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What Is a Business Plan?

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

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

what is the business plan used for

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

Key Takeaways

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

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Types of Business Plans

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

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

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

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

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

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

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

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

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

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

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

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what is the business plan used for

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

AJ Beltis

Published: June 07, 2023

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

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

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

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

What is a business plan?

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

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

What is a business plan used for?

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

Business Plan Template [ Download Now ]

businessplan_2

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

Purposes of a Business Plan

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

1. Securing financing from investors.

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

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

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

2. Documenting a company's strategy and goals.

A business plan should leave no stone unturned.

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

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

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

what is the business plan used for

Free Business Plan Template

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

  • Outline your idea.
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You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Free Business Plan [Template]

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

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

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

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

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

4. Getting an A in your business class.

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

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

What does a business plan need to include?

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

1. Business Plan Subtitle

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

2. Executive Summary

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

3. Company Description

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

4. The Business Opportunity

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

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5. Competitive Analysis

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

6. Target Market

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

7. Marketing Plan

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

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

8. Financial Summary

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

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

10. Funding Requirements

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

Types of Business Plans

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

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

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

1. Startup Business Plan

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

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

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

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

2. Feasibility Business Plan

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

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

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

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

3. Internal Business Plan

businessplan_5

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

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

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

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

4. Strategic Business Plan

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

These types of business plans may include:

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

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

5. Business Acquisition Plan

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

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

A business plan for an existing company will explain:

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

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

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

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

6. Business Repositioning Plan

businessplan_6 (1)

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

This plan will:

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

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

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

7. Expansion or Growth Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Started With Your Business Plan

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

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

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

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What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained

Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.

what is the business plan used for

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

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

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

What is a business plan?

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

Why do you need a business plan?

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

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

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

What can you do with your plan?

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

Test an idea

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

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

Document your strategy and goals

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

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

Pursue funding

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

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

Better manage your business

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

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

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What should your business plan include?

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

Executive summary

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

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

Products & Services

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

Market analysis

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

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

Marketing & sales

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

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

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

Organization & management

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

Financial projections

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

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

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

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

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

Types of business plans explained

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

Traditional business plan

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

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

Business model canvas

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

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

One-page business plan

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

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

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

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

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

Try the LivePlan Method for Lean Business Planning

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

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

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

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

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Kody Wirth

Posted in Business Plan Writing

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October 31, 2023

Block Advisors

How to Write a Business Plan Step-By-Step

October 31, 2023 • Block Advisors

QUICK ANSWER:

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

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

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

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

What is a Business Plan?

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

A small business owner learning how to write a business plan

Who are the major players in your business?

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

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

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

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan: 10 Simple Steps

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

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

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

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

2. Create a Business Description

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

The company description should also answer these two questions:

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

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

What business structure is right for my company?

Answer these six questions to help you find your fit

3. Outline Your Business Goals

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

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

4. Conduct and Summarize Market Research

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

5. Conduct a Competitive Analysis

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

6. Outline Your Marketing and Sales Strategies

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

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

7. Describe Your Product or Service

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

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

8. Compile Financial Plans

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

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

9. Build a Management and Operations Plan

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

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

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

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

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

How to Create a Business Plan: The Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a business plan?

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

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

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

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These are the following purpose of business plan:

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

What are the essential components of a business plan?

The Essential Components of a Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Types of business plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons why Business Plans Dont Success

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

What are the benefits of having a business plan?

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

How to write a business plan?

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

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

How to write a business plan step by step?

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

Why do I need a business plan for my startup?

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

What are the key components of a business plan?

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

Can a business plan help secure funding for my business?

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

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15 Ways to Use and Get Incredible Value From a Business Plan

Male and female entrepreneurs standing next to one another by two sets of bookshelves. Discussing ways to use their business plan.

14 min. read

Updated October 27, 2023

What is a business plan used for? That fully depends on your business stage and specific business needs. 

If you’re just starting, you’ll use a business plan to deal with uncertainty and navigate early doubts and questions. If you’re seeking funding then you’ll be using your business plan to explain your value to potential investors and lenders. 

When  created correctly , a detailed plan can help you successfully start, manage, and grow your business. Of course, this is just a simple introduction to the purpose of a business plan. Let’s explore and explain the uses of a business plan for each business stage.

  • How to use a business plan when starting your business

When starting a new business, your business plan is meant to help you explore, define, and connect. You’re evaluating the type of business you’ll be running, who your target market will be, and defining how sections of your business will operate. Here are the key methods for using a business plan to successfully start your business.

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1. Evaluate and develop your business idea

Is  your business idea  valid? Should you even pursue it? Will it sell enough to cover costs and expenses? Who else is doing something like this?  

Your business plan will help you answer these critical questions. It guides you through the process of making the right educated guesses for every area of your business. This includes initial financial planning and outlining expected sales, costs of goods sold, expenses, and cash flow. You’ll also set up your strategy, tactics, major milestones, and success metrics.

Evaluating your idea by developing a plan ensures that you’re prepared and minimizing risk. You don’t need to have everything perfectly developed. However, you should know enough to determine if your idea is valuable and sustainable. Shouldn’t you be able to write these down for yourself before you take the risk? 

You want to keep things short and simple. Start with a lean business plan, which is a collection of bullet-point lists and projections. Use it for yourself and your team members only, not to show to outsiders. 

At the end of the day, your goal is to be able to deal with the big questions. Is this really a good idea? Will it work? Can you feasibly do it?  

2. Inform your branding and mission

Writing a business plan  doesn’t just help evaluate your business idea. It also ensures that you’re outlining core business operations that allow people to recognize, like, and trust your company. This is encompassed by your branding, value proposition, and company mission.

Branding is all about how your business looks and feels. Your mission statement then helps define what your brand stands for. Then your value proposition officially defines how your products and services effectively serve your potential customers.

Trying to please everybody is usually a shortcut to failure. Creating these upfront streamlines your focus toward the right people. Through effective market research, you create an informed brand position that is designed to reach and resonate with a specific audience. 

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3. Identify professional gaps

Just like you can’t serve everyone, you also can’t be an expert on everything involved in running a successful business. Maybe you have industry expertise, solid management skills, or a specialized skillset. However, there may be other areas such as accounting, customer service, or marketing that you are completely unprepared to take on.

Creating a business plan allows you to explore operational areas that you are unfamiliar with and assess what skill gaps you need to fill. Even without experience, you’ll attempt to outline the functions of your marketing plan, financial forecasts, sales channels, etc. As part of this exercise, you can also mention specific roles or areas of operation that you need to outsource or fill.

This will directly tie the onboarding of professionals to your milestones and startup strategy. This will help you determine the right time to bring on more people. It will also prove to investors that you are thinking ahead and already understand your weaknesses. 

4. Connect with mentors

Your business plan can be a great introduction to working with mentors, counselors, and business development organizations. The best example is in the U.S. Where more than 1,000 Small Business Development Centers offer workshops, counseling, and mentorship for small business owners and entrepreneurs. They really appreciate business owners having a business plan as part of the relationship.

Aside from these formal relationships with mentors, there are informal relationships that can evolve into mentorship over time. It may be another business owner, someone you’re pitching to, an employee, or someone you randomly connect with at a networking event. 

This is where your business plan can be a great tool for explaining a business to somebody who might be able to help with it. Just keep a  lean and streamlined version of your plan , or even just your executive summary, ready to share.  

5. Connect and partner with suppliers

Business owners use forecasts and financial statements to manage their sourcing, suppliers, contractors, and inventory. You’ll anticipate sales and expenses ahead of time, review actual results, and revise accordingly. 

Regularly scrutinizing your projected sales and costs can better inform your purchasing decisions and optimize inventory. Too much inventory can be a drain on cash. Too little can hurt production and sales. 

Understanding the state of your financials will also make it much easier to approach suppliers and vendors. You’ll be prepared to discuss growth plans, negotiate product or service pricing, and changes to inventory. Your business plan can even be a key part of proposing a strategic alliance with a supplier.

The importance of a business plan in this instance is making sure you’re fully prepared to have these conversations. You’re not scrambling when you suddenly start bleeding cash or take on an excess of inventory. Instead, you’re using your plan to look ahead and prepare. 

  • How to use a business plan to pursue funding

An inevitable step for most existing businesses is the  pursuit of funding . It can occur early in the lifespan of a business to help get it off the ground. It may also take years until it becomes necessary for a business to achieve an escalated level of growth. Here are the specific ways that you can use your business plan to successfully gain funding and present it to potential investors.  

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6. Solidify your funding needs

In years of angel investment, I’ve seen many attempts to raise investment run aground over entrepreneurs and owners not knowing how much money they need. Investors always want to know how much money you need and what it will be spent on. Bankers expect you to apply for loans for some specific amount. 

Before you seek out a loan or make a pitch, you’ll need to understand how much funding you require. You can use your business plan to estimate that total. It will also demonstrate why you need that money, what you’ll do with it, and how it will help the business. 

That process starts with your educated guesses about sales, costs, expenses, and cash flow. If your projections indicate that you can get by without other people’s money, then heave a sigh of relief because you don’t need investment or loans. If the projects show a deficit, then that deficit is likely how much money you need in funding. 

7. Support for loan applications 

Your business plan is your best-supporting documentation when submitting a loan application. Most commercial bank loans and especially Small Business Administration-backed loan applications require a business plan as part of the process. Your business plan should include your essential financials including sales, costs, expenses, and cash flow statements. Again, it should also show why you need funding, how you’ll spend it, and how you’ll pay it back. 

These days it doesn’t always take a long formal business plan document. Often a lean business plan is enough to support a loan. That will include those essential numbers, plus short summaries of strategy, tactics, major milestones, and metrics. 

8. Guide your pitch to investors

I’ve seen founders fail a pitch because they couldn’t answer common questions that come up. Questions such as:

  • What are you projecting for marketing expenses? 
  • How much is your gross margin?
  • What’s the headcount assumption?

This can be a death sentence for your chance at funding. Investors can immediately tell if you don’t have a plan to back up your pitch. 

Another important myth to dispel is that investors don’t read business plans. The truth is that investors will often reject a proposal based on just a summary, without having read the whole plan. But when they like the proposal, the summary, and the  pitch , they need the full business plan to guide due diligence. 

In 12 years with an angel investment group, I’ve never seen an investment made without investors reading a business plan in detail. In short, you need to have your business plan prepared. It will enhance your pitch and make it far easier to move on to the next step to gain funding.

