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How to Write a Winning Business Plan
- Stanley R. Rich
- David E. Gumpert
The business plan admits the entrepreneur to the investment process. Without a plan furnished in advance, many investor groups won’t even grant an interview. And the plan must be outstanding if it is to win investment funds. Too many entrepreneurs, though, continue to believe that if they build a better mousetrap, the world will beat […]
The Idea in Brief
You’ve got a great idea for a new product or service—how can you persuade investors to support it? Flashy PowerPoint slides aren’t enough; you need a winning business plan. A compelling plan accurately reflects the viewpoints of your three key constituencies: the market , potential investors , and the producer (the entrepreneur or inventor of the new offering).
But too many plans are written solely from the perspective of the producer. The problem is that, unless you’ve got your own capital to finance your venture, the only way you’ll get the funding you need is to satisfy the market’s and investors’ needs.
Here’s how to grab their attention.
The Idea in Practice
Emphasize Market Needs
To make a convincing case that a substantial market exists, establish market interest and document your claims.
Establish market interest. Provide evidence that customers are intrigued by your claims about the benefits of the new product or service:
- Let some customers use a product prototype; then get written evaluations.
- Offer the product to a few potential customers at a deep discount if they pay part of the production cost. This lets you determine whether potential buyers even exist.
- Use “reference installations”—statements from initial users, sales reps, distributors, and would-be customers who have seen the product demonstrated.
Document your claims. You’ve established market interest. Now use data to support your assertions about potential growth rates of sales and profits.
- Specify the number of potential customers, the size of their businesses, and the size that is most appropriate to your offering. Remember: Bigger isn’t necessarily better; e.g., saving $10,000 per year in chemical use may mean a lot to a modest company but not to a Du Pont.
- Show the nature of the industry; e.g., franchised weight-loss clinics might grow fast, but they can decline rapidly when competition stiffens. State how you will continually innovate to survive.
- Project realistic growth rates at which customers will accept—and buy—your offering. From there, assemble a credible sales plan and project plant and staffing needs.
Address Investor Needs
Cashing out. Show when and how investors may liquidate their holdings. Venture capital firms usually want to cash out in three to seven years; professional investors look for a large capital appreciation.
Making sound projections. Give realistic, five-year forecasts of profitability. Don’t skimp on the numbers, get overly optimistic about them, or blanket your plan with a smog of figures covering every possible variation.
The price. To figure out how much to invest in your offering, investors calculate your company’s value on the basis of results expected five years after they invest. They’ll want a 35 to 40% return for mature companies—up to 60% for less mature ventures. To make a convincing case for a rich return, get a product in the hands of representative customers—and demonstrate substantial market interest.
A comprehensive, carefully thought-out business plan is essential to the success of entrepreneurs and corporate managers. Whether you are starting up a new business, seeking additional capital for existing product lines, or proposing a new activity in a corporate division, you will never face a more challenging writing assignment than the preparation of a business plan.
- SR Mr. Rich has helped found seven technologically based businesses, the most recent being Advanced Energy Dynamics Inc. of Natick, Massachusetts. He is also a cofounder and has been chairman of the MIT Enterprise forum, which assists emerging growth companies.
- DG Mr. Gumpert is an associate editor of HBR, where he specializes in small business and marketing. He has written several HBR articles, the most recent of which was “The Heart of Entrepreneurship,” coauthored by Howard. H. Stevenson (March–April 1985). This article is adapted from Business Plans That Win $$$ : Lessons from the MIT Enterprise Forum, by Messrs. Rich and Gumpert (Harper & Row, 1985). The authors are also founders of Venture Resource Associates of Grantham, New Hampshire, which provides planning and strategic services to growing enterprises.
25 Best Low Cost Business Ideas
Table of contents.
For many people with an entrepreneurial spirit, the top reason they don’t pursue their business dreams is the significant costs associated with starting a business. However, there are many businesses you can launch today with little money, so long as you are dedicated and put in some good old-fashioned hard work. If you want to start a low-cost business, these 25 ideas will help inspire your entrepreneurial passion.
