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7 Things Investors Are Looking for in a Business Plan

7 Things Investors Are Looking for in a Business Plan

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A business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines a company’s mission, goals, finances, revenue, and market data.

The primary purpose of a business plan is to convince banks and/or investors to loan you money, but there are several other benefits.

Business plans help create accountability within an organization, offer a holistic view of the company, and can repeatedly be used as a frame of reference.

Ultimately, a business plan mitigates risk. It summarizes all business areas and details how those areas ( marketing , operations) impact growth.

And there’s no way around it; if you want to fund from an investor, especially if you’re just starting your business , you need a business plan.

Any entrepreneur would be lucky to meet with an angel investor or venture capitalist. But the initial pitch, meeting, and presentation are all the tip of the iceberg.

What comes next is most important.

The potential investor will want a detailed business plan and will conduct due diligence to ensure you’re a worthy investment. With that in mind, here’s what investors are looking for in a business plan:

Strong Executive Summary

The executive summary is the first portion of your business plan and should be captivating enough to give a solid first impression.

Think of your executive summary as your website landing page. If visitors come to your website and can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll move on to the next best thing.

Your executive summary should introduce the company and explain what you do and what makes you unique. It gives investors a complete overview of your business and should summarize key details in other business plan sections. This section is typically one page long and should be written last.

Start your executive summary by introducing yourself; follow up with an explanation of why your business matters and how it fills a gap in the market or solves a particular problem. Take a business plan example for inspiration for writing a practical executive summary.

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Complete Financial Forecast

Whether you have no sales or are generating revenue in the hundreds of thousands, every investor will scrutinize your financial plan to determine financial feasibility accurately. This section of your plan needs to be fully fleshed out and leave no grey area or room for further questions.

It’s essential to put yourself in the shoes of an investor. Based on your financial outlook, do you see yourself as a risky or promising investment? Your financial forecast should include the following:

Projected profit and loss statement Projects how much revenue you’ll generate and the profit you’ll make on those sales

Break-even analysis A detailed look at how many products you need to sell to cover fixed and variable production costs

Projected balance sheet Estimate of total assets and liabilities

Cash flow statement Details all cash inflows and outflows

Business ratios Calculations that illustrate the relationship between items (i.e., total sales and the number of employees).

To accurately build out your financial forecast, you must assess your market share (your market research section is also crucial to investors). Start from the bottom by highlighting your total addressable market and the percentage you’ll be targeting. Then you can dive a little deeper by outlining your segmented addressable market and share of the market. Investing sites can also help you better perceive the state of the market and other data for a more accurate forecast.

Want free financial templates for your business plan?

You will find a terrific collection of important templates, including a SWOT analysis, sales forecast template, profit and loss template, cash flow template, and balance sheet template, in this comprehensive guide on how to write a business plan.

why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

Customer Acquisition Costs

Investors want to know how much it will cost to acquire new customers.

Understanding your customer acquisition costs (CAC) helps you grow healthy and scalable and shows investors that you know exactly what it takes to get a customer on board.

Knowing your CAC is more important than ever; the cost of acquiring new customers has increased by 60% over the past five years .

Customer acquisition costs are determined by examining the total cost of sales and marketing necessary to acquire new customers. You can calculate your CAC by dividing the total cost of marketing and sales by the number of customers acquired.

Your CAC can also help simplify your decision-making process, optimize your marketing strategies to focus on customer lifetime value, and paint a complete picture of your payback period (the amount of time it takes to recover the cost of an investment).

Strong Execution

A business plan is like an image. And as the age-old saying goes, “An image is worth a thousand words.”

Similarly, your business plan reveals much about who you are as a business owner. Let’s say that you have strong sales and an optimistic financial forecast. Is your business plan missing the necessary documentation and data points that support this? Is it rife with grammatical errors and improper formatting?

Execution is telling. How you communicate your business and your mission is just as important as the details within the plan. A hastily written or ambiguous business plan will result in more questions and hesitance.

If you can’t take the time to write a solid business plan, what else will you take shortcuts on?

The Financial Ask & Answer

The financial ask and answer addresses two crucial questions: How much money are you asking for, and what will you do with it?

The investment you’re seeking should be clear in your business plan (typically mentioned in the executive summary and expounded upon in the financial plan). How you intend to use the money should also be clear and logical.

Investors need to know that you’ll spend their money responsibly and that there’s proof that how you spend the money will result in revenue growth. Every dollar should be allocated to a specific destination for a good reason.

For instance, you cannot ask for a $500,000 investment without explaining how and why you arrived at this number. The business plan in the below example of a functional company called Culina states how much they’re asking for and why. In this case, Culina is raising $15 million to ramp up hardware manufacturing, improve UX and UI, expand marketing efforts, and fulfill pre-orders before the holiday season.

section of business plan

Strong Management

Your business plan should prove that you have a strong management team.

Many investors run their portfolios with a people-first mentality. This means that who you are is just as important as what you offer. Your business plan’s “Management” or “Team” section is great for humanizing your company and highlighting your strengths.

What makes your team especially capable of running and guiding this business toward profitability? What’s your background? Have you won any awards or participated in any incubator programs? Do you have relevant experience (either in running a business or working in the industry)?

Answer these questions to show investors that you’re uniquely qualified to lead.

Thorough Understanding of Your Market

Is there a market for your product or service, how can you reach your market, and what share of the market do you have a stronghold on?

Demonstrating a thorough understanding of your market and target demographic is crucial. Many businesses have failed because they didn’t conduct market research or speak to their customers and clients. Product validation should precede fundraising efforts.

“Market size” is a basic number that every investor looks for. Your competitive analysis , market research, metrics, and customer surveys should all be factored into the equation.

If you’re struggling to understand your market and position, you can start by gathering primary data from the Census and Labor Bureau. Many industries also have formal associations and publish their research online. You can purchase these studies or commission a market research firm to spearhead your research.

An interested investor can make or break your business and should be taken seriously. You wouldn’t rush through an Ivy League college application and shouldn’t submit a hastily written business plan.

Take the time to detail every aspect of your business and consider working with a business plan writer to ensure you communicate your message effectively. If an investor is impressed with your business plan, chances are you’ll score pivotal funding.

why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

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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.

why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

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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Business Planning: Ultimate Guide to Writing a Business Plan for Investors

why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

If you are planning to start, grow or sell a business, it is almost essential you have a plan of attack.

A traditional business plan is much more than a general list of things that you need to do.

An effective plan focuses on short-term and long-term business goals, with information that outlines how you intend to reach them.

A formal business plan will be one of the most valuable tools that you will use in raising capital from investors and for building and growing your business.

Like the businesses themselves, business plans come in many types and forms.

Oftentimes even established business owners and managers underestimate the effectiveness of a qualified business plan.

Some mistakenly think business plans are only used in the venture capital world of start-up finance.

This simply is not true. Enterprise planning is often required for anything from SBA lending and debt financing to internal planning and partnership qualification.

Many find they regularly refer to a previously-written business plan to ensure they stay on track and under budget.

A business plan can also help you establish a framework for your dream business, including structure and planning goals.

In addition, business planning is often a fluid process and a living document, with changes occurring mid-stream which means those best prepared have already done their homework and are prepared to pivot.

Crafting Your Business Plan(s)

Discovering a business idea, introductory page, executive summary, industry analysis, description of the venture, production or service plan, marketing plan, organization and management, assessment of risk, financial plan, start-up plan, internal plans, operations plans, growth plans, type 1 and type 2 business plans, type 3 and type 4 business plans, type 5 business plan, type 6 business plan, benefits of an outsourced business plan, business plan executive summary, financial statements & financial plan, how long should a business plan be, expert forecasting, market estimates from past data, common sense market estimations, porter’s five forces – industry, porter’s five forces, porter’s five forces – macroenvironmental factors, macroeconomic forces, legal/political forces, social & cultural forces, technological forces, demographic forces, global forces, porter’s five forces – scorecard, capital costs, economies of scale, brand loyalty, absolute cost advantages, customer switching costs, laws & regulation, summary of barriers to entry , defining market type boundaries, a recap of market boundaries , the importance of the tim, tam, sam, tm and som, scalable, high growth company, successful, mid-sized privately held businesses, lifestyle businesses, target marketing, time expectations as an entrepreneur, business plan writing, why write a business plan, standard evaluation and review, the business plan writing process, terms & conditions, pricing & cost of your business plan, business plans for financing, pro forma financial plans, marketing business plan.

You will essentially create two plans. The first is known as the  internal or initial start-up business plan . This plan includes your company’s mission statement, product/service description, marketing strategy plan and initial start-up goals. Most importantly, the initial plan will also include a market analysis. Performing research on the market helps both internal managers understand whether the business concept or business idea is viable and worth pursuing and to attract investors.

If it is, the initial plan will morph into something suitable for angel investors, venture capitalists and private equity groups. Typically, your final secondary plan will incorporate the details in your initial start-up plan into a more finalized version ready for publication. InvestmentBank.com assists throughout this entire process.

How you go about your business plan process is dependent on the audience for which it will be created.

For example, if you will be seeking a business loan, you need to create  business plan for bank loans . Conversely, if you are seeking investment capital in equity financing, you’ll most likely need a  venture capital business plan . Regardless of the audience any typical business plan will generally include the following:

  • A company description, including a description of your business and the products and/or services offered
  • A detailed description of the target market and how they will best be served
  • Information regarding the management team and key employees within the company
  • Detailed information about cash flow and financial analysis, budget and market penetration
  • An  Executive Summary  for a snapshot 30,000 foot view of all aspects of the business and how it will be successful

Discovering a business idea is the first step towards creating a business model hypothesis. Specifically, a business idea worth investigating further is a “proto-business model” – the embryo of a viable business model. The business idea is essentially your best guess that describes your Value Proposition (the thing you want to sell) and your Customer Segment(s) (the target customers you want to sell to). This is your initial pass at creating a viable Value Proposition – Customer Segment “fit”.

finding the right biz model

At a minimum, a business idea worth investigating further should have one or more Customer Segments and a corresponding Value Proposition to match each Customer Segment. Completing the following steps will validate that your business idea is worth investigating further.

  • Identify Value Proposition – Customer Segment pairings.  This step involves pinpointing the type and number of Customer Segment(s) your business is going to serve and what your business’s Value Proposition will be for each of those Customer Segments. This will create one or more Value Proposition – Customer Segment pairings.
  • What your Customer Segment is trying to do (i.e. eat dinner, find a date, get in shape…). What are your Customer Segment’s problems (they are hungry and don’t want to cook, they can’t find a suitable boyfriend/girlfriend, they are out of shape…). What does your Customer Segment expect to gain from accomplishing whatever they want to do (eat a tasty meal, find a pleasant date, loose a few pounds and feel better)?
  • What your company can offer your Customer Segment (i.e. a good quick meal, a matchmaking service, a place to work out…). How will your offer solve your Customer Segment’s problems? What benefits will your offer create for your Customer Segment? The best business solves real-world problems.

