes sense to get paid templates that allow you maximum customization through design, images and branding.”

On the contrary, the limitation to using a paid template is the cost. If your startup doesn’t have the funds to pay for a business plan template, it may not be a feasible option.

What is the best business plan software?

If you decide to invest in your business plan, there are several great software programs available. Software takes the legwork out of writing a business plan by simplifying the process and eliminating the need to start from scratch. They often include features like step-by-step wizards, templates, financial projection tools, charts and graphs, third-party application integrations, collaboration tools and video tutorials.

After researching and evaluating dozens of business plan software providers, we narrowed down these four of the best options available:

LivePlan is a cloud-hosted software application that provides many tools to create your business plan, including more than 500 templates, a one-page pitch builder, automatic financial statements, full financial forecasting , industry benchmark data and key performance indicators . Monthly plans start at $10 per month.

Bizplan is cloud-hosted software that features a step-by-step builder to walk you through each section of the business plan. Monthly plans start at $29 per month with annual plans starting at $20.75.

GoSmallBiz is a cloud-based service that offers industry-specific templates, a step-by-step wizard that makes creating a detailed business plan easy and video tutorials. Monthly plans start at $409 per month.

Enloop focuses on financial projections. It provides you with everything you need to demonstrate how financially viable your business can be and walks you through the process of generating financial forecasts. Annual plans start at $11 per month.

Free downloadable business plan template

Business News Daily put together a simple but high-value business plan template to help you create a business plan. The template is completely customizable and can be used to attract investors, secure board members and narrow the scope of your company.

Business plans can be overwhelming to new entrepreneurs, but our template makes it easy to provide all of the details required by financial institutions and private investors. The template has eight main sections, with subsections for each topic. For easy navigation, a table of contents is provided with the template. As you customize each section, you’ll receive tips on how to correctly write the required details.

Here is our free business plan template that you can use to craft a professional business plan quickly and easily.

Planning for your business is the first step of the journey

A business plan is a blueprint for your business idea, which means you will need to add the details to your business plan until you believe it is ready to be acted upon. You may not have all the details to start, but it is important to have enough confidence in starting your business and having a guide to follow as others get involved in your business when you are growing.

Thinking about what problem your business solves, who your suppliers are and what color schemes may be fixed or adjusted over time, but it is important to not only consider those at the beginning but throughout the time you are following your business plan. Once you have your plan in place, you can act on it knowing that you and others can follow that plan. The hardest thing is starting a business plan so start today.

Tejas Vemparala and Sean Peek also contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Updating a Classic: Writing a Great Business Plan

  • A business plan can't be a tightly crafted prediction of the future but rather a depiction of how events might unfold and a road map for change.
  • The people making the forecasts are more important than the numbers themselves.
  • What matters is having all the required ingredients (or a road map for getting them), not the exact form of communication.
  • The best money comes from customers, not external investors.

Sean Silverthorne: " How to Write a Great Business Plan " has been one of the most downloaded articles on Harvard Business Publishing since you wrote it in 1997. Why do you think you hit a nerve?

Bill Sahlman: Writing a business plan is a seminal moment in the life of a new venture. Doing so entails committing to paper a vision of the factors that will affect the success or failure of the enterprise. People take the exercise very seriously and get emotionally invested in what they produce.

In that context, the article was written to give insights into how to think about the role of a business plan and its relation to new venture formation. I tried to explain that a business plan can't be a tightly crafted prediction of the future but rather a depiction of how events might unfold and a road map for change. I emphasized the notion that successful entrepreneurs constantly seek the right mixture of people, opportunity, context, and deal. They anticipate what can go wrong, what can go right, and they try to balance risk and reward.

Over the years, I have received many e-mails from folks trying to craft a business plan. They want feedback. Actually, they really want me to say that they are on the right track. I explain that I would need to get to know them and their opportunity much better than what is possible in an e-mail and that the written document is not as important as the people writing it. It's not science—it's art and craft.

Q: In the decade since the original article came out, business conditions have changed. If you were writing this piece today, would you change it much?

A: I don't think the world has changed materially. Successful ventures still have competent people pursuing sensible opportunities, using resources that help, in a favorable context. Yes, the context is very challenging today. But challenges create opportunities.

If gaining access to capital is hard, sometimes that means there will be fewer competitors. This period is almost the antithesis of the Internet bubble when everyone could raise money and start a company regardless of how lamebrained the idea. Also, we have difficult factor markets like energy, but that simply means that there are great opportunities for people with ideas for alternative energy.

Were I rewriting the article today, I might emphasize the importance of controlling your destiny by being conservative about access to capital. Many great ventures in the Internet era (pre-1999) ended up failing because they assumed they would have continued access to cheap capital. Many of those businesses failed, though the underlying idea was sensible. Similarly, we have seen a period when capital markets got ugly, which has a negative effect on all ventures, sensible and nonsensical.

I would also reinforce the idea that entrepreneurship is critical around the world. We are confronted with many crises from health care to the environment to global poverty. Solutions are likely to come from talented private sector and social entrepreneurs.

Q: You wrote in the original article that most business plans "waste too much ink on numbers and devote too little to the information that really matters to intelligent investors." Still true today? What really matters to investors?

A: When there is great uncertainty in the market, investors become quite risk averse. They will only back proven entrepreneurs with truly compelling ideas. People make the numbers, not conversely. So, I still think the people making the forecasts are more important than the numbers themselves.

Q: More and more entrepreneurial ventures are "born global": They seek to address a global market and attract funding from global investors. Should a business plan be tailored in some way for a global audience?

A: We live in a world of democratized access to ideas, human capital, and money. There are fabulous global ventures being started in every corner of the globe. These ventures can raise money locally or globally. They can disperse talent in many countries.

Take a company like Skype. When I visited Skype several years ago, it had 125 employees from 23 countries. The development team was in Estonia, and its headquarters in Europe. Skype had raised seed capital in Europe and in the United States. That's the new model.

Q: On the technology front, software applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have added many charting, graphing, and visualizing capabilities. Some business plans are even written as Web pages. Should entrepreneurs avail themselves of these tools for business plans, or do they clutter the message too much?

A: On the first floor of the Rock Center at HBS there is a copy of the original business plan that Arthur Rock wrote for Intel some 40 years ago. It's only a few pages long, but it describes an outstanding team pursuing a new technology. I have seen compelling business plans in the form of a few PowerPoint slides, a couple of scribbled pages, and a brief video. What matters is having all the required ingredients (or a road map for getting them), not the exact form of communication.

Q: If you were to update your "Glossary of Business Plan Terms" and what they really mean ("We seek a value-added investor" really means "We are looking for a passive, dumb-as-rocks investor"), what current terms would you include?

A: The glossary holds today. I think entrepreneurs, investors, and employees need to be suitably skeptical about what they read in business plans. I have read perhaps 5,000 plans and have only seen three companies really meet their plan. That sounds like a pattern to me. If anyone makes a bet based on the company doing exactly as written, he or she will be sadly disappointed.

At the same time, every player has to be somewhat optimistic about the possibility of overcoming inevitable setbacks. I think of ventures as roller coasters, not rocket ships.

Q: Any general advice to entrepreneurs seeking funding in the uncertain capital markets of today?

A: The best money comes from customers, not external investors. I think entrepreneurs need ideas that are so compelling they can get early money from customers. I also believe that great teams with great ideas can continue to access capital on quite attractive terms from outstanding investors. If the short term looks unsettled, that often means that focusing on the long term has a big potential payoff.

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The road to entrepreneurial success: business plans, lean startup, or both?

New England Journal of Entrepreneurship

ISSN : 2574-8904

Article publication date: 19 February 2021

Issue publication date: 18 June 2021

The goal of this research is to investigate the relationship between two different sets of practices, lean startup and business planning, and their relation to entrepreneurial performance.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors collected data from 120 entrepreneurs across the US about a variety of new venture formation activities within the categories of lean startup or business planning. They use hierarchical regression to examine the relationship between these activities and new venture performance using both a subjective and objective measure of performance.

The results show that talking to customers, collecting preorders and pivoting based on customer feedback are lean startup activities correlated with performance; writing a business plan is the sole business planning activity correlated with performance.

Research limitations/implications

This research lays the foundation for understanding the components of both lean startup and business planning. Moreover, these results demonstrate that the separation of lean startup and business planning represents a false dichotomy.

Practical implications

These findings suggest that entrepreneurs should engage in some lean startup activities and still write a business plan.

Originality/value

This article offers the first quantitative, empirical comparison of lean startup activities and business planning. Furthermore, it provides support for the relationship between specific lean startup activities and firm performance.

Business planning

  • Entrepreneurship

Lean Startup

Welter, C. , Scrimpshire, A. , Tolonen, D. and Obrimah, E. (2021), "The road to entrepreneurial success: business plans, lean startup, or both?", New England Journal of Entrepreneurship , Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 21-42. https://doi.org/10.1108/NEJE-08-2020-0031

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Chris Welter, Alex Scrimpshire, Dawn Tolonen and Eseoghene Obrimah

Published in New England Journal of Entrepreneurship . Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this license may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode

Introduction

No business plan survives first contact with a customer – Steve Blank

This quote represents the differing perspectives on the value of business planning relative to the value of lean startup methods proposed by Blank and others ( Blank and Dorf, 2012 ). Much of traditional entrepreneurial training centers on the business plan ( Honig, 2004 ). Collective research on business planning's antecedents ( Brinckmann et al. , 2019 ) and its performance outcomes have found nuanced results ( Brinckmann et al. , 2010 ), but there seem to be at least some instances where business planning reliably increases performance ( Welter and Kim, 2018 ). Studies suggest that the majority of prominent business schools offer business planning courses ( Honig, 2004 ; Katz et al. , 2016 ), and bookstores are filled with books detailing how to write a business plan ( Karlsson and Honig, 2007 ). Nonetheless, the research is fragmented at best, and often results in equivocal findings with regard to its relationship with firm performance ( Brinckmann et al. , 2010 , Delmar and Shane, 2003 ; Gruber, 2007 ). This lack of clear indication from researchers opens the door for critique of business planning from proponents of the lean startup ( Ghezzi et al. , 2015 ).

Lean startup methods have drawn increasing attention in entrepreneurial communities ( Ries, 2011 ). In accelerators, incubators and other spaces within startup ecosystems the wisdom of Eric Ries (2011) and Steve Blank ( Blank and Dorf, 2012 ) can be heard in training sessions and everyday conversations. Some entrepreneurial programs have adopted lean startup methods as well ( Bliemel, 2014 ). On one hand, conceptual articles have described how lean startup fits adjacent to current and past academic conversations ( Contigiani and Levinthal, 2019 ). On the other hand, practitioner articles have discussed the benefits and limitations of the models ( Ladd, 2016 ). In both cases, existing literature describes how these processes aim to avoid the pitfall of launching products that no one actually wants ( Blank, 2013 ).

Despite all the popular attention given to lean startup methods, little empirical research has been completed (see Trimi and Berbegal-Mirabent (2012) , Ghezzi et al. (2015) , and Ghezzi (2019) for exceptions). Some researchers (e.g. Frederickson and Brem, 2017 ) have drawn the parallels between lean startup methods and effectuation ( Sarasvathy, 2001 ), but these parallels do not sufficiently support the use of lean startup methods. While practitioners seem to embrace lean startup methods, academics have offered little in terms of direct investigation into those methods ( Shepherd and Gruber, 2020 ). Most of the research on lean startup methods focuses on cognitive processes ( Yang et al. , 2018 ; York and Danes, 2014 ). Recent critique ( Felin et al. , 2019 ) coupled with the dearth of empirical research calls into question the efficacy of lean startup methods. To that end, more research is needed to see how lean startup methods relate to new venture success especially in comparison to business planning. This is particularly important as new venture formation activities are the practices that can legitimize the firm ( De Clercq and Voronov, 2009 ).