Starting a business is a lot of work, but we’re here to help! Check out our useful resources for everything you need to successfully build your business from the ground up.
- How To Start A Business: Step By Step
- 11 Things To Do Before Starting A Business
- Tax and Business Forms You’ll Need To Start A Business
- Startup Costs: How Much Cash Will You Need?
- 20 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Business
25 best businesses to start with little money
1. content creation.
Social media and the 24-hour news cycle have created the perfect storm of opportunity for creative professionals like writers and graphic designers, who can use their talents to create high-quality, shareable content for businesses and media outlets. Thanks to a growing gig economy of freelance and contract workers, it’s easier than ever to market yourself as a professional service provider.
2. Personal or virtual assistant
Along those same lines, those with good organizational skills are in high demand for other entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses and want to focus on high-return tasks. A personal or virtual assistant performs many of those secretarial or front-desk functions without being onsite. These individuals often work from home for many different clients, keeping track of calendars, making flight arrangements and doing clerical work.
3. Event planning services
If you’re a highly organized, detail-oriented individual who loves putting parties together, you might have the right personality to launch an event-planning business. Working for weddings, birthday parties and class reunions, event planners make it easy for others to host an exciting party. Planning a few pro bono events will help give you the proper experience. Use LinkedIn and cold calling to build up a solid database of vendors and contacts so you can help your clients orchestrate the event of their dreams.
4. Errand/concierge service
Between caring for their children and handling their professional responsibilities, most working parents have very little time to take care of personal errands like grocery shopping, making returns at the mall or mailing packages. A driven individual can take care of these time-consuming errands for clients and free up their days for the important things in life. Account for travel expenses when determining your rates, which can be hourly or by the task.
5. Professional reviewer
Yes, this is really a thing. Good reviews have not been lost on companies large and small. Many companies provide products and services to individuals so they can write a review of the company. They want a good review but, more importantly, an honest one. They pay for your time or by the review, and you get to try new things, read new books, experiment with the latest technology and much more, all while getting paid.
6. Social media consultant
Larger companies can hire an agency or full-time staff member to run their Facebook and Twitter accounts and blogs, but small businesses often have to take care of their own social media marketing. With so many other responsibilities, business owners may be too busy or overwhelmed to come up with a great social media strategy. As a consultant, you can help them determine the best tactics, posting schedules and content for their target audience. As their follower counts grow, so will your business.
7. Etsy shop
Etsy is a popular online marketplace that hosts thousands of at-home retailers and larger productions, like the highly rated Wildflower + Co. , selling jewelry, patches and DIY merchandise. Starting an Etsy shop is incredibly affordable. It’s free to join the site and start a shop, though there are three selling fees : the listing, transaction and payment processing fees.
8. Online courses and tutoring
What are you passionate about? Yoga? Baking? Web design? You can help others enrich their lives by offering virtual classes if you know something inside and out. Create downloadable instructional packets and videos, or schedule real-time Skype lessons with clients. Another option for aspiring educators is to start a virtual or home-based tutoring service.
9. Personal chef
This business requires you to plan and prepare weekly or daily meals for your clients, so strong cooking skills and a working knowledge of nutrition and special diets are a must. You don’t necessarily need to have graduated from culinary school, but having some cooking classes under your belt will boost your credibility. While you may have to do some traveling to and from supermarkets and client homes, your customers should cover the cost of ingredients in addition to your service charge.
You don’t need a Michelin star to start as a personal chef. Cooking and baking is a popular hobby worldwide, especially in places like Italy and Sweden. Many amateur chefs can become professionals by allowing others to sample their fare at trade shows or events.
10. Translation service
If you’re fluent in a second language, you can find work converting written and spoken words from one language to another. Broadening international ties and an increase in the number of non-English speakers in the U.S. make this a fast-growing field, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting 19% growth by 2028 . You can start your own independent service and market yourself to businesses, schools, hospitals, courtrooms and conference centers.
