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.

Streamline Your Business Planning Activities with Real-Time Work Management in Smartsheet

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The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. 

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

Discover why over 90% of Fortune 100 companies trust Smartsheet to get work done.

How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

  • 3 years ago

Have you ever wondered how to write a business plan step by step? Mike Andes, told us: 

This guide will help you write a business plan to impress investors.

Throughout this process, we’ll get information from Mike Andes, who started Augusta Lawn Care Services when he was 12 and turned it into a franchise with over 90 locations. He has gone on to help others learn how to write business plans and start businesses.  He knows a thing or two about writing  business plans!

We’ll start by discussing the definition of a business plan. Then we’ll discuss how to come up with the idea, how to do the market research, and then the important elements in the business plan format. Keep reading to start your journey!

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is simply a road map of what you are trying to achieve with your business and how you will go about achieving it. It should cover all elements of your business including: 

  • Finding customers
  • Plans for developing a team
  •  Competition
  • Legal structures
  • Key milestones you are pursuing

If you aren’t quite ready to create a business plan, consider starting by reading our business startup guide .

Get a Business Idea

Before you can write a business plan, you have to have a business idea. You may see a problem that needs to be solved and have an idea how to solve it, or you might start by evaluating your interests and skills. 

Mike told us, “The three things I suggest asking yourself when thinking about starting a business are:

  • What am I good at?
  • What would I enjoy doing?
  • What can I get paid for?”

If all three of these questions don’t lead to at least one common answer, it will probably be a much harder road to success. Either there is not much market for it, you won’t be good at it, or you won’t enjoy doing it. 

As Mike told us, “There’s enough stress starting and running a business that if you don’t like it or aren’t good at it, it’s hard to succeed.”

If you’d like to hear more about Mike’s approach to starting a business, check out our YouTube video

Conduct Market Analysis

Market analysis is focused on establishing if there is a target market for your products and services, how large the target market is, and identifying the demographics of people or businesses that would be interested in the product or service. The goal here is to establish how much money your business concept can make.

Product and Service Demand

A search engine is your best friend when trying to figure out if there is demand for your products and services. Personally, I love using presearch.org because it lets you directly search on a ton of different platforms including Google, Youtube, Twitter, and more. Check out the screenshot for the full list of search options.

With quick web searches, you can find out how many competitors you have, look through their reviews, and see if there are common complaints about the competitors. Bad reviews are a great place to find opportunities to offer better products or services. 

If there are no similar products or services, you may have stumbled upon something new, or there may just be no demand for it. To find out, go talk to your most honest friend about the idea and see what they think. If they tell you it’s dumb or stare at you vacantly, there’s probably no market for it.

You can also conduct a survey through social media to get public opinion on your idea. Using Facebook Business Manager , you could get a feel for who would be interested in your product or service.

 I ran a quick test of how many people between 18-65  you could reach in the U.S. during a week. It returned an estimated 700-2,000 for the total number of leads, which is enough to do a fairly accurate statistical analysis.

Identify Demographics of Target Market

Depending on what type of business you want to run, your target market will be different. The narrower the demographic, the fewer potential customers you’ll have. If you did a survey, you’ll be able to use that data to help define your target audience. Some considerations you’ll want to consider are:

  • Other Interests
  • Marital Status
  • Do they have kids?

Once you have this information, it can help you narrow down your options for location and help define your marketing further. One resource that Mike recommended using is the Census Bureau’s Quick Facts Map . He told us,  

“It helps you quickly evaluate what the best areas are for your business to be located.”

How to Write a Business Plan

Now that you’ve developed your idea a little and established there is a market for it, you can begin writing a business plan. Getting started is easier with the business plan template we created for you to download. I strongly recommend using it as it is updated to make it easier to create an action plan. 

Each of the following should be a section of your business plan:

  • Business Plan Cover Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Description of Products and Services

SWOT Analysis

  • Competitor Data
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Marketing Expenses Strategy 

Pricing Strategy

  • Distribution Channel Assessment
  • Operational Plan
  • Management and Organizational Strategy
  • Financial Statements and/or Financial Projections

We’ll look into each of these. Don’t forget to download our free business plan template (mentioned just above) so you can follow along as we go. 

How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page

The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions.

A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:

  • Professionally designed logo
  • Company name
  • Mission or Vision Statement
  • Contact Info

Basically, think of a cover page for your business plan like a giant business card. It is meant to capture people’s attention but be quickly processed.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 2. Create a Table of Contents

Most people are busy enough that they don’t have a lot of time. Providing a table of contents makes it easy for them to find the pages of your plan that are meaningful to them.

A table of contents will be immediately after the cover page, but you can include it after the executive summary. Including the table of contents immediately after the executive summary will help investors know what section of your business plan they want to review more thoroughly.

Check out Canva’s article about creating a  table of contents . It has a ton of great information about creating easy access to each section of your business plan. Just remember that you’ll want to use different strategies for digital and hard copy business plans.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 3. Write an Executive Summary

An executive summary is where your business plan should catch the readers interest.  It doesn’t need to be long, but should be quick and easy to read.

Mike told us,

How long should an executive summary bein an informal business plan?

For casual use, an executive summary should be similar to an elevator pitch, no more than 150-160 words, just enough to get them interested and wanting more. Indeed has a great article on elevator pitches .  This can also be used for the content of emails to get readers’ attention.

It consists of three basic parts:

  • An introduction to you and your business.
  • What your business is about.
  • A call to action

Example of an informal executive summary 

One of the best elevator pitches I’ve used is:

So far that pitch has achieved a 100% success rate in getting partnerships for the business.

What should I include in an executive summary for investors?

Investors are going to need a more detailed executive summary if you want to secure financing or sell equity. The executive summary should be a brief overview of your entire business plan and include:

  • Introduction of yourself and company.
  • An origin story (Recognition of a problem and how you came to solution)
  • An introduction to your products or services.
  • Your unique value proposition. Make sure to include intellectual property.
  • Where you are in the business life cycle
  • Request and why you need it.