As such, we propose the following question: which individual aspects of business planning and lean startup methods are related to success? We study the components of both business planning and lean startup methods as there is some academic support for aspects of lean startup such as experimentation ( Carmuffo et al. , 2019 ), but limited empirical investigation into lean startup more broadly. We specifically focus on the underlying activities that make up the processes of lean startup and business planning since our initial surveying showed that entrepreneurs often employ aspects of each. To examine this question, we created a survey that captured the various activities – both from lean startup and business planning – that entrepreneurs used in pursuing their new venture and compared those with measures of success.

Our findings suggest that certain lean startup activities and the act of writing a business plan are correlated with success. These findings help to undo a false dichotomy of either lean startup or business planning by suggesting that some activities from each side can lead to success. We contribute to business planning research by offering a possible explanation for the existing equivocal findings. Namely, that the act of writing a business plan may be important, but that the uses of a business plan for feedback or financing are not necessarily associated with success. We contribute to research on lean startup by offering the first quantitative support for specific lean startup activities. Taken together, this research lays the foundation for a more nuanced understanding of the value of business planning and lean startup methods.

Theoretical framework and hypotheses

The literature on business planning is vast focusing on both antecedents to business planning ( Brinckmann et al. , 2019 ) and outcomes of it ( Brinckmann et al. , 2010 ). Honig and colleagues have driven much of the research into business planning since the turn of the century ( Honig, 2004 ; Honig and Karlsson, 2004 ; Honig and Samuelsson, 2012 , 2014 ; Karlsson and Honig, 2009 ). They have challenged prior planning-performance paradigms that suggested planning would naturally increase performance ( Ajzen, 1985 ; Mintzberg and Waters, 1985 ; Ansoff, 1991 ). This debate about the value of planning has underscored the recent research into selection effects associated with business planning ( Burke et al. , 2010 ; Greene and Hopp, 2017 ).

Brinckmann et al. (2010) address this debate directly. Their meta-analytic review of business planning literature suggests that three contingencies need to be considered in terms of the effectiveness of business planning: uncertainty, limited prior information, and the lack of business planning structures. The presence of these three suggest that business planning may be less effective. We look at each of these three contingencies in more depth next.

For uncertainty, planning scholars (e.g. Priem et al. , 1995 ) suggest that unstable and uncertain environments would benefit most from planning as planning can reduce uncertainty through facilitating faster decision-making ( Dean and Sharfman, 1996 ). However, emergent strategies seem to be more effective at controlling uncertainty ( Mintzberg, 1994 ; Sarasvathy, 2001 ). Brinckmann et al. (2010) confirms the latter intuition suggesting that uncertainty makes planning efforts less effective. This logic falls in line with research on effectuation ( Sarasvathy, 2001 ), where planning is described as the appropriate strategy for risky environments and effectuation, in contrast, is appropriate for uncertain environments. Recent work has confirmed this logic depending on how accurate the entrepreneur can be when predicting the future ( Welter and Kim, 2018 ).

Turning to the concept of limited prior information, planning proponents suggest that the shorter feedback cycles in new and small firms combined with the positive motivational effects of planning will make it more effective ( Delmar and Shane, 2003 ). In essence, despite the lack of history for de novo firms, short cycle times create history quickly and planning itself serves to motivate these fledgling organizations. However, Brinckmann et al. (2010) find that these firms lack the information necessary to make such plans effective. As firms pursue novel strategies, planning seems to be less effective or firms abandon plans all together as they move forward ( Karlsson and Honig, 2009 ).

Finally, for plans to be effective firms need to have the structures in place to both plan and make use of those plans ( Brinckmann et al. , 2010 ). New firms tend to lack the organizational structures relevant to create and use plans ( Forbes, 2007 ). While Karlsson and Honig (2009) found that firms typically ignore or abandon plans after they have been made, often due to insufficient support structures, Honig and Samuelsson (2012) show that even when firms change their plans over time there is little impact on firm performance. In general, the literature on business planning suggests that planning has more benefits for established firms with data and history to support both the plan and the planning process.

Business planning activities improve the likelihood of success for new ventures.

Typically, business planning has been analyzed as the single act of writing a business plan (e.g. Honig and Karlsson, 2004 ). However, business planning is made up of a variety of activities ( Gruber, 2007 ), which entrepreneurs may utilize as a whole, or simply choose parts of the business planning process. It is worth noting that these specific activities are not mutually exclusive with lean startup activities that we will detail later. One source of the gap between the prevalence of business planning use and research supporting the efficacy of business plans may be this holistic perspective. The constituent parts of business planning may be executed as a whole, or may be chosen a la carte. Examining the various activities that make up business planning offers insight into which aspects of the process are related to firm performance.

Arguably the first step in the business planning process is the work that precedes the actual writing of a business plan. First, entrepreneurs must collect data – typically external data ( Brinckmann et al. , 2010 ). This data collection process may or may not result in an actual business plan being written and, therefore, can be treated as a separate step itself.

Beyond the data collection and writing, the planning process can play a role in routinizing the initial practices of entrepreneurs. While entrepreneurs may engage in social resourcing ( Keating et al. , 2014 ) and collective sense-making ( Wood and McKinley, 2010 ), the act of codifying the results of these activities can objectify these practices. Entrepreneurs engage socially on a number of dimensions in the pursuit of a venture, but physically writing down a business plan that can be shared externally can serve as a commitment mechanism. Entrepreneurs may share this plan with external stakeholders simply for feedback ( Wood and McKinley, 2010 ) or they may use it to seek funding ( Richbell et al. , 2006 ).

Writing a business plan improves the likelihood of success for new ventures.

Gathering secondary data improves the likelihood of success for new ventures.

Sharing a business plan with potential stakeholders in order to get feedback improves the likelihood of success for new ventures.

Sharing a business plan with potential financiers in order to obtain funding improves the likelihood of success for new ventures.

Lean startup

The concept and the phrase “Lean Startup” stem from Eric Ries (2011) and his popular press book by the same name. The phrase borrows from the idea of lean manufacturing in the sense of eliminating waste and pushing production and supply as late in the process as possible to delay purchasing until the last moment. The book draws primarily on Ries's personal experience in founding a company along with some consulting work. Further development of the ideas around lean startup methods comes from Steve Blank ( Blank and Dorf, 2012 ). Blank (2013) described three principles of lean startup: hypothesis creation, customer development, and agile development. Hypothesis creation represents the belief that founders begin with little more than untested hypotheses. Customer development represents the approach of interviewing and interacting with customers in order to verify or discard the aforementioned hypotheses. Finally, agile development conceptualizes that minimally viable products (MVPs) are deployed quickly to verify the hypotheses that are believed to be true.

These concepts are often practiced by entrepreneurs and taught at incubators and accelerators ( Ladd, 2016 ), but there is little academic research to support these practices. Ghezzi et al. (2015) offer one of the only comparative empirical studies between lean startup and business planning. Their findings from a four-case study suggest that lean startup methods lead to superior outcomes. The majority of other papers are conceptual explorations of lean startup methods focusing on the decision-making of entrepreneurs ( Frederickson and Brem, 2017 ; Yang et al. , 2018 ; York and Danes, 2014 ). These conceptual pieces draw parallels between lean startup and effectuation ( Sarasvathy, 2001 ).

The literature on effectuation is much larger than that of lean startup (see recent reviews and retrospectives by Arend et al. (2015) and Reymen et al. (2015) ). Effectuation has been defined as entrepreneurial expertise that utilizes heuristics to make decisions focused on the means available rather than on desired ends ( Sarasvathy, 2001 ). One heuristic, in particular, has driven the comparison between lean startup and effectuation: experimentation ( Camuffo et al. , 2019 ). However, the comparisons may stem from the lack of clear boundaries in effectuation (see Welter et al. , 2016 ). While some researchers might argue that effectuation is a more robust articulation of lean startup ( Frederickson and Brem, 2017 ), there are significant departures. Effectuation makes no mention of MVPs or agile development, but instead focuses on the means at hand ( Sarasvathy and Dew, 2008 ). These means direct the venture as opposed to a focus on a specific end in mind ( Sarasvathy, 2001 ). This is in contrast to lean startup methods that create specific tests in order to verify a predetermined path ( Blank, 2013 ). Thus, researchers have suggested that lean startup intersects with effectuation, as well as other research streams ( Contigiani and Levinthal, 2019 ; Ghezzi, 2019 ).

Utilizing lean startup methods improves the likelihood of success for new business ventures.

Similar to business planning, lean startup is a process with several component parts from which an entrepreneur may select without needing to accomplish each task. Moreover, these component parts may be used in conjunction with business planning activities. Since lean startup has been developed more by practitioners than academics, there is not a clearly-defined, comprehensive list of activities that constitutes lean startup. Bortolini et al. (2018) review the academic and popular press literature on lean startup and describe the process at a more theoretical level than the work of Blank (2013) and Ries (2011) . Between these two perspectives, a specific list of six lean startup activities can be derived.

The lean startup process begins with customer discovery ( Blank and Dorf, 2012 ). In its most basic sense, the process of customer discovery begins with interviewing potential customers to surface their problems. Blank (2013) describes how lean startups “get out of the building” throughout the process to validate customer assumptions regarding all aspects of a potential business model. This validation process involves a variety of different forms of potential customer interviews.

From there, entrepreneurs craft hypotheses and build experiments as Bortolini et al. (2018) describe. This part of the process can be deconstructed into developing prototypes, showing those prototypes to customers, and running experiments. These sub-processes are discrete steps that may depend on each other, but may also occur independently. For instance, entrepreneurs may develop prototypes in their own quest to improve the product without actually showing a given prototype to potential customers. Alternatively, entrepreneurs may run experiments that do not necessarily involve the use of a prototype. These experiments may include observing customers in their daily routine to better understand customer problems. Each of these processes, however, align with the practitioner perspectives and the theoretical perspectives ( Blank and Dorf, 2012 ; Bortolini et al. , 2018) .

Beyond these specific activities, we examine two other activities within lean startup: collecting preorders and pivoting. Collecting preorders for new products has been suggested by Ries (2011) , but also aligns with research on enrolling external stakeholders ( Burns et al. , 2016 ) and the principles of effectuation ( Sarasvathy, 2001 ). By seeking out early stakeholders to make commitments like preorders or input on prototypes, entrepreneurs seek social resources to enable and direct their progress ( Keating et al. , 2014 ).

Interviewing potential customers improves the likelihood of success for new business ventures.

Developing a prototype improves the likelihood of success for new business ventures.

Showing a prototype to potential customers improves the likelihood of success for new business ventures.

Experimenting to test business model assumptions improves the likelihood of success for new business ventures.

Collecting preorders improves the likelihood of success for new business ventures.

Pivoting based on customer feedback improves the likelihood of success for new business ventures.

We began our study by conducting semi-structured interviews with five entrepreneurs to guide the construction of the survey. These entrepreneurs were selected from the authors' personal networks to represent a variety of perspectives and experiences. The group included two female founders and three male founders; two of the founders created high-tech scalable businesses and three represented small businesses. The interviews lasted 75 min on average.

All interviewees were familiar with business plans. All interviewees had heard of “lean startup” but only one entrepreneur had any education on the subject – they had read Eric Ries's book ( Ries, 2011 ). Nonetheless, none of the entrepreneurs could articulate specific aspects of lean startup or how it would be different from or related to writing a business plan.

The data collected from these interviews was used to develop a survey for distribution to a wider group of entrepreneurs. Within the qualitative data we noted how both business planning and lean startup represented groups of activities to the entrepreneurs. In discussing business planning, all of the entrepreneurs discussed more than simply producing a formal business plan. While four of the five entrepreneurs created formal business plans, each discussed a slightly different process. Some included financial planning while others mentioned secondary research. On the lean startup approach, the entrepreneurs did not specifically state which activities they pursued that were in line with lean startup, but multiple entrepreneurs mentioned each of the aspects of lean startup that we included in the survey.