Business Plan Outline

A business plan may contain many types of information depending on the nature, size, and financing needs of the company. One general business plan template can be developed with the help of our JDs, MBAs and expert business planning professionals. While various institutions like the Small Business Administration (SBA) help provide guidelines, it is often best to get your detailed business plan drafted by professionals who know what it takes to get funded and what investors are looking for when they sift through thousands of plans.

This is the title or cover page. This page will contain the information of the names and addresses of business enterprise and entrepreneurs, a paragraph describing the nature of business, and the vision and mission statement of the company.

An executive summary of the comprehensive business plan report should be presented within four pages, summarizing the whole report and emphasizing on business purpose, industry analysis, market opportunity, key elements of the business, revenue, and planning.

This segment of a viable business plan will show the present conditions of the industry, in which the entrepreneur desires to enter. This section should include present and future outlook and demographic developments, analysis of competitors, market segmentation, and industry financial forecasts.

In this segment of the business plan a detailed picture of the venture should be outlined with particular reference to products, services, office equipment, machinery, personnel, size of business, and background of entrepreneurs.

This portion of the business plan is indeed an operational plan. The operational activities of manufacturing, trading and service business are different. So the operational plans of different types of enterprises will be different. For example operational plan of a manufacturing business may cover unique aspects such as manufacturing process,equipment, names of the providers of the raw materials and other inputs of the production process, and so on.

It includes market condition, market strategy, and future market prospect. The pricing, promotion, distribution, product forecasts, and controls should be evaluated carefully for the business plan.

This section includes forms of the ownership, identification of partners or major shareholders, the authority of the managers, management-team background, and the duties and responsibilities of members of the organization.

It is very important for any business plan to assess all the possible risks that may affect the enterprise, prior to starting the business. Assessment of risk must include evaluation of the weaknesses of the enterprise, latest technologies, and contingency plans.

This section shows financial viability of the business plan, in which the entrepreneur must prepare forecasted income statement, cash flow estimates, forecasted balance sheet, break-even analysis, and sources and usages of funds. This section will be scrutinized to determine the profitability and sustainability of the enterprise by the investors, such as the bankers or venture capitalists.

It contains all the backup materials such as legal documents, market research data, lease contracts, and price forecasts from suppliers.

These are the general contents of a business plan that are suggested by the experts, but these contents may vary from business to business. A good business plan should be comprehensive enough to provide a complete picture and understanding of the venture regarding its present status and future growth potential to the prospective investors and other interest groups.

Business Plan Types

Traditional business plans come in many types. They include strategic plans, expansion plans, investment plans, growth plans, operational plans, internal plans, annual plans, feasibility plans, product plans, and many more.

The various types of business plans will always matche the specific business situation. For instance, it is not necessary to add all the background information that is known already, while preparing a plan to use internally and not circulating it to financial institutions or investors. Investors always look for information on the description of the management team, while bankers always look for financial background or history of the company.

The various types of business plans are due to the specific case differences:

Start-up plan is the most standard plan that explains the steps for a developing new business. Start-up plans often include standard topics such as the organization, product or service offering, market place, business forecasts, strategy, management team, implementation milestones, and financial analysis. Sales forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statements, balance sheet, and probably a few other tables are included in the financial analysis.

First year monthly projections are shown in the start-up plan, which usually begins with an abstract and ends with appendix.

Click on the following link to learn more about how we approach startup investing .

Business plans that are not usually intended for external investors, financial institutions, or any other third parties are called Internal plans. A detailed description of the organization or the management team may not be included in it. Detailed financial projections like budgets and forecasts may or may not get included in Internal plans. Instead of presenting the whole business plan in the form of paragraph text, Internal plans display the main points in the form of bullet points in slides.

Operations plan can be referred to as Internal plan, which is also known as an annual plan. More detailed information on specific dates, implementation milestones, deadlines, and teams and managers responsibilities are given in Operations plan.

Strategic planning usually does not focus on specific responsibilities and detailed dates, rather it focuses on setting high priorities and high-level options and is also referred to as an internal plan. Unlike most other internal plans, it includes data in the form of bullet points in slides. Organization or management team descriptions are not included in it. Also, some of the financial information is not explained in detail and left while preparing strategic plans.

Some business plans focuses on specific areas of the business or a subcategory of the business, and these plans are referred to as a growth plan or an expansion plan or a new product plan. Depending on whether these business plans are linked to new investments or loan applications, they could be classified as internal plans or not. For instance, like a start-up plan developed for investors, an expansion plan that requires new investment would also have detailed description of the company and its management teams background data. These details will also be required for loan applications. But, these descriptions are skipped in an internal business plan, which is used to design the steps for growth or expansion that is funded internally within the organisation. Although, detailed financial projections might not be given, forecast of the sales as well as the expenses for the new business venture is at least included in more detail.

A very simple start-up plan is the feasibility plan, which include an abstract, mission statement, market analysis, keys to long-term success, and initial cost analysis, pricing, and projected expenses. Feasibility plans helps to analyze whether it is good to continue with a plan or not, to find if the business plan is worth continuing.

Writing a business plan is a highly collaborative affair between the entrepreneur(s) and the business plan writer. The more complex the plan is, the more both the entrepreneur(s) and the business plan writer will need to communicate and collaborate in order to produce a professional, marketable business plan. The business plans we write fall into six general categories. We will discuss each in detail below.

These are business plans for new companies that are 1) trying to raise startup capital to launch the business and 2) the business will serve a clearly defined target market with a service or product that already exists. These business plans are usually the least complex to write because the business models

The hourly fee for work over the project’s estimated number of hours is $20 per hour.

Type 1 and Type 2 business plans are written in five distinct units. Each unit reflects a progressive step in putting the business plan together. Before we can begin writing each unit, we must receive feedback to specific questions that we will send you concerning the topics covered in each specific unit.  After we complete each of the first four units, we will send you a draft of that unit in a Microsoft Word document. You will then have the opportunity to review unit draft and critique or clarify it.

We will make any necessary changes needed for each unit draft. The fifth and final unit will be integrating the information in each of the previous four units into a final, complete business plan. You will then have the opportunity to review and critique that completed business plan draft. We will then correct any and all discrepancies in that final complete draft.

The entire business planning process of writing a Type 1 or Type 2 business plan depends upon our general workload and the speed with which you respond to our requests for information about your business. We estimate that either a Type 1 or Type 2 business plan will take generally 10 to 15 work days to complete (two to three weeks).

These are business plans for existing companies that are 1) trying to raise capital for a new business project or idea and 2) the business project is serving a clearly defined market with a service or product that already exists.

Type 3 and Type 4 business plans are written in six distinct units. Each unit reflects a progressive step in putting the business plan together. Before we can begin writing each unit, we must receive feedback to specific questions that we will send you concerning the topics covered in each specific unit.  After we complete each of the first five units, we will send you a draft of that unit in a Microsoft Word document. You will then have the opportunity to review the draft of each unit and critique or clarify it. We will change or modify any discrepancies you have with the drafts of each unit. The final unit will be integrating the information in each of the five units into a final, complete business plan. You will then have the opportunity to review and critique that completed business plan draft. We will then correct any and all discrepancies in that final complete draft.

The entire process of writing a Type 3 or Type 4 business plan depends upon our general workload and the speed with which you respond to our requests for information about your business. We estimate that either a Type 3 or Type 4 business plan will take generally 15 to 20 work days to complete (three to four weeks).

These are business plans for classic startup companies that are trying to create new products or services to serve new or reimagined markets. These companies are usually looking to raise equity capital from angel investors and venture capital firms. These business plans are far more difficult to write because their business models are largely unproven.

Type 5 business plans are written in five distinct units. Each unit reflects a progressive step in putting the business plan together. Before we can begin writing each unit, we must receive feedback to specific questions that we will send you concerning the topics covered in each specific unit.  After we complete each of the first four units, we will send you a draft of that unit in a Microsoft Word document. You will then have the opportunity to review unit draft and critique or clarify it. We will make any necessary changes needed for each unit draft. The fifth and final unit will be integrating the information in each of the previous four units into a final, complete business plan. You will then have the opportunity to review and critique that completed business plan draft. We will then correct any and all discrepancies in that final complete draft.

The entire process of writing a Type 5 business plan depends upon our general workload and the speed with which you respond to our requests for information about your business. Also, the novelty and newness of the industry you are entering and the market you will be serving are real wild card variables in terms of how much time the business plan will take to complete. We estimate that a Type 5 business plan will take generally 25 to 40 work days to complete (five to eight weeks).

These are business plans for existing companies that are attempting to create new products or services to serve new or reimagined markets. The markets these companies are trying to serve with their new products and services are either undefined or completely new. Usually these companies are seeking financing to raise equity capital (because these business projects are usually risky), but sometimes raising debt capital may be an options for them. These business plans are as difficult to write as Type 5 plans.

Type 6 business plans are written in six distinct units. Each unit reflects a progressive step in putting the business plan together. Before we can begin writing each unit, we must receive feedback to specific questions that we will send you concerning the topics covered in each specific unit.  After we complete each of the first five units, we will send you a draft of that unit in a Microsoft Word document. You will then have the opportunity to review the draft of each unit and critique or clarify it. We will change or modify any discrepancies you have with the drafts of each unit. The final unit will be integrating the information in each of the five units into a final, complete business plan. You will then have the opportunity to review and critique that completed business plan draft. We will then correct any and all discrepancies in that final complete draft.

The entire process of writing a Type 6 business plan depends upon our general workload and the speed with which you respond to our requests for information about your business. Also, the novelty and newness of the industry you are entering and the target market you will be serving are real wild card variables (in terms of how much time the business plan will take to complete). We estimate that a Type 6 business plan will take generally 25 to 40 work days to complete (five to eight weeks).

Running a Business Is Tough, Especially Without a Business Plan

If you are running a business, it’s very important to have a business plan made up and it’s just as important to stick to your business plan once you create it. When you have a business plan you are setting objectives for yourself and you are establishing the priorities you have for your business. It also makes it much easier to reach the goals that you set for yourself as well which is always crucial in a business.

Think of your business plan as a map for your business, without this map you and the way you run your business are traveling blindly which is very dangerous. You want to have a clear idea of where your business is headed and where you want it to go and a business plan outlines what will steer you in the right direction.

Looking for a Loan?

If you are looking to get a loan for your business, you’re going to need a definite business plan. Most banks won’t even consider giving you a loan until they see a business plan. If you don’t have a business plan they’ll think of you as a risk since you don’t truly know where you want your business to go. When you present your business plan to a bank to get the loan you desire be sure that you go over what your business is all about and why you started it. You will also want to list for them what you see in the future of your business as well.

Looking for a Business Investment?

Having a business plan doesn’t mean that you will surely get the investment you desire but not having a business plan will surely mean you will not get the investment you desire. Investors need to know what exactly they are investing in and they will look to your business plan to understand what the idea of the business is, your businesses track records, the technology behind your business and of course yourself. You will absolutely not get a business investment without having a business plan because the investors won’t have anything to help them understand what your business is all about.

Have Business Partners?