Successful business plan examples

The owner of Urbanity told us he spent 2 months writing a 75-page business plan and received a $250,000 loan from the bank when he was 23. Make your business plan as detailed as possible when looking for financing. We’ve provided a template to help you prepare the portions of a business plan that banks expect.

Here’s the interview with the owner of Urbanity:

When to write an executive summary?

Even though the summary is near the beginning of a business plan, you should write it after you complete the rest of a business plan. You can’t talk about revenue, profits, and expected expenditures if you haven’t done the market research and created a financial plan.

What mistakes do people make when writing an executive summary?

Business owners commonly go into too much detail about the following items in an executive summary:

  • Marketing and sales processes
  • Financial statements
  • Organizational structure
  • Market analysis

These are things that people will want to know later, but they don’t hook the reader. They won’t spark interest in your small business, but they’ll close the deal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 4. Company Description

Every business plan should include a company description. A great business plan will include the following elements while describing the company:

  • Mission statement
  • Philosophy and vision
  • Company goals

Target market

  • Legal structure

Let’s take a look at what each section includes in a good business plan.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is a brief explanation of why you started the company and what the company’s main focus is. It should be no more than one or two sentences. Check out HubSpot’s article 27 Inspiring Mission Statement for a great read on informative and inspiring mission and vision statements. 

Company Philosophy and Vision

The company philosophy is what drives your company. You’ll normally hear them called core values.  These are the building blocks that make your company different. You want to communicate your values to customers, business owners, and investors as often as possible to build a company culture, but make sure to back them up.

What makes your company different?

Each company is different. Your new business should rise above the standard company lines of honesty, integrity, fun, innovation, and community when communicating your business values. The standard answers are corporate jargon and lack authenticity. 

Examples of core values

One of my clients decided to add a core values page to their website. As a tech company they emphasized the values:

  •  Prioritize communication.
  •  Never stop learning.
  •  Be transparent.
  •  Start small and grow incrementally.

These values communicate how the owner and the rest of the company operate. They also show a value proposition and competitive advantage because they specifically focus on delivering business value from the start. These values also genuinely show what the company is about and customers recognize the sincerity. Indeed has a great blog about how to identify your core values .

What is a vision statement?

A vision statement communicate the long lasting change a business pursues. The vision helps investors and customers understand what your company is trying to accomplish. The vision statement goes beyond a mission statement to provide something meaningful to the community, customer’s lives, or even the world.

Example vision statements

The Alzheimer’s Association is a great example of a vision statement:

A world without Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia.

It clearly tells how they want to change the world. A world without Alzheimers might be unachievable, but that means they always have room for improvement.

Business Goals

You have to measure success against goals for a business plan to be meaningful. A business plan helps guide a company similar to how your GPS provides a road map to your favorite travel destination. A goal to make as much money as possible is not inspirational and sounds greedy.

Sure, business owners want to increase their profits and improve customer service, but they need to present an overview of what they consider success. The goals should help everyone prioritize their work.

How far in advance should a business plan?

Business planning should be done at least one year in advance, but many banks and investors prefer three to five year business plans. Longer plans show investors that the management team  understands the market and knows the business is operating in a constantly shifting market. In addition, a plan helps businesses to adjust to changes because they have already considered how to handle them.

Example of great business goals

My all time-favorite long-term company goals are included in Tesla’s Master Plan, Part Deux . These goals were written in 2016 and drive the company’s decisions through 2026. They are the reason that investors are so forgiving when Elon Musk continually fails to meet his quarterly and annual goals.

If the progress aligns with the business plan investors are likely to continue to believe in the company. Just make sure the goals are reasonable or you’ll be discredited (unless you’re Elon Musk).

You did target market research before creating a business plan. Now it’s time to add it to the plan so others understand what your ideal customer looks like. As a new business owner, you may not be considered an expert in your field yet, so document everything. Make sure the references you use are from respectable sources. 

Use information from the specific lender when you are applying for lending. Most lenders provide industry research reports and using their data can strengthen the position of your business plan.

A small business plan should include a section on the external environment. Understanding the industry is crucial because we don’t plan a business in a vacuum. Make sure to research the industry trends, competitors, and forecasts. I personally prefer IBIS World for my business research. Make sure to answer questions like:

  • What is the industry outlook long-term and short-term?
  • How will your business take advantage of projected industry changes and trends?
  • What might happen to your competitors and how will your business successfully compete?

Industry resources

Some helpful resources to help you establish more about your industry are:

  • Trade Associations
  • Federal Reserve
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics

Legal Structure

There are five basic types of legal structures that most people will utilize:

  • Sole proprietorships
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLC)

Partnerships

Corporations.

  • Franchises.

Each business structure has their pros and cons. An LLC is the most common legal structure due to its protection of personal assets and ease of setting up. Make sure to specify how ownership is divided and what roles each owner plays when you have more than one business owner.

You’ll have to decide which structure is best for you, but we’ve gathered information on each to make it easier.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest legal structure to set up but doesn’t protect the owner’s personal assets from legal issues. That means if something goes wrong, you could lose both your company and your home.

To start a sole proprietorship, fill out a special tax form called a  Schedule C . Sole proprietors can also join the American Independent Business Alliance .

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is the most common business structure used in the United States because an LLC protects the owner’s personal assets. It’s similar to partnerships and corporations, but can be a single-member LLC in most states. An LLC requires a document called an operating agreement.

Each state has different requirements. Here’s a link to find your state’s requirements . Delaware and Nevada are common states to file an LLC because they are really business-friendly. Here’s a blog on the top 10 states to get an LLC.

Partnerships are typically for legal firms. If you choose to use a partnership choose a Limited Liability Partnership. Alternatively, you can just use an LLC.

Corporations are typically for massive organizations. Corporations have taxes on both corporate and income tax so unless you plan on selling stock, you are better off considering an LLC with S-Corp status . Investopedia has good information corporations here .