This qualitative investigation altered our survey design to focus more on the activities that entrepreneurs completed rather than focusing on their understanding of the different approaches. Before distributing the survey, we tested it with two entrepreneurs to obtain feedback on its understandability – one from the original interviewees and one unfamiliar with the research project. Based on these tests, minor modifications to word choice were made.

We reached out to the startup ecosystem in a major Midwestern city. The online survey was emailed to incubators, accelerators, individual entrepreneurs, and organizations that reach outside the Midwest. Participation in the study was voluntary. Participants received a $1 USD donation to a non-profit organization of their choice for completing the survey. A total of 41 entrepreneurs responded to the initial survey request. We excluded seven of these cases because they did not adequately describe their business.

To bolster the sample size, we enlisted the Qualtrics panel development team to collect approximately 100 additional survey responses from entrepreneurs. Qualtrics, in addition to providing online survey tools, is a research panel aggregator with the ability to recruit hard-to-reach demographics. Qualtrics utilizes specialized recruitment campaigns to assemble niche survey panels based on pre-specified criteria. To fit in this group, entrepreneurs must own a business that they have started within the last ten years. Respondents in this group were compensated with $25 USD for their participation and were not offered any donation option. A total of 106 completed surveys were returned from this group. We excluded 20 of these cases because they were unable to adequately describe their business. See the Appendix for the complete survey instrument.

Participants and procedures

The participants completed an online questionnaire with thirty-two questions on the details of how they started their business, the success of the business, activities they conducted while starting the business, and demographic variables. The sample was recruited via a snowball sample method as well as through a Qualtrics panel as described above.

The majority of our sample is comprised of Caucasians (81.7%), followed by Black/African Americans (11.7%), then Hispanics (3.3%), then Asians (1.7%). The median age of our sample was 46.5 years old and the sample was 49.2% female. The majority of our dataset is currently married (61.7%) with 55.8% having at least a bachelor's degree. Table 1 shows the means and standard deviations for each of the variables as well as the correlations between them.

Dependent variables

There are various difficulties in obtaining concrete objective measures of success from entrepreneurs. Reasons stem from factors such as small business owners not always running their businesses to maximize financial performance ( Jacobs et al. , 2016 ) or running a business because it allows for a preferred lifestyle ( Jennings and Beaver, 1997 ; Walker and Brown, 2004 ). Because of this, there are a few ways researchers can gain acceptable insight into the success of an entrepreneurial venture. One approach is to use subjective measures when other types of information are unavailable ( Dawes, 1999 ). Thus, following previous research ( Besser, 1999 ; Jacobs et al. , 2016 ) which has noted that entrepreneurial success may not always mean optimal financial measures and instead may be more along the lines of maintaining an acceptable level of income for themselves and their employees ( Beaver, 2002 ) or sustaining a lifestyle more aimed at being part of a creative output than being financially successful ( Chaston, 2008 ), we first analyzed the entrepreneurs' perceived organizational success. A second approach is to ask about objective success measures. We strengthened our study by asking entrepreneurs about objective measures of their firm's success via focusing on their firm's growth, specifically, asking about objective growth indicators in terms of increased number of employees, increased number of customers, or increased revenue as previous research has used these measures to indicate success ( Walker and Brown, 2004 ). Therefore, we analyzed the full model for both the subjective and objective dependent variables.

Given that entrepreneurial motivations can vary widely ( Shane et al. , 2003 ), defining success can vary based on the individual. To address this, studies have surveyed entrepreneurs for their subjective perception of their venture's success ( Fisher et al. , 2014 ; Keith et al. , 2016 ). Walker and Brown (2004 , p. 585) find that “Personal satisfaction, pride and a flexible lifestyle were the most important considerations for these business owners.” They argue that objective, financial measures that are often used in research offer objectivity and accessibility, but may not capture the true value of success for many entrepreneurs. These alternative motivations make success difficult to quantify objectively, leading researchers to utilize more subjective measures. Therefore, in line with prior research on entrepreneurial success perceptions ( Jacobs et al. , 2016 ; Besser, 1999 ), we asked respondents “How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statement? My business is a success.” Respondents rated their agreement on a five-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Agree, 5 = Strongly Disagree).

Firm Growth:

To strengthen the findings from our subjective measure of success we also asked respondents about objective measures of firm growth. By asking respondents about obvious measures of growth we can offer a more objective view on the success of the firm. We asked respondents if their firm had grown by any of the following three metrics: number of employees, number of customers, or total revenue (cf. Jacobs et al. , 2016 ). Given the variety of motivations of entrepreneurs, we chose not to limit the type of growth that would reflect success. In some cases, an entrepreneur may seek to increase the impact of the business by providing services to a greater number of customers, while maintaining a lean staff to control pricing. Alternatively, an entrepreneur may be seeking autonomy, and therefore choose not to hire in order to create greater autonomy. However, it is likely that some firm growth – in revenue, employees, or customers – is likely to occur in successful firms. Therefore, we combined these three types of growth as a dichotomous variable, wherein growth in any one or more of these areas would be coded as a “1” for growth and an answer of no growth in all of these areas would be coded as a “0” for no growth.

Independent variables

Business planning.

We defined business planning using four activities. We asked respondents if they (1) wrote a business plan [ Write BPlan ]; (2) gathered secondary data on industry statistics or trends [ Secondary Data ]; (3) shared your business plan with people outside the company for feedback [ BPlan Feedback ]; and (4) shared your business plan with people outside the company for funding [ BPlan Funding ]. These were not loaded as a factor as these do not represent an underlying factor, but rather are individual activities that all represent a variety of activities pertaining to the use of business plans.

We defined lean startup using six activities. We asked respondents if they (1) interviewed potential customers [ Interview ]; (2) created a prototype [ Prototype ]; (3) showed a prototype to potential customers for feedback [ Show Proto ]; (4) conducted an experiment to better understand some portion of your business [ Experiment ]; (5) used customer feedback to alter the direction of your business (“pivoted”) [ Pivot ]; and (6) accepted money for preorders [ Preorders ]. Similar to business planning activities, these were not loaded as a factor, as these activities do not represent an underlying factor, but rather a collection of potential activities.

For each of the IVs, respondents were first asked which of the above activities they engaged in during their venture startup process. The order of the activities was randomized. For each activity that was selected, respondents were asked to rate “how much did each of those activities positively impact the performance of this venture?” Respondents were given a five-point Likert scale (1 = “Not at all” to 5 = “A great deal”) and if the respondent did not do the activity, the response was coded as a 0. To calculate the IVs, each response was weighted by the level of impact. For example, if the respondent rated Experiment as a 5 for a great deal of impact, then it would be coded 5. If it was rated 3, then it would be coded 3. Any activity not completed was not rated (or effectively coded a 0).

We used the ratings to allow for variance in the impact of any activity. In our preliminary interviews, we heard that entrepreneurs may have performed the same activity, such as interviewing customers, but some placed a greater emphasis on this activity whereas others performed it only cursorily. We also performed a robustness check on the data using non-weighted values for the IVs and found similar results (these are available from the corresponding author upon request).

Control variables

We controlled for the following variables: (1) the firm's age in years [Firm Age] ; (2) the entrepreneur's prior startup experience [Ent XP] ; (3) the entrepreneur's age in years [Age] ; (4) the entrepreneur's education level [Education] ; (5) the case sample [case Sample]; and (6) if the firm was a high-tech growth firm [Hi-tech growth firms] . Firm age is likely related to perceptions of success in the minds of entrepreneurs. If an entrepreneur perceives themselves as unsuccessful, they are likely to quit pursuing their venture. Thus, entrepreneurs with older businesses are more likely to have higher perceptions of their own success. Ent XP, Age , and Education have all been investigated in the past for their relationship to entrepreneurial firm performance (e.g. Hechavarría and Welter, 2015 ). We also control for the case sample since our sample was collected in two different processes. Finally, we control for Hi-tech growth firms since some firms in our sample are oriented toward accelerated growth and others may be content with stable returns, which may impact the use and effectiveness of business planning ( Brinckmann et al. , 2010 ).

Regression results for success DV

We tested our hypotheses using hierarchical regression [ 3 ]. In Step 1, we entered Firm Age (in years), the entrepreneur's prior startup experience, the entrepreneur's age, the entrepreneur's education level, the case source, and whether the firm was a hi-tech growth firm as controls ( Van Dyne and LePine, 1998 ). In Step 2, we entered our independent variables that relate to the business plan approach: writing a business plan, gathering secondary data on the industry, sharing the business plan to receive feedback, and sharing the business plan to obtain funding. We also included the variables related to the lean startup approach: interviewing potential customers, creating prototypes, showing prototypes to potential customers for feedback, conducting an experiment to better understand a portion of the business, pivoting based on customer feedback, and accepting money for preorders.

Table 1 reports descriptive statistics and correlations, whereas Table 2 presents the hierarchical regression results for the success dependent variable. As can be seen in Table 2 , consistent with H1a , writing a business plan was related to success ( β  = 0.09, p  = 0.09). However, we do not find support for our other hypotheses: gathering secondary data on the industry, sharing the business plan to receive feedback, and sharing the business plan to obtain funding were all not significantly related to success.

When we looked at the activities that contribute to lean startup methods, we found that interviewing potential customers ( β  = 0.09, p  = 0.08) and accepting money for preorders ( β  = 0.15, p  = 0.03) supported H2a and H2e respectively, suggesting these are correlated with success. Similar to the business plan approach there was not sufficient support for all our hypotheses: creating prototypes, showing prototypes to potential customers for feedback, conducting an experiment to better understand a portion of the business, and pivoting were not supported. The findings with regard to each hypothesis are summarized in Table 3 .

Regression results for growth DV

Similar to the subjective success dependent variable, we tested our hypotheses using logistic regression for our objective growth dependent variable [ 4 ]. A logistic regression was performed for each of our approaches, the business plan and lean startup since our growth DV is dichotomous ( Mason et al. , 2018 ).

Table 1 reports descriptive statistics and correlations, whereas Table 4 presents the logistic regression results for the effects of writing a business plan, gathering secondary data on the industry, sharing the business plan to receive feedback, and sharing the business plan to obtain funding had on our growth dependent variable. The logistic regression model was statistically significant, χ 2 (10) = 39.16, p  < 0.005. The model explained 39.2% (Nagelkerke R 2 ) of the variance in business growth and correctly classified 69.2% of cases. As can be seen in Table 4 , consistent with H1a , writing a business plan was related to success ( β  = 0.30, p  = 0.036). As before we did not find support for our other hypotheses: gathering secondary data on the industry, sharing the business plan to receive feedback, and sharing the business plan to obtain funding.

Next, we looked at the actions that constitute lean startup, interviewing potential customers, creating prototypes, showing prototypes to potential customers for feedback, conducting an experiment to better understand a portion of the business, and pivoting based on customer feedback had on our growth dependent variable. The logistic regression model was statistically significant, χ 2 (12) = 53.82, p  < 0.005. The model explained 51.0% (Nagelkerke R 2 ) of the variance in business growth and correctly classified 85% of cases. Our logistic regression results found that interviewing potential customers ( β  = 0.25, p  = 0.08), accepting money for preorders ( β  = 0.89, p  = 0.04), and pivoting based on customer feedback ( β  = 0.34, p  = 0.03), provided support for H2a , H2e , and H2f respectively, suggesting these are correlated with success in terms of growth. We did not find support for our other hypotheses about lean startup activities. These were, creating prototypes, showing prototypes to potential customers for feedback, conducting an experiment to better understand a portion of the business, and pivoting. The findings with regard to each hypothesis are summarized in Table 5 .