11. Software training
Are you proficient in a highly specialized software program? There’s a growing demand for training from amateurs and professionals looking to expand their skill sets. Technical manuals are available for programs like QuickBooks and Final Cut Pro, but these are often expensive and difficult for the average user to understand. Schedule small group workshops or private sessions, and charge by the hour when giving a full program tutorial. Patience and a great personality are critical.
12. Music lessons
For the musically gifted, offering lessons to others who want to learn an instrument can be a great source of extra income. Unless you’re teaching piano, students can likely bring their own instruments to your home for hourlong lessons. Stock up on sheet music or songbooks in varying genres and aimed at various skill levels so you can offer a wide selection for your potential clients. Voice lessons can also bring in a lot of money if you market yourself to local high schools and community theater groups.
13. Sustainability consultant
Over the past several years, businesses all over the country have taken a closer look at their environmental impact. However, eco-friendly business solutions are often prohibitively expensive, even for the largest enterprises, and businesses of all sizes are looking for experts to advise them. Sustainability consultants come from various backgrounds, from management to engineering, meaning practical skills and experience are more important than a specific degree.
14. Bookkeeping services
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a certified public accountant to work as a freelance bookkeeper . All you need is a knack for numbers and practical knowledge of basic accounting tasks (though an associate degree in accounting or equivalent business experience is preferable). These are some of the services you could offer as an outsourced bookkeeper:
- Maintaining accounting software and filing systems
- Issuing financial statements
- Creating balance sheets
- Processing payroll
15. Digital marketing services
If you have experience in marketing, a solo digital marketing agency is a low-cost business idea you can get up and running in no time. If you don’t have a background in marketing but are interested in the field, you can take affordable online courses to develop your skills. One of the best yet most challenging things about marketing is that it is always evolving. Therefore, if you have a knack for storytelling and learning, a digital marketing firm is a business you can start quickly and cheaply.
Hobbyists around the world can monetize things they do for fun under the umbrella of digital marketing, from podcasting to blogging to photography. Do you have a hobby to turn into a side-hustle?
16. Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is easy and cheap, but it takes dedication and a long-term vision to succeed. Affiliate marketing involves promoting other companies’ products and services and earning a commission on generated leads. All you need to get started is a blog or website and a specific product or service you would like to promote. However, to be successful in affiliate marketing, you have to attract many visitors to your website and get them to purchase products or services from your affiliate partners.
17. Online dating consultant
If you love connecting with people and playing matchmaker, you should consider becoming an online dating consultant. As anyone with multiple online or app dating profiles can tell you, filtering messages and finding interesting people to meet can be a full-time job. An online dating consultant can write interesting profiles, manage multiple client accounts, filter unwanted messages, and provide text or telephone updates on potential matches.
18. eBay seller
An eBay seller is sometimes referred to as an eBay assistant, and the job’s primary function is to sell other people’s products on eBay for a small commission. Becoming an eBay seller is simple and affordable, but the platform is riddled with scammers, so you have to be very careful who you work with, as you could be held responsible for packages your customers don’t receive. When selling on eBay, be overcautious and never share any personal data, such as credit card or banking information.
19. Internet security consultant
If you’re passionate about IT, communication systems and computers, you are highly marketable to small businesses that need to upgrade their online security. Helping business owners avoid viruses, hackers and scammers can be a very lucrative business, especially if you have the skills to secure sensitive client and customer information.
20. Graphic design
Every company needs visual assets of some kind to brand their business and attract customers. Becoming a freelance graphic designer requires a computer, a design application such as Adobe Illustrator or Canva, and an extensive portfolio of your work. You can choose to provide a wide array of graphic design services, or you can offer niche services, such as these:
- Display ads
- T-shirt graphics
- Hero images
- Instagram graphics
21. Vlogger or blogger
If you’re passionate about one specific topic or field and love to write or be in front of a camera, consider starting a professional blog or vlog. For a blog, all you need is a computer and a website to get started. Conversely, Vloggers should invest in a high-quality camera, video-editing software and various AV equipment as needed. To make money, you can offer advertising space on your website, find video sponsors, or create an account on a funding platform, such as Patreon or Indiegogo.