There are several opportunities to purchase successful franchises. TopFranchise.com has a list of companies in a variety of industries that offer franchise opportunities. This makes it where an entrepreneur can benefit from the reputation of an established business that has already worked out many of the kinks of starting from scratch.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 5. Products and Services

This section of the business plan should focus on what you sell, how you source it, and how you sell it. You should include:

  • Unique features that differentiate your business products from competitors
  • Intellectual property
  • Your supply chain
  • Cost and pricing structure 

Questions to answer about your products and services

Mike gave us a list  of the most important questions to answer about your product and services:

  • How will you be selling the product? (in person, ecommerce, wholesale, direct to consumer)?
  • How do you let them know they need a product?
  • How do you communicate the message?
  • How will you do transactions?
  • How much will you be selling it for?
  • How many do you think you’ll sell and why?

Make sure to use the worksheet on our business plan template .

How to Write a Business Plan Step 6. Sales and Marketing Plan

The marketing and sales plan is focused on the strategy to bring awareness to your company and guides how you will get the product to the consumer.  It should contain the following sections:

SWOT Analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Not only do you want to identify them, but you also want to document how the business plans to deal with them.

Business owners need to do a thorough job documenting how their service or product stacks up against the competition.

If proper research isn’t done, investors will be able to tell that the owner hasn’t researched the competition and is less likely to believe that the team can protect its service from threats by the more well-established competition. This is one of the most common parts of a presentation that trips up business owners presenting on Shark Tank .

SWOT Examples

Examples of strengths and weaknesses could be things like the lack of cash flow, intellectual property ownership, high costs of suppliers, and customers’ expectations on shipping times.

Opportunities could be ways to capitalize on your strengths or improve your weaknesses, but may also be gaps in the industry. This includes:

  • Adding offerings that fit with your current small business
  • Increase sales to current customers
  • Reducing costs through bulk ordering
  • Finding ways to reduce inventory
  •  And other areas you can improve

Threats will normally come from outside of the company but could also be things like losing a key member of the team. Threats normally come from competition, regulations, taxes, and unforeseen events.

The management team should use the SWOT analysis to guide other areas of business planning, but it absolutely has to be done before a business owner starts marketing. 

Include Competitor Data in Your Business Plan

When you plan a business, taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is key to navigating the field. Providing an overview of your competition and where they are headed shows that you are invested in understanding the industry.

For smaller businesses, you’ll want to search both the company and the owners names to see what they are working on. For publicly held corporations, you can find their quarterly and annual reports on the SEC website .

What another business plans to do can impact your business. Make sure to include things that might make it attractive for bigger companies to outsource to a small business.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing and sales part of business plans should be focused on how you are going to make potential customers aware of your business and then sell to them.

If you haven’t already included it, Mike recommends:

“They’ll want to know about Demographics, ages, and wealth of your target market.”

Make sure to include the Total addressable market .  The term refers to the value if you captured 100% of the market.

Advertising Strategy

You’ll explain what formats of advertising you’ll be using. Some possibilities are:

  • Online: Facebook and Google are the big names to work with here.
  • Print : Print can be used to reach broad groups or targeted markets. Check out this for tips .
  • Radio : iHeartMedia is one of the best ways to advertise on the radio
  • Cable television : High priced, hard to measure ROI, but here’s an explanation of the process
  • Billboards: Attracting customers with billboards can be beneficial in high traffic areas.

You’ll want to define how you’ll be using each including frequency, duration, and cost. If you have the materials already created, including pictures or links to the marketing to show creative assets.

Mike told us “Most businesses are marketing digitally now due to Covid, but that’s not always the right answer.”

Make sure the marketing strategy will help team members or external marketing agencies stay within the brand guidelines .

This section of a business plan should be focused on pricing. There are a ton of pricing strategies that may work for different business plans. Which one will work for you depends on what kind of a business you run.

Some common pricing strategies are:

  • Value-based pricing – Commonly used with home buying and selling or other products that are status symbols.
  • Skimming pricing – Commonly seen in video game consoles, price starts off high to recoup expenses quickly, then reduces over time.
  • Competition-based pricing – Pricing based on competitors’ pricing is commonly seen at gas stations.
  • Freemium services –  Commonly used for software, where there is a free plan, then purchase options for more functionality.

HubSpot has a great calculator and blog on pricing strategies.

Beyond explaining what strategy your business plans to use, you should include references for how you came to this pricing strategy and how it will impact your cash flow.

Distribution Plan

This part of a business plan is focused on how the product or service is going to go through the supply chain. These may include multiple divisions or multiple companies. Make sure to include any parts of the workflow that are automated so investors can see where cost savings are expected and when.

Supply Chain Examples

For instance, lawn care companies  would need to cover aspects such as:

  • Suppliers for lawn care equipment and tools
  • Any chemicals or treatments needed
  • Repair parts for sprinkler systems
  • Vehicles to transport equipment and employees
  • Insurance to protect the company vehicles and people.

Examples of Supply Chains

These are fairly flat supply chains compared to something like a clothing designer where the clothes would go through multiple vendors. A clothing company might have the following supply chain:

  • Raw materials
  • Shipping of raw materials
  • Converting of raw materials to thread
  • Shipping thread to produce garments
  • Garment producer
  • Shipping to company
  • Company storage
  • Shipping to retail stores

There have been advances such as print on demand that eliminate many of these steps. If you are designing completely custom clothing, all of this would need to be planned to keep from having business disruptions.

The main thing to include in the business plan is the list of suppliers, the path the supply chain follows, the time from order to the customer’s home, and the costs associated with each step of the process.

According to BizPlanReview , a business plan without this information is likely to get rejected because they have failed to research the key elements necessary to make sales to the customer.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 7. Company Organization and Operational Plan

This part of the business plan is focused on how the business model will function while serving customers.  The business plan should provide an overview of  how the team will manage the following aspects:

Quality Control

  • Legal environment

Let’s look at each for some insight.

Production has already been discussed in previous sections so I won’t go into it much. When writing a business plan for investors, try to avoid repetition as it creates a more simple business plan.

If the organizational plan will be used by the team as an overview of how to perform the best services for the customer, then redundancy makes more sense as it communicates what is important to the business.

Quality control policies help to keep the team focused on how to verify that the company adheres to the business plan and meets or exceeds customer expectations.

Quality control can be anything from a standard that says “all labels on shirts can be no more than 1/16″ off center” to a defined checklist of steps that should be performed and filled out for every customer.