9. Manage funding once received

Having a business plan doesn’t just help you gain funding, it also helps you  effectively manage it . You’ll have this outlined in an initial use of funds report and actively engage with investors through the ongoing business planning process. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be forced to stick to the strategy you set out with, and are instead able to optimize how to leverage your funding. 

Track results including essential numbers and execution. Review those results regularly and revise as necessary. Use that process to provide updates as needed for your bankers or investors. That way you aren’t scrambling to pull together your financial statements and strategy when asked for them.

  • How to use a business plan to manage and grow your business

The best and most common ongoing use of your business plan is to steer, manage, and grow your business. The business plan is for you to use to better run your business. Think of business planning for your business as a system that mimics navigation in your car. 

The long-term goals are the destination. The strategy, tactics, execution, and essential budgets are the route. Tracking and reviewing real-time information are the choices you make when driving. They help you determine if you should adjust you’re route or stay on course. 

Recognizing this primary use of the business plan also helps you focus on what you need and don’t need for your business plan. You can opt to work with a one-page business plan  instead of a big formal business planning document. Here are the key ways you can use your business plan for effective business management and growth.

YouTube video

10. Establish a strategy and the tactics needed to execute it

Use your business plan  to clarify your strategy , determine the tactics necessary to support it, and track your execution. No need to write elaborate text explanations. You can deal with just bullet points that summarize and remind you of the main aspects of your plan. 

Think of this as a tool for maintaining focus. Most business owners and entrepreneurs want to do everything they can to please every customer. I certainly always did with my business. 

But what we learn in the real world is that there is the principle of displacement in small businesses. What we do rules out what we can’t do. 

11. Monitor and measure business performance

This ties directly into establishing your strategy and tactics but deserves its own focus. Your business plan is not only useful for defining milestones, key performance indicators, and success metrics. It’s also an invaluable tool for tracking and measuring this data on an ongoing basis. 

Having these metrics sit directly within your plan ensures that you’re always linking tactile performance back to your broader strategy. It makes  performance reviews and revisions  much easier to complete. And should you need funding at a later stage, it makes it much easier to prepare your plan for a professional pitch.

12. Explore potential scenarios

A what-if analysis, more often called a scenario analysis, allows you to explore what might happen to your business in different scenarios. 

What if we open another location? What if we change pricing? What if we add another employee? What happens if we don’t reach our sales goals?

You can use your business plan as a tool for scenario analysis. Save your current plan as the most likely scenario. Then leverage your forecasts to develop at least a worst-case and best-case financial scenario. From here, you can outline specific strategies within your plan to take advantage of opportunities and prepare for crisis events. 

13. Plan revisions in response to a crisis

Speaking of a crisis, you can easily use your plan to develop an emergency response strategy. For example, when COVID changed everything almost overnight, business owners with well-established business plans were able to adapt far more quickly. Using their plan like a performance dashboard puts strategy, tactics, metrics, milestones, and essential projections all in one place. 

This enabled these owners to look quickly at educated guesses on revenue decline and then adjust spending to compensate. They had a view of milestones due, and performance against metrics, and were able to adjust timing, scheduling, and priorities to deal with the crisis. 

14. Determine the right time for growth initiatives

Similar to crisis planning, you can also use your business plan to better  prepare your business to take on growth initiatives . Rather than blindly guessing if you’re needing to invest further to achieve growth, you can instead coordinate around swings in revenue, costs, expenses, and priorities. 

For example, there may be an optimal time to launch a new website, a second location, or even an additional product. Any of these initiatives bring with them an opportunity for substantial gains, as well as an incredible risk if not executed properly. In any of these circumstances, you can use your plan to better understand how introducing a website, location, product, or anything else will affect your business.

What timeframe do you need to gain traction? What’s the necessary ROI that makes it a success? Do you have enough cash to invest in it right now?

You can answer all of these questions, and take full advantage of growth opportunities with your business plan.

15. Update your plan based on actual results

Using your business plan to track your strategy, tactics, and execution is the first step. The next step is to engage in regular plan reviews to maintain an accurate view of your actual results. 

The point of reviewing your plan and tracking results is so that you can steer your business with course corrections as required.  Plan vs. actual business plan analysis  is perfect for this. 

When a business plan review turns up results different than expected, you will always have the dilemma of whether to change the plan or the execution. When results are better than expected, then you have to decide whether you change the plan to take advantage of what’s working. And when you have bad news, you have to decide whether the disappointment means changing the plan or just improving execution.  

In any case, using your plan in this way means you spend more time reviewing and less time pulling together data. 

  • Additional ways to use your business plan

Outside of this list, there are some special and less common use cases for your business plan. If you’re planning to sell your business, a business plan can help inform buyers beforehand. A business plan can also inform parties involved in a divorce or estate execution. It can also be useful for developing a continuity plan when a business is being passed on to a relative or employee. 

Lastly, a business plan is key for determining the valuation of a business for purposes including sale, legal settlements, and taxation. All of these use cases tend to deal with helping streamline legal aspects of selling, transitioning, or valuing a business. Similar to how having a business plan prepped helps you prepare to pursue funding, it can also eliminate the need to do any additional work in these scenarios.

How do you ensure that you actually use your plan? Leverage growth planning 

Business planning is the best way to get what you want from your business. It coordinates strategy, tactics, business activities, and teamwork, and pushes results to the forefront. More than likely, you’ll find  even more specific use cases  for your own business beyond the fifteen listed here.

There are many types of business plans out there, and you don’t always need a formal business plan document. If your full intention is to leverage your plan as an internal management tool, then you should start with a one-page plan.

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.

Check out LivePlan

Table of Contents

  • How do you ensure that you actually use your plan? Leverage growth planning 

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  • 11.4 The Business Plan
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 Entrepreneurship Today
  • 1.2 Entrepreneurial Vision and Goals
  • 1.3 The Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Review Questions
  • Discussion Questions
  • Case Questions
  • Suggested Resources
  • 2.1 Overview of the Entrepreneurial Journey
  • 2.2 The Process of Becoming an Entrepreneur
  • 2.3 Entrepreneurial Pathways
  • 2.4 Frameworks to Inform Your Entrepreneurial Path
  • 3.1 Ethical and Legal Issues in Entrepreneurship
  • 3.2 Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship
  • 3.3 Developing a Workplace Culture of Ethical Excellence and Accountability
  • 4.1 Tools for Creativity and Innovation
  • 4.2 Creativity, Innovation, and Invention: How They Differ
  • 4.3 Developing Ideas, Innovations, and Inventions
  • 5.1 Entrepreneurial Opportunity
  • 5.2 Researching Potential Business Opportunities
  • 5.3 Competitive Analysis
  • 6.1 Problem Solving to Find Entrepreneurial Solutions
  • 6.2 Creative Problem-Solving Process
  • 6.3 Design Thinking
  • 6.4 Lean Processes
  • 7.1 Clarifying Your Vision, Mission, and Goals
  • 7.2 Sharing Your Entrepreneurial Story
  • 7.3 Developing Pitches for Various Audiences and Goals
  • 7.4 Protecting Your Idea and Polishing the Pitch through Feedback
  • 7.5 Reality Check: Contests and Competitions
  • 8.1 Entrepreneurial Marketing and the Marketing Mix
  • 8.2 Market Research, Market Opportunity Recognition, and Target Market
  • 8.3 Marketing Techniques and Tools for Entrepreneurs
  • 8.4 Entrepreneurial Branding
  • 8.5 Marketing Strategy and the Marketing Plan
  • 8.6 Sales and Customer Service
  • 9.1 Overview of Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting Strategies
  • 9.2 Special Funding Strategies
  • 9.3 Accounting Basics for Entrepreneurs
  • 9.4 Developing Startup Financial Statements and Projections
  • 10.1 Launching the Imperfect Business: Lean Startup
  • 10.2 Why Early Failure Can Lead to Success Later
  • 10.3 The Challenging Truth about Business Ownership
  • 10.4 Managing, Following, and Adjusting the Initial Plan
  • 10.5 Growth: Signs, Pains, and Cautions
  • 11.1 Avoiding the “Field of Dreams” Approach
  • 11.2 Designing the Business Model
  • 11.3 Conducting a Feasibility Analysis
  • 12.1 Building and Connecting to Networks
  • 12.2 Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team
  • 12.3 Designing a Startup Operational Plan
  • 13.1 Business Structures: Overview of Legal and Tax Considerations
  • 13.2 Corporations
  • 13.3 Partnerships and Joint Ventures
  • 13.4 Limited Liability Companies
  • 13.5 Sole Proprietorships
  • 13.6 Additional Considerations: Capital Acquisition, Business Domicile, and Technology
  • 13.7 Mitigating and Managing Risks
  • 14.1 Types of Resources
  • 14.2 Using the PEST Framework to Assess Resource Needs
  • 14.3 Managing Resources over the Venture Life Cycle
  • 15.1 Launching Your Venture
  • 15.2 Making Difficult Business Decisions in Response to Challenges
  • 15.3 Seeking Help or Support
  • 15.4 Now What? Serving as a Mentor, Consultant, or Champion
  • 15.5 Reflections: Documenting the Journey
  • A | Suggested Resources

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the different purposes of a business plan
  • Describe and develop the components of a brief business plan
  • Describe and develop the components of a full business plan

Unlike the brief or lean formats introduced so far, the business plan is a formal document used for the long-range planning of a company’s operation. It typically includes background information, financial information, and a summary of the business. Investors nearly always request a formal business plan because it is an integral part of their evaluation of whether to invest in a company. Although nothing in business is permanent, a business plan typically has components that are more “set in stone” than a business model canvas , which is more commonly used as a first step in the planning process and throughout the early stages of a nascent business. A business plan is likely to describe the business and industry, market strategies, sales potential, and competitive analysis, as well as the company’s long-term goals and objectives. An in-depth formal business plan would follow at later stages after various iterations to business model canvases. The business plan usually projects financial data over a three-year period and is typically required by banks or other investors to secure funding. The business plan is a roadmap for the company to follow over multiple years.

Some entrepreneurs prefer to use the canvas process instead of the business plan, whereas others use a shorter version of the business plan, submitting it to investors after several iterations. There are also entrepreneurs who use the business plan earlier in the entrepreneurial process, either preceding or concurrently with a canvas. For instance, Chris Guillebeau has a one-page business plan template in his book The $100 Startup . 48 His version is basically an extension of a napkin sketch without the detail of a full business plan. As you progress, you can also consider a brief business plan (about two pages)—if you want to support a rapid business launch—and/or a standard business plan.

As with many aspects of entrepreneurship, there are no clear hard and fast rules to achieving entrepreneurial success. You may encounter different people who want different things (canvas, summary, full business plan), and you also have flexibility in following whatever tool works best for you. Like the canvas, the various versions of the business plan are tools that will aid you in your entrepreneurial endeavor.