Blogging is a popular hobby around the world , even topping the charts in France, Greece, and Portugal. Learn more about which popular hobbies can be turned into side hustles.
22. Domain name buyer
A domain name buyer or domain broker is someone who purchases domain names they believe people or businesses will want and tries to sell them for a profit. Like many other professions on this list, the concept is simple, but becoming a successful domain name buyer requires quickly acting on trends and identifying profitable domains – with an extra serving of luck.
23. Resume writer
Few people are good at writing resumes, and even fewer enjoy writing their own. All you need to become a professional resume writer is a computer. To start, you can sign up for a freelance platform like Fiverr or Upwork and market your services on social media.
24. Meal planner
Most people love to eat, but not everyone knows how to cook healthy, mouthwatering meals on an affordable budget. As a meal planner, your duties would include creating a list of ingredients, writing easy-to-follow recipes, providing nutritional information, developing a budget plan and educating your customers.
25. Video producer
Many companies, influencers, and potential YouTube celebrities want to take their videos to the next level but don’t have the skills or equipment to produce high-quality videos. If you have experience as a video producer, a solid portfolio, and the desire to help individuals and businesses create stunning videos, becoming a freelance producer is an excellent career move.
Looking for even more ways you can start a business? Check out these ideas from our partners at CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce , or dig into these other great business ideas .
Marci Martin, Shannon Gausepohl and Nicole Fallon contributed to the writing in this article.
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Small Business Ideas in India – 2023
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Do you want to start your own new business? Start it Now. Do not get confused over the thought of what business or industry sector shall be chosen. Every business has its pros and cons, it’s just about the best business ideas to make money. It is just about which business you have the passion and zeal to crack. Your skillset also matters a lot in achieving the target. You should be confident enough to implement the skills you possess and manage to overcome the upcoming challenges. Further, let’s discuss some small and low-cost business ideas for you to pick that match your skill set and experience.
List of 21 Most Successful Small Scale Business Ideas in India
1. breakfast joint/takeaway counter.
Food is one of the three basic necessities of life making it a top choice for people to indulge in and open up a business in the F&B (Food & Beverage) Industry. This is why as a small-scale business idea, food joints will never run out of customers, as long they serve delectable food. Of course, a start-up business does not need to be a full-fledged restaurant from the start. One can start with only a few key dishes such as a wholesome traditional breakfast with optional snacks as an add-on.
2. Juice Point/Shakes or Smoothies Corner
As more and more Indians grow health-conscious, fresh juices without preservatives are emerging as a popular healthy alternative to cold drinks. This is why the humble juice bar has made this small business ideas list for India as a top option for a potentially successful venture. While one is at it, diversification into related drinks especially (perhaps less healthy) summer drinks like lemonade, buttermilk, and lassi might also work out well for this small business. Of course, one can decide to go the whole hog and get started with a fully-loaded food truck instead. As long as the food/drinks provided are of high quality and all the requisite permits are in order, ensuring the success of this business idea should not be too hard.
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3. Tailoring/Embroidery Shop
As far as successful business ideas go, this one is based on another basic requirement of life – clothing, so the size of the market includes well, everyone. As start-up businesses, tailoring and embroidery have been around for decades and most are usually home-based businesses that receive and complete orders on behalf of small boutiques. But being a tried and tested idea does improve its chances of emerging as a successful future business, especially in larger cities where tailoring services are in high demand. Obviously one needs to undergo the requisite training and ideally should have sufficient experience in order to improve the chances of succeeding in this small-scale business venture.