There are a variety of organizations that help define quality control including:

  • International Organization for Standardization – Quality standards for energy, technology, food, production environments, and cybersecurity
  • AICPA – Standard defined for accounting.
  • The Joint Commission – Healthcare
  • ASHRAE – HVAC best practices

You can find lists of the organizations that contribute most to the government regulation of industries on Open Secrets . Research what the leaders in your field are doing. Follow their example and implement it in your quality control plan.

For location, you should use information from the market research to establish where the location will be. Make sure to include the following in the location documentation.

  • The size of your location
  • The type of building (retail, industrial, commercial, etc.)
  • Zoning restrictions – Urban Wire has a good map on how zoning works in each state
  • Accessibility – Does it meet ADA requirements?
  • Costs including rent, maintenance, utilities, insurance and any buildout or remodeling costs
  • Utilities – b.e.f. has a good energy calculator .

Legal Environment

The legal requirement section is focused on defining how to meet the legal requirements for your industry. A good business plan should include all of the following:

  • Any licenses and/or permits that are needed and whether you’ve obtained them
  • Any trademarks, copyrights, or patents that you have or are in the process of applying for
  • The insurance coverage your business requires and how much it costs
  • Any environmental, health, or workplace regulations affecting your business
  • Any special regulations affecting your industry
  • Bonding requirements, if applicable

Your local SBA office can help you establish requirements in your area. I strongly recommend using them. They are a great resource.

Your business plan should include a plan for company organization and hiring. While you may be the only person with the company right now, down the road you’ll need more people. Make sure to consider and document the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the current leadership structure and what will it look like in the future?
  • What types of employees will you have? Are there any licensing or educational requirements?
  • How many employees will you need?
  • Will you ever hire freelancers or independent contractors?
  • What is each position’s job description?
  • What is the pay structure (hourly, salaried, base plus commission, etc.)?
  • How do you plan to find qualified employees and contractors?

One of the most crucial parts of a business plan is the organizational chart. This simply shows the positions the company will need, who is in charge of them and the relationship of each of them. It will look similar to this:

Our small business plan template has a much more in-depth organizational chart you can edit to include when you include the organizational chart in your business plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 8. Financial Statements 

No business plan is complete without financial statements or financial projections. The business plan format will be different based on whether you are writing a business plan to expand a business or a startup business plan. Let’s dig deeper into each.

Provide All Financial Income from an Existing Business

An existing business should use their past financial documents including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement to find trends to estimate the next 3-5 years.

You can create easy trendlines in excel to predict future revenue, profit and loss, cash flow, and other changes in year-over-year performance. This will show your expected performance assuming business continues as normal.

If you are seeking an investment, then the business is probably not going to continue as normal. Depending on the financial plan and the purpose of getting financing, adjustments may be needed to the following:

  • Higher Revenue if expanding business
  • Lower Cost of Goods Sold if purchasing inventory with bulk discounts
  • Adding interest if utilizing financing (not equity deal)
  • Changes in expenses
  • Addition of financing information to the cash flow statement
  • Changes in Earnings per Share on the balance sheet

Financial modeling is a challenging subject, but there are plenty of low-cost courses on the subject. If you need help planning your business financial documentation take some time to watch some of them.

Make it a point to document how you calculated all the changes to the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement in your business plan so that key team members or investors can verify your research.

Financial Projections For A Startup Business Plan

Unlike an existing business, a startup doesn’t have previous success to model its future performance. In this scenario, you need to focus on how to make a business plan realistic through the use of industry research and averages.

Mike gave the following advice in his interview:

Financial Forecasting Mistakes

One of the things a lot of inexperienced people use is the argument, “If I get one percent of the market, it is worth $100 million.” If you use this, investors are likely to file the document under bad business plan examples.

Let’s use custom t-shirts as an example.

Credence Research estimated in 2018 there were 11,334,800,000 custom t-shirts sold for a total of $206.12 Billion, with a 6% compound annual growth rate.

With that data,  you can calculate that the industry will grow to $270 Billion in 2023 and that the average shirt sold creates $18.18 in revenue.

Combine that with an IBIS World estimate of 11,094 custom screen printers and that means even if you become an average seller, you’ll get .009% of the market.

Here’s a table for easier viewing of that information.

The point here is to make sure your business proposal examples make sense.

You’ll need to know industry averages such as cost of customer acquisition, revenue per customer, the average cost of goods sold, and admin costs to be able to create accurate estimates.

Our simple business plan templates walk you through most of these processes. If you follow them you’ll have a good idea of how to write a business proposal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 9. Business Plan Example of Funding Requests

What is a business plan without a plan on how to obtain funding?

The Small Business Administration has an example for a pizza restaurant that theoretically needed nearly $20k to make it through their first month.

In our video, How to Start a $500K/Year T-Shirt Business (Pt. 1 ), Sanford Booth told us he needed about $200,000 to start his franchise and broke even after 4 months.

Freshbooks estimates it takes on average 2-3 years for a business to be profitable, which means the fictitious pizza company from the SBA could need up to $330k to make it through that time and still pay their bills for their home and pizza shop.

Not every business needs that much to start, but realistically it’s a good idea to assume that you need a fairly large cushion.

Ways to get funding for a small business

There are a variety of ways to cover this. the most common are:

  • Bootstrapping – Using your savings without external funding.
  • Taking out debt – loans, credit cards
  • Equity, Seed Funding – Ownership of a percentage of the company in exchange for current funds
  • Crowdsourcing – Promising a good for funding to create the product

Keep reading for more tips on how to write a business plan.

How funding will be used

When asking for business financing make sure to include:

  • How much to get started?
  • What is the minimum viable product and how soon can you make money?
  • How will the money be spent?

Mike emphasized two aspects that should be included in every plan, 

How to Write a Business Plan Resources

Here are some links to a business plan sample and business plan outline. 

  • Sample plan

It’s also helpful to follow some of the leading influencers in the business plan writing community. Here’s a list:

  • Wise Plans –  Shares a lot of information on starting businesses and is a business plan writing company.
  • Optimus Business Plans –  Another business plan writing company.
  • Venture Capital – A venture capital thread that can help give you ideas.