A business plan is what defines your agreements that you have made with your business partners which means you’ll have a lot of issues if you don’t have a business plan if you are in this business with more than just yourself. A business plan is the only way to keep everything between you and your partners fair and it ensures that everyone knows what the ground rules are for the business and where each and every one of you stand.

Communicating with a Management Team Won’t Work Without a Business Plan

How can you and your management team effectively run your business without being able to see where you all want it to go? The answer is, you can’t. You can’t steer your business down the right path if nobody knows exactly where it should be going and your management team will feel the exact same way. There will be a lot of different problems that will come up during the day-to-day work and it will be very challenging for you to face them and communicate all of these problems when you or your management team don’t truly know where the problem falls under in the business plan.

Do you need a business valuation?

Whether you need to place a value on your business to sell it or for taxes, a business plan is an essential part in this. It’s always important to know what your business is worth even if you don’t plan on selling it at all, you may need to know what it’s worth when it comes to planning an estate or an unexpected divorce could come up. You always should know what your business is worth an a business plan will help you understand that and keep track of it.

When it comes to developing a business plan, many people believe that it’s too difficult or it’s just too time consuming to do but what those people don’t realize is that putting together a business plan will save you in many ways and you it will help your business in more ways than you can imagine.

Developing a business plan is not that much of a challenge and it will very valuable to you in the future. Nobody should ever try to do something big without planning it first and this includes running a business. You have all these business plans in your head so just lay those plan out on paper so you have tangible evidence of your business and what you want to do with it.

A business plan a very crucial part in creating and owning a business so take the time and effort in creating one and you will benefit from it much more than you think and you’re business will run much more smoothly.

A business plan’s executive summary section provides a round-up of the main points of your business plan. Although the summary will appear at the top of the final printed piece, the majority of business plan developers do not write the executive summary until the last moment. The summary forms the gateway to the remainder of the plan. If you do not write a business plan executive summary it well, your target audience will not read beyond the executive summary.

What should be included in an executive summary?

When a regular business plan is being written, the following should usually be incorporated into the opening paragraph of the executive summary:

• The name of the business • The location of the business • The service or product being offered • The aim of the plan

A further paragraph should underline significant points, for example projected profits and sales, profitability, unit sales, and keys to success. Give the details you need everyone to notice. This is also a sensible point at which to include a highlights chart, a bar chart depicting gross margin, profits before taxes and interest, and sales for the three years to come. These numbers must be explained and cited in the text.

Different summaries are required for different plans

Internal plans, for example annual or strategic plans, or operations plans, do not need such formal executive summaries. With such a plan, make its purpose obvious, and be certain that all the highlights are mentioned, but other details – such as the description of your service or product, and location – may not need to be repeated.

Be concise with your summary

If investment is what you are seeking, mention this in your executive summary, specifying the amount of investment required and the level of equity ownership that will be provided in return. It is also a good idea to include some highlights regarding your competitive advantage and your management team.

If it is a loan that you are looking for, say so in the executive summary, specifying the sum required. Do not include details of the loan.

What is the right length for an executive summary? There are differing views from experts about the ideal length of an executive summary. Some recommend taking only one or two pages, while others suggest a more in-depth approach, with the summary lasting for anything up to ten pages and including sufficient information to be used instead of the full plan. Although it was once common to write business plans of 50 or more pages, today’s lenders and investors expect a more focused, concise plan.

A single page is the perfect length for an executive summary. Keep everything brief, emphasizing the major aspects of your plan. You are not trying to explain every last detail, simply piquing your readers’ interest about the rest of the plan and encouraging them to read further.

Be careful not to confuse a summary memo with an executive summary. The executive summary is the opening section of a business plan, while a summary memo is a distinct publication, usually running to no more than five or ten pages; this is intended as a substitute for the full plan for the benefit of those who are not yet in a position to read the full plan.

In general, a financial plan is a set of steps or goals put together for the business which is intended to help attain and accomplish a final financial goal. It shows the future and current financial state of a business by using known variables to forecast future cash flows, asset values and withdrawal plans. The plan shows financial viability of the business plan, in which the entrepreneur must prepare forecasted income statement, cash flow estimates, forecasted balance sheet, break-even analysis, and sources and usages of funds.

Why is a financial plan important? Investors and bankers must have an incentive to invest in your business. Profitability gives them an incentive to invest.  If your plan is weak and unorganized it will portray your business as unsustainable. Investors and banks will see you only as a risk and be unlikely to give the kind of capital needed for your business. For this reason you need to create a solid financial plan which will convince investors that your business is worth investing in.

Here at InvestmentBank.com we will design for you a financial plan intended to demonstrate to the bank and your investors that your business is sustainable and profitable.  We cannot guarantee you the investments you are hoping for, but we can guarantee that if you don’t have a plan, you will also not receive your hopeful investments. Let us guide you in the planning process.

One core component of market analysis is market forecasting and proforma financial statement drafting. The future trends, characteristics, and numbers in your target market are projected in market analysis. In a standard analysis process, the projected number of potential customers is divided into segments.

Generally, market size is not the only factor that is determined, but the market value is also very important. For instance, small business customers spend around 4 times as much as the home office customer, even though they are 2.5 times smaller than their high-end home segment in terms of customer size. So, in terms of dollar value, the small business market is often considered very important.

Market value is calculated through simple mathematics. The number of potential customers in the market is multiplied by the average purchase per customer. Market value is calculated by taking the average number of customers in each segment over a period of time and then multiplied that figure by the average purchase per customer. In market analysis table, the other items are only subjective qualities that help with marketing. These points are allotted to people who are assigned in preparing marketing information.

Reality Checks Reality checks are always important for market forecast. Finding a way to check reality, while performing a forecast is essential. If you are able to estimate your total market value, then you would relate that figure to the estimate sales of all their competitors to check if the 2 figures relate to each other. The import and export value and production values are checked in an international market to find whether the annual shipments estimates appear to be somewhere in the same range as the estimated figures. To check your results with the forecast, you might also check for some given years with the vendors, who sold products to this market. Macroeconomic data can also be overlooked to confirm the size of this market compared to other markets with same characteristics.

Target Focus Review

Market analysis should help in the development of strategic market focus, which means selecting the key target markets. This is considered the critical foundation of strategy. We speak on this as market positioning and segmentation.

Company will not try to address the needs of all market segments under normal circumstances. While selecting target market segments, understand the inherent market differences, competitive advantage, keys to success, and strengths and weaknesses (SWOT analysis) of your organization. Everyone wants to focus on the best market segment, but the market segment with the maximum growth or the largest market segments, might not be necessarily the best one to address. The best market segment to address would be the one that matches your own company profile.

It is not a good idea to use page count as a gauge to determine the length of a business plan. A business plan with 20 pages of text alone can be considered to be longer than a 35-page plan which is well laid out with bullet points, helpful images of products or locations and charts that highlight vital projections.

In fact, a plan should be measured by its readability as well as the summary provided. If the business plan is prepared keeping these aspects in mind, the reader will be able to get an overall idea in about 15 minutes by quickly browsing through the key points.

Illustrations, headings, format and white space contribute to improving the appeal of the business plan. The summary section is a very important aspect of any business plan. The salient points of the business plan must be clearly visible to the reader as it is done in a presentation.

It is unfortunate that many people still tend to measure the worth of a business plan by the number of pages in it. In this connection, some of the key aspects to be kept in mind are as follows:

  • Practical business plans prepared for internal use only can have five to ten pages
  • Business plans of large companies may have hundreds of pages

A standard expansion or start-up plan prepared for presentation to outsiders can have 20 to 40 pages. However, it should be easy to read with text well spaced and have bullet point formatting, illustrations in the form of business charts and financial tables in the condensed form. The details of financial aspects can be organized in appendices.

However, the  length of the business plan  is decided by its nature and the purpose for which it is prepared. Some of the questions that can be considered when drafting out a business plan in order to decide on its length are:

  • Should descriptions about the company as well as the management team be included as outsiders are likely to read the business plan?
  • Should a standalone executive summary be provided for the business plan?Is there a need to incorporate plans, blueprints, drawings and detailed research?Is it an investment proposal?
  • Should it be worded in such a way as to clear legal scrutiny?

The form of the business plan is actually decided by the requirement for which it is to be prepared.

Often, venture contests specify a limit of 30 pages or 40 pages at times, but rarely 50 pages, including the appendices that contain detailed financial statements, for a business plan. Some contestants make very bad options because of page restrictions and cram the content using thick texts and bold typefaces, making it worse and not better.

Most often,  good plans have as many as 30 to 40 pages . The plans have 20 to 30 pages of text, excluding graphics to illustrate locations, menus, designs, etc. and appendices consisting of team leaders’ resumes, monthly financial projections, etc. Some pages may have to be included for standard financials. This calls for tables for sales, income and cash flow statement, balance sheet and personnel on a monthly basis. In the body of the plan, annual numbers may also have to be included.

It is not prudent to reduce the length of the plan by cutting down on helpful graphics. Readability is more important than the length. Making use of business charts to illustrate numbers makes it easier to understand. Make use of drawings and photographs to depict locations, sample menus and products. It is important to use as much illustration as possible. Finally, extra graphics such as clip art that are not relevant to the matter at hand may better be avoided.

Business Plan Market Forecast

Proper market forecasting helps provide budgetary allocation for coming market trends, innovative shifts and internal financial allocation. It is a key component of proforma financial statements and  professional market research . Intelligent estimates are best backed by quality, time-intensive research. That’s where we come in. Rather than producing a business plan based on educated guesswork, we use a litany of some of the industry’s best market research tools available to some of the most prestigious universities. Many a business plan software tools can also aid in your research work. Typically business plan software also includes industry-specific templates, which can help with how you approach your niche or even the broader market.

Today’s technology provides access to large data-sets for current and past information. Obtaining the data is not difficult. We help to analyze, interpret and make qualitative assumptions about future trends. By using both qualitative and quantitative approaches we work to derive parallel data forecasts for future trends within your business, your industry and the market as a whole. The future may be uncertain, but with the help of expert modeling, it can be simplified, understood and, in some cases, accurately predicted.

Many business planners lack the luxury of funding a previously-published market forecast from which to glean relevant data. In many cases, free published forecasts can help to paint a meaningful picture. However, when professional forecasts are not forthcoming on market size, supply/demand metrics and potential company penetration, it is usually left up to thoughtful opinion and expert “reverse engineering” to determine any meaningful dribble from the data.

Without free forecasts, a business owners may feel forced to purchase expensive data sets, market research reports and published articles to determine helpful data about the potential of a business idea. Where we can, we utilize past relationships and access to thousands of reports through expensive subscriptions to find the data-set that best fits your business goals for the plan you may be crafting.

Apart from the more obvious sources like the Internet, library references and popular publications, we provide access to industry-specific reports and paid-for research studies not accessible to would-be entrepreneurs. We fully recognize that data forecasting is part art and part science, but we prefer to adhere to more quantitative methods so as to make your business plan as convincing and relevant as possible for its particular audience.