Business Plan Overview

Most business plans have several distinct sections ( Figure 11.16 ). The business plan can range from a few pages to twenty-five pages or more, depending on the purpose and the intended audience. For our discussion, we’ll describe a brief business plan and a standard business plan. If you are able to successfully design a business model canvas, then you will have the structure for developing a clear business plan that you can submit for financial consideration.

Both types of business plans aim at providing a picture and roadmap to follow from conception to creation. If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept.

The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, dealing with the proverbial devil in the details. Developing a full business plan will assist those of you who need a more detailed and structured roadmap, or those of you with little to no background in business. The business planning process includes the business model, a feasibility analysis, and a full business plan, which we will discuss later in this section. Next, we explore how a business plan can meet several different needs.

Purposes of a Business Plan

A business plan can serve many different purposes—some internal, others external. As we discussed previously, you can use a business plan as an internal early planning device, an extension of a napkin sketch, and as a follow-up to one of the canvas tools. A business plan can be an organizational roadmap , that is, an internal planning tool and working plan that you can apply to your business in order to reach your desired goals over the course of several years. The business plan should be written by the owners of the venture, since it forces a firsthand examination of the business operations and allows them to focus on areas that need improvement.

Refer to the business venture throughout the document. Generally speaking, a business plan should not be written in the first person.

A major external purpose for the business plan is as an investment tool that outlines financial projections, becoming a document designed to attract investors. In many instances, a business plan can complement a formal investor’s pitch. In this context, the business plan is a presentation plan, intended for an outside audience that may or may not be familiar with your industry, your business, and your competitors.

You can also use your business plan as a contingency plan by outlining some “what-if” scenarios and exploring how you might respond if these scenarios unfold. Pretty Young Professional launched in November 2010 as an online resource to guide an emerging generation of female leaders. The site focused on recent female college graduates and current students searching for professional roles and those in their first professional roles. It was founded by four friends who were coworkers at the global consultancy firm McKinsey. But after positions and equity were decided among them, fundamental differences of opinion about the direction of the business emerged between two factions, according to the cofounder and former CEO Kathryn Minshew . “I think, naively, we assumed that if we kicked the can down the road on some of those things, we’d be able to sort them out,” Minshew said. Minshew went on to found a different professional site, The Muse , and took much of the editorial team of Pretty Young Professional with her. 49 Whereas greater planning potentially could have prevented the early demise of Pretty Young Professional, a change in planning led to overnight success for Joshua Esnard and The Cut Buddy team. Esnard invented and patented the plastic hair template that he was selling online out of his Fort Lauderdale garage while working a full-time job at Broward College and running a side business. Esnard had hundreds of boxes of Cut Buddies sitting in his home when he changed his marketing plan to enlist companies specializing in making videos go viral. It worked so well that a promotional video for the product garnered 8 million views in hours. The Cut Buddy sold over 4,000 products in a few hours when Esnard only had hundreds remaining. Demand greatly exceeded his supply, so Esnard had to scramble to increase manufacturing and offered customers two-for-one deals to make up for delays. This led to selling 55,000 units, generating $700,000 in sales in 2017. 50 After appearing on Shark Tank and landing a deal with Daymond John that gave the “shark” a 20-percent equity stake in return for $300,000, The Cut Buddy has added new distribution channels to include retail sales along with online commerce. Changing one aspect of a business plan—the marketing plan—yielded success for The Cut Buddy.

Link to Learning

Watch this video of Cut Buddy’s founder, Joshua Esnard, telling his company’s story to learn more.

If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept. This version is used to interest potential investors, employees, and other stakeholders, and will include a financial summary “box,” but it must have a disclaimer, and the founder/entrepreneur may need to have the people who receive it sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) . The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, providing supporting details, and would be required by financial institutions and others as they formally become stakeholders in the venture. Both are aimed at providing a picture and roadmap to go from conception to creation.

Types of Business Plans

The brief business plan is similar to an extended executive summary from the full business plan. This concise document provides a broad overview of your entrepreneurial concept, your team members, how and why you will execute on your plans, and why you are the ones to do so. You can think of a brief business plan as a scene setter or—since we began this chapter with a film reference—as a trailer to the full movie. The brief business plan is the commercial equivalent to a trailer for Field of Dreams , whereas the full plan is the full-length movie equivalent.

Brief Business Plan or Executive Summary

As the name implies, the brief business plan or executive summary summarizes key elements of the entire business plan, such as the business concept, financial features, and current business position. The executive summary version of the business plan is your opportunity to broadly articulate the overall concept and vision of the company for yourself, for prospective investors, and for current and future employees.

A typical executive summary is generally no longer than a page, but because the brief business plan is essentially an extended executive summary, the executive summary section is vital. This is the “ask” to an investor. You should begin by clearly stating what you are asking for in the summary.

In the business concept phase, you’ll describe the business, its product, and its markets. Describe the customer segment it serves and why your company will hold a competitive advantage. This section may align roughly with the customer segments and value-proposition segments of a canvas.

Next, highlight the important financial features, including sales, profits, cash flows, and return on investment. Like the financial portion of a feasibility analysis, the financial analysis component of a business plan may typically include items like a twelve-month profit and loss projection, a three- or four-year profit and loss projection, a cash-flow projection, a projected balance sheet, and a breakeven calculation. You can explore a feasibility study and financial projections in more depth in the formal business plan. Here, you want to focus on the big picture of your numbers and what they mean.

The current business position section can furnish relevant information about you and your team members and the company at large. This is your opportunity to tell the story of how you formed the company, to describe its legal status (form of operation), and to list the principal players. In one part of the extended executive summary, you can cover your reasons for starting the business: Here is an opportunity to clearly define the needs you think you can meet and perhaps get into the pains and gains of customers. You also can provide a summary of the overall strategic direction in which you intend to take the company. Describe the company’s mission, vision, goals and objectives, overall business model, and value proposition.

Rice University’s Student Business Plan Competition, one of the largest and overall best-regarded graduate school business-plan competitions (see Telling Your Entrepreneurial Story and Pitching the Idea ), requires an executive summary of up to five pages to apply. 51 , 52 Its suggested sections are shown in Table 11.2 .

Are You Ready?

Create a brief business plan.

Fill out a canvas of your choosing for a well-known startup: Uber, Netflix, Dropbox, Etsy, Airbnb, Bird/Lime, Warby Parker, or any of the companies featured throughout this chapter or one of your choice. Then create a brief business plan for that business. See if you can find a version of the company’s actual executive summary, business plan, or canvas. Compare and contrast your vision with what the company has articulated.

  • These companies are well established but is there a component of what you charted that you would advise the company to change to ensure future viability?
  • Map out a contingency plan for a “what-if” scenario if one key aspect of the company or the environment it operates in were drastically is altered?

Full Business Plan

Even full business plans can vary in length, scale, and scope. Rice University sets a ten-page cap on business plans submitted for the full competition. The IndUS Entrepreneurs , one of the largest global networks of entrepreneurs, also holds business plan competitions for students through its Tie Young Entrepreneurs program. In contrast, business plans submitted for that competition can usually be up to twenty-five pages. These are just two examples. Some components may differ slightly; common elements are typically found in a formal business plan outline. The next section will provide sample components of a full business plan for a fictional business.

Executive Summary

The executive summary should provide an overview of your business with key points and issues. Because the summary is intended to summarize the entire document, it is most helpful to write this section last, even though it comes first in sequence. The writing in this section should be especially concise. Readers should be able to understand your needs and capabilities at first glance. The section should tell the reader what you want and your “ask” should be explicitly stated in the summary.

Describe your business, its product or service, and the intended customers. Explain what will be sold, who it will be sold to, and what competitive advantages the business has. Table 11.3 shows a sample executive summary for the fictional company La Vida Lola.

Business Description

This section describes the industry, your product, and the business and success factors. It should provide a current outlook as well as future trends and developments. You also should address your company’s mission, vision, goals, and objectives. Summarize your overall strategic direction, your reasons for starting the business, a description of your products and services, your business model, and your company’s value proposition. Consider including the Standard Industrial Classification/North American Industry Classification System (SIC/NAICS) code to specify the industry and insure correct identification. The industry extends beyond where the business is located and operates, and should include national and global dynamics. Table 11.4 shows a sample business description for La Vida Lola.

Industry Analysis and Market Strategies

Here you should define your market in terms of size, structure, growth prospects, trends, and sales potential. You’ll want to include your TAM and forecast the SAM . (Both these terms are discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis .) This is a place to address market segmentation strategies by geography, customer attributes, or product orientation. Describe your positioning relative to your competitors’ in terms of pricing, distribution, promotion plan, and sales potential. Table 11.5 shows an example industry analysis and market strategy for La Vida Lola.

Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis is a statement of the business strategy as it relates to the competition. You want to be able to identify who are your major competitors and assess what are their market shares, markets served, strategies employed, and expected response to entry? You likely want to conduct a classic SWOT analysis (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) and complete a competitive-strength grid or competitive matrix. Outline your company’s competitive strengths relative to those of the competition in regard to product, distribution, pricing, promotion, and advertising. What are your company’s competitive advantages and their likely impacts on its success? The key is to construct it properly for the relevant features/benefits (by weight, according to customers) and how the startup compares to incumbents. The competitive matrix should show clearly how and why the startup has a clear (if not currently measurable) competitive advantage. Some common features in the example include price, benefits, quality, type of features, locations, and distribution/sales. Sample templates are shown in Figure 11.17 and Figure 11.18 . A competitive analysis helps you create a marketing strategy that will identify assets or skills that your competitors are lacking so you can plan to fill those gaps, giving you a distinct competitive advantage. When creating a competitor analysis, it is important to focus on the key features and elements that matter to customers, rather than focusing too heavily on the entrepreneur’s idea and desires.

Operations and Management Plan

In this section, outline how you will manage your company. Describe its organizational structure. Here you can address the form of ownership and, if warranted, include an organizational chart/structure. Highlight the backgrounds, experiences, qualifications, areas of expertise, and roles of members of the management team. This is also the place to mention any other stakeholders, such as a board of directors or advisory board(s), and their relevant relationship to the founder, experience and value to help make the venture successful, and professional service firms providing management support, such as accounting services and legal counsel.

Table 11.6 shows a sample operations and management plan for La Vida Lola.