How to Write a Business Plan: What’s Next?

We hope this guide about how to write a simple business plan step by step has been helpful. We’ve covered:

  • The definition of a business plan
  • Coming up with a business idea
  • Performing market research
  • The critical components of a business plan
  • An example business plan

In addition, we provided you with a simple business plan template to assist you in the process of writing your startup business plan. The startup business plan template also includes a business model template that will be the key to your success.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our business hub .

Have you written a business plan before? How did it impact your ability to achieve your goals?

Brandon Boushy

Brandon Boushy lives to improve people’s lives by helping them become successful entrepreneurs. His journey started nearly 30 years ago. He consistently excelled at everything he did, but preferred to make the rules rather than follow him. His exploration of self and knowledge has helped him to get an engineering degree, MBA, and countless certifications. When freelancing and rideshare came onto the scene, he recognized the opportunity to play by his own rules. Since 2017, he has helped businesses across all industries achieve more with his research, writing, and marketing strategies. Since 2021, he has been the Lead Writer for UpFlip where he has published over 170 articles on small business success.

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Business Plan Templates

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business-plan-template

2 Essential Templates For Starting Your Business. Available as an interactive PDF or a Google Docs template.

With this business plan template, you'll be able to:

  • Write a company description that sells your story
  • Plan for the future: lay out goals and metrics for success
  • Describe your product line in detail and plan for how to stand out from competitors
  • Consider any legal formalities that require attention when starting your business
  • Put together necessary financial projections to make a strong start
  • Create your buyer persona and determine your product/marketing fit

business plan template

Build A Business Plan That Works

Available as a one-page interactive PDF and a full template on both Google Docs and Microsoft Word!

Whether you’re starting a business or drafting a formalized document with  your current business goals, it’s important to clearly defi ne the scope of all aspects of the venture — from mission, to target customers, to fi nances, and beyond.

When just starting out, it can be tempting to think of a business plan as simply your company’s name and a description of your product or service. But in reality, planning a business involves thinking through a lot more details.

In this business plan template we’ll guide you through the steps of writing company and product descriptions, setting sales and marketing goals and plans, and thinking through legal and fi nancial logistics. We've included a  plain text, designed , and  completed example version of this template. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you write a business plan.

A business plan is a formal written document that you can use to identify the purpose of your company, make important decisions about your future and help grow your company. HubSpot's free business plan templates provides guidance to establishing your company mission, customer research, competition, and a business strategy to profitability.

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Where can I get a free business plan template?

HubSpot's Free Business Plan Templates are the best way to create a professional, thorough business plan. The templates include instructions and everything you need to know about starting your company.

Is this really free?

Absolutely.

Just sharing some free knowledge that we hope you’ll find useful. Keep us in mind next time you have marketing questions!

What are the basic format of a business plan?

A business plan is a written document that outlines the company's goals, strategy and implementation. The format of the plan varies depending on the type of organization (e.g., for-profit or nonprofit) and size, but most plans share some common features such as an overview, executive summary, and financial information.

What is the best business plan template?

A great business plan template clearly defines the scope of the venture -- from mission, to target customers, to finances, and beyond. HubSpot's business plan template will guide you through the steps of writing company and product descriptions, setting sales and marketing goals and plans, and thinking through legal and financial logistics.

What is needed to start a business?

If you're thinking about starting a business, you'll need to do some research first. You can't just start a business without doing any market research. Market research will tell you if there's an opportunity to turn your idea into a successful business. After that, write your business plan so that you know how much money and time it will take for the project to succeed. Use HubSpot's free business plan template today!

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Use This Simple Business Plan Outline to Organize Your Plan

Male and female entrepreneur sitting at a table with two other team members. Reviewing a business plan outline to discuss the main components they need to cover.

12 min. read

Updated October 27, 2023

When starting a business, having a well-thought-out business plan prepared is necessary for success . It helps guide your strategy and prepares you to overcome the obstacles and risks associated with entrepreneurship. In short, a business plan makes you more likely to succeed.

However, like everything in business, starting is often the hardest part. What information do you need? How in-depth should each section be? How should the plan be structured?

All good questions that you can answer by following this business plan outline. 

  • What is a business plan outline?

A business plan outline is similar to a template for a business plan . It lists the common sections that all business plans should include.

A traditional business plan typically includes an executive summary, an overview of your products and services, thorough market research, a competitive analysis, a marketing and sales strategy, operational and company details, financial projections, and an appendix. 

  • Why is a business plan outline important?

Starting with a business plan outline helps ensure that you’re including all of the necessary information for a complete business plan. 

But, depending on what you intend to do with your plan, you may not need all of this information right away. If you’re going to speak with investors or pursue funding, then yes, you’ll need to include everything from this outline. But, if you’re using your plan to test an idea or help run your business, you may want to opt for a one-page plan . This is a simpler and faster method that is designed to be updated and used day-to-day. 

If you’re unsure of which plan is right for you, check out our guide explaining the differences and use cases for each plan type . 

  • 10 key sections in a standard business plan outline

No matter the type of business plan you create, these are the ten basic sections you should include. Be sure to download your free business plan template to start drafting your own plan as you work through this outline.

Business Plan Outline Example Graphic with 10 unique components. A standard business plan outline will include the executive summary, products and services, market analysis, competition, marketing and sales, operations, milestones and metrics, company overview, financial plan, and appendix sections.

1. Executive summary

While it may appear first, it’s best to write your executive summary last. It’s a brief section that highlights the high-level points you’ve made elsewhere in your business plan.

Summarize the problem you are solving for customers, your solution, the target market, your team that’s building the business, and financial forecast highlights. Keep things as brief as possible and entice your audience to learn more about your company. 

Keep in mind, this is the first impression your plan and business will make. After looking over your executive summary, your reader is either going to throw your business plan away or keep reading. So make sure you spend the time to get it just right.

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2. Products and services

Start the products and services section of your business plan by describing the problem you are solving for your customer. Next, describe how you solve that problem with your product or service. 