Extrapolation of past data with large populations and data-sets helps to provide reliable predictions about future trends and outcomes. Understanding past growth, market saturation and the competing forces that can impact a company’s success in market entrance are absolutely vital components of the marketing portion of your business plan.  Past data is never a fail safe, but it can act as a healthy gauge of future trends in a marketplace.

When no relevant data on current conditions within your market can be found, we work with the available numbers to create plausible models that form convincing arguments for your particular plan goals.

Perhaps the greatest downfall of many potentially-successful business plans is the disconnect between gathered data, assumptions, external and internal market forces and projections. Without a common sense litmus test, many plans fail to deliver relevant metrics to help make business funding possible. Performing common sense tests often requires qualitative work outside the realms of the given data. Making phone calls to Chambers of Commerce, trade organizations and market reporting agencies to obtain a wider base and deeper foundation of information is extremely helpful when crafting assumptions.

Making wild guesses about targets, markets and industries without thoughtful research can be detrimental to fulfilling the goals of your particular business plan. BusinessPlanning.org helps to remove the guesswork and provide your business with relevant data from which to tell a compelling story.

Correctly identifying the structure and competitive dynamics of the industry you are proposing to enter will create a good general point of reference for judging whether you should enter it or not. If the general industry profile does not appear attractive to you, and you are planning to offer value propositions that have close industry substitutes, then this may be an important signal that your proposed venture may need to be reconsidered. But if the industry profile looks attractive, then this could be a sign that you are on to something.

A fantastic tool to analyze an industry that serves a Defined Existing Market is Porter’s Five Forces Model. Michael Porter is a professor at Harvard Business School and published this strategy model in his seminal work,  Competitive Strategy . Porter’s model is powerful. It demonstrates how an industry’s attractiveness to either its current competitors or a new entrant is an amalgam of disparate, and sometimes contradictory, factors.

To help determine if your business idea will be worth the investment of time, money and energy, you will conduct two sequential analyses using the Five Forces Model. The first Five Forces analysis will be of the overall industry that you are contemplating to enter. The second Five Forces analysis will be of the particular market segment(s) you would be choosing to serve with your Value Proposition(s).

The figure below illustrates how Porter’s model works by focusing on the five forces that shape competition within an industry: 1) the risk of entry by potential competitors, 2) the intensity of the rivalry among established companies within an industry, 3) the bargaining power of suppliers, 4) the bargaining power of buyers, and 5) the similarity of substitutes to an industry’s value propositions.[1]

The main point of Porter’s Five Forces Model is as follows. The stronger that one of the five competitive forces becomes, the greater the overall competitive rivalry becomes within the industry. The more intense the competitive rivalry becomes, the harder it is for ventures within the industry to raise prices or maintain high prices to reap greater profits. The less in average profits that a firm in the industry is able to earn, the more intense the rivalry for customer demand is among the industry’s rival competitors.

The opposite is true also. The weaker that one of the five competitive forces becomes, the less intense the overall competitive rivalry among the industry’s firms is. If rivalry amongst the industry’s firms decreases, the easier it becomes for the industry’s competitors to raise either raise prices or reduce their cost structure (by lowering their value propositions’ quality) and ultimately earn higher profits. The higher the average level of industry profits, the less intense the rivalry for customer demand will be among the industry’s rival competitors.

The importance of each of the five forces is situationally dependent upon the unique facts and circumstances of each industry. For example, the overall threat of new market entrants might be insignificant in determining whether an entrepreneur wants to enter an industry in its growth phase, but it may be a paramount factor in a mature industry.

I developed another diagram (below) to show how the five forces within Porter’s model interact with each other. As you can see, four of the forces (risk of entry by potential competitors, bargaining power of suppliers, bargaining power of buyers, and threat of new entrants) each act upon the fifth force – the intensity of rivalry among the industry’s competitors. This means that if the bargaining power an industry’s buyers increases, the intensity of rivalry among industry competitors will increase. This causal relationship works in only one direction – a change in any of the forces ultimately either increases or decreases the intensity of rivalry among the industry’s competitors. Therefore a change in the intensity of rivalry will not cause change in one of the other four forces.

[1] Charles W. L. Hill and Gareth R. Jones,  Strategic Management Theory , Eighth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, pg. 45, 2008.

Macroenvironmental forces are changes in the broader economic, political/legal, social, technological, demographic, and global forces beyond the industry being examined. Any one of these six forces can change or effect any one of an industry’s five internal competitive forces. In conducting an industry’s initial Five Forces analysis – which is a snapshot measurement of an industry’s present competitive environment – these macroenvironmental forces are automatically accounted for. They are already included because an industry’s competitive environment is an aggregate of these turbulent and often conflicting forces. But entrepreneurs and business owners must also make educated guesses about how macroenvironmental trends and forces will shape the industry’s attractiveness into the future, both in the short run and in the long run.

Below is a diagram that visually represents how each of these seven forces can affect an industry’s Five Forces as the future unfolds.

porters forces business planning

The Six Macroenvironmental Forces

The following is a detailed analysis of the seven macroenvironmental forces touched upon above.

Macroeconomic forces affect the general economic well-being of the nation or the region in which an industry operates. [1]  The following are the major macroeconomic forces that can affect an industry’s ability to deliver an adequate economic return.

  • The rate of growth for the economy.  Economic expansions cause a general rise in aggregate consumer demand while recessions cause a general drop in aggregate consumer demand. Because aggregate demand for goods and services rises during economic expansions, an industry’s intensity of competitive rivalry, broadly speaking, will usually decline. The reason is that generally the market demand for an industry’s value propositions will cause an expansion in the industry’s revenue. Therefore its possible for the industry’s firms to generate revenue growth without fighting their competitive rivals for market share. Conversely, a decline in economic growth or a recession causes general aggregate demand to contract. This generally shrinks the amount of revenue an industry can earn and may cause price wars, consolidations and bankruptcies.
  • Interest rates. Interest rates affect the cost of borrowing for consumers, thus affecting aggregate demand. Higher interest rates generally makes the cost of borrowing more expensive and can dampen demand for real estate and purchases of major assets (cars, durable goods). Ultimately, higher interest rates can lead to higher industry rivalry if the industry is directly or tangentially affected by borrowing costs. Higher interest rates also affect business’ cost of capital. High interest rates may restrict a business’s ability to invest in new equipment or facilities. On the other hand, low cost of capital makes it substantially easier for established businesses to borrow and invest into expanding their operations.
  • Exchange rates.  Exchange rates either make imports more or less expensive for domestic consumers and exports more or less expensive for foreign consumers of domestically produced value propositions. A weak dollar makes imported value propositions more expensive and domestically produced value propositions comparatively less expensive. A strong dollar makes foreign value propositions less expensive and domestic value propositions comparatively more expensive.
  • Inflation/Deflation.  Inflation is the decrease in the purchasing power of a nation’s currency over time. Inflation can destabilize an economy, slow economic growth, higher interest rates and increased currency volatility. [2]  Increasing inflation makes business planning very difficult because the future becomes less predictable. Uncertainty makes companies unwilling to invest in growing their operations. On other side of the coin is deflation. Deflation is even more potentially damaging than inflation is. If the purchasing power of currency is increasing over time, firms and consumers will hoard their cash. This will causes a self-reinforcing cycle of low or negative economic growth. Usually the best inflation formula for stable economic growth is a low, steady inflation rate.
  • Wage Levels.  The price of labor from industry to industry can have a significant impacts on an industry’s costs of production. High or increasing industry labor costs can make substitute value propositions more attractive for the industry’s customers. Low or decreasing industry labor costs can make substitute value propositions less attractive for the industry’s customers.
  • Level of Employment:  High unemployment levels give firms greater leverage over their employees in keeping wage increases down or in actually decreasing labor costs to the firms in an industry. This can reduce the industry’s cost structure and thus raise the industry’s average profitability.

Legal and political forces are the results of changes in laws and regulations within the country your business operates in. [3]  Political and legal developments can be both opportunities and threats. The following are the major legal and political changes that can impact the fortunes of industries.

  • Current and Expected Levels of Taxation.  High tax rates can affect the decisions of entrepreneurs to engage in business activities or reduce the ability of companies to reinvest profits in expansion. But often the most important effect of taxes are not the levels of taxation, but the different effective tax rates for different activities. For example, the oil and gas industry, ecommerce businesses and the video game industry get significant tax breaks that reduces their effective tax rate. This can raise or lower the attractiveness of getting into certain industries.
  • Import/Export Quotas and Tariffs.  Tariffs and import/export quotas affect the costs of value propositions imported into a country and those exported to other countries. Raising or lowering tariffs or trade quotas can cause demand for the value propositions of the industries affected to increase or decrease. An example of a broad change in trade quotas and tariffs was the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  • Government Grants.  Government grants are programs that can provide nascent industries with seed capital and resources. Governments (state, local and national) often provide businesses with financial support if the business pursues profit opportunities that align with a government’s policy goals. An example of a significant government grant program is the U.S. government’s Small Business Innovation Research grant (SBIR).
  • War/Terrorism.  War and terrorism can increase regulations and transaction costs associated with global travel or insurance. Wars can also saddle nations with large medical costs to society. Wars and anti-terrorism efforts can also increase military related contracting opportunities.
  • Quid Pro Quo.  Many industries try (and often succeed) in influencing politicians to enact laws that are favorable to their bottom line and create barriers of entry against potential competitors. A recent example of this was the influence the health care and pharmaceutical industries exerted upon the U.S. Congress during the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009.
  • The Regulatory State.  In the U.S., most of the regulations that affect business and the general public are promulgated through various government agencies. Often, small changes in regulations can lead to desired or unintended consequences for a number of industries. Here is a small sample of legal and regulatory issues that are managed by various state and federal agencies: environmental protection, corporate governance, intellectual property rights, employment law, criminal law, tort law, food & drug regulation, public health… In the United States (and most other industrialized countries), virtually every area of commerce is affected by government regulations and laws. For any given industry, changes in these regulations and laws can be either threats or opportunities.

Social forces are changes in the social mores and values of a society and how they affect any particular industry. Social changes can create both opportunities and threats for any industry.

  • Social and cultural forces specifically refer to changes in the tastes, habits and cultural norms within a significant segment of a country’s population. One example of a social trend is the growth of the organic and local food movements in the U.S. over the last thirty years. The local and organic food movements have created an opportunity for some small farmers near large population centers, but this movement has also created a potential threat to large mono-agriculture farms.
  • Cultural attitudes can shift drastically over time, rendering once commonplace habits and activities to no longer be widely accepted or tolerated. An example is the decline of smoking in the U.S. Smoking used to be tolerated in most indoor spaces forty years ago. Now it is either banned or highly frowned upon and the public has become very aware of the health risks smoking causes. This has led to a significant decline in the percentage of adults in the U.S. who smoke. Conversely, marijuana use, which was highly frowned upon by the majority of U.S. society over forty years ago, has become more widely accepted among the public. As a result, many state laws are changing to reflect this increased tolerance of marijuana use.
  • Changes in what society considers fashionable are in a constant state of flux. Various fads and crazes rise and fall, sparking opportunities and threats for the industries that capitalize on these trends. Examples of changes in fashion, fads or crazes are: rock n roll in the 1960s, disco music in the 1970s, the Pet Rock, the Hula Hoop, Cabbage Patch Dolls…

Technological change is a primary driver of Schumpeter’s “perennial gale of creative destruction” among business ventures. Technological forces can render established, profitable value propositions obsolete virtually overnight and usher into existence exiting new business ventures. Because of the dual role technological change (both creative and destructive) plays in our society, it can be both an opportunity and a threat.