In this paper, we sought to understand the relationship between lean startup activities and success as well as the relationship between business planning activities and success. To answer this question, we began by gathering qualitative data from entrepreneurs to better understand their perspective and language regarding these two approaches. From there, we created a survey and collected responses from 120 entrepreneurs about their activities and their perception of success and the growth of their firms. Controlling for common influencers of success, we found that the act of writing a business plan ( H1a ), interviewing potential customers ( H2a ), and taking preorders ( H2e ) were all correlated with subjective perceptions of success. For the firm growth dependent variable, we found that the act of writing a business plan ( H1a ), taking preorders ( H2e ), and pivoting based on customer feedback ( H2f ) were all correlated with objective measures of firm growth. Interestingly, these results represent a combination of lean startup and business planning activities. What is more, the two activities that are supported by both dependent variables, represent the most well-researched activities. As mentioned, the literature on business planning is well developed ( Honig and Karlsson, 2004 ), and the use of preorders is most directly tied to research on enrolling stakeholders ( Burns et al. , 2016 ) as well as effectuation ( Sarasvathy, 2001 ).

Our results give some understanding to the prior equivocal findings on business planning ( Brinkmann et al. , 2010 ). The qualitative data we gathered suggests that entrepreneurs complete different activities in their business planning process. In the past, there has not been much discussion about separate aspects of business planning or the impact they may have. Our findings suggest that the act of writing a business plan is related to success, but the other business planning activities – gathering secondary data, sharing the business plan for feedback or funding – are not related. This suggests that the planning process itself may mean more than the uses of a business plan. Even if a business plan is not revised or revisited as an entrepreneur pursues their venture ( Karlsson and Honig, 2009 ), the act of writing the plan is still connected with success. Entrepreneurs going through the exercise of planning are likely to gain a better understanding of the entire endeavor of launching a new business. This would give entrepreneurs a better grasp of what the range of possible outcomes would be and likely temper any overly optimistic and unfounded hopes. Therefore, it is likely that simply writing the business plan helps calibrate entrepreneur expectations, which, in turn, helps entrepreneurs achieve success.

Rather than viewing lean startup as a cohesive whole, our qualitative data suggests that entrepreneurs make use of differing combinations of lean startup activities. This discovery informed our survey which offers some of the first direct quantitative evidence of the efficacy of lean startup methods. What we find, however, is that not all activities are linked to success. Perhaps the most straightforward finding is that taking preorders is correlated with both subjective and objective measures of success. If entrepreneurs are able to complete their first sales prior to actually creating their products or services, then success seems much more likely. Venture success, in this case, is agnostic toward the level of innovation in the firm. As such, the critique of lean startup from Felin et al. (2019) as a method that helps orient entrepreneurs to ideas that can be quickly and transparently tested still requires further investigation.

The other relevant activities are those most aligned with customers. Interviewing customers ensures that entrepreneurs design businesses that serve customers rather than building something that no one wants ( Blank and Dorf, 2012 ). However, it is worth noting that interviewing customers must be done with an awareness of the entrepreneur's own cognitive biases ( Chen et al. , 2015 ). Furthermore, pivoting as a result of these discussions with customers also shows a response to customers' desires.

The most interesting aspect of our findings is likely the combination of activities across business planning and lean startup. While lean startup proponents might argue that “no business plan survives its first contact with customers” ( Blank and Dorf, 2012 , p. 53), the act of writing a business plan is correlated with success. It is worth noting that the separation between lean startup and business planning may be a false dichotomy. The underlying activities are not mutually exclusive and do not seem to be detrimental to each other. It is entirely possible, and based on these results advisable, that an entrepreneur would interview customers throughout the process of creating a business plan and use customer feedback to alter both the plan and the business itself. Furthermore, taking customer preorders serves to solidify the relationship between customers and the firm which would only improve that communication.

Limitations

In order to create one of the first quantitative, empirical investigations of business planning and lean startup practices, some tradeoffs needed to be made. We believe that while these limitations may restrict the strength of some of our findings, the direct nature of our approach offers a contribution to the ongoing conversations among scholars and practitioners.

Our sample size is 120. Obviously, a larger sample may lead to more robust and generalizable results. Furthermore, we gathered the sample using two different methods and controlling for the sample method was a significant predictor. We leave it to further research to expand upon our findings and investigate various entrepreneurial samples for differences that may arise.

One of our dependent variables was a subjective measure of success, which may be considered a weakness. We used this measure given the variety of preferred outcomes an entrepreneur may be pursuing – financial objectives, personal objectives, or mission-based objectives. Our other dependent variable was an objective measure of growth across three categories and serves to bolster confidence in the subjective measure.

Another area of concern may be common method variance given that we collected both independent variables and dependent variables from the same instrument. To address this concern, we collected data from individual entrepreneurs that all represented different companies and utilized two different samples so as to minimize the issues that may arise from common method variance ( Chang et al. , 2010 ). Lastly, our independent variables are more objective. For example, writing a business plan is a discrete event as is creating a prototype. For these reasons, we do not believe the common method variance is a major concern for this study.

One other potential weakness is the degree to which entrepreneurs actually utilized the activities of lean startup or business planning. The weighting scheme we employed aims to address this issue by weighting the degree to which entrepreneurs found each activity useful. However, we cannot be sure whether or not an entrepreneur executed the given activity well and this variability goes uncaptured in our study. Quantitative studies like this one will typically suffer from this limitation but case studies may be able to overcome these weaknesses (see Ghezzi et al. , 2015 ).

Finally, our design is cross sectional and does not allow us to make causal inferences. We can only imply the relationship between our independent and dependent variables. Our hope is this is a first step to future research which may be better able to test the causality of the various aspects of business planning and lean startup as they relate to entrepreneurial success.

Implications for research and practice

This manuscript has important implications for research and practice. With respect to research, we have demonstrated that aspects of business planning and lean startup both are associated with success. Furthermore, entrepreneurs seem unlikely to enact either business planning or lean startup wholesale but are likely to pursue individual aspects of these concepts. Future research can investigate how entrepreneurs select between activities as well as how training and education regarding these practices impact the entrepreneurs' choice. The training and education surrounding the entrepreneur represent aspects of the organizing context ( Johannisson, 2011 ), which influence how entrepreneurs construct their firms. Therefore, future research could add further institutional aspects or conduct randomized controlled trials to see the impact of these practices in the organizing context.

In terms of implications for practice, this research highlights the use of a variety of activities when it comes to entrepreneurial success. Some of the activities from both lean startup and business planning are useful for entrepreneurs. This also offers insight for educators as they seek to equip the next generation of entrepreneurs. Educators can offer potential entrepreneurs a wide range of activities without prognosticating one aspect of the false dichotomy between lean startup and business planning.

In this paper, we provide one of the first quantitative empirical studies investigating lean startup methods and business planning. In breaking down these areas, we undermine the false dichotomy between these two startup tools. Our findings demonstrate that truly understanding customers through preorders and interviews can lead to better business plans and better pivots. Ultimately, this results in firms with a greater chance of success. Understanding the variety of activities that entrepreneurs can pursue helps entrepreneurs and educators increase the chances of success for new businesses.

Correlations

Summary regression results for the growth DV

We do not believe that business planning exists as a latent construct necessarily comprised of these activities, but rather each of these activities are potential components of the concept referred to as “business planning” in prior research.

Similar to business planning activities, we believe that lean startup is not a latent construct but rather these activities in some combination is what is meant when practitioners and scholars refer to lean startup. As such we test each of the activities individually rather than as a construct.

Following the extant guidelines on regression assumptions ( Osborne and Waters, 2002 ), we tested our model to ensure the regression assumptions were met. First, to check if our error terms ( Flatt and Jacobs, 2019 ) are normally distributed, the P - P plot suggests normality as the plot is largely linear. Second, to check for a linear relationship between the independent and dependent variable, our residual plot showed a linear relationship. Third, as our variables were not latent, there is no concern for measurement error for this approach. However, we did follow best practices suggested by Flatt and Jacobs (2019) and tested the Durbin–Watson statistic. Our value for this measure is 1.5 and their guidelines are that this statistic should be close to 2. Values between 1.2 and 1.6 represent only a minor violation of the statistical independence of error terms. Finally, to address the assumption of homoscedasticity, inspection of our standardized residuals showed our residuals scattered around the 0 (horizontal line). Therefore, for our dependent variable of success, we can feel comfortable our data meets the assumptions of linear regression.

As this dependent variable was analyzed using logistic regression, we analyzed our data following best practices from Garson (2012) . First, our dependent variable is dichotomous. Second our scatterplot showed no outliers in our data. Third, the correlation table showed no evidence for multicollinearity as no correlations were above 0.9 ( Tabachnick et al. , 2007 ). Hence, we feel our data meets the assumptions for logistic regression.

Appendix Qualtrics Survey

[Business Background]

Started (or am starting it) myself

When you first started pursuing the business, how many people were on the founding team (including yourself)?

High Tech Startup (External/Venture funded)

Steady Growth Business (Internally/Self-funded)

Lifestyle Business

Business Idea

Decision to Start a Business

Occurred Together

Month (1–12)

Year (YYYY)

[Lean Start Up, Business Planning Practices]

Interviewed potential customers

Created a prototype

Showed a prototype to potential customers for feedback

Conducted an experiment to better understand some portion of your business

Wrote a business plan

Accepted money for pre-orders

Used customer feedback to alter the direction of your business ("pivoted")

Gathered secondary data on industry statistics or trends

Shared your business plan with people outside the company for feedback

Shared your business plan with people outside the company for funding

[Demographics]

How old are you? 0.5

Prefer not to answer

Black or African American

American Indian or Alaska Native

Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

Living with a partner

Never married

Up to 8th grade

Some High School

High School Diploma

Some College

Associate's Degree

Bachelor's Degree

Some Graduate School

Master's Degree

More than 1

[Success Criteria]

My business is a success

Increased Annual Revenue

Increased Annual Customers

Increased Number of Employees

Thank you for completing the survey!

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Acknowledgements

A portion of this research was funded by the Downing Scholars research grant at Xavier University.

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JUST RELEASED: View the 2024 Franchise 500 Ranking

The Essential Guide to Writing a Business Plan Here's the no-nonsense guide on how to write a business plan that will help you map success for your startup.

By Carolyn Sun

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." If you're starting a business, you should have a business plan regardless of whether you're bootstrapping it or looking for outside funding.

The best sorts of business plans tell a clear story of what the company plans to do and how it will do it. Given the high failure rate of startups in their first year, a business plan is also an ideal opportunity to safely test out the feasibility of a business and spot flaws, set aside unrealistic projections and identify and analyze the competition.

A business plan doesn't need to be complicated, but for it to serve its purpose and set you up for success, it must be clear to whomever is reading your plan that you have a realistic handle on the why and how your business will be a success.

To get you moving in the right direction, here's a guide on how to write a business plan.

Overall tips

There's a lot of advice in the infosphere about how to write a business plan, but there's no single correct way. Your approach depends on your industry, who is reading your plan and what the plan is intended for. Are you trying to get funding? Sara Sutton Fell, founder of FlexJobs , a job site for flexible telecommuting jobs, says her business plan was an initiator for more in-depth conversation with potential investors. "A plan does help to see if investors and entrepreneurs are on the same page with general expectations for the business," she says.

A business plan serves many purposes, but there is universal consensus on the following when it comes to your business plan:

Have several versions tailored for specific audiences: "One of the mistakes that inexperienced business owners make is not understanding who they're writing the plan for," says David Ciccarelli, a small business owner who got consultation from his local Small Business Association (SBA) when he was starting his company Voices.com , which connects employers with voiceover talent.

Your plan is a living document: Tim Berry, the founder of a business planning software company Palo Alto Software , took his company from zero to $5 million in sales in its first three years. To do so requires frequent review and close tracking, says Berry, who met with his management team every month to review the plan versus what actually happened -- and then to revise. "There is no virtue to sticking to a plan if it's not useful and responsive to what actually happens," he cautions.

Be realistic about financial estimates and projections: "When you present a plan to bankers and financiers, or even to your employees, people will get way more excited about what's real rather than some huge thing that's never going to happen," says Ciccarelli. So present an achievable sales forecasts based on bottom-upwards information (i.e. how many units per month get sold in how many stores) and stop over projecting profits.