4. Business related to e-commerce
Small business ideas have the potential to grow into huge businesses over time and the emergence of the Internet along with related technologies can definitely help out. It is proven that small businesses with an online footprint tend to do better than those that do not have an online footprint. So amazingly, this start-up business idea is focused on providing a range of online services to various small and medium businesses. This is the reason why social media experts, influencers, YouTubers, critics, SEO experts, website designers, and developers are in high demand these days. Such businesses require only smartphones, basic computers, software, and a high-speed internet connection.
Must Read: Top Online Business Ideas to Get Started Making Money on the Internet
If one has to pick a single money-making idea from a list of internet-based small businesses from home, blogging, and vlogging (video blogging) have the potential to be money-spinners. As long as it is interesting, it does not matter what one writes or makes a video about. Even many top-rated performance artists, including stand-up comedians, have considered this as a potential way to expand their reach. The goal is of course to maximize the number of views or readers of the vlog or blog through the creation of interesting content. In the case of certain vlog platforms, one gets paid based on the number of views while in the case of most blogs adverting revenues generated through Google AdSense helps the business make money.
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6. Cookery Classes – Online/In-person
In case a skillful professional cook does not fancy the idea of slogging it out at a restaurant or food truck business, there is an alternative – cookery class. This is a unique trend that’s catching on among urban and semi-urban families in India, as something that people create something that’s delicious yet healthy. What’s more, it is even possible to carry out these classes both in-person and online or one could make a vlog teaching others the intricacies of culinary skills. The scope to expand and monetize from potential market segments that one might not be able to reach otherwise increases manifold by taking advantage of the online route.
7. Daycare Services/Baby Sitters/Creches
In today’s modern India, the concept of crèches in the office for working mothers is yet to catch on and as more women enter into and stay on in the workforce even after marriage, it is obvious that the demand for daycare services will continue to rise in the near future. As a full-time occupation, daycare services, crèches, and even babysitting have been around for years, if not decades, especially in the larger cities that have a larger number of working women and nuclear families.
8. Dance Classes/Centre
If you are a good dancer or choreographer, you can easily start your own dance center by taking space for rent or if you own some place or area. Marketing your dance academy is the only investment required. If you do not dance well, still you can still run a dance center by hiring good choreographers, dance teachers, etc.
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9. Photography Studio
Sometimes your hobby can make you earn money, you just need to spend some extra time on your hobby to make it a profession and further into a business. Photography is one of those hobbies that turned into a profession for numerous professionals. The better the camera and lenses will be, the more enriched the pictures it will capture. Rest all in your precision and skill in taking pictures that will make you a good photographer and earn rewards and money.
10. Yoga Instructor
Knowledge of Yoga and the habit of self-practicing all the ‘Yoga Asanas’ make a good yoga instructor. Yoga is considered to be above all stress buster practices and has proven results worldwide. Yoga instructors are well-paid and in high demand in India, as well as abroad. 100% knowledge and nominal investment is required to start this business.
11. Wedding Bureau
Weddings are made in heaven but arranged down here. Besides marriage online portals, wedding bureaus are more prevalent in small cities and towns. Families consider meeting other families in person before coming up with any decision. Therefore, small office space, 1-2 staff members, a registration certificate, and contacts can make you a successful businessman.
12. Tour Operators/Travel Agency
A couple of certifications and an attractive office at a prime location can help you start and run a travel agency or to become a tour operator. A successful travel agent is one who can make others travel at ease and convenience for its customers. Good knowledge of domestic and worldwide itineraries, sightseeing, flight fares, and hotel rates, can be really helpful.
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13. Salon/Beauty Parlour
Opening a salon or beauty parlor is and has always been the most trending business option in metro cities. The youth of young India is more cautious about looking presentable and groomed. Therefore, almost every salon has decent customers irrespective of location. Salon owners make huge profits during festive or marriage seasons, especially in metro cities.