  • Technological forces can cause industries to move through their life cycles more quickly. They can also disrupt an industry in the beginning or middle of its life cycle, rendering it obsolete or changing it so radically that most of the industry’s competitors cannot keep up. Essentially, technological change makes the life cycles of industries more volatile and unpredictable.
  • Technological change can lower the barriers of entry for many industries. An example is the internet made it much easier for a potential retailer to sell products to its customers through a virtual storefront versus acquiring, stocking and running a brick and mortar facility. The lowering of barriers of entry tends to increase an industry’s intensity of rivalry, leading to both lower prices and industry profits.
  • Technological forces can also reduce transaction costs. Reducing transaction costs is often destructive to the industries that thrive on them (auction houses being replaced by eBay or newspaper classifieds being replaced by Craigslist). Within an industry, a reduction in transaction costs driven by technological change usually leads to an increase in the industry’s intensity of competitive rivalry.
  • Technological change can either reduce or increase customer switching costs. An example of how technological forces can reduce customer switching costs are instant price comparison applications on mobile devices. These give the consumers the ability to identify which retailers offer the same value propositions at the lowest prices. Technological forces can also increase customer switching costs. An example is Facebook or eBay. Both of these websites lock in users due to their network effects – alternative market choices do not present as much value because they are not as big.
  • Technological forces can unleash changes in industries far removed from the industry in which the technology originated. An example of this is the Internet. The Internet has caused massive sea changes in industries only tangentially related to it such as retail, the news industry, book publishing, and matchmaking services (online dating).

Demographic forces are changes in the characteristics of a population of people. These characteristics can be sex, age, education, race, national origin, social class… Changes in demographics can present businesses with both opportunities and threats.

  • Changes in a population’s age distribution can present both opportunities and threats. For example, in the U.S., the population of elderly people is growing more rapidly than the population as a whole. This presents an opportunity for industries who provide long term assisted living, the financial industry (reverse mortgages and retirement planning), and both the health and pharmaceutical industries. It also presents a threat to certain industries like funeral and burial providers (if the general population is living longer, it means people are dying at a slower rate).
  • The rapid increase of the Hispanic population in the U.S. has led to an increase in Spanish speaking music, television and news in the U.S. This represents a growing opportunity for food and media companies that market to Latinos.

Global forces are changes that occur within and beyond the borders of the country a business is operating within and affect how a company can operate on the international stage. Global forces can present both opportunities and threats to an industry.

  • The economic growth rates of other countries can play important roles in determining the demand for imports and exports. As barriers to trade fall, national economies become more subject to the winds of international commerce and capital flows. This international liberalization of trading agreements can allow domestic firms greater access to foreign markets. An example of the liberalization of international trade is the outsourcing trend over the last two decades from industrial economies in the west to developing economies in Asia.
  • Climate change is another example of a global force. The long term changes to the world’s climate will profoundly shape countless industries in the decades to come. Climate change can offer both opportunities and threats to different industries. For example, the wine industry in France may have to experiment with new varietals due to changes in temperature and rainfall expected by scientists in the coming decades. Climate change also presents some industries with opportunities. One example is the shipping industry. The rapidly dwindling polar ice cap in the Arctic Ocean presents the possibility that new, more efficient shipping routes might become available.

[1] Charles W. L. Hill and Gareth R. Jones,  Strategic Management Theory , Eighth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, pg. 66, 2008.

[2] Charles W. L. Hill and Gareth R. Jones,  Strategic Management Theory , Eighth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, pg. 68, 2008.

[3] Charles W. L. Hill and Gareth R. Jones,  Strategic Management Theory , Eighth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, pg. 70, 2008.

A good Five Forces analysis will cause you to sift through a lot of data, much of it conflicting and confusing. Below is a series of scorecards that try to condense the most important points from your Five Forces analysis and present them to you in an easily understandable format.

The scorecards rate the attractiveness of an industry’s five forces  from the perspective of a new venture attempting to enter the industry . Each force gets its own scorecard. Each scorecard has the main factors that help determine the strength the force exerts upon the industry. A factor’s attractiveness is rated on a five category scale that ranges from Highly Unattractive, Mildly Unattractive, Neutral, Mildly Attractive, to Highly Attractive. For each factors’ rating, the top line (yellow) indicates the level of the factor’s level of attractiveness at present. The bottom line (green) is the entrepreneur’s rating of what he or she thinks each factors’ level of attractiveness will be in the future. The level of future attractiveness for a factor is determined by analyzing how macroenvironmental forces will affect the industry in the future.

Directly below is a hypothetical example scorecard of an industry’s intensity of rivalry:

Remember, none of this is exact science. There is no mathematical formula that determines whether you should enter an industry or not. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that you, the entrepreneur, have thoroughly thought about the nature and future of the competitive environment you are proposing to jump into.

Force One: Intensity of Rivalry among Industry Competitors

Force Two: Risk of Entry by Potential Competitors

Force Three: The Bargaining Power of Buyers

Force Four: The Bargaining Power of Suppliers

Force Five: The Availability and Similarity of Substitutes to an Industry’s Value Propositions

And finally, the table below is a final snapshot evaluation of the industry’s attractiveness. To fill out this table, you should look at your ratings in the tables above as guidelines. The importance of the forces, and the factors that comprise them, will change from industry to industry. It will ultimately depend upon the unique facts and circumstances of each industry being evaluated. Therefore you will have to use your best judgment.

Overall Evaluation of Industry’s Attractiveness

Porter’s Five Forces – Risk of Entry

Profitable industries are like chum in the water for new competitors. The smell of money to be made will attract potential competitors to circle an industry, try to enter it and look for an easy meal. The only thing stopping a myriad of potential competitors from entering an industry are  barriers to entry  – a business version of a steel shark cage.

Profitable industries attract new market entrants – potential competitors. Potential competitors are companies that are not currently competing in an industry, but possess the ability to do so if they choose. Theoretically, if it cost nothing to form a company and enter an industry serving a profitable market, new firms would flood into that industry until the industry’s average profit margin shrank to zero. But we don’t live in a frictionless, theoretical world and different industries have wildly different levels of profitability. Barriers of entry are what discourages new companies from entering a profitable market and making a killing.

Barriers of entry benefit established companies within an industry by protecting them from new competition and preserving their profit margins. Low barriers of entry leave an industry wide open to new market entrants. The results to an industry with low barriers of entry are lower profits for the companies within that industry will inevitably result.

Therefore, established firms within an industry have great incentive to erect barriers of entry to keep the number of potential rivals to a minimum. Some barriers of entry are passive and a natural result of the industry’s operations. An example of this is economies of scale. But companies often take active steps to discourage new companies from entering their industries. Examples of this are when companies create brand loyalty or try to purposely raise their customers’ switching costs. The reason is simple – the more companies that enter the industry, the more difficult it is for established companies to maintain their market share and protect their profits.

The risk of entry by potential competitors is a function of the industry’s profitability and the height of its barriers to entry. The higher an industry’s average profit margin, the more enticing it is for new competitors to jump into the fray and wrestle market share from the incumbent companies. High barriers to entry can deter potential competitors from trying to enter an industry and serve its market segments. The higher the cost of entry into an industry, the weaker the competitive force (the risk of entry by potential competitors) is and generally translates into higher average industry profits. Important barriers to entry include the following:

Capital Requirements  – If it takes a great amount of money or assets to enter the industry, this can be a significant barrier of entry for firms who wish to enter it. Usually industries with high fixed costs have high capital requirements (i.e. factories, warehouses, computing assets…).

Economies of Scale  – Economies of scale is where the companies in an industry enjoy diminishing per unit costs for their value propositions as the volume produced increases.

Brand Loyalty  – Consumers often have preferences for the value propositions offered by established companies due to familiarity and reputation.

Absolute Cost Advantages  – Other entrants cannot hope to match the established firms within the industry’s cost structure. Absolute cost advantages arise from three sources: 1) possessing unique and critical resources (patents, trade secrets, or accumulated experience), 2) control of particular inputs of production (i.e. fertile farm land, a prime piece of commercial real estate…), 3) access to cheaper funds because existing companies represent lower risks than new entrants.

Customer Switching Costs –  High customer switching costs occur when customers resist spending the time, money and energy to switch from the current supplier of a value proposition to one offered by a different company, even though that alternative value proposition may be of greater value.

Government Regulation –  Government regulations, and the lack of them, can be a significant barrier of entry for potential new entrants into an industry. An example of this would be environmental regulations placed on coal mining companies and their operations.

We will now dig deeper into how to identify and analyze these potential barriers of entry, and ultimately understand how they affect the competitive rivalry within an industry.

Capital costs mean the startup costs of your business idea that must be incurred before you can commence operations. Basically, this is the total amount of money you need to spend (on equipment, employees, facilities, legal, accounting….) before you can hang your “Were Open!” sign in your shop window. For some asset intensive businesses, such as a full service health club or a golf course, initial capital costs can be extensive. For other businesses that use relatively few assets, such as an internet marketing business or a hotdog stand, initial capital costs can be relatively small.

For many aspiring entrepreneurs without a lot of financial resources, capital costs can be the most daunting barrier of entry of all. Many industries are able to maintain decent profit margins simply because the capital costs required to enter the industry are significant and insurmountable for many. Also, your time can be thought of as a capital asset too. Your investment of time in pursuing a business endeavor represents an opportunity cost on your part – you are giving up time that you could be working for someone else (and the income that entails) in exchange for pursuing your entrepreneurial ambitions. For example, it may take $100,000 and one year of full time work to create and open a business. If you had to give up a $50,000 per year job in order to pursue the endeavor, the real capital cost for you to start your business would be $150,000, not $100,000.

Another example of this would be opening a law practice. Legal services, in the United States, is a fragmented industry that has an average industry profit of 19.5%. This is a very attractive profit margin. Furthermore, the capital cost required to start a legal practice – purely from creating the actual legal services business – is relatively small. A lawyer needs a laptop, access to research materials, a place to meet clients, and some office equipment. This may cost as little as $10,000 in initial startup capital. But this does not represent the actual capital cost to start a law firm. To actually open a law firm and practice law, a lawyer would have needed to: 1) obtain a law degree (lets estimate $120,000), not work for three years while going to law school (lets estimate $150,000 for three cumulative years), get a state bar card ($3,500 for the test and the study course), and not work for three months while studying for the bar (lets estimate $12,500). Then, an only then, a lawyer could spend $10,000 on opening a legal practice. The real cost of this venture, both in absolute capital costs and opportunity costs, would be $296,000.

So the real capital cost of opening a law firm and practicing law (and being in an industry with an attractive 19.5% profit margin) may be at least nearly $300,000. This capital cost represents a serious barrier of entry to many people who would want to enter this industry, but balk at the $300,000 price tag that it requires.