Writing your business plan is about the process and having a blueprint: Your business plan "reflects your ideas, intuitions, instincts and insights about your business and its future," according to Write Your Business Plan (Entrepreneur, 2015). The plan serves as a safe way to test these out before you commit to a course of action. And once you get your business going, the plan also serves as a reference point. "I still print the document," says Ciccarelli. "You're capturing it in time. If you're changing it all the time, you kind of don't remember where you were last year."

Back up any claims: Follow up your projections and assertions with statistics, facts or quotes from a knowledgeable source to lend your plan credibility.

Presentation counts: Reading any long, text-heavy document is hard on the eyes, so format with this in mind. Consider formatting your text pages into two-columns and break up long passages with charts or graphs. Arial, Verdana or Times New Roman are standard industry fonts.

Writing your business plan isn't busy work or a luxury; it's a vital part of the process of starting a business and arms you with information you need to know. So, let's get into what information goes into your business plan.

Related: Bu siness Plans: A Step-by-Step Guide

What goes into a business plan?

A typical business plan is 15 to 25 pages. Its length depends on a variety of factors, such as whether your business is introducing a new product or belongs to a new industry (which requires explanation to the reader), or if you're pitching to bankers, who generally expect to see a traditional written business plan and financials.

"Most equity investors prefer either an executive summary or pitch deck for first contact, but will often request a more detailed plan later in the due diligence process. Potential customers don't need all the details of your internal operation. Your management team needs access to everything," says Akira Hirai, managing director of business plan consulting service Cayenne Consulting .

Most business plans include these seven sections:

1. Executive summary : The executive summary follows the title page and explains the fundamentals of your business. It should provide a short and clear synopsis of your business plan that describes your business concept, financial features and requirements (i.e. cash flow and sales projections plus capital needed), your company's current business position (i.e. its legal form of operation, when the company was formed, principals and key personnel) and any major achievements in the company that are relevant to its success, including patents, prototypes or results from test marketing.

2. Business description : This section typically begins with a brief description of your industry and its outlook. Get into the various markets within the industry, including any new products that will benefit or hurt your business. For those seeking funding, reinforce your data with reliable sources and footnote when possible. Also provide a description of your business operation's structure (i.e. wholesale, retail or service-oriented), who you will sell to, how you will distribute your products/services, the products/services itself (what gives you the competitive edge), your business's legal structure, your principals and what they bring to the organization.

Here are some worksheets from Write Your Business Plan that will help determine your unique selling proposition and analyze your industry.

Click to Enlarge+

worksheets

3. Market strategies: Here is where you define your target market and how you plan to reach them. Market analysis requires research and familiarity with the market so that the target market can be defined and the company can be positioned (i.e. are you a premium product or a price-competitive product?) in order to garner its market share. Analyze your market in terms of size, structure, growth prospects, trends and sales/growth potential. This section also talks about distribution plans and promotion strategy and tactics that will allow you to fulfill your plans.

Here is a worksheet from Write Your Business Plan that will guide you toward identifying your target market.

Worksheet

4. Competitive analysis: The purpose of the competitive analysis is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within your market, strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage, the barriers that can be developed in order to prevent competition from entering your market, and any weaknesses that can be exploited within the product development cycle. Show why your business will be a success over others.

5. Design and development plan: You will only need this section if you have a product in development, such as an app. The purpose of this section is to provide investors with a description of the product's design, chart its development within the context of production and marketing and show a development budget that will enable the company to reach its goals.

6. Operations and management plan: This section describes how the business functions on a daily basis, its location, equipment, people, processes and surrounding environment. If you have a product that needs to be manufactured, explain the how and where; also, describe your work facility, the personnel, the legal environment (such as licensing, permits, special regulations, etc.), key suppliers and inventory. This section will also highlight the logistics of the organization such as the various responsibilities of the management team and the tasks assigned to each division within the company.

7. Financial factors: Financial data is always at the back of a business plan -- yet it's extremely important. The financial data can include your personal financial statement, startup expenses and capital, your projected cash flow statement and 12-month profit-and-loss statement. PaloAlto's Berry stresses that if you're going after investors, you'll need to show a cash flow statement and a break-even analysis -- or the breakdown to see where your business breaks even.

The best way to prepare for running a business is to have all the components of the plan ready. So if you are are showing a prospective lender your business plan on 10 PowerPoint slides and get asked about something that isn't in the presentation, you can speak knowledgeably and follow up with a more fleshed out plan -- and quickly.

Some business owners hire business plan writing services. Cayenne Consulting's Hirai says that his clients generally fall into one of two categories: those intimidated by the process and those who could write the plan themselves but would prefer to spend their time on other priorities.

If you find yourself intimidated or stuck, you can always write the parts of plan yourself that you understand and hire a consultant or researcher to help with parts that you find confusing.

Or if you're a startup watching every dollar, then tap the free services of the federal Small Business Association (SBA). Every state has a district office . Through the SBA, you can get business plan assistance through its various resource partners, which includes Women's Business Centers , Small Business Development Centers and Service Corps of Retired Executives .

Allow this business plan template for Business Plan for a Startup Business to guide you:

Different types of business plans

Generally, business plans can be divided into four categories :

Working plan: This plan is what you will use to operate your business and is not meant to be admired. This version of your plan is an internal document and will be long on detail, short on presentation. Here, you can omit descriptions that you need not explain to yourself or your team.

Mini plan: The reader may request a mini plan, or a condensed version of your business plan (1-10 pages), which includes most of the same components as in a longer traditional plan -- minus the details and explanation. This includes the business concept, financing needs, marketing plan, financial statements (especially cash flow), income project and balance sheet. This shorter plan is not meant to be a substitute for a full-length plan, but serves as an option to present to potential partners or investors.

Presentation plan: Whether you're using a pitch deck or a written business plan, the information in your presentation plan will be, more or less, the same as in your working plan but worded differently and styled for the eyes of an outsider. The reader of your presentation plan will be someone who is unfamiliar with your business, such as investor or venture capitalist, so lose any jargon or shorthand from your working plan, which only makes sense to you. Also, keep in mind that investors will want to see due diligence on your competition threats and risks as well as financial projections. In addition, looks count, so use the color printer, a nice cover and bindings and the fancy paper stock. Or else, if you're presenting your business plan as a PowerPoint presentation, you can use this business plan presentation template .

What-if plan: This is a contingency plan -- in case your worst case scenario happens, such as market share loss, heavy price competition or defection of a key member of your team. You want to think about what to do in the face of an of these, and if you're trying to get outside funds, having a contingency plan shows that you've considered what to do if things don't go according to plan. You don't necessarily need this, but if you are getting outside funding, then it can strengthen your credibility showing that you have thought about these what-if possibilities. Even if you're not going to get outside funding, shouldn't you be thinking of the what ifs?

If four plans seem like a mountain of work, don't panic. Select two to start off -- a working plan and a mini plan, which will be an abbreviated version of your working plan.

Take several months to write your business plan. Consider it a journey, not a sprint.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Business Plan

Carolyn Sun is a freelance writer for Entrepreneur.com. Find out more on Twitter  and  Facebook . 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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24 of My Favorite Sample Business Plans & Examples For Your Inspiration

Clifford Chi

Published: February 06, 2024

Free Business Plan Template

article on writing business plans

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

Thank you for downloading the offer.

I believe that reading sample business plans is essential when writing your own.

sample business plans and examples

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As you explore business plan examples from real companies and brands, it’s easier for you to learn how to write a good one.

But what does a good business plan look like? And how do you write one that’s both viable and convincing. I’ll walk you through the ideal business plan format along with some examples to help you get started.

Table of Contents

Business Plan Format

Business plan types, sample business plan templates, top business plan examples.

Ask any successful sports coach how they win so many games, and they’ll tell you they have a unique plan for every single game. To me, the same logic applies to business.

If you want to build a thriving company that can pull ahead of the competition, you need to prepare for battle before breaking into a market.

Business plans guide you along the rocky journey of growing a company. And if your business plan is compelling enough, it can also convince investors to give you funding.

With so much at stake, I’m sure you’re wondering where to begin.

article on writing business plans

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

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Fill out the form to get your free template.

First, you’ll want to nail down your formatting. Most business plans include the following sections.

1. Executive Summary

I’d say the executive summary is the most important section of the entire business plan. 

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

There are two main elements I’d recommend including in your executive summary:

Company Description

This is the perfect space to highlight your company’s mission statement and goals, a brief overview of your history and leadership, and your top accomplishments as a business.

Tell potential investors who you are and why what you do matters. Naturally, they’re going to want to know who they’re getting into business with up front, and this is a great opportunity to showcase your impact.

Need some extra help firming up those business goals? Check out HubSpot Academy’s free course to help you set goals that matter — I’d highly recommend it

Products and Services

To piggyback off of the company description, be sure to incorporate an overview of your offerings. This doesn’t have to be extensive — just another chance to introduce your industry and overall purpose as a business.

In addition to the items above, I recommend including some information about your financial projections and competitive advantage here too.:

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

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

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

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example

This executive summary is so good to me because it tells potential investors a short story while still covering all of the most important details.

Business plans examples: Executive Summary

Image Source

Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

  • Start with a strong introduction of your company, showcase your mission and impact, and outline the products and services you provide.
  • Clearly define a problem, and explain how your product solves that problem, and show why the market needs your business.
  • Be sure to highlight your value proposition, market opportunity, and growth potential.
  • Keep it concise and support ideas with data.
  • Customize your summary to your audience. For example, emphasize finances and return on investment for venture capitalists.

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

2. Market Opportunity

This is where you'll detail the opportunity in the market.

The main question I’d ask myself here is this: Where is the gap in the current industry, and how will my product fill that gap?

More specifically, here’s what I’d include in this section:

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

To get a thorough understanding of the market opportunity, you'll want to conduct a TAM, SAM, and SOM analysis and perform market research on your industry.

You may also benefit from creating a SWOT analysis to get some of the insights for this section.

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Market Opportunity

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

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

3. Competitive Landscape

Since we’re already speaking of market share, you'll also need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are.

After all, your customers likely have more than one brand to choose from, and you'll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another.

My favorite part of performing a competitive analysis is that it can help you uncover:

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

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

I like how the competitive landscape section of this business plan below shows a clear outline of who the top competitors are.

Business plans examples: Competitive Landscape

It also highlights specific industry knowledge and the importance of location, which shows useful experience in this specific industry. 

This can help build trust in your ability to execute your business plan.

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

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

4. Target Audience

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

If your immediate answer is "everyone," you'll need to dig deeper. Here are some questions I’d ask myself here:

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

I’d also recommend building a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be clear on why you're targeting them.

Target Audience Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Target Audience

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

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

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. I’d suggest including information:

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

I think it’s helpful to have a marketing plan built out in advance to make this part of your business plan easier.

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

This business plan example includes the marketing strategy for the town of Gawler.

In my opinion, it really works because it offers a comprehensive picture of how they plan to use digital marketing to promote the community.

Business plans examples: Marketing Strategy

Tips for Writing Your Marketing Strategy

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

6. Key Features and Benefits

At some point in your business plan, you'll need to review the key features and benefits of your products and/or services.

Laying these out can give readers an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use. It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.

Key Features and Benefits Business Plan Example

In my opinion, the example below does a great job outlining products and services for this business, along with why these qualities will attract the audience.

Business plans examples: Key Features and Benefits

Tips for Writing Your Key Features and Benefits

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

7. Pricing and Revenue

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

For this reason, here’s what I’d might outline in this section:

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

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Pricing and Revenue

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

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

8. Financials

To me, this section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to figure out funding strategies, investment opportunities, and more.

 According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:

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

While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details I’d include in this section.

Financials Business Plan Example

This balance sheet is a great example of level of detail you’ll need to include in the financials section of your business plan.