Marketing Plan

Here you should outline and describe an effective overall marketing strategy for your venture, providing details regarding pricing, promotion, advertising, distribution, media usage, public relations, and a digital presence. Fully describe your sales management plan and the composition of your sales force, along with a comprehensive and detailed budget for the marketing plan. Table 11.7 shows a sample marketing plan for La Vida Lola.

Financial Plan

A financial plan seeks to forecast revenue and expenses; project a financial narrative; and estimate project costs, valuations, and cash flow projections. This section should present an accurate, realistic, and achievable financial plan for your venture (see Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting for detailed discussions about conducting these projections). Include sales forecasts and income projections, pro forma financial statements ( Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team , a breakeven analysis, and a capital budget. Identify your possible sources of financing (discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis ). Figure 11.19 shows a template of cash-flow needs for La Vida Lola.

Entrepreneur In Action

Laughing man coffee.

Hugh Jackman ( Figure 11.20 ) may best be known for portraying a comic-book superhero who used his mutant abilities to protect the world from villains. But the Wolverine actor is also working to make the planet a better place for real, not through adamantium claws but through social entrepreneurship.

A love of java jolted Jackman into action in 2009, when he traveled to Ethiopia with a Christian humanitarian group to shoot a documentary about the impact of fair-trade certification on coffee growers there. He decided to launch a business and follow in the footsteps of the late Paul Newman, another famous actor turned philanthropist via food ventures.

Jackman launched Laughing Man Coffee two years later; he sold the line to Keurig in 2015. One Laughing Man Coffee café in New York continues to operate independently, investing its proceeds into charitable programs that support better housing, health, and educational initiatives within fair-trade farming communities. 55 Although the New York location is the only café, the coffee brand is still distributed, with Keurig donating an undisclosed portion of Laughing Man proceeds to those causes (whereas Jackman donates all his profits). The company initially donated its profits to World Vision, the Christian humanitarian group Jackman accompanied in 2009. In 2017, it created the Laughing Man Foundation to be more active with its money management and distribution.

  • You be the entrepreneur. If you were Jackman, would you have sold the company to Keurig? Why or why not?
  • Would you have started the Laughing Man Foundation?
  • What else can Jackman do to aid fair-trade practices for coffee growers?

What Can You Do?

Textbooks for change.

Founded in 2014, Textbooks for Change uses a cross-compensation model, in which one customer segment pays for a product or service, and the profit from that revenue is used to provide the same product or service to another, underserved segment. Textbooks for Change partners with student organizations to collect used college textbooks, some of which are re-sold while others are donated to students in need at underserved universities across the globe. The organization has reused or recycled 250,000 textbooks, providing 220,000 students with access through seven campus partners in East Africa. This B-corp social enterprise tackles a problem and offers a solution that is directly relevant to college students like yourself. Have you observed a problem on your college campus or other campuses that is not being served properly? Could it result in a social enterprise?

Work It Out

Franchisee set out.

A franchisee of East Coast Wings, a chain with dozens of restaurants in the United States, has decided to part ways with the chain. The new store will feature the same basic sports-bar-and-restaurant concept and serve the same basic foods: chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches, and the like. The new restaurant can’t rely on the same distributors and suppliers. A new business plan is needed.

  • What steps should the new restaurant take to create a new business plan?
  • Should it attempt to serve the same customers? Why or why not?

This New York Times video, “An Unlikely Business Plan,” describes entrepreneurial resurgence in Detroit, Michigan.

  • 48 Chris Guillebeau. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future . New York: Crown Business/Random House, 2012.
  • 49 Jonathan Chan. “What These 4 Startup Case Studies Can Teach You about Failure.” Foundr.com . July 12, 2015. https://foundr.com/4-startup-case-studies-failure/
  • 50 Amy Feldman. “Inventor of the Cut Buddy Paid YouTubers to Spark Sales. He Wasn’t Ready for a Video to Go Viral.” Forbes. February 15, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestreptalks/2017/02/15/inventor-of-the-cut-buddy-paid-youtubers-to-spark-sales-he-wasnt-ready-for-a-video-to-go-viral/#3eb540ce798a
  • 51 Jennifer Post. “National Business Plan Competitions for Entrepreneurs.” Business News Daily . August 30, 2018. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6902-business-plan-competitions-entrepreneurs.html
  • 52 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition . March 2020. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2020%20RBPC%20Eligibility%20Criteria%20and%20How%20to%20Apply_23Oct19.pdf
  • 53 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition. March 2020. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2020%20RBPC%20Eligibility%20Criteria%20and%20How%20to%20Apply_23Oct19.pdf; Based on 2019 RBPC Competition Rules and Format April 4–6, 2019. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2019-RBPC-Competition-Rules%20-Format.pdf
  • 54 Foodstart. http://foodstart.com
  • 55 “Hugh Jackman Journey to Starting a Social Enterprise Coffee Company.” Giving Compass. April 8, 2018. https://givingcompass.org/article/hugh-jackman-journey-to-starting-a-social-enterprise-coffee-company/

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  • Authors: Michael Laverty, Chris Littel
  • Publisher/website: OpenStax
  • Book title: Entrepreneurship
  • Publication date: Jan 16, 2020
  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Book URL: https://openstax.org/books/entrepreneurship/pages/1-introduction
  • Section URL: https://openstax.org/books/entrepreneurship/pages/11-4-the-business-plan

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Entrepreneurs Gateway

What is a Business Plan and why do you NEED one?

  • EntrepreneursGateway.com Team
  • October 31, 2018

what is the business plan used for

If you want your business to be successful, you’ll need to produce a business plan.

In this article, we will explore why every company needs a business plan as well as how you can identify which business plan is right for you. We will cover:

  • What a business plan is
  • Why having one is so important
  • What components you should include in it
  • Different types of business plans you can have

Whether  you need a one-page business plan or something more in-depth, this ultimate business planning guide has you covered!

We will walk you through all the steps necessary to impress your investors and guarantee business success.

Ready? Let’s go.

what is the business plan used for

What you need to know before writing your plan

It’s all about the 7 Ps!

P rior P reparation and P lanning P revents P i** P oor P erformance!!!

Bottom Line:

This article tells you exactly what you need to know before writing your business plan.

what is the business plan used for

This article is part of the Business Planning Hub , where you’ll find lots of guides and resources to help you create the perfect business plan!

Table of Contents

Keep in mind:

It is a MUST for all businesses to have a business plan – no matter if you are looking for investment, if you’re a one-person business, or a multi-national million-dollar company.

what is the business plan used for

It has been proven in studies that   companies that have a business plan grow 30% faster than those that don’t – while 3 in 5 business go bust in their first 2 years of trading.

As the adage goes, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail…

Let’s get started.

Businesses who have a #businessplan grow 30% faster than those who don't have one. Tweet

#1 What is a Business Plan?

To put it simply, a business plan is a written document that outlines your core business objectives and how you are planning to achieve them over a period of time.

Think of it as a roadmap.

It explains the nature of a business, sales, goals, marketing technique, strategy and also financial history, as well as consisting of a forecast revenue and loss declaration.

Your business plan ought to comply with the standards pertaining to form and content. There are important areas that should include certain components and address appropriate concerns that individuals who review your plan are most likely to ask.

So, if you’ve ever had that business idea but are short for ways on how to realize it … this section is for you.

How long should my business plan be?

A business plan can vary from a few pages to hundreds pages (usually for large businesses).

If you have a fairly small business (like a cosmetic or bakery one, for example), you should keep your plan as brief and concise as possible – ideally under 30 pages. Even more so if you are planning to submit it to investors or bankers to secure funding!

what is the business plan used for

The business plan that most of us need is what is known as the “ Lean Business Plan ”.

This is something created only  for internal use within the organization, and has bullet points and projections. It’s essential to keep this up to date.

Compiling a Lean Business Plan is a much less daunting task, because it makes the planning process a lot easier. 

Just keep it simple and let it grow organically.

what is the business plan used for

#2 How should you present your business plan?

You don’t necessarily have to print out your business plan (unless on special occasions such as sharing with third parties).

K eep in mind:

A business plan is never a finished document.

If you are using it correctly, you are going to keep tweaking it while checking the health of your business.

#3 What should be included in a formal business plan?

If it is funding or investment that you are looking for , then you will need to do a more formal business plan.

In a formal business plan, you need to include:

  • The Executive Summary
  • Company Overview
  • Information about your Management Team and what they bring to the Company
  • Information about your products and/or services
  • Marketing Plan
  • Your Company Milestones
  • A Financial Plan with graphs and charts to illustrate your financial information.

How frequently should you update your business plan?

Updating your business plan is key if you want to grow your business successfully.

Studies show that people who write business plans not only grow their companies faster , but also have a greater chance of getting the resources they need and reach their sale targets more quickly. They are also more likely to deal with product development successfully, and are less likely to see their business fail.

According to William Gartner, Clemson University Entrepreneurship Professor: “Business plans are all about walking the walk.”

PRO TIP : Why not schedule a repeat event on your calendar app? This can be, say, the last Wednesday of every month.

Whatever you choose, be sure to set aside a day each month to have your monthly plan review meeting.

By reviewing your actual financial health compared to your financial projections, you will be sure to have an overview of your business growth and make sure it’s always on track .

what is the business plan used for

A #businessplan is never a finished document. It’s always going to need tweaking to support the #health of your business. Tweet

what is the business plan used for

#4 Who needs a Business Plan?

Do i need a business plan.

The short answer is:

The long anwer is…

It might depend on your situation. If you’re simply looking to pick up the odd bit of freelance work to boost your monthly earnings, then you can do without a business plan.

If this is a venture that is going to take a lot of time, resources, and money, then you will need a business plan.

 This will be critical to your success.

ALL businesses should have a business plan , regardless of the stage they are in.

If you’re already an established business, how can you keep track of ever-changing market conditions and any new opportunities that are out there without a plan? A business plan is just as important to a company that’s over 10 years old and looking to grow, as it is to a start-up that’s looking to raise funds.

All businesses should have both long and short term goals and Sales & Marketing budgets .

1. Business Plan for Start-ups

If you’re a start-up business, having a business plan will help you break uncertainty down into meaningful pieces – such as your projected sales, your milestones, budget expenses and tasks.

what is the business plan used for

With this kind of plan, you can explain what your company is looking to do, how it plans to accomplish its goals, what amount of money it needs to start with, as well as what people are qualified to do the job.

what is the business plan used for

2. Business Plan for Existing Businesses

If you’re already in business, having a business plan will help you to steer your company and take advantage of any new opportunities in the market .

Existing businesses will use their plan to track their results, reinforce their strategy, manage their resources and responsibilities.

Having a business plan can also be a great competitive advantage and help you spot any potential problems.