Key Questions:

  • What are the average total capital costs for entering the industry you proposing to enter?
  • Is the average profit margin for the industry you are proposing to enter enough to service the capital costs required from a typical new market entrant?

Economies of scale arise when unit costs fall as a firm expands its output. In other words, the more of a value proposition a company produces, the less per unit the company pays to produce those value propositions. Sources of scale economies include 1) cost reductions gained by efficiently creating a massed produced output, 2) discounts on bulk purchases of raw materials, and 3) cost benefits gained from spreading production costs and marketing and advertising over a large production volume. Some industries benefit greatly from economies of scale (i.e. the beer industry, the auto industry…). Other industries do not enjoy economies of scale much at all (i.e. nail salons, massage therapy, dry cleaners…).

The following are examples of economies of scale: 1) when the creator of a product gets bulk discounts on the purchases of raw materials for their products, 2) spreading fixed production costs over a large production volume, 3) cost reductions through mass-producing a standardized output, 4) cost savings associated with spreading marketing and advertising costs over a large volume of output. Most manufacturing industries, such as pulp and paper products or textiles, are examples of industries with economies of scale. If economies of scale are a factor in an industry, then many small producers are at a disadvantage because their per-unit costs will be higher than that of their larger competitors.

An industry whose rivals have significant economies of scale creates powerful barriers to entry for an aspiring new entrant to overcome. First, the established firms will have a substantial cost advantage over a new rival. Second, because high economies of scale imply high fixed costs (equipment, facilities), it is critical that these companies protect their market share at all costs. If their sales volumes decrease, this can render them incapable of sustaining their high fixed costs.

Companies, who try to match the existing industry competitors’ economies of scale, must enter the industry as a large producer to overcome this problem. But to do so, it must raise enough capital (to purchase the necessary assets and facilities) to match its competitors’ economies of scale. This becomes another barrier of entry in itself. Furthermore, if a new company enters an industry with a large capital investment (to match current industry competitors’ economies of scale), the increased supply of products the new company brings to the market risks depressing prices and may trigger a price war with established industry competitors.

  • Does the industry you propose to enter have significant economies of scale (where the per-unit costs for producing a good or service decrease significantly as the volume of production increases)?
  • Does the industry you propose to enter have high fixed costs (equipment, facilities, or significant R&D requirements)?
  • Do the suppliers of the industry you propose to enter give significant volume discounts and payment terms to large-volume buyers?
  • Within the industry you are proposing to enter, do its company’s marketing and sales budgets increase, on a per unit basis, proportionally to sales of its value propositions, or do the costs of its company’s sales and marketing budgets decrease, on a per unit basis, with an increase in the sales volume of its value propositions?

Brand loyalty is when consumers develop and hold a preference for a particular company’s brand of value propositions. Significant brand loyalty makes it difficult for new market entrants to wrestle market share away from established industry brands. Examples of value propositions with strong brand loyalty are mass consumer products such as beer (Budweiser, Coors and Miller), soft drinks (Coca Cola and Pepsi), or tobacco products (Marlborough and Winston-Salem’s).

A company can also cultivate brand loyalty by developing innovative value propositions. Probably the most successful major company over the last decade that has leveraged innovative value propositions into brand loyalty has been Apple.

A venture may be able to sidestep an industry’s brand loyalty barriers of entry by entering the premium category of product markets. An example would be Dry Soda or small craft micro-brewers.

Significant brand loyalty makes it difficult for new entrants to take market share away from established industry brands. A company faces the daunting task of not only convincing consumers to buy its value propositions, but also to choose not to buy value propositions they already like and feel comfortable with.

  • Are the value propositions in the industry you propose to enter highly branded?
  • How strong is the brand loyalty in the industry you are proposing to enter?

Absolute Cost Advantages are when an established venture has an insurmountable cost advantage, meaning that new entrants cannot possibly hope to match the incumbent companies’ lower cost structure. Absolute cost advantages can arise from: 1) superior production operations and processes due to access to unique assets (i.e. patents, copyrights, or fertile farmland), 2) accumulated skill and expertise, 3) exclusive or relatively favorable control of their value propositions’ inputs (labor, materials, equipment, or management skill), and 4) access to cheaper capital due to their lower business risk when compared to a new market entrant. Also, access to superior distribution channels could be considered an absolute cost advantage. If established companies have absolute cost advantages, then the threat of entry as a competitive force will be weaker.

A new market entrant must be especially careful in attempting to directly compete with entrenched industry competitors that have absolute cost advantages. If a new entrant enters an industry where there are established competitors who have lower cost structures, the established firms can lower the price of their value propositions to eliminate the new entrant. This could erase any ability for the new market entrant to ever earn a profit. If this threat is credible, it can be a barrier of entry for new market entrants.

  • Do the major competitors in the industry you are proposing to enter possess absolute cost advantages? If so, will you be able to acquire these absolute cost advantages before you begin directly competing with them?
  • If the major competitors within the industry you are proposing to enter possess absolute cost advantages over your business idea, are there any steps or actions you can take to mitigate those absolute cost advantages?

Customer switching costs are the time, energy, and money necessary for them to switch from the value propositions offered by an established company to those of a new market entrant. If switching costs are high, customers will be unlikely to change even if the new product is superior to other market substitutes and alternatives. An example would be the switching costs associated with leaving the Microsoft Windows operating system or the QWERTY keyboard. Other value propositions in the market may be better/faster, but consumers often find themselves resistant to change because the time or hassle of switching to a better product or service proves prohibitive.

 K ey Questions:

  • In the industry you are proposing to enter, do the value propositions the industry produces have high switching costs? If they do, can you think of a way your business idea can mitigate this obstacle?
  • If the industry you are proposing to enter doesn’t typically have high switching costs, can you think of a way for your business to raise the switching costs for your proposed value propositions?

Government regulations create politically and legally defined barriers of entry for many industries. Government regulations can increase barriers of entry for market entrants and potentially reduce competition. An example would be food safety regulations or anti-pollution laws. Also, in industries where economies of scale are a powerful force, the absence of regulations can lead to an intense concentration of market share in the hands of a few firms. This can create barriers of entry that are extremely difficult for a new market entrant to overcome. To sum up, high regulation within an industry usually leads to higher barriers of entry, but not always.

  • Does the industry you propose to enter require government licenses or strict adherence to statutory codes (construction, health care, lending money, real estate rental, restaurant & food preparation…)?
  • To what degree are the industry’s regulations beneficial to the incumbent industry competitors?

Below is a chart that summarizes how the six types of barriers of entry affects industry attractiveness from both the perspective of a new market entrant and an industry incumbent.

Estimating Market Size

Estimating the size of the market you want to enter is the first critical step in testing the feasibility of your business idea. This is a lot like cliff diving. If you are going to jump off a cliff into a pool of water far below, it’s a really good idea to know beforehand just how deep the water is. If you jump without finding out (or at least making an educated guess based on objective facts), you run the very real risk of getting hurt. Bad.

The first order of business in determining the sizes of the various market types for your business idea’s value proposition(s) is to correctly define the parameters of the market types you are trying to measure.  This may sound rather simple, but it is honestly the hardest and most frustrating part of this process. Estimating a market size is the epitome of the phrase “garbage in – garbage out.” If you incorrectly define the boundaries of the type of market you are trying to size up, your entire estimate (and the basis for all of your future financial projections) won’t really be worth the paper it is printed on.

So, creating a quality market size estimate that’s based upon good, logical assumptions, is the first step in determining if your business idea can support a potentially successful business model. To make a quality market size estimate, you should roughly measure the size of each relevant market type for your business idea’s value propositions. By understanding the rough size of each of these market types, you can roughly gauge how much revenue (based upon your market share assumptions) your business idea could generate in the present and going forward into the future. Determining which market types to estimate the size of depends upon the type of market your business idea is attempting to serve. These general market types are Defined Exiting Markets, Cloned Markets, Re-segmented Markets, or a New Markets.

A market is a group of customers that have the willingness to buy a particular type of value proposition. When determining the size of the markets for your proposed business idea’s value proposition(s), you may use all or some combination of the following market type definitions.

total addressable market

  • Examples: the car market (supplied by the car industry), the personal computer market (supplied by the personal computer industry), and the athletic shoe market (supplied by the athletic shoe industry).
  • Examples: the total market for electric cars, the total market for tablet computers, the total market for running shoes.
  • Examples: the market for electric cars in the United States sold through dealerships, the market for android compatible tablet computers sold through big box stores, the market for athletic shoes sold through e-commerce websites .
  • The TM is comprised of one or more customer segments , each of which are offered a unique value proposition by your proposed business idea. For a comprehensive explanation of what comprises a customer segment, please refer to the following section.
  • The TM is a measurement dependent upon the definition and size of the SAM (because it is a portion of the SAM), but independent of the SOM. Both the TM and the SOM are portions of the SAM that measure different things.
  • Examples: Upper-middle class, educated, ecologically conscious automobile customers, early adopter electronics consumers who use their personal computers and laptops mostly for entertainment and not work, high school and college athletes who buy high performance running shoes to gain an edge on their competition.
  • Like the TM, the SOM is dependent upon the definition and size of the SAM, but is independent of the TM. Both the TM and the SOM are portions of the SAM that measure different things.
  • Examples: the portion of the market for electric cars sold in the United States through dealerships that your business idea can realistically capture, the portion of the android compatible tablet computer market in the United States sold though big box stores that your business idea can realistically capture, the portion of the market for high performance running shoes for athletes in the United States that are sold through ecommerce websites that your business idea can realistically capture.

For practical purposes, you can think of both the SOM and TM as a portions of the SAM, the SAM as a portion of the TAM, and the TAM as a portion of the TID. Both the SOM and TM are separate business concepts that measure different things. The SOM estimates your proposed value proposition’s penetration of the SAM. The TM estimates the size of the group of people for whom your proposed value proposition is specifically designed for.

I know, it’s a lot of acronyms to keep straight. But estimating the sizes of the TIM, TAM, SAM, TM and SOM are important for determining if the market size for your business idea’s value proposition(s) can support your entrepreneurial ambitions and business goals. The following are three generalizations – rule-of-thumb explanations – of what market sizes are necessary to support a particular business type, development path and outcome.

This type of company is usually entering a cloned, re-segmented, blue ocean or new market, or a defined existing market with a new product. They usually seek traditional angel investor and venture capital funding. Rapid scalability an achieving high market share is the key to this type of company. Often the founders of scalable, high growth companies have either an Initial Public Offering (IPO) or the sale of the company to a Fortune 500 corporation as their exit strategy .

These companies require a SAM large enough to support potential company EBITDA (after the company has successfully scaled its operations) of at least somewhere between $10 million to $20 million per year. Publically traded companies, on average, often trade for 10x their annual EBITDA or greater. This, depending upon the company’s industry and whether or not its founders and investors want it to have an IPO, would probably put the company’s valuation at greater than $100 million. A $100 million valuation is a safe rough estimate for whether a company will be able to both afford to go public and financially benefit from an IPO.