Business plans examples: Financials

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

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

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

The formats above apply to most types of business plans. That said, the format and structure of your plan will vary by your goals for that plan. 

So, I’ve added a quick review of different business plan types. For a more detailed overview, check out this post .

1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas.

If you’re planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business.

You can check out this guide for more detailed business plan inspiration .

2. Feasibility Studies

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

3. Internal Use

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

4. Strategic Initiatives

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

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

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

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

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

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

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

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

Fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline give this one-page business plan a framework for how to build your brand and what tasks to keep track of as you grow.

Then, as the business matures, you can expand on your original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.

Why I Like It

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

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

We also created a business plan template for entrepreneurs.

The template is designed as a guide and checklist for starting your own business. You’ll learn what to include in each section of your business plan and how to do it.

There’s also a list for you to check off when you finish each section of your business plan.

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

This business plan kit is essential for the budding entrepreneur who needs a more extensive document to share with investors and other stakeholders.

It not only includes sections for your executive summary, product line, market analysis, marketing plan, and sales plan, but it also offers hands-on guidance for filling out those sections.

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

Sample Business Plan: LiveFLow

This free template from LiveFlow aims to make it easy for businesses to create a financial plan and track their progress on a monthly basis.

The P&L Budget versus Actual format allows users to track their revenue, cost of sales, operating expenses, operating profit margin, net profit, and more.

The summary dashboard aggregates all of the data put into the financial plan sheet and will automatically update when changes are made.

Instead of wasting hours manually importing your data to your spreadsheet, LiveFlow can also help you to automatically connect your accounting and banking data directly to your spreadsheet, so your numbers are always up-to-date.

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

This is a fantastic template to track performance and alignment internally and to create a dependable process for documenting financial information across the business. It’s highly versatile and beginner-friendly.

It’s especially useful if you don’t have an accountant on the team. (I always recommend you do, but for new businesses, having one might not be possible.)

4. ThoughtCo’s Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: ThoughtCo.

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

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

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

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

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

With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of " Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum ", you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service.

You’ll also learn the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.

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

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know writing a business plan is one of the most challenging first steps to starting a business.

Fortunately, with HubSpot's comprehensive guide to starting a business, you'll learn how to map out all the details by understanding what to include in your business plan and why it’s important to include them. The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you.

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

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of starting a business, in addition to writing your business plan, with a high level of exactitude and detail. So if you’re in the midst of starting your business, this is an excellent guide for you.

It also offers other resources you might need, such as market analysis templates.

8. Panda Doc’s Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Panda Doc

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

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

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

9. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan.

Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need — a traditional or lean start-up plan.

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

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

I’ve compiled some completed business plan samples to help you get an idea of how to customize a plan for your business.

I chose different types of business plan ideas to expand your imagination. Some are extensive, while others are fairly simple.

Let’s take a look.

1. LiveFlow

business plan example: liveflow

One of the major business expenses is marketing. How you handle your marketing reflects your company’s revenue.

I included this business plan to show you how you can ensure your marketing team is aligned with your overall business plan to get results. The plan also shows you how to track even the smallest metrics of your campaigns, like ROI and payback periods instead of just focusing on big metrics like gross and revenue.

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

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

When it came to including marketing strategy in its business plan, LiveFlow created a separate marketing profit and loss statement (P&L) to track how well the company was doing with its marketing initiatives.

This is a great approach, allowing businesses to focus on where their marketing dollars are making the most impact. Having this information handy will enable you to build out your business plan’s marketing section with confidence. LiveFlow has shared the template here . You can test it for yourself.

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

Sometimes all you need is a solid mission statement and core values to guide you on how to go about everything. You do this by creating a business plan revolving around how to fulfill your statement best.

For example, Patagonia is an eco-friendly company, so their plan discusses how to make the best environmentally friendly products without causing harm.

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

Patagonia has one of the most compelling mission statements I’ve seen:

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

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

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

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

4. Vesta Home Automation

business plan example: Vesta executive summary

This executive summary for a smart home device startup is part of a business plan created by students at Mount Royal University .

While it lacks some of the sleek visuals of the templates above, its executive summary does a great job of demonstrating how invested they are in the business.

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

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

5. NALB Creative Center

business plan examples: nalb creative center

This fictional business plan for an art supply store includes everything one might need in a business plan: an executive summary, a company summary, a list of services, a market analysis summary, and more.

One of its most notable sections is its market analysis summary, which includes an overview of the population growth in the business’ target geographical area, as well as a breakdown of the types of potential customers they expect to welcome at the store. 

This sort of granular insight is essential for understanding and communicating your business’s growth potential. Plus, it lays a strong foundation for creating relevant and useful buyer personas .

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

Due to its comprehensiveness, it’s an excellent example to follow if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store and need to get external funding to start your business .

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

If you’re looking for a SaaS business plan example, look no further than this business plan for a fictional educational software company called Curriculum Companion Suites. 

Like the business plan for the NALB Creative Center, it includes plenty of information for prospective investors and other key stakeholders in the business.

One of the most notable features of this business plan is the executive summary, which includes an overview of the product, market, and mission.

The first two are essential for software companies because the product offering is so often at the forefront of the company’s strategy. Without that information being immediately available to investors and executives, then you risk writing an unfocused business plan.

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

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

Culina's sample business plan is an excellent example of how to lay out your business plan so that it flows naturally, engages readers, and provides the critical information investors and stakeholders need. 

You can use this template as a guide while you're gathering important information for your own business plan. You'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do since Culina’s plan outlines these details so flawlessly for inspiration.

8. Plum Sample Business Plan

Sample business plan: Plum

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How to use Copilot Pro to write, edit, and analyze your Word documents

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Microsoft's Copilot Pro AI offers a few benefits for $20 per month. But the most helpful one is the AI-powered integration with the different Microsoft 365 apps. For those of you who use Microsoft Word, for instance, Copilot Pro can help you write and revise your text, provide summaries of your documents, and answer questions about any document.

First, you'll need a subscription to either Microsoft 365 Personal or Family . Priced at $70 per year, the Personal edition is geared for one individual signed into as many as five devices. At $100 per year, the Family edition is aimed at up to six people on as many as five devices. The core apps in the suite include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote.

Also: Microsoft Copilot vs. Copilot Pro: Is the subscription fee worth it?

Second, you'll need the subscription to Copilot Pro if you don't already have one. To sign up, head to the Copilot Pro website . Click the Get Copilot Pro button. Confirm the subscription and the payment. The next time you use Copilot on the website, in Windows, or with the mobile apps, the Pro version will be in effect.

How to use Copilot Pro in Word

1. open word.

Launch Microsoft Word and open a blank document. Let's say you need help writing a particular type of document and want Copilot to create a draft. 

Also: Microsoft Copilot Pro vs. OpenAI's ChatGPT Plus: Which is worth your $20 a month?

A small "Draft with Copilot" window appears on the screen. If you don't see it, click the tiny "Draft with Copilot icon in the left margin."

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2. Submit your request

At the text field in the window, type a description of the text you need and click the "Generate" button.

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Submit your request.

3. Review the response and your options

Copilot generates and displays its response. After reading the response, you're presented with a few different options.

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Review the response and your options.

4. Keep, regenerate, or remove the draft

If you like the draft, click "Keep it." The draft is then inserted into your document where you can work with it. If you don't like the draft, click the "Regenerate" button, and a new draft is created. 

Also: What is Copilot (formerly Bing Chat)? Here's everything you need to know

If you'd prefer to throw out the entire draft and start from scratch, click the trash can icon.

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Keep, regenerate, or remove the draft.

5. Alter the draft

Alternatively, you can try to modify the draft by typing a specific request in the text field, such as "Make it more formal," "Make it shorter," or "Make it more casual."

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Alter the draft.

6. Review the different versions

If you opt to regenerate the draft, you can switch between the different versions by clicking the left or right arrow next to the number. You can then choose to keep the draft you prefer.

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7. Revise existing text

Copilot will also help you fine-tune existing text. Select the text you want to revise. Click the Copilot icon in the left margin and select "Rewrite with Copilot."

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Revise existing text.

8. Review the different versions

Copilot creates a few different versions of the text. Click the arrow keys to view each version.

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Review the different versions.

9. Replace or Insert

If you find one you like, click "Replace" to replace the text you selected. 

Also: ChatGPT vs. Microsoft Copilot vs. Gemini: Which is the best AI chatbot?

Click "Insert below" to insert the new draft below the existing words so you can compare the two.

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Replace or Insert.

10. Adjust the tone

Click "Regenerate" to ask Copilot to try again. Click the "Adjust Tone" button and select a different tone to generate another draft.

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Adjust the tone.

11. Turn text into a table

Sometimes you have text that would look and work better as a table. Copilot can help. Select the text you wish to turn into a table. Click the Copilot icon and select "Visualize as a Table."

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Turn text into a table.

12. Respond to the table

In response, click "Keep it" to retain the table. Click "Regenerate" to try again. Click the trash can icon to delete it. Otherwise, type a request in the text field, such as "remove the second row" or "make the last column wider."

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Respond to the table.

13. Summarize a document

Copilot Pro can provide a summary of a document with its key points. To try this, open the document you want to summarize and then click the Copilot icon on the Ribbon. 

Also: The best AI chatbots

The right sidebar displays several prompts you can use to start your question. Click the one for "Summarize this doc."

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Summarize a document.

14. Review the summary

View the generated summary in the sidebar. If you like it as is, click the "Copy" button to copy the summary and paste it elsewhere.

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Review the summary.

15. Revise the summary

Otherwise, choose one of the suggested questions or ask your own question to revise the summary. For example, you could tell Copilot to make the summary longer, shorter, more formal, or less formal. 

Also: The best AI image generators

You could also ask it to expand on one of the points in the summary or provide more details on a certain point. A specific response is then generated based on your request.

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Revise the summary.

16. Ask questions about a document

Next, you can ask specific questions about any of the content in a document. Again, click the Copilot icon to display the sidebar. In the prompt area, type and submit your question. Copilot displays the response in the sidebar. You can then ask follow-up questions as needed.

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Ask questions about a document.

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article on writing business plans

Create a form in Word that users can complete or print

In Word, you can create a form that others can fill out and save or print.  To do this, you will start with baseline content in a document, potentially via a form template.  Then you can add content controls for elements such as check boxes, text boxes, date pickers, and drop-down lists. Optionally, these content controls can be linked to database information.  Following are the recommended action steps in sequence.  

Show the Developer tab

In Word, be sure you have the Developer tab displayed in the ribbon.  (See how here:  Show the developer tab .)

Open a template or a blank document on which to base the form

You can start with a template or just start from scratch with a blank document.

Start with a form template

Go to File > New .

In the  Search for online templates  field, type  Forms or the kind of form you want. Then press Enter .

In the displayed results, right-click any item, then select  Create. 

Start with a blank document 

Select Blank document .

Add content to the form

Go to the  Developer  tab Controls section where you can choose controls to add to your document or form. Hover over any icon therein to see what control type it represents. The various control types are described below. You can set properties on a control once it has been inserted.

To delete a content control, right-click it, then select Remove content control  in the pop-up menu. 

Note:  You can print a form that was created via content controls. However, the boxes around the content controls will not print.

Insert a text control

The rich text content control enables users to format text (e.g., bold, italic) and type multiple paragraphs. To limit these capabilities, use the plain text content control . 

Click or tap where you want to insert the control.

Rich text control button

To learn about setting specific properties on these controls, see Set or change properties for content controls .

Insert a picture control

A picture control is most often used for templates, but you can also add a picture control to a form.

Picture control button

Insert a building block control

Use a building block control  when you want users to choose a specific block of text. These are helpful when you need to add different boilerplate text depending on the document's specific purpose. You can create rich text content controls for each version of the boilerplate text, and then use a building block control as the container for the rich text content controls.

building block gallery control

Select Developer and content controls for the building block.