People investing in a business plan see their business grow 30% faster. #ultimatebusinessplanguide Tweet

#5 Choosing the Right Business Plan for your Requirements

Before even starting to write  your business plan, it’s vital that you think about the following:

  • What are your goals for your plan?
  • What’s your audience ?

It’s important to explain that the format of your business plan can vary depending upon the business type and the audience .

For example:

If you are writing a Restaurant business plan , you might want to include the location of the restaurant and any renovation work that needs doing.

If you are writing a Medical Center business plan , you may well need to go into details regarding government approval processes, etc.

Of course the language that you would use for the medical centre would be a lot more technical than that for the restaurant.

Business Plans also differ in:

  • Presentation 

Business Plans that are created solely for internal use would use much more causal language and wouldn’t need a polished finish.

If you are looking for investment, your business plan will need to be of the highest spec.

#6 The most common types of business plans:

1. one-page business plan.

The purpose of a one-page business plan is simply to be a great ‘introductory’ tool for you to use with outsiders, for example potential investors. 

It is simply a short, quick business summary that fits on one page . It’s very concise and to the point.

You will need a much more detailed plan later, but initially, this is a great way to get that ‘first meeting’ and your foot in the door.

what is the business plan used for

Having your summary on one page is also a great way to be able to see your company concept at a quick glance, so that it’s easy to refine.

Learn more about creating a  One Page Business Plan .

2. The Lean Business Plan

  A Lean Business Plan is slightly more detailed than the one-page business plan, as it includes some financial information; but it’s nowhere near as in depth as a traditional business plan.

The main purpose of having a Lean Plan would be for internal use, such as using it as a strategic planning tool.

The main aspects a Lean Business Plan focuses on are:

what is the business plan used for

  • Business Strategy

With a Lean Plan , you tend to skip out sections such as the history of the company and your management team. (If its main purpose is for internal use, you don’t need this information.)

We recommend you review your lean plan at least every month. If you do this regularly, you would only need an hour or two every month to revise it.

Lean Business Plans are a great management tool that can guide both start-up companies and existing businesses. They help you direct your business growth, make you think about your business strategically, and measure your progress.

3. The Standard Business Plan (External Business Plan)

In this section, you can find the more formal of business plans , which are meant for outsiders to read. This is primarily for businesses who are looking for investment.

The Standard Business Plan should be considered an extension of the Lean Business Plan , but it should be much better presented with a lot more attention to detail. 

See our example standard business plans

If you’re looking for a more detailed plan, why not take a look at our business plan examples:

  • Ecommerce Business Plan sample
  • Bar & Restaurant Business Plan sample
  • Medical Center Business Plan sample
  • Outdoor Activity Business Plan sample
  • Advertising Agency Business Plan sample
  • Real Estate Business Plan sample
  • Boutique Business Plan sample
  • Baker Business Plan sample

#7 What you should include in your Formal Business Plan

What are the components of a business plan? Well, this will vary from plan to plan. However, when writing a formal business plan , there are some elements that definitely need to be included.

1. Executive Summary

The Executive Summary section of your business plan usually goes at the beginning of your business plan and outlines what your business does.

It’s an overview.

It summarizes your key points and prepares the rest of the business plan content.

It’s vital that you provide a solid case for your business idea, which is why your executive summary is so important . Many potential investors may never read more than this section.

Be sure to include the problem your business is going to solve, the target market, any key financial highlights, and an overview of the key management team members.

Remember: The key is to hook the reader.

2. The opportunity

This section of the plan describes the following:

  • Target Market
  • Market Analysis
  • Projections

Competition

Your target market.

You need to define who you are going to sell to, and especially: you need to understand who your target market is , so that you can market to them. 

Market Trends

You need to be able to know if there are any changes happening in your target market, and explain if these trends will go in your favour.

Market Growth

You need to be able to show whether your target market has grown or shrunk over the past few years. Do your research: you can use the Internet, as well as trade associations and any journalists and articles to gauge the market growth.

It’s encouraging to show there is a growing market, which in turn shows there is a stronger demand for your products/services.

It’s good to research your competition.What other options are out there that address your customers’ needs? Why is your solution a better choice? What makes you stand out?

3. Execution

Products and services.

This section outlines the core of your achievements. You detail the actual problem you want to solve, how you plan to solve it, your competitive landscape and competitive edge.

Marketing and Sales

This informs the reader how you plan to reach your target market. How you plan to price your products/services, what methods you will use to promote your products/services as well as the sales processes you have put in place.

You can include how you plan to operate the business. This can mean your office locations, any technology such as software systems etc, and any regulatory issues.

Milestones and Metrics

Having milestones lays out specific tasks which you plan to achieve. Set realistic dates for when they need to be complete and assign a person to these tasks to make them accountable.

You should also give details of key metrics which will help track your business growth. This includes:

  • Generated Sales Leads
  • Visitors to your website

This all helps in determining your business health.

Company overview

For an external business plan, your company overview gives a brief summary of the following:

  • Legal structure
  • Mission Statement.

For Internal plans, this is not required.

4. Management Team

This section should show all key management team players and include a biography of them to show it is made up of the right type of people.

Business plans not only help identify the strengths of a business, but also any areas that need to be improved. If you identify any gaps within the management team, it shows not only knowledge, but also foresight.

5. Financial plan

This is a crucial part of your business plan. To be successful in your business, you need to pay close attention to how much money you are bringing in and how much money is going out.

what is the business plan used for

If you’re starting a business, having a financial plan enables you to know how much you need to get your business up and running, and then know what to ask a bank or investor.

A financial plan typically includes:

  • Sales Forecast
  • Personnel Plan
  • Profit and Loss Statement
  • Cash Flow Statement
  • Balance Sheet.

what is the business plan used for

#8 Your Business Plan is a Management Tool

Having a business plan doesn’t guarantee success.

Think of it as your ongoing management tool.

Ensure you constantly review it.

Additional Resources

To help you even further in creating your business plan, why not check out the following articles to help you in writing the perfect plan to impress:

  • 40 Common Business Plan Mistakes
  • How to Write a Business Proposal in 5 Easy Steps
  • 10 FREE Business Name Generator Tools to find your perfect business name
  • Understanding your Business Model
  • How to write a One Page business plan FAST
  • Which type of Business Plan is best for you?

Now, over to you...

Now I’d love to hear from you:

Are you still unsure of which business plan you need?

Maybe you have written a business plan and would like us to review it?

Leave any comments below and I will be sure to answer as soon as they come in!

Useful Links

Leave a comment cancel reply.

what is the business plan used for

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BUSINESS STRATEGIES

7 types of business plans every entrepreneur should know

  • Amanda Bellucco Chatham
  • Aug 3, 2023

representation of a business plan for a beverage brand

What’s the difference between a small business that achieves breakthrough growth and one that fizzles quickly after launch? Oftentimes, it’s having a solid business plan.

Business plans provide you with a roadmap that will take you from wantrepreneur to entrepreneur. It will guide nearly every decision you make, from the people you hire and the products or services you offer, to the look and feel of the business website you create.

But did you know that there are many different types of business plans? Some types are best for new businesses looking to attract funding. Others help to define the way your company will operate day-to-day. You can even create a plan that prepares your business for the unexpected.

Read on to learn the seven most common types of business plans and determine which one fits your immediate needs.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a written document that defines your company’s goals and explains how you will achieve them. Putting this information down on paper brings valuable benefits. It gives you insight into your competitors, helps you develop a unique value proposition and lets you set metrics that will guide you to profitability. It’s also a necessity to obtain funding through banks or investors.

Keep in mind that a business plan isn’t a one-and-done exercise. It’s a living document that you should update regularly as your company evolves. But which type of plan is right for your business?

7 common types of business plans

Startup business plan

Feasibility business plan

One-page business plan

What-if business plan

Growth business plan

Operations business plan

Strategic business plan

7 types of business plans listed out

01. Startup business plan

The startup business plan is a comprehensive document that will set the foundation for your company’s success. It covers all aspects of a business, including a situation analysis, detailed financial information and a strategic marketing plan.

Startup plans serve two purposes: internally, they provide a step-by-step guide that you and your team can use to start a business and generate results on day one. Externally, they prove the validity of your business concept to banks and investors, whose capital you’ll likely need to make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

Elements of a startup business plan should include the following steps:

Executive summary : Write a brief synopsis of your company’s concept, potential audience, product or services, and the amount of funding required.

Company overview: Go into detail about your company’s location and its business goals. Be sure to include your company’s mission statement , which explains the “why” behind your business idea.

Products or services: Explain exactly what your business will offer to its customers. Include detailed descriptions and pricing.

Situation analysis: Use market research to explain the competitive landscape, key demographics and the current status of your industry.

Marketing plan: Discuss the strategies you’ll use to build awareness for your business and attract new customers or clients.

Management bios: Introduce the people who will lead your company. Include bios that detail their industry-specific background.

Financial projections: Be transparent about startup costs, cash flow projections and profit expectations.

Don’t be afraid to go into too much detail—a startup business plan can often run multiple pages long. Investors will expect and appreciate your thoroughness. However, if you have a hot new product idea and need to move fast, you can consider a lean business plan. It’s a popular type of business plan in the tech industry that focuses on creating a minimum viable product first, then scaling the business from there.

02. Feasibility business plan

Let’s say you started a boat rental company five years ago. You’ve steadily grown your business. Now, you want to explore expanding your inventory by renting out jet skis, kayaks and other water sports equipment. Will it be profitable? A feasibility business plan will let you know.

Often called a decision-making plan, a feasibility business plan will help you understand the viability of offering a new product or launching into a new market. These business plans are typically internal and focus on answering two questions: Does the market exist, and will you make a profit from it? You might use a feasibility plan externally, too, if you need funding to support your new product or service.

Because you don’t need to include high-level, strategic information about your company, your feasibility business plan will be much shorter and more focused than a startup business plan. Feasibility plans typically include:

A description of the new product or service you wish to launch

A market analysis using third-party data

The target market , or your ideal customer profile

Any additional technology or personnel needs required

Required capital or funding sources

Predicted return on investment

Standards to objectively measure feasibility

A conclusion that includes recommendations on whether or not to move forward

03. One-page business plan

Imagine you’re a software developer looking to launch a tech startup around an app that you created from scratch. You’ve already written a detailed business plan, but you’re not sure if your strategy is 100% right. How can you get feedback from potential partners, customers or friends without making them slog through all 32 pages of the complete plan?