So, armed with these rough guidelines, to create a scalable, high growth company that proposes to enter an industry with a 10 percent average EBITDA and capture 10 percent of that industry’s market share, would need to at least generate $100 million per year in revenue ($10 million per year in EBITDA divided by the industry EBITDA average of 10 percent). To achieve this annual EBITDA target and a 10 percent SAM penetration, the overall SAM size would need to be $1 billion ($100 million per year in revenue divided by a 10 percent penetration of the market by the company).

This type of company can be entering a Defined Existing Market, Cloned Market, Re-segmented Market, or Blue Ocean Market. They do not enter New Markets with New Products due to the incredible amount of time, business risk and resources that would be required. These businesses usually seek capital from the founders, founders’ friends and family, non-bank lenders, bank and institutional lenders, and some angel investors. Rapid scalability is usually not a primary goal for these business ventures. They often prioritize strong, stable profits and cash flow for their owners above all else. Exit strategies for these companies’ founders include selling the company to a third party such as another privately held business or private equity group, passing on the business to heirs, or simply holding on to the business. These types of businesses often make excellent cash cows.

Successful, mid-sized privately held businesses are usually valued between $5 million and $50 million. These businesses, as a rough rule of thumb and depending upon the industry, are usually valued at 3x to 5x their average yearly EBITDA. So, a $30 million dollar privately held business would need an average yearly EBITDA of between $6 and $10 million per year ($6 million per year if the business valuation ratio would be 5x; $10 million if the business valuation ratio would be 3x).

Lifestyle businesses are undertaken by entrepreneurs who want to create their own jobs and/or to support the conscious lifestyle choices of the entrepreneur (hobbies, schedules, living location…). This type of company usually solely enters Defined Existing Markets. Many, if not most, of the entrepreneurs who start lifestyle businesses do not begin their business ventures with any particular exit strategy in mind. Instead, the primary financial goal of these entrepreneurs is usually to generate enough cash flow to support their lifestyle needs. These businesses usually seek capital from the founders, bootstrap financing, and the founders’ friends and family. Rapid scalability is usually not a primary goal for these business ventures.

The market size necessary to support a lifestyle business really depends upon the needs and wants of each individual entrepreneur. The variables used to determine a rough estimate of the minimum market size needed to support a lifestyle business are: 1) the entrepreneurs’ desired minimum yearly EBITDA (include the entrepreneurs’ salaries in with EBITDA), 2) the average EBITDA ratio for a firm competing within the industry you are proposing to enter, and 3) the entrepreneurs’ assumption of how much of their proposed business idea’s SAM they will be able to capture.

For example, if an entrepreneur’s goal is to earn at least $120,000 (in EBITDA and salary) from the lifestyle business per year, the average EBITDA ratio for the proposed business idea’s industry is 15 percent of annual revenue, and the entrepreneur assumes she can capture 10 percent of the SAM she proposes to enter, then the minimum necessary SAM size needed to support the business venture would be $8 million ($120,000 divided by a 15 percent EBITDA ratio divided by a 10 percent SAM penetration equals $8,000,000).

The following chart summarizes the rule-of-thumb market size needs of the business types analyzed above:

why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

Targeting a specific audience is most effective strategy when creating a marketing campaign. The more specific of a customer base a campaign can reach, the more dollars per potential customer a campaign will make. This is why companies will allocate a large amount of resources in order to find the audience that they are looking for. By doing this, you can create a marketing budget as effectively as possible and maximize your results. Knowing or choosing exactly who you are getting your message to has proven to be the most effective method of forming a marketing campaign. Once you have identified your target audience, the hard part is figuring out how to reach it. Below, we will discuss ways to do so.

The goal of any marketing campaign is to give the most amount of information about a product or service to the prospective customer possible. The more the customer knows, the more likely they are to take action. The more that is known about that customer, the more likely it is that you can communicate that information effectively. Using information about your customer base will help you make connections that they can relate to and in turn, they will be more likely to respond to your campaigns call to action.

There are four main ways that are commonly used in identifying targeted markets.

Geographic:  This includes the location, the geographical size and makeup of the area and other environmental factors such as climate.

Demographics:  This includes age, gender, income, average family size, average education, and the types of jobs that are in the geographic area.

Psychographics:  This involves factors such as the personality that you area tends to take on, what and how people behave that live in that area and also factors that will affect the way your potential customers will use your product or service. Will they use it often not so often? Is it a necessity or luxury?

Behaviors:  This has more to do with how your potential customers will react to things such as price changes and price points, how they will react based on what information is given to them, and what types of marketing campaigns they are most likely to respond favorably to. All of these factors can be used to help determine how a population will respond to a specific marketing campaign. Likewise, you can a marketing campaign that will increase conversions based on the information gathered above.

One of the fundamentals of marketing focuses on the benefits to cost trade-off. Understanding how customers will weigh the potential benefits of a product or service versus the costs to obtain that product or service is critical when designing a marketing campaign. Ask yourself, how will your customer gain monetarily or in other ways from purchasing your product or service? Though it is not always achievable, satisfying this is the most effective ways to create sales.

To better understand how they will you this trade-off, ask yourself the following questions.

  • How much will it save them? Is this a product that can potentially pay for itself?
  • Are there any intangible benefits to this particular product or service that a customer may ignore or find appealing?
  • Will this product or service save the customer money, time, effort, or resources?
  • Will it increase the customer’s income, investments, future, or personal relationship will it reduce a customer’s expenses, taxes, liabilities, or work?
  • Will it improve that customer’s abilities, productivity, appearance, confidence or peace of mind?

Understanding the effect that your product or service will have on the customer will serve as an invaluable tool when designing an effective marketing campaign.

As mentioned in the beginning, understanding, identifying and reaching a target audience is the most effective way creating a marketing campaign that will give you the best results possible relative to the budget and time you are allotted. Ignoring these factors can costs you money and can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful marketing campaign.

It’s important to define the nature of your involvement, in both depth and scope, in the business you are founding.  An entrepreneur’s involvement in his own business can range from being a full-time manager/employee (active ownership) to that of a hands-off investor (passive ownership).

An active owner materially participates in the day-to-day activities of the business. Most business owners and entrepreneurs actively participate in their businesses in some way, shape or form. Many work full-time in their businesses as employee/managers, drawing both a paycheck and profits (if there are any).

The definition of a passive owner is a little trickier to nail down. A passive business owner does not participate in the day-to-day activities of the business he or she owns. The IRS states that passive income can only come from two possible sources: rental activities or “ trade or business activities in which you do not materially participate .” Within the context of entrepreneurial endeavors some examples of passive income are:

  • Earnings from a business from which you, an owner, are not required to be directly involved with (neither labor nor day-to-day management)
  • Rent from either tangible personal property or real estate
  • Royalties from intellectual property (patent, copyright, trademark…)

Receiving passive income is delightful. The hard part is usually accumulating enough assets in the first place to begin receiving passive income from them (rents or passive business activities). Examples, where an entrepreneur can derive passive income from her investments, are:

  • A landlord rents an apartment building to tenants and uses a real estate management company to collect rents and make repairs.
  • A passive investor invests capital into a partnership where others manage the business, and in return for his contribution of capital, the passive investor receives a portion of the business’s profits.
  • An entrepreneur builds a successful business from scratch. She then hires a manager to manage the day-to-day affairs of the business. She then receives the profits from her business even though she is no longer actively involved in it.

Most entrepreneurs who start businesses have one of two basic plans for their involvement in their enterprises.

1. The entrepreneur(s) plan to be heavily involved in the lean startup plan and operations over a period of a couple of years. Then, at some undetermined point in the future, they plan to hire a manager and then run the company as a passive investment.

2. The entrepreneur(s) are essentially creating a job for themselves. They plan on working in the enterprise as an open-ended, long-term committment.

Starting and/or running a business is a complex and daunting task. Identifying both potential roadblocks and opportunities well in advance is essential for businesses of any size to outmaneuver the competition and gain a foothold as a dominant market leader. But over one-half of all new businesses will fail within five years of their founding. The vast majority of all new businesses never achieve the financial success originally envisioned by the founders. These new businesses and start-ups begin with energetic enthusiasm, but unfortunately, many business plans fall short due to various reasons: lack of capital, a flawed business strategy, unrealistic expectations, or they lack the people with the required skills and expertise to succeed.

Business plans may be required for any number of reasons. Here are a few of the most common business plan needs.

  • To Obtain Debt Financing . A company may be required by a bank or other financial institution to provide a detailed, professional business plan in order to secure debt financing. Examples would be bank business loans or a line of credit.
  • To Obtain Equity Financing . Start-ups and other new businesses often must sell equity (stock or membership units) to investors to raise capital for new business ventures. Investors can range from friends and family to angel investors to venture capital firms.
  • For Internal Company Planning . Companies often need business plans to compare the relative viability between competing potential business projects. This can give those companies a clearer perspective on where to invest limited resources within the organization.
  • Joint Ventures and Partnerships . When entering a strategic JV or partnership with another firm, a business plan works to outline the objectives of the two firms working in tangent.
  • Mergers, Acquisitions and Corporate Divestiture . Detailed plans are needed when businesses change hands in order to help new owners see details in the industry and the enterprise itself. An expert plan can also serve as part of the marketing material to get the business sold.

The reasons for creating a business plan can be as varied as the businesses themselves. Each plan requires a unique approach to the industry you are in, the market you intend to serve, and your financial needs. That’s where we come in.

Creating a professional business plan can help mitigate these risks, raise capital from potential investors and put the company on the path to success. A good business plan helps to focus an entrepreneur’s mind on accomplishing the tasks necessary to make his or her business succeed. A business plan is not a static document. It is a logical series of informed assumptions that are relevant at the time the plan is written. As soon as market and industry conditions begin to change (which usually happens about five minutes after the plan is written), the plan begins becoming obsolete. For the entrepreneur, the value in the business plan isn’t necessarily the plan itself. Instead, its real value lies in the process – the research, thought and inquiry – in creating it.

We will work with you from start to finish to create a professional business plan that will help you accomplish your objectives. We will ask the necessary questions, help you find the answers, and organize your ideas into a coherent plan. From researching your market and industry to producing realistic, justifiable pro forma financial statements (cash flow, income statements & balance sheet), we will craft a document that can help you accomplish your business objectives.

So your business needs a plan. The question is, what kind of plan does it need? Please check out our business plan menu options and pricing here.

Business Plan Review & Evaluation

If you already have a business plan and would like to have it reviewed by a professional business plan consultant, then this is the right service for you. We will review and critique your business plan with an investor’s eye, scrutinizing it for financial errors, grammatical errors, and weak or unrealistic assumptions. We will also point out what you did right. Our business plan review service is an efficient and affordable way to ensure that your business plan is as good as it can be. Our business plan review services are provided at a substantial discount to our normal hourly rates. Depending on your needs and budget, we offer three levels of business plan review services:

– We will spend 2 and 1/2 hours reviewing your materials. We will then provide a written evaluation and critique your plan and financial model.