14. Real Estate Business
If you are a good salesperson with knowledge and strong convincing power, then this business can turn your financial condition for good. Office space with a good location is the only investment required with experience/knowledge of types of properties and documentation processes. Honest public relations and impressive communication will help you become a successful real estate agent/broker/builder/financer, etc.
15. HR/Recruitment Business
Human Resource (HR) is an integral and important vertical in an organization and good recruitment makes a company grow and grow further. So having tie-ups with reputed organizations and placing good employees with them makes it a low-cost placement business.
16. Ice cream Parlour
Despite being a seasonal business, still, ice cream parlor is a big hit in terms of small businesses. Investment required in doing this manufacturing business is buying the franchise of any specific ice cream brand and secondly having a shop to place the counter in the desired location.
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17. Retail shop for Arts & Handicrafts
The Government of India has started promoting the sale of handicraft products in numerous cities and states. Steps are been taken to make handicraft products reach every home in India. Some of these products include metalware, paintings, shawls, carpets, woodware, earthenware, embroidered goods, bronze and marble sculptures, etc.
Also Read: What are the government loan schemes available for small scale industry setup?
18. Coaching/Tuition Classes – Online/In-person
Education is a field of diversity and a good low-cost business idea. Financial break-even is easily achieved and it’s not a full-time business.
19. Counselling/Consultancy Business
Almost every sector requires consultants to assist in its development and growth. People with decent knowledge of IT, finance, marketing, HR, accounts, law, healthcare, social media, etc. can open their own consultancy company and tie up with big corporates to make good money.
20. Boutique/Apparel Store
One of the traditional small-scale businesses of the nation. Women who like stitching clothes and are updated with the latest fashion trends can run a boutique store anywhere. The boutique store can be managed from home itself and the only investment required is the sewing machine with apparel to sell.
Read Also: 7 Small Business Ideas & Opportunities for Housewives
21. Catering Business
Catering business requires investment in just hiring labor, buying raw materials, and owning tents, tables, chairs, and utensils. The rest depends on your contacts, marketing techniques, and the quality of the food being prepared and served.
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Also Read: 5 Leading Business Loan Options for Women
Low-Cost Small Business Ideas
Let’s further discuss some low-cost business ideas for start-up companies and first-time business owners.
- The most popular idea among the low-cost business ideas for start-ups is a business related to the food and beverage industry that is already on a rise, especially in the metro cities
- According to the studies and research, many food start-ups are running along with the help and collaboration of food delivery giants, such as Swiggy and Zomato
- The development of marketing strategy especially with the help of social media and digital markets is important for the success of such small-scale food start-ups
- The government and the financial institutions provide all the required financial assistance for the start-ups along with flexible repayment options
- Another lucrative idea among the low-cost business ideas for start-ups is the fashion accessory and clothing business which has a great potential for earning high volumes of income due to the high level of accessibility
- The idea is especially ideal for young women fashion designers and aspirants who inherit the desired knowledge and experience in the field of fashion and clothing
- Design, if it starts getting a fair amount of responses can be manufactured contractually to become a hit across the global markets with the partnership of e-commerce giants, such as Amazon, Alibaba, e-bay, Walmart, Flipkart, etc.
- Another attractive idea from the low-cost business ideas for a startup is an agriculture start-up especially the setting up organic fields for growing organic fruits and vegetables
- The market studies prove that after the rise of grocery delivery companies, such as Big Basket, Blinkit and Grofers.
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All the above-mentioned small businesses can be started and managed in leading metropolitan cities like Delhi (Gurugram, Faridabad) Chennai, Mumbai, and Kolkata, and other Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, as well.
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What Is a Business Plan?
Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.
Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.
- A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
- Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
- For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
- There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.
Investopedia / Ryan Oakley
Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.
Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."
Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.
There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.
Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.
While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.
While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.
Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.
The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.
These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:
- Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
- Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
- Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
- Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
- Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.
The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.
2 Types of Business Plans
Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.
- Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
- Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.
Why Do Business Plans Fail?
A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.
How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.
What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?
The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.
Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.
A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.
Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."
U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."
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