That’s where a one-page business plan comes in handy. It compresses your full business plan into a brief summary. Think of it as a cross between a business plan and an elevator pitch—an ideal format if you’re still fine-tuning your business plan. It’s also a great way to test whether investors will embrace your company, its mission or its goals.

Ideally, a one-page business plan should give someone a snapshot of your company in just a few minutes. But while brevity is important, your plan should still hit all the high points from your startup business plan. To accomplish this, structure a one-page plan similar to an outline. Consider including:

A short situation analysis that shows the need for your product or service

Your unique value proposition

Your mission statement and vision statement

Your target market

Your management team

The funding you’ll need

Financial projections

Expected results

Because a one-page plan is primarily used to gather feedback, make sure the format you choose is easy to update. That way, you can keep it fresh for new audiences.

04. What-if business plan

Pretend that you’re an accountant who started their own financial consulting business. You’re rapidly signing clients and growing your business when, 18 months into your new venture, you’re given the opportunity to buy another established firm in a nearby town. Is it a risk worth taking?

The what-if business plan will help you find an answer. It’s perfect for entrepreneurs who are looking to take big risks, such as acquiring or merging with another company, testing a new pricing model or adding an influx of new staff.

A what-if plan is additionally a great way to test out a worst-case scenario. For example, if you’re in the restaurant business, you can create a plan that explores the potential business repercussions of a public health emergency (like the COVID-19 pandemic), and then develop strategies to mitigate its effects.

You can share your what-if plan internally to prepare your leadership team and staff. You can also share it externally with bankers and partners so that they know your business is built to withstand any hard times. Include in your plan:

A detailed description of the business risk or other scenario

The impact it will have on your business

Specific actions you’ll take in a worst-case scenario

Risk management strategies you’ll employ

05. Growth business plan

Let’s say you’re operating a hair salon (see how to create a hair salon business plan ). You see an opportunity to expand your business and make it a full-fledged beauty bar by adding skin care, massage and other sought-after services. By creating a growth business plan, you’ll have a blueprint that will take you from your current state to your future state.

Sometimes called an expansion plan, a growth business plan is something like a crystal ball. It will help you see one to two years into the future. Creating a growth plan lets you see how far—and how fast—you can scale your business. It lets you know what you’ll need to get there, whether it’s funding, materials, people or property.

The audience for your growth plan will depend on your expected sources of capital. If you’re funding your expansion from within, then the audience is internal. If you need to attract the attention of outside investors, then the audience is external.

Much like a startup plan, your growth business plan should be rather comprehensive, especially if the people reviewing it aren’t familiar with your company. Include items specific to your potential new venture, including:

A brief assessment of your business’s current state

Information about your management team

A thorough analysis of the growth opportunity you’re seeking

The target audience for your new venture

The current competitive landscape

Resources you’ll need to achieve growth

Detailed financial forecasts

A funding request

Specific action steps your company will take

A timeline for completing those action steps

Another helpful thing to include in a growth business plan is a SWOT analysis . SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis will help you evaluate your performance, and that of your competitors. Including this type of in-depth review will show your investors that you’re making an objective, data-driven decision to expand your business, helping to build confidence and trust.

06. Operations business plan

You’ve always had a knack for accessories and have chosen to start your own online jewelry store. Even better, you already have your eCommerce business plan written. Now, it’s time to create a plan for how your company will implement its business model on a day-to-day basis.

An operations business plan will help you do just that. This internal-focused document will explain how your leadership team and your employees will propel your company forward. It should include specific responsibilities for each department, such as human resources, finance and marketing.

When you sit down to write an operations plan, you should use your company’s overall goals as your guide. Then, consider how each area of your business will contribute to those goals. Be sure to include:

A high-level overview of your business and its goals

A clear layout of key employees, departments and reporting lines

Processes you’ll use (i.e., how you’ll source products and fulfill orders)

Facilities and equipment you’ll need to conduct business effectively

Departmental budgets required

Risk management strategies that will ensure business continuity

Compliance and legal considerations

Clear metrics for each department to achieve

Timelines to help you reach those metrics

A measurement process to keep your teams on track

07. Strategic business plan

Say you open a coffee shop, but you know that one store is just the start. Eventually, you want to open multiple locations throughout your region. A strategic business plan will serve as your guide, helping define your company’s direction and decision-making over the next three to five years.

You should use a strategic business plan to align all of your internal stakeholders and employees around your company’s mission, vision and future goals. Your strategic plan should be high-level enough to create a clear vision of future success, yet also detailed enough to ensure you reach your eventual destination.

Be sure to include:

An executive summary

A company overview

Your mission and vision statements

Market research

A SWOT analysis

Specific, measurable goals you wish to achieve

Strategies to meet those goals

Financial projections based on those goals

Timelines for goal attainment

Related Posts

What is a target market and how to define yours

21 powerful mission statement examples that stand out

Free business plan template for small businesses

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An Introduction to Business Plans Why is a business plan so vital to the health of your business? Read the first section of our tutorial on How to Build a Business Plan to find out.

A business plan is a written description of your business's future. That's all there is to it--a document that desribes what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot down a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you've written a plan, or at least the germ of a plan.

Business plans can help perform a number of tasks for those who write and read them. They're used by investment-seeking entrepreneurs to convey their vision to potential investors. They may also be used by firms that are trying to attract key employees, prospect for new business, deal with suppliers or simply to understand how to manage their companies better.

So what's included in a business plan, and how do you put one together? Simply stated, a business plan conveys your business goals, the strategies you'll use to meet them, potential problems that may confront your business and ways to solve them, the organizational structure of your business (including titles and responsibilities), and finally, the amount of capital required to finance your venture and keep it going until it breaks even.

Sound impressive? It can be, if put together properly. A good business plan follows generally accepted guidelines for both form and content. There are three primary parts to a business plan:

  • The first is the business concept , where you discuss the industry, your business structure, your particular product or service, and how you plan to make your business a success.
  • The second is the marketplace section , in which you describe and analyze potential customers: who and where they are, what makes them buy and so on. Here, you also describe the competition and how you'll position yourself to beat it.
  • Finally, the financial section contains your income and cash flow statement, balance sheet and other financial ratios, such as break-even analyses. This part may require help from your accountant and a good spreadsheet software program.

Breaking these three major sections down even further, a business plan consists of seven key components:

  • Executive summary
  • Business description
  • Market strategies
  • Competitive analysis
  • Design and development plan
  • Operations and management plan
  • Financial factors

In addition to these sections, a business plan should also have a cover, title page and table of contents.

How Long Should Your Business Plan Be? Depending on what you're using it for, a useful business plan can be any length, from a scrawl on the back of an envelope to, in the case of an especially detailed plan describing a complex enterprise, more than 100 pages. A typical business plan runs 15 to 20 pages, but there's room for wide variation from that norm. Much will depend on the nature of your business. If you have a simple concept, you may be able to express it in very few words. On the other hand, if you're proposing a new kind of business or even a new industry, it may require quite a bit of explanation to get the message across.

The purpose of your plan also determines its length. If you want to use your plan to seek millions of dollars in seed capital to start a risky venture, you may have to do a lot of explaining and convincing. If you're just going to use your plan for internal purposes to manage an ongoing business, a much more abbreviated version should be fine.

Who Needs a Business Plan?

About the only person who doesn't need a business plan is one who's not going into business. You don't need a plan to start a hobby or to moonlight from your regular job. But anybody beginning or extending a venture that will consume significant resources of money, energy or time, and that is expected to return a profit, should take the time to draft some kind of plan.

Startups. The classic business plan writer is an entrepreneur seeking funds to help start a new venture. Many, many great companies had their starts on paper, in the form of a plan that was used to convince investors to put up the capital necessary to get them under way.

Most books on business planning seem to be aimed at these startup business owners. There's one good reason for that: As the least experienced of the potential plan writers, they're probably most appreciative of the guidance. However, it's a mistake to think that only cash-starved startups need business plans. Business owners find plans useful at all stages of their companies' existence, whether they're seeking financing or trying to figure out how to invest a surplus.

Established firms seeking help. Not all business plans are written by starry-eyed entrepreneurs. Many are written by and for companies that are long past the startup stage. WalkerGroup/Designs, for instance, was already well-established as a designer of stores for major retailers when founder Ken Walker got the idea of trademarking and licensing to apparel makers and others the symbols 01-01-00 as a sort of numeric shorthand for the approaching millennium. Before beginning the arduous and costly task of trademarking it worldwide, Walker used a business plan complete with sales forecasts to convince big retailers it would be a good idea to promise to carry the 01-01-00 goods. It helped make the new venture a winner long before the big day arrived. "As a result of the retail support up front," Walker says, "we had over 45 licensees running the gamut of product lines almost from the beginning."

These middle-stage enterprises may draft plans to help them find funding for growth just as the startups do, although the amounts they seek may be larger and the investors more willing. They may feel the need for a written plan to help manage an already rapidly growing business. Or a plan may be seen as a valuable tool to be used to convey the mission and prospects of the business to customers, suppliers or others.

Plan an Updating Checklist Here are seven reasons to think about updating your business plan. If even just one applies to you, it's time for an update.

  • A new financial period is about to begin. You may update your plan annually, quarterly or even monthly if your industry is a fast-changing one.
  • You need financing , or additional financing. Lenders and other financiers need an updated plan to help them make financing decisions.
  • There's been a significant market change . Shifting client tastes, consolidation trends among customers and altered regulatory climates can trigger a need for plan updates.
  • Your firm develops or is about to develop a new product , technology , service or skill. If your business has changed a lot since you wrote your plan the first time around, it's time for an update.
  • You have had a change in management . New managers should get fresh information about your business and your goals.
  • Your company has crossed a threshold, such as moving out of your home office, crossing the $1 million sales mark or employing your 100th employee .
  • Your old plan doesn't seem to reflect reality any more. Maybe you did a poor job last time; maybe things have just changed faster than you expected. But if your plan seems irrelevant, redo it.

Finding the Right Plan for You

Business plans tend to have a lot of elements in common, like cash flow projections and marketing plans. And many of them share certain objectives as well, such as raising money or persuading a partner to join the firm. But business plans are not all the same any more than all businesses are.

Depending on your business and what you intend to use your plan for, you may need a very different type of business plan from another entrepreneur. Plans differ widely in their length, their appearance, the detail of their contents, and the varying emphases they place on different aspects of the business.

The reason that plan selection is so important is that it has a powerful effect on the overall impact of your plan. You want your plan to present you and your business in the best, most accurate light. That's true no matter what you intend to use your plan for, whether it's destined for presentation at a venture capital conference, or will never leave your own office or be seen outside internal strategy sessions.