If you’ve already made some headway selling your solution, detail that progress here—this is called “traction”. You can also describe any intellectual property or patents that you have if that’s an important part of your business.

3. Market analysis 

You need to know your target market —the types of customers you are looking for—and how it’s changing.

Use the market analysis section of your business plan to discuss the size of your market—how many potential customers exist for your business—and if your potential customers can be segmented into different groups, such as age groups or some other demographic.

4. Competition

Describe your competition in this section. If you don’t have any direct competitors, describe what your customers currently do to solve the problem that your product fixes. 

If you have direct competition, detail what your strengths and weaknesses are in comparison, and how you’ll differentiate from what is already available. 

5. Marketing and sales

Use this business plan section to outline your marketing and sales plan —how you’ll reach your target customers and what the process will be for selling to them.

You’ll want to cover your market position, marketing activities, sales channels, and your pricing strategy. This will likely evolve over time, but it’s best to include anything that clearly details how you will sell and promote your products and services. 

6. Operations

What’s included in the operations section really depends on the type of business you are planning for. If your business has a physical location or other facilities, you’ll want to describe them here. If your business relies heavily on technology or specific equipment or tools, you should describe that technology or equipment here.

You can also use this section to describe your supply chain if that’s an important aspect of your business. 

7. Milestones and metrics

In a business, milestones are important goals that you are setting for your business. They may be important launch dates, or a timeline of when you’ll get regulatory approval—if that’s something you need for your business. Use this section of your plan to describe those milestones and the roadmap you are planning to follow.

You can also describe important metrics for your business, such as the number of sales leads you expect to get each month or the percentage of leads that will become customers.

8. Company overview and team

The company and team section of your plan is an overview of who you are.

It should describe the organization of your business, and the key members of the management team. It should also provide any historical background about your business. For example, you’ll describe when your company was founded, who the owners are, what state your company is registered in and where you do business, and when/if your company was incorporated.

Be sure to include summaries of your key team members’ backgrounds and experience—these should act like brief resumes—and describe their functions with the company. You should also include any professional gaps you intend to fill with new employees.

9. Financial plan and forecasts

Your financial plan should include a sales forecast, profit and loss, cash flow projections, and balance sheet, along with a brief description of the assumptions you’re making with your projections.

If you are raising money or taking out loans, you should highlight the money you need to launch the business. This part should also include a use of funds report—basically an overview of how the funding will be used in business operations. 

And while it’s not required, it may be wise to briefly mention your exit strategy . This doesn’t need to be overly detailed, just a general idea of how you may eventually want to exit your business. 

10. Appendix

The end of your business plan should include any additional information to back up specific elements of your plan. More detailed financial statements, resumes for your management team, patent documentation, credit histories, marketing examples, etc. 

  • Detailed business plan outline

If you’re looking for greater insight into what goes into specific planning sections, check out the following outline for a business plan. It can help you develop a detailed business plan or provide guidance as to what may be missing from your current plan. 

Keep in mind that every business plan will look a bit different because every business is unique. After all, business planning is to help you be more successful, so focus on the sections that are most beneficial to your business and skip the sections that aren’t useful or don’t apply. 

To help, we’ve marked sections that are truly optional with an *.

Executive summary

Company purpose / mission statement.

A very brief description of what your business does and/or what its mission is.

Problem We Solve

A summary of the problem you are solving and an identifiable need in the market you are filling.

Our Solution

A description of the product or service you will provide to solve the problem.

Target Market

A defined customer base who will most likely purchase the product or service.

Briefly describe who is behind the business.

Financial Summary

A short overview of revenue goals and profitability timeline.

If you’ve already started selling your product or service, highlight important initial details here.

Funding Needed*

If you are raising money for your business, describe how much capital you need.

Products & Services

Problem worth solving.

A thorough description of the problem or pain points you intend to solve for your customer base. 

A thorough description of your proposed product or service that alleviates the problem for your customer base.

Describe any initial evidence that your customers are excited to spend money on your solution. Initial sales or signed contracts are good signs.

Intellectual Property/Patents*

If this is important for your business, outline it here.

Regulatory Requirements*

If government approval is required for your business, explain the details and timeline.

Future Products and Services*

What products and services might you offer in the future once your initial products and services are successful?

Market Size & Segments

How many potential customers do you have and what potential groups of customers are separated by specific characteristics?

Market Trends*

How consumers in your target market tend to act including purchasing habits, financial trends, and any other relevant factors.

Market Growth*

The perceived potential increase or decrease in the size of your target market.

Industry Analysis*

If your industry is changing or adjusting over time, describe those changes.

Key Customers*

If your business relies on certain important customers, describe who they are here.

Future Markets*

A snapshot of the potential market based on the last few sections and how your business strategy works within it.

Competition 

Current alternatives.

A list of potential competitors. Identifying the competition isn’t always obvious and it may take some digging on your part.

Our Advantages

The strategic advantage(s) that makes your target market more likely to choose you over the competition. 

Barriers to Entry*

If there’s anything that makes it more difficult for other people to start competing with you, describe those barriers.

Marketing & Sales

Market positioning.

Where do your products or services fit into the market? Are you the low-price leader or the premium option?

Unique value proposition*

What’s special about your offering that makes your customers want to choose it over the competition.

Marketing Plan

An outline of your marketing and advertising strategy including costs, advertising channels, and goals.

How do you sell your product or service? Self-serve or with a team of sales representatives?

Pricing Strategy*

Describe your pricing and how it compares to alternatives in the market.

Distribution*

Describe how your product gets in front of customers. Are you selling in stores and online? Which retailers?

SWOT Analysis*

Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Location & Facilities

If you have a physical presence, describe where and what it is.

What technology is crucial for your business success?

Equipment & Tools

If special equipment or tools are needed for your business, describe them here.

Sourcing and fulfillment*

If you purchase your products or parts for your products from somewhere else, describe that sourcing and supply chain.

Partners and Resources*

If you have key partners that you work with to make your business a success, describe who they are and what services or products they provide.

Milestones and metrics

A detailed roadmap of specific goals and objectives you plan to achieve will help you manage and steer your business.