Developer tab showing content controls

Insert a combo box or a drop-down list

In a combo box, users can select from a list of choices that you provide or they can type in their own information. In a drop-down list, users can only select from the list of choices.

combo box button

Select the content control, and then select Properties .

To create a list of choices, select Add under Drop-Down List Properties .

Type a choice in Display Name , such as Yes , No , or Maybe .

Repeat this step until all of the choices are in the drop-down list.

Fill in any other properties that you want.

Note:  If you select the Contents cannot be edited check box, users won’t be able to click a choice.

Insert a date picker

Click or tap where you want to insert the date picker control.

Date picker button

Insert a check box

Click or tap where you want to insert the check box control.

Check box button

Use the legacy form controls

Legacy form controls are for compatibility with older versions of Word and consist of legacy form and Active X controls.

Click or tap where you want to insert a legacy control.

Legacy control button

Select the Legacy Form control or Active X Control that you want to include.

Set or change properties for content controls

Each content control has properties that you can set or change. For example, the Date Picker control offers options for the format you want to use to display the date.

Select the content control that you want to change.

Go to Developer > Properties .

Controls Properties  button

Change the properties that you want.

Add protection to a form

If you want to limit how much others can edit or format a form, use the Restrict Editing command:

Open the form that you want to lock or protect.

Select Developer > Restrict Editing .

Restrict editing button

After selecting restrictions, select Yes, Start Enforcing Protection .

Restrict editing panel

Advanced Tip:

If you want to protect only parts of the document, separate the document into sections and only protect the sections you want.

To do this, choose Select Sections in the Restrict Editing panel. For more info on sections, see Insert a section break .

Sections selector on Resrict sections panel

If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab .

Open a template or use a blank document

To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls. Content controls include things like check boxes, text boxes, and drop-down lists. If you’re familiar with databases, these content controls can even be linked to data.

Go to File > New from Template .

New from template option

In Search, type form .

Double-click the template you want to use.

Select File > Save As , and pick a location to save the form.

In Save As , type a file name and then select Save .

Start with a blank document

Go to File > New Document .

New document option

Go to File > Save As .

Go to Developer , and then choose the controls that you want to add to the document or form. To remove a content control, select the control and press Delete. You can set Options on controls once inserted. From Options, you can add entry and exit macros to run when users interact with the controls, as well as list items for combo boxes, .

Adding content controls to your form

In the document, click or tap where you want to add a content control.

On Developer , select Text Box , Check Box , or Combo Box .

Developer tab with content controls

To set specific properties for the control, select Options , and set .

Repeat steps 1 through 3 for each control that you want to add.

Set options

Options let you set common settings, as well as control specific settings. Select a control and then select Options to set up or make changes.

Set common properties.

Select Macro to Run on lets you choose a recorded or custom macro to run on Entry or Exit from the field.

Bookmark Set a unique name or bookmark for each control.

Calculate on exit This forces Word to run or refresh any calculations, such as total price when the user exits the field.

Add Help Text Give hints or instructions for each field.

OK Saves settings and exits the panel.

Cancel Forgets changes and exits the panel.

Set specific properties for a Text box

Type Select form Regular text, Number, Date, Current Date, Current Time, or Calculation.

Default text sets optional instructional text that's displayed in the text box before the user types in the field. Set Text box enabled to allow the user to enter text into the field.

Maximum length sets the length of text that a user can enter. The default is Unlimited .

Text format can set whether text automatically formats to Uppercase , Lowercase , First capital, or Title case .

Text box enabled Lets the user enter text into a field. If there is default text, user text replaces it.

Set specific properties for a Check box .

Default Value Choose between Not checked or checked as default.

Checkbox size Set a size Exactly or Auto to change size as needed.

Check box enabled Lets the user check or clear the text box.

Set specific properties for a Combo box

Drop-down item Type in strings for the list box items. Press + or Enter to add an item to the list.

Items in drop-down list Shows your current list. Select an item and use the up or down arrows to change the order, Press - to remove a selected item.

Drop-down enabled Lets the user open the combo box and make selections.

Protect the form

Go to Developer > Protect Form .

Protect form button on the Developer tab

Note:  To unprotect the form and continue editing, select Protect Form again.

Save and close the form.

Test the form (optional)

If you want, you can test the form before you distribute it.

Protect the form.

Reopen the form, fill it out as the user would, and then save a copy.

Creating fillable forms isn’t available in Word for the web.

You can create the form with the desktop version of Word with the instructions in Create a fillable form .

When you save the document and reopen it in Word for the web, you’ll see the changes you made.

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$7 Million for 30 Seconds? To Advertisers, the Super Bowl Is Worth It.

In a time of fragmentation, advertising during the game’s broadcast is still a reliable way to boost company revenue and familiarize viewers with a brand.

A cat wearing a bow tie.

By Santul Nerkar

A cat meowing for Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Peyton Manning chucking Bud Light beers to patrons in a bar and Kris Jenner stacking Oreo cookies. They all have one thing in common: Those companies paid seven figures to get their products in front of viewers during this year’s Super Bowl.

For the second consecutive year, the average cost of a 30-second ad spot during the Super Bowl was $7 million. Even as many businesses are being more disciplined with the money they have for marketing, and with spending on advertising slowing in recent years, the cost of a Super Bowl ad continues to go up.

The reason is simple: There is no opportunity guaranteed to reach more people than the Super Bowl, and the slice of every other pie keeps shrinking.

“It’s a throwback in terms of reaching everyone all at once,” said Charles Taylor, a professor of marketing at the Villanova School of Business.

In an increasingly fragmented media landscape, the number of opportunities for companies to reach a mass audience through advertising on network television has dwindled. Popular shows have increasingly moved to streaming platforms, along with audiences. More and more, networks find themselves relying on live events, like award shows and sports, to draw viewers.

“Live events are still huge for advertisers, and those are the ones that draw the highest attention,” said Frank Maguire, a vice president at Sharethrough, an advertising integration platform.

Not all live events are created equal, though. A record-low audience watched the Emmy Awards in January . Leagues like the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League have struggled to retain and increase viewership, and ratings for the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball final have fallen in recent years.

But the National Football League has continued its strong upward march , both in terms of viewership and media deals. In 2021, television networks committed $110 billion for the rights to broadcast the league for a decade, and the N.F.L. has continued to set record viewership numbers. More than 115 million people watched last year’s championship game.

The Super Bowl stands alone as a mass-marketing opportunity on television. A decade ago, the average cost of a 30-second spot was $4 million; a decade before that, it was $2.4 million. Analysts say the rise is a result of supply and demand: With a fixed amount of time and advertising spots for each Super Bowl broadcast, the competition is fierce. CBS, which will broadcast Sunday’s game, sold out its ad spots in a matter of weeks in November. Paramount, which owns CBS, will reportedly run nearly a dozen spots to promote its films.

“In this era of fragmentation, the Super Bowl is what television used to be,” said Brad Adgate, a veteran media analyst.

For many years, Super Bowl ads were kept closely guarded until the day of the game. Now, companies employ marketing campaigns that often start in mid-January.

“It’s about building a long-running narrative,” said Kofi Amoo-Gottfried, the chief marketing officer at DoorDash, whose Super Bowl ad this year is pushing a promotional deal.

Many viewers now turn on the Super Bowl broadcast with an idea of what to expect for the ads. A January preview of a Pringles ad, for instance, featured the mustache of an unknown man, prompting many fans to guess it belonged to the Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce. (In fact, it belonged to the actor Chris Pratt.)

“You’re not just paying for that 30-second spot; it is a four- to six-week buzz that you’re creating,” said Mary Scott, a professor of strategic communications at Montclair State University and a former president at United Entertainment Group, a sports and entertainment marketing agency.

The rise in female viewership for N.F.L. games this season, made even more prominent by Taylor Swift’s relationship with Mr. Kelce, is another potential marketing opportunity for companies.

The news that Kansas City made the Super Bowl was welcomed by health-and-beauty companies, which disproportionately target young women. That demographic has tuned into more football games this season, thanks in large part to Ms. Swift’s appearances at Kansas City games.

NYX Makeup, a subsidiary of L’Oreal, has bought its first Super Bowl ad spot, while Dove is returning with an ad spot for the first time since 2015. E.L.F. cosmetics is advertising for the second straight year.

Kory Marchisotto, E.L.F.’s chief marketing officer, acknowledged that Kansas City’s playing in the Super Bowl was good for business. Ms. Marchisotto said her company kept different versions of ads in the days leading up to the game, a departure from how Super Bowl ads used to be prepared. Companies want to stay as nimble as possible, staying responsive to the specific interests of the audience watching the game.

“It was way easier when you would create a spot, spend a year on it, put it in market, and sit back and let it fly,” she said.

At the same time, companies are investing more heavily into making sure they’re getting the most for their $7 million. More ads this year are expected to feature interactive components like QR codes, which help companies track engagement with their brands in real time.

The technology debuted at the Super Bowl in 2022 with a floating code for Coinbase, a cryptocurrency company. The concept was used in more ads in last year’s Super Bowl — including one for avocados from Mexico and one for a public service announcement from a religious organization. The strategy also featured prominently during the N.F.L.’s first Black Friday broadcast in November.

Together, the Super Bowl’s ads are an annual snapshot of the economic and social moment in the country, said Ethan Heftman, a vice president of agency sales at Ampersand, an ad consortium owned by Comcast, Charter and Cox.

“As long as you have new industries — auto, cellular, tech companies,” Mr. Heftman said, “there’ll always be brands seeking that broad awareness.”

Santul Nerkar is a reporter covering business and sports. More about Santul Nerkar

Inside the World of Sports

Dive deeper into the people, issues and trends shaping professional, collegiate and amateur athletics..

Stadiums in Africa: This year’s Africa Cup of Nations, like several previous editions, played out in Chinese-built arenas. It will end with familiar questions about their legacy .

Discovered at a Pickup Game: Arthur Dukes Jr. had made three false starts at college before becoming the star player  for LaGuardia Community College’s scrappy new team.

Embracing Politics: Come for the draft analysis, stay for the anti-Biden rant. A growing class of commentators is blending sports and conservative politics .

Caitlin Clark Is Different: Her fiery competitiveness, no-look passes and 3-point bombs have made her the biggest star in college basketball. What happens when she leaves Iowa ?

Soccer in $1.50 Sandals: In Ivory Coast, lêkê are the preferred footwear for amateur games and almost everything else. Even Gucci wants to copy them .

Mixed Signals: The   N.F.L. is pushing to popularize and benefit from sports betting  while still trying to guard against the potential pitfalls for its players, employees and fans.

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Google’s Gemini is now in everything. Here’s how you can try it out.

Gmail, Docs, and more will now come with Gemini baked in. But Europeans will have to wait before they can download the app.

  • Will Douglas Heaven archive page

In the biggest mass-market AI launch yet, Google is rolling out Gemini , its family of large language models, across almost all its products, from Android to the iOS Google app to Gmail to Docs and more. You can also now get your hands on Gemini Ultra, the most powerful version of the model, for the first time.  

With this launch, Google is sunsetting Bard , the company's answer to ChatGPT. Bard, which has been powered by a version of Gemini since December, will now be known as Gemini too.  

ChatGPT , released by Microsoft-backed OpenAI just 14 months ago, changed people’s expectations of what computers could do. Google, which has been racing to catch up ever since, unveiled its Gemini family of models in December. They are multimodal large language models that can interact with you via voice, image, and text. Google claimed that its own benchmarking showed that Gemini could outperform OpenAI's multimodal model, GPT-4, on a range of standard tests. But the margins were slim. 

By baking Gemini into its ubiquitous products, Google is hoping to make up lost ground. “Every launch is big, but this one is the biggest yet,” Sissie Hsiao, Google vice president and general manager of Google Assistant and Bard (now Gemini), said in a press conference yesterday. “We think this is one of the most profound ways that we’re going to advance our company’s mission.”