When you select clothing for an important occasion, odds are you try to pick items that will play up your best features. Think about your plan the same way. You want to reveal any positives that your business may have and make sure they receive due consideration.

Types of Plans Business plans can be divided roughly into four separate types. There are very short plans, or miniplans. There are working plans, presentation plans and even electronic plans. They require very different amounts of labor and not always with proportionately different results. That is to say, a more elaborate plan is not guaranteed to be superior to an abbreviated one, depending on what you want to use it for.

  • The Miniplan. A miniplan may consist of one to 10 pages and should include at least cursory attention to such key matters as business concept, financing needs, marketing plan and financial statements, especially cash flow, income projection and balance sheet. It's a great way to quickly test a business concept or measure the interest of a potential partner or minor investor. It can also serve as a valuable prelude to a full-length plan later on.

Be careful about misusing a miniplan. It's not intended to substitute for a full-length plan. If you send a miniplan to an investor who's looking for a comprehensive one, you're only going to look foolish.

  • The Working Plan. A working plan is a tool to be used to operate your business. It has to be long on detail but may be short on presentation. As with a miniplan, you can probably afford a somewhat higher degree of candor and informality when preparing a working plan.

A plan intended strictly for internal use may also omit some elements that would be important in one aimed at someone outside the firm. You probably don't need to include an appendix with resumes of key executives, for example. Nor would a working plan especially benefit from, say, product photos.

Fit and finish are liable to be quite different in a working plan. It's not essential that a working plan be printed on high-quality paper and enclosed in a fancy binder. An old three-ring binder with "Plan" scrawled across it with a felt-tip marker will serve quite well.

Internal consistency of facts and figures is just as crucial with a working plan as with one aimed at outsiders. You don't have to be as careful, however, about such things as typos in the text, perfectly conforming to business style, being consistent with date formats and so on. This document is like an old pair of khakis you wear into the office on Saturdays or that one ancient delivery truck that never seems to break down. It's there to be used, not admired.

  • The Presentation Plan. If you take a working plan, with its low stress on cosmetics and impression, and twist the knob to boost the amount of attention paid to its looks, you'll wind up with a presentation plan. This plan is suitable for showing to bankers, investors and others outside the company.

Almost all the information in a presentation plan is going to be the same as your working plan, although it may be styled somewhat differently. For instance, you should use standard business vocabulary, omitting the informal jargon, slang and shorthand that's so useful in the workplace and is appropriate in a working plan. Remember, these readers won't be familiar with your operation. Unlike the working plan, this plan isn't being used as a reminder but as an introduction.

You'll also have to include some added elements. Among investors' requirements for due diligence is information on all competitive threats and risks. Even if you consider some of only peripheral significance, you need to address these concerns by providing the information.

The big difference between the presentation and working plans is in the details of appearance and polish. A working plan may be run off on the office printer and stapled together at one corner. A presentation plan should be printed by a high-quality printer, probably using color. It must be bound expertly into a booklet that is durable and easy to read. It should include graphics such as charts, graphs, tables and illustrations.

It's essential that a presentation plan be accurate and internally consistent. A mistake here could be construed as a misrepresentation by an unsympathetic outsider. At best, it will make you look less than careful. If the plan's summary describes a need for $40,000 in financing, but the cash flow projection shows $50,000 in financing coming in during the first year, you might think, "Oops! Forgot to update that summary to show the new numbers." The investor you're asking to pony up the cash, however, is unlikely to be so charitable.

  • The Electronic Plan. The majority of business plans are composed on a computer of some kind, then printed out and presented in hard copy. But more and more business information that once was transferred between parties only on paper is now sent electronically. So you may find it appropriate to have an electronic version of your plan available. An electronic plan can be handy for presentations to a group using a computer-driven overhead projector, for example, or for satisfying the demands of a discriminating investor who wants to be able to delve deeply into the underpinnings of complex spreadsheets.

Source: The Small Business Encyclopedia , Business Plans Made Easy , Start Your Own Business and Entrepreneur magazine .

Continue on to the next section of our Business Plan How-To >> Plan Your Plan

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Use This Business Plan Format to Expertly Write Your Plan

Written by Dave Lavinsky

Growthink.com Business Plan Format

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

Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here >

How to Format Your Business Plan: The Cover Sheet

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

Example Business Plan Table of Contents

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

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

III: Industry Analysis      a. Industry Trends

IV: Customer Analysis      a. Customer Segmentation

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

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

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

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

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

X: Appendix

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

Example Business Plan Format

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

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

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

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

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

1. Start with Your Executive Summary

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

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

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

2. Company Overview Section

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

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

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

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

3. Industry or Market Analysis

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

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

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

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

5. Competitive Analysis

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

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

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

6. Your Marketing Plan is a Key Section

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

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

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

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

7. The Operations Plan Format

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

8. You Need to Prove Your Management Team Can Execute

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

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

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

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

9. Format Your Financial Plan

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

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

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

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

Example Financial Plan

Projected sales, gross profit & net income.

Business Plan Format financial projections

5 Year Annual Income Statement

5 year annual balance sheet, 5 year annual cash flow statement, 10. appendix.

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

Formatting Your Business Plan

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

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

How to Finish Your Business Plan in 1 Day!

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

Click here to finish your business plan today.

OR, Let Us Develop Your Plan For You

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

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

Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Business Plan Template & Guide for Small Businesses

What Is an MBA? About the Degree, Programs, Jobs, and More

Learn about this graduate-level business degree, how to get one, and what you can do with it.

[Featured image] Smiling woman in a business suit sitting at a table with her laptop and smartphone.

What does “MBA” stand for?

A Master of Business Administration, or MBA degree , is a graduate-level business and management degree with a focus on leadership and managerial skills. By earning this degree, you can equip yourself with the skills and knowledge to accelerate your career, transition to new industries, or even launch your own businesses. 

It’s the most common and one of the most versatile graduate degrees available.

Who should get an MBA?

MBA students may enter their programs from a variety of backgrounds, and there are different types of programs to suit a range of needs. Typically, MBA students enter their programs after gaining a few years of work experience (in nearly any field) and have long-term goals of working in any area of business, and particularly in leadership roles.

MBA degrees are not the only type of advanced business degrees. Some students instead pursue a Master of Science (MS) business degree. Learn more about deciding whether an MBA or MS is right for you .

Types of MBA programs

An MBA degree program isn’t one-size-fits-all. Consider your lifestyle, career goals, and current employment situation to decide which program is right for you. Here’s a look at some common types of MBA degrees :

Full-time MBA: Traditional two-year programs typically involve taking a full course load, much like an undergraduate degree. These programs are best suited to students who don’t have to work full time and can comfortably fund their degree without bringing in a regular paycheck. 

Part-time MBA: Part-time MBA programs, sometimes called professional MBAs, offer flexibility and enhanced work-life balance for students who wish to pursue a degree over several years while working or raising a family. Students with an established career can continue earning valuable work experience while learning job skills that can be applied right away. Some employers offer tuition assistance or reimbursement for employees who pursue a graduate degree while working. 

Executive MBA: Executive MBA programs, also known as EMBAs, are two-year programs geared toward leaders and executives with several years of managerial experience. Since most students in these programs are working professionals, the format tends to be part time with classes on evenings and weekends. Expect a faster-paced learning environment with less immersion than a typical program. With the skills you learn from an EMBA, you can often build off of your work experience to maximize your impact in your organization.

Global MBA: Global MBAs (sometimes called international MBAs) are similar to traditional two-year MBAs but with a focus on international business principles and strategies. Students tend to come from countries around the world. This could be a good option for students who wish to work at international companies. Sometimes global MBA programs offer or require a study abroad component. 

Learn more about the different types of MBA programs and how long they take to complete .

Earning your MBA online vs. on campus

No matter which type of degree you decide to pursue, you might have the option to complete your coursework on a college campus, online, or a hybrid of the two. Each method comes with its own set of benefits. This decision is all about how an MBA program best fits into your lifestyle.

Online MBAs

Online MBA programs through accredited universities, like the iMBA from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , offer access to the same professors and learning materials as on-campus programs with the added benefit of a flexible schedule. You can learn from virtually anywhere on a desktop or mobile device—no need to quit your job or relocate to attend a highly ranked business school.

These programs are sometimes less expensive than their on-campus counterparts. Since you can learn at your own pace, you’ll have the option to work full time (and bring in a regular paycheck). 

“If a student is comfortable in joining and being fully engaged in an online setting, then an online degree will provide them with more opportunities to establish connections,” says Fataneh Taghaboni-Dutta , Clinical Professor of Business Administration at the University of Illinois. “I say more because in terms of time needed to ‘speak’ or ‘meet’ others in an online environment, it’s less taxing than doing the same for in-person settings.”

On-campus MBAs

If you choose to pursue an on-campus MBA, you’ll typically attend classes in person on a fixed schedule. These traditional MBA programs often attract candidates who want to take advantage of the facilities, extracurricular activities, and overall community of a university campus. 

Networking often takes place face to face, both with professors and other students. But you may have to consider relocating, particularly if you have your eye on a specific school or specialization. 

MBA coursework

As you pursue an MBA, you can learn a wide variety of business fundamentals, including economics, marketing, finance, strategy, organizational behavior, and accounting. Outside the core curriculum, you can typically customize your experience through concentrations, elective classes, and internships with actual companies. This can help you to develop some of the leadership skills necessary to run a business—and these skills transfer to many career paths. 

While curriculums vary from school to school, here’s a look at some classes you might see in an MBA curriculum:

Digital marketing

Foundations of leadership

Business strategy

Organizational management

Managerial accounting

Operations management

Investments

Corporate finance

Cultural psychology

Business ethics

Common MBA concentrations

MBA concentrations , also called specializations or majors, are focus areas that you pursue as part of your degree. To complete a concentration, you'll typically need to pass a series of courses in your desired focus area. Though not all MBA programs require that students choose a concentration, they can help demonstrate deeper knowledge in your focus area and set you up for success in that area of business.

Some common MBA concentrations include:

Business analytics

MBA jobs: What can you do with an MBA?

By earning this degree, you can build a foundation for a new career or prepare yourself for better, often higher-paying opportunities. You can gain functional job skills and a well-recognized credential to potentially attract recruiters and hiring managers in a variety of fields.

MBA graduates can work across a variety of industries, though a 2023 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) survey of corporate recruiters found that there is high demand for MBA graduates in the energy, consulting, products and services, and manufacturing industries [ 1 ].