Key metrics

Performance measurements that help you gauge the overall performance and health of your business.

Company overview and team

Organizational structure.

An overview of the legal structure of your business. 

Company history and ownership

A summary of your company’s history and how it relates to planning your business.

Management team

The team that is starting or running your business and why they are uniquely qualified to make the business a success.

Management team gaps

Key positions that your business will need to fill to make it successful.

Financial plan and forecast

Projected profit and loss.

How much money you will bring in by selling products and/or services and how much profit you will make or lose after accounting for costs and expenses.

Projected cash flow

How and when cash moves in and out of your business. This also includes your overall cash position.

Projected balance sheet

Expected balances for business assets, liabilities, and equity.

Use of funds

If you are raising money either through loans or investment, explain how funds will be used. This is typically meant to be shared with investors or lenders.

Exit strategy

A brief explanation of how you intend to eventually exit from your business. This could include selling the business, going public, transitioning the business to a family member/employee, etc.

A repository for any additional information, including charts and graphs, to support your business plan.

Business plan outline FAQ

How do you organize your business plan?

There’s no real established order to business plans, aside from keeping the Executive Summary at the top. As long as you have all of the main business plan components, then the order should reflect your goals. 

If this is meant solely for your personal use, lay it out as a roadmap with similar sections grouped together for easy reference. If you’re pitching this to potential investors, lead with the stronger sections to emphasize the pitch. Then if you’re unsure of what order makes sense, then just stick to the outline in this article.

Should you include tables and charts in your business plan?

Every business plan should include bar charts and pie charts to illustrate the numbers. It’s a simple way for you, your team, and investors to visualize and digest complex financial information.

Cash flow is the single most important numerical analysis in a business plan, and a standard cash flow statement or table should never be missing. Most standard business plans also include a sales forecast and income statement (also called profit and loss), and a balance sheet.

How long should your business plan be?

There’s no perfect length for a business plan. A traditional business plan can be anywhere from 10 to 50 pages long depending on how much detail you include in each section. However, as we said before unless you intend to pursue funding, you likely don’t need a lengthy business plan at first.

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

Content Author: Tim Berry

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

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Business Plan Template

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What is a business plan?

A business plan is a document that helps small business owners determine the viability of their business idea. Combining market research and financial analysis, a professional business plan helps startup CEOs and potential investors determine if the company can compete in the target market.

Typically, a good business plan consists of the following:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Mission statement
  • Product and services
  • Marketing plan
  • Operations plan
  • Management organization
  • Financial plan
  • Conclusion & appendix

Every section involved in a business plan is designed to help startup businesses reach their target market.

A business plan asks founders and entrepreneurs to detail their business strategy in a step-by-step process that makes sense from an operational perspective. This is essential if a startup is seeking a business loan or an investment from a venture capital firm.

However, even small businesses that are already economically viable can benefit from creating a business plan, since it encourages business owners and their management teams to examine their business model and reevaluate the best ways to reach their target customers.

Should I use a business plan template?

Yes.  If you’ve never written one, a business plan can be challenging to write.

Creating a successful plan that you can use to grow your small business can require weeks of market analysis and financial preparation. You may spend time using Microsoft Excel or Powerpoint in order to create documentation which better supports our operational decisions.

However, almost every professional business plan is structured in the same way and most ask for the same information. Because of this, using a business plan template is advisable to save time, money, and effort.

Business plan templates for free

Rather than spending time trying to figure out how to write a business plan , use a free template as a guide to completion.

Business plan templates from PandaDoc can help you reach an effective go-to-market strategy even faster by asking you to provide all the relevant information you need when creating an effective business plan.

Grab a free template to get started!

Frequently asked questions

How many pages should my business plan be.

This depends on the kind of business plan you need to write and how you intend to use the plan that you create.

For example, a plan for a small business seeking potential investors or a business loan will need to provide income statements, cash flow statements, and a balance sheet (usually for a three-year or five-year forecast period).

These financial statements can be omitted if a small business owner isn’t seeking funding and is instead planning to use their business plan as a guiding document for themselves and their management team members.

Some business plans may only run a few pages. Fully-developed business plans can be as long as 50 pages. Much of this depends on the type of business, the operational strategy, and the level of detail that goes into developing the business plan.

Who needs a business plan?

Every business should have a business plan. This is an essential guidance document for any founder or CEO.

Good business plans help a company determine the viability of its place in the market and can help the business develop better strategies for differentiating itself from its competitors.

Business planning also forces business owners to evaluate their marketing strategy, the cost of customer acquisition and retention, and how they plan to grow their business over time.

What is the best business plan template?

Business plans come in all shapes and sizes. The best business plan template for your business is one that you understand and that matches the size and legal structure of your operation.

If you’re a sole proprietor, a business plan template designed for a big corporation probably doesn’t make sense. However, a business plan that helps you build an effective roadmap to grow your business while protecting your intellectual property is a good starting point.

PandaDoc offers specialized business plan templates for common industries along with tips to help you get started with business planning.

Should I hire someone to write my business plan for me?

No. You’ll find freelance writers and business strategy companies out there who are happy to write your business plan for a fee.  These resources can guide you through the process, but you should write (or be heavily involved in) the creation of your business plan.

The reason for this is simple: You know the most about your business, and your business needs you to succeed.

A writer can work with you to make your business plan sound better to investors, and a consultant can help you fill in knowledge gaps — like how to conduct a SWOT analysis — and point out weaknesses in your plan. But, at the end of the day, you need to use the business plan to pitch investors and run your business.

Those ideas and guiding principles aren’t something you can outsource.

Should I use business planning software?

Software isn’t required when creating an effective business plan. Most business planning software is designed to help you navigate the outlining and writing process more effectively.

You don’t need software to write a professional business plan, but a solid template can help you get started. Download a free template from PandaDoc today and take your business to the next level.

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BUSINESS STRATEGIES

Free business plan template for small businesses

  • Cecilia Lazzaro Blasbalg
  • Dec 7, 2023

Free business plan template for your new business

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

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

Ready to launch your business? Create a website today.

What is a business plan?

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

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

Who needs a business plan?