But some will have to wait longer than others to play with Google’s new toys. The company has announced rollouts in the US and East Asia but said nothing about when the Android and iOS apps will come to the UK or the rest of Europe. This may be because the company is waiting for the EU’s new AI Act to be set in stone, says Dragoș Tudorache, a Romanian politician and member of the European Parliament, who was a key negotiator on the law.

“We’re working with local regulators to make sure that we’re abiding by local regime requirements before we can expand,” Hsiao said. “Rest assured, we are absolutely working on it and I hope we’ll be able to announce expansion very, very soon.”

How can you get it? Gemini Pro, Google’s middle-tier model that has been available via Bard since December, will continue to be available for free on the web at gemini.google.com (rather than bard.google.com). But now there is a mobile app as well.

If you have an Android device, you can either download the Gemini app or opt in to an upgrade in Google Assistant. This will let you call up Gemini in the same way that you use Google Assistant: by pressing the power button, swiping from the corner of the screen, or saying “Hey, Google!” iOS users can download the Google app, which will now include Gemini.

Gemini will pop up as an overlay on your screen, where you can ask it questions or give it instructions about whatever’s on your phone at the time, such as summarizing an article or generating a caption for a photo.  

Finally, Google is launching a paid-for service called Gemini Advanced. This comes bundled in a subscription costing $19.99 a month that the company is calling the Google One Premium AI Plan. It combines the perks of the existing Google One Premium Plan, such as 2TB of extra storage, with access to Google's most powerful model, Gemini Ultra, for the first time. This will compete with OpenAI’s paid-for service, ChatGPT Plus, which buys you access to the more powerful GPT-4 (rather than the default GPT-3.5) for $20 a month.

At some point soon (Google didn't say exactly when) this subscription will also unlock Gemini across Google’s Workspace apps like Docs, Sheets, and Slides, where it works as a smart assistant similar to the GPT-4-powered Copilot that Microsoft is trialing in Office 365.

When can you get it? The free Gemini app (powered by Gemini Pro) is available from today in English in the US. Starting next week, you’ll be able to access it across the Asia Pacific region in English and in Japanese and Korean. But there is no word on when the app will come to the UK, countries in the EU, or Switzerland.

Gemini Advanced (the paid-for service that gives access to Gemini Ultra) is available in English in more than 150 countries, including the UK and EU (but not France). Google says it is analyzing local requirements and fine-tuning Gemini for cultural nuance in different countries. But the company promises that more languages and regions are coming.

What can you do with it? Google says it has developed its Gemini products with the help of more than 100 testers and power users. At the press conference yesterday, Google execs outlined a handful of use cases, such as getting Gemini to help write a cover letter for a job application. “This can help you come across as more professional and increase your relevance to recruiters,” said Google’s vice president for product management, Kristina Behr.

Or you could take a picture of your flat tire and ask Gemini how to fix it. A more elaborate example involved Gemini managing a snack rota for the parents of kids on a soccer team. Gemini would come up with a schedule for who should bring snacks and when, help you email other parents, and then field their replies. In future versions, Gemini will be able to draw on data in your Google Drive that could help manage carpooling around game schedules, Behr said.   

But we should expect people to come up with a lot more uses themselves. “I’m really excited to see how people around the world are going to push the envelope on this AI,” Hsaio said.

Is it safe? Google has been working hard to make sure its products are safe to use. But no amount of testing can anticipate all the ways that tech will get used and misused once it is released. In the last few months, Meta saw people use its image-making app to produce pictures of Mickey Mouse with guns and SpongeBob SquarePants flying a jet into two towers. Others used Microsoft’s image-making software to create fake pornographic images of Taylor Swift .

The AI Act aims to mitigate some—but not all—of these problems. For example, it requires the makers of powerful AI like Gemini to build in safeguards, such as watermarking for generated images and steps to avoid reproducing copyrighted material. Google says that all images generated by its products will include its SynthID watermarks. 

Like most companies, Google was knocked onto the back foot when ChatGPT arrived. Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI has given it a boost over its old rival. But with Gemini, Google has come back strong: this is the slickest packaging of this generation’s tech yet. 

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OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.

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Investments into downsized infrastructure can help enterprises reap the benefits of AI while mitigating energy consumption, says corporate VP and GM of data center platform engineering and architecture at Intel, Zane Ball.

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New report sheds light on Apple's upcoming AI features that will rival Microsoft's Copilot

  • Apple plans to launch an AI tool that writes code as early as this year, Bloomberg reported.
  • Sources say the feature will be similar to Microsoft's GitHub Copilot — a new competitor.
  • The tech giant is also working on AI features for the iPhone, iPad, and MacOS. 

Insider Today

Apple is almost done building a generative AI tool for iOS app developers — and the company plans on releasing it to third-party software makers as early as this year, sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg .

The tech giant is working on a tool that will use artificial intelligence to write code as part of its plans to expand the capabilities of Xcode, the company's main programming software.

The revamped system will compete with Microsoft's GitHub Copilot , which sources say operates similarly.

Apple is also working on an AI tool that will generate code to test apps, which could provide potential time savings for a process that's known to be tedious.

Currently, Apple is urging some engineers to test these new AI features to ensure they work before releasing them externally to developers.

Apple didn't immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment before publication.

Apple's covert plans to launch its AI coding tool soon comes as the company lags behind generative AI efforts currently led by players like OpenAI, Google, and Microsoft. They come just weeks after CEO Tim Cook said on the company's most recent earnings call that it will announce its upcoming AI products once they're ready to hit the market.

"We've got some things that we're incredibly excited about that we'll be talking about later this year," Cook said on the call.

The news around Apple's product offerings appears to have come earlier than the company would've liked.

The tech giant, Bloomberg has learned, has plans to integrate AI features into its next software updates for its iPhone and iPad known internally as Crystal. Glow, another internal AI project, is slated to be added to MacOS.

The company is also building features that will generate Apple Music playlists and slideshows, according to the outlet.

An AI-powered search feature titled Spotlight, currently limited to answering questions around launching apps, is in the works as well, Bloomberg reported.

article on writing business plans

Watch: Here's everything Apple is rumored to be launching in 2017

article on writing business plans

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  1. How to Write Business Plan PDF: Expert Advice

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  4. How To Write A Small Scale Business Plan

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COMMENTS

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

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

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

    Steps 2. Describe your company 3. State your business goals 4. Describe your products and services 5. Do your market research 6. Outline your marketing and sales plan 7. Perform a business...

  3. Business plans

    Keeping Your Business Plan Flexible. Strategy & Execution Best Practice. Amy Gallo. People make business plans for all sorts of reasons - to attract funding, evaluate future growth, build ...

  4. Write your business plan

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

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

    1. Executive summary This is a short section that introduces the business plan as a whole to the people who will be reading it, including investors, lenders, or other members of your team. Start with a sentence or two about your business, your goals for developing it, and why it will be successful.

  6. How to Write a Winning Business Plan

    Stevenson (March-April 1985). This article is adapted from Business Plans That Win $$$: Lessons from the MIT Enterprise Forum, by Messrs. Rich and Gumpert (Harper & Row, 1985). The authors...

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

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

  8. Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed

    July 14, 2017 Jennifer Maravillas for HBR Summary. When asked about an opponent's plan for their impending fight, former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson once said: "everyone has a plan...

  9. How to Write a Simple Business Plan

    Write the Executive Summary. This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what's in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. Add a Company Overview. Document the larger company mission and vision.

  10. How to Write a Business Plan (Tips, Templates, Examples)

    1. Executive Summary. While your executive summary is the first page of your business plan, it's the section you'll write last. That's because it summarizes your entire business plan into a succinct one-pager. Begin with an executive summary that introduces the reader to your business and gives them an overview of what's inside the ...

  11. How to Write a Business Plan

    A business plan is a written outline that you present to others, such as investors, whom you want to recruit into your venture. It's your pitch to your investors, sharing with them what the goals...

  12. Writing a Successful Business Plan: An Overview

    The business plan focuses on major areas of concern and their contribution to the success of a new business. The finished plan communicates the product or service to others and provides the basis for the financial proposal. References Abrams R. M. (2010). The successful business plan: Secrets & strategies (5th ed.).

  13. Updating a Classic: Writing a Great Business Plan

    06 Oct 2008 Research & Ideas Updating a Classic: Writing a Great Business Plan by Sean Silverthorne Harvard Business School professor William A. Sahlman's article on how to write a great business plan is a Harvard Business Review classic, and has just been reissued in book form.

  14. The Basics of Writing a Business Plan

    1. Your basic business concept. This is where you discuss the industry, your business structure, your particular product or service, and how you plan to make your business a success. To use...

  15. The road to entrepreneurial success: business plans, lean startup, or

    Typically, business planning has been analyzed as the single act of writing a business plan (e.g. Honig and Karlsson, 2004).However, business planning is made up of a variety of activities (Gruber, 2007), which entrepreneurs may utilize as a whole, or simply choose parts of the business planning process.It is worth noting that these specific activities are not mutually exclusive with lean ...

  16. The Essential Guide to Writing a Business Plan

    Writing your business plan is about the process and having a blueprint: Your business plan "reflects your ideas, intuitions, instincts and insights about your business and its future,"...

  17. Writing a Successful Business Plan

    A business plan is the owner's road map for a successful enterprise—a blueprint, a statement of goals and hopes, a compass, and a guideline to planned action. It is the cur-rent and futuristic image of the business. A business plan is key to securing financing, main-taining focus, communicating, and preparing for the un-expected.

  18. Understanding the Benefits of a Written Business Plan

    These considerations include whether you're writing the first plan for a new business or business opportunity, or writing a plan that updates or supersedes an already existing plan. Your business's current status will have a significant impact on the type of planning that's needed. An ongoing business might require a plan that relates primarily ...

  19. Writing a Business Plan

    Company purpose Start here: define your company in a single declarative sentence. This is harder than it looks. It's easy to get caught up listing features instead of communicating your mission. Problem Describe the pain of your customer. How is this addressed today and what are the shortcomings to current solutions.

  20. 24 Best Sample Business Plans & Examples to Help You Write Your Own

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

  21. How to use Copilot Pro to write, edit, and analyze your Word ...

    For those of you who use Microsoft Word, for instance, Copilot Pro can help you write and revise your text, provide summaries of your documents, and answer questions about any document.

  22. Facts About Business Administration Bachelor's Degrees

    Many students seeking B.B.A. degrees plan to attend business school at the graduate level and pursue their master of business administration (M.B.A.). Others might use this degree to enhance their ...

  23. Create a form in Word that users can complete or print

    Show the Developer tab. If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab.. Open a template or use a blank document. To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls.

  24. $7 Million for 30 Seconds? To Advertisers, the Super Bowl Is Worth It

    The Super Bowl stands alone as a mass-marketing opportunity on television. A decade ago, the average cost of a 30-second spot was $4 million; a decade before that, it was $2.4 million.

  25. How to Write a Great Business Plan

    William Sahlman suggests that a great business plan is one that focuses on a series of questions. These questions relate to the four factors critical to the success of every new venture: the ...

  26. Google's Gemini is now in everything. Here's how you can try it out

    Finally, Google is launching a paid-for service called Gemini Advanced. This comes bundled in a subscription costing $19.99 a month that the company is calling the Google One Premium AI Plan.

  27. Amplats Plans Restructure That May Affect About 3,700 Jobs

    Anglo American Platinum Ltd. has proposed a restructure of its business that may affect about 3,700 jobs across its South African operations. The so-called section 189A process involves a ...

  28. 3 Career-Planning Techniques That Can Help Weight ...

    Clucas explained how below. 1. Make a plan. Instead of just rushing into a diet, it's important to make a plan, Clucas said: "If you wanted to increase your company profits by 10%, you wouldn ...

  29. Apple Reportedly Plans to Launch an AI Tool This Year

    Apple is almost done building a generative AI tool for iOS app developers — and the company plans on releasing it to third-party software makers as early as this year, sources familiar with the ...