Some jobs you may be qualified to pursue with an MBA include:

Financial analyst

Human resources manager

Operations manager

Management consultant

Marketing manager

Business development manager

MBA degree salary

People with an MBA degree tend to earn more money than people who don't hold the credential, and people who earn an MBA tend to receive a salary increase upon completing their program. According to a GMAC survey, the median starting salary projected for 2023 MBA graduates in the US was $125,000 [ 1 ].

Factors that can influence your post-graduate salary include your industry, location, school attended, and total years of work experience.

Learn more about MBA degree salaries .

Is an MBA worth it?

Pursuing an MBA can be a significant financial commitment. It’s important to define your goals when deciding whether the investment is right for you. Through an MBA program, you’ll have the opportunity to expand your professional network, elevate your career prospects, and increase your earning potential.

Weighing the cost against the return, most MBA graduates agree that earning their MBA was worth it. In a 2022 survey from GMAC, over 85 percent of MBA graduates reported a positive return on investment from their graduate education. A majority found their business school education to be professionally, personally, and financially rewarding (84, 72, and 68 percent, respectively) [ 2 ].

“The training you receive in an MBA Program prepares you to deal with ambiguity and provides a buffer against uncertainty,” says Hayden Noel , Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Illinois. “You would be better equipped to take advantage of changing opportunities post-COVID. You will also become more effective as a leader and better understand the different functions of your organization. This leads to more positive outcomes in your current job.”

The training you receive in an MBA Program prepares you to deal with ambiguity and provides a buffer against uncertainty.

Learn more: Is an MBA Worth It?

Do I need an MBA degree?

While there are plenty of good  reasons to pursue an MBA degree , not every person (or professional field) requires one. Be sure to find out what hiring managers in your desired field are looking for by checking out current job postings on sites like LinkedIn or Indeed.

If you’re planning to pivot into a new industry, you might find less expensive, less time-consuming ways to build the skills you need. Consider if alternatives like individual courses,  professional certificates , or bootcamps might be a better fit. If you’re feeling unsure, some online MBA programs let you try out a course (sometimes for academic credit) before committing to the full degree.

MBA application requirements

Admission requirements vary by school, but applications may require the following:

Academic transcripts

Resume to show professional experience

GRE or GMAT test scores

Essay or personal statement

Letters of professional recommendation

In-person or video interview

While professional experience is not always necessary, some programs have specific work experience requirements. Previous experience could help you better gauge what you want from your degree and equip you to apply what you’re learning to your career. Other programs may allow recent graduates or even current bachelor’s students to participate in a combined Bachelor's and MBA program if they are looking to launch their careers quickly.

Standardized test scores, including the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) and the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), were once standard, heavily weighted requirements. Today, more and more schools are moving to a test-optional policy, particularly for executive and online MBA programs.

Some programs, like the iMBA from the University of Illinois and the Global MBA from Macquarie University , allow students to enroll through a performance-based admission process. Learners who want to try out the program or are unsure if they meet the minimum requirements can take classes and earn academic credit before fully enrolling as a degree-seeking student.

Learn more about how to get an MBA degree .

Get started with Coursera

You’ve learned about what an MBA degree is and what you can do with it. Now it’s time to take the next step on your career journey:

Learn more about earning your business degree online .

Hear what program graduates have to say .

Try an open course from the University of Illinois or Macquarie University to see if an MBA is right for you.

Give your team access to a catalog of 8,000+ engaging courses and hands-on Guided Projects to help them develop impactful skills. Learn more about  Coursera for Business .

Article sources

Graduate Management Admission Council. " Corporate Recruiters Survey: 2023 Summary Report " Accessed August 4, 2023.

Graduate Management Admission Council. " The Value of Graduate Management Education: From the Candidate's Perspective " Accessed August 4, 2023.

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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A man speaks outside court

How will Donald Trump pay the $438m he owes in penalties from civil trials?

Two giant penalties handed down in a matter of weeks will cost him millions – and that’s only part of what he could owe

  • Full report: Trump ordered to pay over $350m in New York fraud case
  • Trump fraud trial ruling – live updates

In a matter of weeks, Donald Trump was hit with two giant penalties from two civil trials in New York – $83m for defamation against the writer E Jean Carroll and $354.9m plus pre-judgment interest for inflating the value of his assets on government financial statements.

The verdicts combined will cost him some $438m, and that’s only part of what Trump could owe across numerous lawsuits. The payments will probably create a sizable dent in his wallet. Bloomberg’s billionaires’ list estimated that Trump’s net worth in 2021 was about $2.3bn, meaning these two rulings alone could take out almost a fifth of Trump’s net worth.

Trump’s finances have been notoriously opaque, not least because the Trump Organization is a private business, meaning it does not have to file public financial reports. But here’s what we know about what Trump has to pay and how it will affect his finances.

It all depends on the appeals

Trump is likely to appeal both cases, the outcomes of which could affect how much he ends up owing. It is unclear how long the appeals will take. For reference, an appeals court has yet to rule on a May 2023 ruling for a separate Carroll case that found Trump guilty of sexual abuse and defamation. Trump was ordered to pay $5m in damages in that case.

Also, the appeals court is technically considering two appeals coming out of Trump’s fraud trial. The first appeal came after a September pre-trial ruling found Trump guilty of fraud, ordering the removal of his business licenses. The second appeal is about the penalty the New York judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump to pay after the months-long trial. It is unclear whether the appeals court will decide on the two appeals together or separately, but it will probably be at least a few months before any decision is announced.

Bankruptcy for Trump is unlikely

While $438m is no small sum, Trump is wealthy. Trump ally Rudy Giuliani declared bankruptcy after a jury ordered him to pay $148m to two Georgia election workers; the former New York mayor has declared he owes between $100m and $500m and has assets of between $1m and $10m.

To declare bankruptcy, Trump would have to prove that the verdict outweighs his assets, something that is highly unlikely.

During a deposition with prosecutors for the fraud trial in April 2023, Trump said that he had more than $400m in cash. However, last year, Forbes reported that Trump had since invested the bulk of his cash in bonds and treasuries, with a small portion kept in stocks and mutual funds. After his guilty verdicts, Trump will probably have to sell a good chunk of those investments.

A big question is whether Trump will have to touch anything in his real estate portfolio. Trump has gotten a cash boost from selling his properties before: he sold his golf club in the Bronx last year, and in 2022, he completed the sale of the Old Post Office building in Washington DC, which was converted into a hotel. Court documents showed that the sale of the Old Post Office netted $131.4m before taxes, according to the New York Times .

It will be a tough decision for a man who, just several years ago, claimed he was worth $10bn. This pride in his wealth has recently been used against him. In closing arguments in Carroll’s January trial, her lawyers told the jury that they should punish Trump with higher damages precisely because he claims he is so wealthy.

“A billionaire like Donald Trump could pay a million dollars a day for 10 years and still have money left in the bank,” Carroll attorney’s Roberta Kaplan told the jury on 26 January. “It will take an unusually high punitive damages award to have any hope of stopping Donald Trump.”

Trump will still have to pay the court, even as appeals go through

Even though Trump is waiting on multiple appeals decisions, he will have to give the court the money to hold on to. If Trump wins any of his appeals, he can get his money back.

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Trump has a few options in paying the court. He could pay up everything that he owes now in cash. Or he could try to get an appeal bond, meaning he wouldn’t have to pay all the cash up front in exchange for a premium and putting up collateral.

In his May 2023 Carroll case, Trump set aside the $5m he owed in cash, saving him about $55,500 in what would have been bond premiums. Though Trump may prefer to pay out the verdicts in cash, it is unclear whether he has enough on hand to avoid a bond this time.

Trump is rich with campaign money, but spending it on personal legal expenses will be complicated

Trump has been zealously fundraising off his legal troubles, probably because he has sizable legal fees for his two civil trials and four criminal trials.

What Trump can pay for using his campaign money is unclear. A federal law bans candidates from using campaign funds for personal use, making it unlikely that Trump can use campaign funds to help pay off some of the Carroll award and fraud penalty.

But Trump has not shied away from using campaign funds for some of his trials. The Associated Press reported in October that Trump’s Save America political action committee (Pac) had paid $37m in legal fees, more than half of the Pac’s total spending.

And the money keeps flowing in. Trump was the Republican candidate who received the most donations last fall, raising $45.5m in the third quarter. Ron DeSantis, who dropped out of the race in January, raised the second most, taking in about $30m.

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what is the business plan used for

  • Business and industry

Update on HMRC Double Cab Pick Up Guidance

HMRC has updated its guidance on the tax treatment of Double Cab Pick Ups

what is the business plan used for

On Monday 12 February 2024 HMRC updated its guidance on the tax treatment of Double Cab Pick Ups ( DCPUs ), following a 2020 Court of Appeal judgment. The guidance had confirmed that, from 1 July 2024, DCPUs with a payload of one tonne or more would be treated as cars rather than goods vehicles for both capital allowances and benefit-in-kind purposes.

Since then, the government has listened carefully to views from farmers and the motoring industry on the potential impacts of the change in tax-treatment. The government has acknowledged that the 2020 court decision and resultant guidance update could have an impact on businesses and individuals in a way that is not consistent with the government’s wider aims to support businesses, including vital motoring and farming industries. 

HMRC have today announced that its existing guidance will be withdrawn, meaning that DCPUs will continue to be treated as goods vehicles rather than cars, and businesses and individuals can continue to benefit from its historic tax treatment.

This move is resultant of the government making clear that it will be legislating to ensure that DCPU vehicles continue to be treated as goods vehicles for tax purposes.

The government will consult on the draft legislation to ensure that it achieves that outcome before introducing it in the next available Finance Bill.

Nigel Huddleston, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

“We will change the law at the next available Finance Bill in order to avoid tax outcomes that could inadvertently harm farmers, van drivers and the UK’s economy.”

Further information

  • The tax on the benefit-in-kind will now not increase when employers provide these vehicles to their employees; and the capital allowances available in the first year of use will now not be reduced when a business purchases this vehicle for use in their trade.
  • This will ensure a continued generous and consistent treatment of DCPUs for capital allowances, benefit in kind, and VAT purposes, maintaining simplicity in the tax system.
  • HMRC will withdraw its updated guidance during the afternoon of Monday 19 February 2024.
  • The Court of Appeal ruled that most multi-purpose vehicles, such as DCPUs , are cars in Payne & Ors (Coca-Cola) v R & C Commrs (2020) (BTC19).
  • Arrangements that HMRC announced on 12 February 2024 to help DCPU owners adapt to the updated guidance are now redundant because the tax-treatment is not changing.
  • This update is only with reference to DCPUs with a payload of one tonne or more. DCPUs with a payload of less than one tonne continue to be treated as cars.

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