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

Defining your business idea

Clarifying the market and competitive landscape

Outlining your marketing strategy

Stating your value proposition

Identifying/anticipating potential risks

Seeking investments from banks and other sources

Setting benchmarks, goals and key performance indicators (KPIs)

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

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

Download Wix’s free business plan template

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

Download your free Wix business plan template

Lean startup versus traditional business plan formats

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

Traditional business plan format

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

essential parts of a business plan

Lean startup business plan format

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

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

Solution: How do you intend to solve it?

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

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

Customers: Who are your ideal customers?

Channels: How will those customers find you?

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

Revenue streams: How will your business make money?

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

Benefits of a business plan template

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

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

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

Tips for filling out your business plan template

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business plan template FAQ

What is the easiest way to write a business plan.

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

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

What are the 7 essential parts of a business plan, related posts.

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basic business plan format

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Write a business plan

Download free business plan templates and find help and advice on how to write your business plan.

Business plan templates

Download a free business plan template on The Prince’s Trust website.

You can also download a free cash flow forecast template or a business plan template on the Start Up Loans website to help you manage your finances.

Business plan examples

Read example business plans on the Bplans website.

How to write a business plan

Get detailed information about how to write a business plan on the Start Up Donut website.

Why you need a business plan

A business plan is a written document that describes your business. It covers objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts.

A business plan helps you to:

  • clarify your business idea
  • spot potential problems
  • set out your goals
  • measure your progress

You’ll need a business plan if you want to secure investment or a loan from a bank. Read about the finance options available for businesses on the Business Finance Guide website.

It can also help to convince customers, suppliers and potential employees to support you.

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Simple Business Plan

    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 ...

  2. Simple Business Plan Template (2024)

    This section of your simple business plan template explores how to structure and operate your business. Details include the type of business organization your startup will take, roles and ...

  3. 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 ...

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

    Download Now: Free Business Plan Template. 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.

  5. How to Write a Business Plan: Beginner's Guide (& Templates)

    Step #3: Conduct Your Market Analysis. Step #4: Research Your Competition. Step #5: Outline Your Products or Services. Step #6: Summarize Your Financial Plan. Step #7: Determine Your Marketing Strategy. Step #8: Showcase Your Organizational Chart. 14 Business Plan Templates to Help You Get Started.

  6. Free editable and printable business plan templates

    Skip to start of list. 686 templates. Create a blank Business Plan. Beige Aesthetic Modern Business Plan A4 Document. Document by Rise & Roar Design. Navy and Gray Modern Business Plan Cover Document. Document by Banuaa. Blue Modern Minimalist Startup Business Plan. Document by Maea Studio.

  7. How to Write a Business Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Step 7: Financial Analysis and Projections. It doesn't matter if you include a request for funding in your plan, you will want to include a financial analysis here. You'll want to do two things here: Paint a picture of your business's performance in the past and show it will grow in the future.

  8. How to Format a Business Plan: Basic Business Plan Template

    How to Format a Business Plan: Basic Business Plan Template. Written by MasterClass. Last updated: Nov 2, 2021 • 4 min read. A business plan details a company's mission, product, finances, and competition. Get your business started by including these eight business plan essentials. A business plan details a company's mission, product ...

  9. How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

    How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page. The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions. A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:

  10. Free Business Plan Template [Updated for 2022]

    What are the basic format of a business plan? A business plan is a written document that outlines the company's goals, strategy and implementation. The format of the plan varies depending on the type of organization (e.g., for-profit or nonprofit) and size, but most plans share some common features such as an overview, executive summary, and ...

  11. Free business plan template & how to write a business plan

    Once you've got your audience in mind, you can start your business plan, which should include: 1. Executive summary. Even though it appears first in the official plan, write this section last so you can condense essential ideas from the other nine sections. For now, leave it as a placeholder.

  12. Free simple business plan templates to edit and print

    Skip to start of list. 81 templates. Create a blank Simple Business Plan. Restaurant Business Plan in Terracotta Coral Peach Friendly Dynamic Style. Document by Canva Creative Studio. White and Blue Modern Business Plan Cover Page. Document by cavani team. Startup Business Plan in Brown Beige Minimal Corporate Style.

  13. A Simple Business Plan Outline to Build a Useful Plan

    10 key sections in a standard business plan outline. No matter the type of business plan you create, these are the ten basic sections you should include. Be sure to download your free business plan template to start drafting your own plan as you work through this outline. 1. Executive summary.

  14. How To Write a Simple Business Plan in 5 Steps (With Example)

    Find a template with a title page and table of contents to keep your business plan looking professional and organized. 3. Fill in each section. Work through your business plan by filling in one section at a time. This way, you can keep your thoughts more organized.

  15. Business Plan Templates: 26 FREE Samples

    The best business plan template for your business is one that you understand and that matches the size and legal structure of your operation. If you're a sole proprietor, a business plan template designed for a big corporation probably doesn't make sense. However, a business plan that helps you build an effective roadmap to grow your ...

  16. How To Write A Basic Business Plan

    1. Executive Summary. A snapshot of your business plan as a whole, touching on your company's profile, mission, and the main points of your plan. Think of it as an elevator pitch that presents ...

  17. Free Business Plan Template For Small Businesses

    Free Business Plan Template For Small Businesses. The Wix website builder offers a complete solution from enterprise-grade infrastructure and business features to advanced SEO and marketing tools-enabling anyone to create and grow online. About.

  18. How to write a business plan

    Implementing your business plan. Keep your business plan as a living document - don't leave it to gather dust on a shelf. Make sure it's easily accessible and top-of-mind for you and your team. Reflect your goals in the day-to-day operations of your business. Outline the most practical and cost-effective way to achieve each goal - make ...

  19. Develop your business plan

    Download a detailed business plan template . Use this template if you are seeking finance for your business or want to include more detail in your business plan. Business plan template. docx · 0.10 Mb. Tips to help you write your business plan. Open all button toggle all accordions. 1. Determine what your plan is for

  20. Write a business plan

    A business plan is a written document that describes your business. It covers objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts. A business plan helps you to: You'll need a ...