– We will spend 30 minutes consulting with you on the telephone, answering any questions you may have and offering additional guidance.

– Optional: if you have made any changes to your business plan, based upon the evaluations and critiques we made in our first examination of your materials, we can offer subsequent reviews of the improvements you have made to your plan. In these subsequent reviews, we will spend up to 2 hours examining your materials again.

–  Flat Rate Price:  $297 for first review; $147 for subsequent reviews

  • Once you place your order, we will provide instructions for sending us your business plan. Your plan must be sent to us in Microsoft Word format so we can use the Track Changes feature).
  • Your review will generally take place within 3-5 business days of you sending us your business plan.
  • When our review of your business plan is complete, we will send you the redlined/track changes version of your business plan with our critiques and suggestions.
  • After you receive your reviewed/critiqued version of your business plan, we will work with you to schedule a mutually convenient time for the telephone portion of the review service.
  • Optional Subsequent Reviews: After you make changes to the critiqued version of your business plan that we sent you, you may send us your new version for further critiques/comments. Please allow 3-5 business days to complete the evaluation.

– All information you provide will be treated confidentially.

– Fees are payable in advance and are non-refundable. If you decide you no longer want a business plan review after you have made payment, we will provide an equivalent amount of consulting firm services of your choosing (3 hours for the Standard Evaluation and Review).

– Once you submit your plan for review, please allow two business days to schedule an initial discussion so that we can understand your needs and tailor our review for your specific situation. This allows us to make sure you get the most out of this process.

– Depending on our existing workload, please allow up to 5 business days for us to complete the review following this initial discussion.

– All reviews are provided on a best efforts basis. You are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the information in your business plan (and related materials).

– You agree to defend, indemnify, and hold us harmless from and against all third party claims, losses, or damage which we incur and which arise from or are attributable to our role in this business plan review.

We believe that we have the most transparent and customer friendly pricing strategy on the market.

For someone writing their first business plan, even for simple small businesses, the process can take upwards of 100 hours of time. Often, it takes more than 200 hours . For complex business plans (business plans for unproven business models and undefined markets), the process can often take more than 400 hours. Because we have considerable experience and skill at writing plans, we estimate that, on average, that we can complete an average business plan (depending upon its type, audience and complexity) in the range of 30 to 120 hours.

The range between 30 and 120 hours depends upon three general factors that contribute to a business plan’s complexity. The first factor is whether the plan is for a new business or a business already in existence, The second factor is whether the business’s industry and market are well defined (for example: dry cleaners, dollar stores, organic vegetable farms, family restaurants…) or if the market or industry is new and untested. The third factor is who is the audience for the business plan: equity investors, debt lenders or the internal management of an existing business.

Note:  unless your business idea is exploiting a new market or market niche, or offering customers a product or service that is radically different from what is currently offered to the market, then only on rare occasions will your business plan require longer than 70 hours to complete.

From three factors above, we can generally estimate the average number of hours the plan will take to complete, and therefore we can charge a base flat fee for the project. We Our base flat fee rates are the product of our estimated number of hours times our business plan writing hourly rate. For our business plan writing, we charge $75 per hour.

The business plans we produce fall into the following six general categories:

But often, due to unseen factors (a change in the business plan format scope and direction), a plan may take longer than the anticipated range. Often project extensions occur when it becomes necessary to modify or change the focus of the business plan due to unforeseeable factors (i.e. new market research, assumptions are proven wrong, the founders choose to shift or expand the scope of the business…). So, if your business plan takes longer than the anticipated number of hours to produce, we will charge you at only $20 per hour beyond the original estimated time frame.

This ensures the following:

– By using our pricing formula (flat fee plus $20 per hour beyond the estimated project timeframe) versus using only a fixed billable hour rate, we mitigate any incentive to “run the meter” and unnecessarily inflate the price of your solid business plan. Our goal is to maximize our income per hour for each plan that we produce. Therefore, if we end up going beyond the project’s estimated timeframe, this means we will be working at a significant discount ($20 per hour after the end of the project’s initial timeframe estimate).

– We use our pricing formula also gives us some measure of protection against unforeseen changes to the project’s scope or direction. Creating a lean business plan is a dynamic process. Information discovered or uncovered during the plan writing process can change the focus, scope and goals of the project. Also, by charging a modest hourly rate beyond a predetermined period, helps to focus and frame exactly what you want in your business plan.

– Ultimately, our system encourages both you and us to remain disciplined, efficient and to maximize the value of each other’s time.

For example:  You task us with writing a Type 1 business plan. The project takes 50 hours to complete because the scope changed in the middle of the project. Under these circumstances, the final price for the project would be the Type 1 business plan flat fee ($2,250) plus $20 per hour for every hour spent on the project over 30 hours (20 hours x $20/hour = $400). Therefore, the final complete price for the project would be $2,650 ($2,250 + $400 = $2,650).

  • One half (50%) of the project’s flat fee price is required to be paid up front.
  • 30% of the project flat fee is due upon completion of the business plan’s Executive Summary (the last plan component to be completed).
  • Upon completion of the business plan’s final draft and its approval by the client, the remaining 20% of the project’s flat fee is due  plus  any extra hourly charges if the project goes beyond its initially estimated time.

Preparing an expert business plan can be extremely time-consuming. While the process of mastering and completing your plan may be helpful in understanding the business dynamics, corporate strategy and overall financial and marketing model, it can take you away from operational support that is vital for day-to-day operations. That is where our business planning services come into play. We help business owners in crafting expert MBA-level business plans for internal management buy-in as well as external business funding needs.

Companies often create business plans to obtain financing from venture capitalists, private equity groups and angel investors. Your particular plan will be dependent on the industry you play in, the financing you are seeking to obtain and your overall strategy for execution. Finding the key strengths, knowing potential flaws and being conversant with competitive forces in the industry are only a few of the necessary components of your completed plan. In other words, a full SWOT analysis may be necessary.

swot

Regardless of whether you write a business plan yourself or outsource it to one of the expert members of our qualified MBA team, it is helpful to have a second pair of eyes to edit and provide constructive feedback. You plan and pitch will help to make or break your financing efforts. Don’t skimp on quality. You need to show off your financial health.

Being conversant in finance is certainly not a requirement to operate or be successful in business. Having great financials, including thoughtful projected and proforma financial statements is a must for any entrepreneur seeking to secure funding or internal management buy-in. We help to craft properly-structured financial plans for your business using historical data and realistic assumptions.

Obtain financing for your business with an professionally crafted financial plan as part of your overall strategy.

Business plans are great, but execution is the name of the game. Without a proper marketing plan coupled with flawless execution, your business may eventually disappear.

We work directly with the entrepreneurs themselves to craft detailed, specific and attainable goals and strategies to take your product or service to market. For the seasoned entrepreneur, this may be “old hat,” but having an expert business plan consultant in your corner is helpful to the proper execution of your overall strategy. While there are many business plan software providers on the market, you will still need the human-touch element to really make business plan sing.

If you are seeking funding from any number of sources or simply need help crafting a plan to help you take your business to the next level, we can help. Contact us today to find out more.

Nate Nead

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  • Mar 30, 2023

What You Need to Know to Write a Business Plan for Investors

why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

Hey there, ambitious entrepreneurs! As a startup expert and professional business plan writer, I've helped numerous individuals like you attract investors by crafting persuasive and comprehensive business plans. In this article, we'll dive deep into the ins and outs of writing an investor-worthy business plan. So, grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and let's get started!

Key Highlights:

Understand the Purpose of Your Business Plan

Craft a killer executive summary, describe your business and its structure, showcase your market analysis, detail your marketing and sales strategy, explain your operations and management structure, highlight your team's expertise, develop a robust financial plan, describe your funding needs and use of funds, outline your exit strategy, prepare a compelling appendix, edit, revise, and polish, embrace the journey.

First and foremost, your business plan is your company's roadmap to success. It's a strategic document that outlines your vision, goals, and strategies for achieving them. Potential investors will scrutinize your plan, looking for a clear vision, attainable objectives, and a solid plan of action. Your business plan should demonstrate that you're serious about your venture and have a well-thought-out plan to achieve success.

Your executive summary is like the movie trailer for your business plan—it should be engaging, informative, and leave your audience wanting more. An effective executive summary should be concise, typically one to two pages, and provide an overview of your business, its goals, and how you plan to achieve them. It's the first thing potential investors will read, so make sure it's impactful and leaves a lasting impression.

In this section, you'll provide detailed information about your business, including:

Business name, address, and contact information

Legal structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation)

Ownership information

Description of your products or services

Business history, if applicable

Current business status (e.g., startup, existing business, or expansion)

Keep it concise and informative while showcasing your passion for your business.

A thorough market analysis demonstrates that you understand your industry, competitors, and target customers. To create a persuasive market analysis, be sure to:

Define your target market and customer segments

Analyze your competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, and your competitive advantages

Discuss market trends and how your business will capitalize on them

Provide data on your target market's size, demographics, and growth potential

Your marketing and sales strategy should illustrate how you'll attract customers, make sales, and grow your business. Include information on:

Your pricing strategy

Distribution channels

Advertising and promotion methods

Sales projections

Customer retention strategies

Online marketing efforts, including social media and content marketing

Here, you'll outline the day-to-day operations of your business and its management structure, covering:

Key personnel, their qualifications, and roles

Employee training and development programs

Facilities and equipment

Inventory management

Quality control measures

Supplier relationships

Investors often invest in people as much as they invest in ideas. Showcase your team's expertise, including:

Backgrounds and qualifications of your founders and key team members

Relevant industry experience

Past successes and lessons learned from failures

How your team's skills complement each other

A strong financial plan is critical to attracting investors. You'll need to provide financial projections, including:

Profit and Loss statements (for at least three years)

Cash flow projections (for at least three years)

Balance sheets (for at least three years)

Breakeven analysis

A list of assumptions and explanations for your financial projections

If you're not a numbers person, consider enlisting the help of an accountant or financial advisor to ensure accuracy and credibility.

This is where you make your case for the investment. Clearly state how much funding you need, how you plan to use the funds, and how the investment will contribute to your business's growth and success. Be specific about how the investment will help you achieve your goals, whether it's to develop a new product, hire key personnel, or expand into new markets.

Investors want to know how they'll eventually cash out and get a return on their investment. Be transparent about your exit strategy, whether it's through an initial public offering (IPO), acquisition, or other means. Include a timeline and potential valuation of the company at the time of the exit.

The appendix is your opportunity to provide additional information that supports your business plan. This might include:

Resumes of key personnel

Letters of intent from suppliers or customers

Licenses, permits, or patents

Detailed market research data

Product specifications or designs

Marketing materials

Organize your appendix so that it's easy for potential investors to find and review the supporting documents.

A well-written business plan should be clear, concise, and free of errors. Take the time to edit and revise your plan, ensuring that it's easy to read and understand. Don't be afraid to seek feedback from mentors, colleagues, or even potential customers to help refine your plan. Remember that your business plan is a living document that should evolve as your business grows and changes. Regularly review and update your plan to ensure it remains accurate and relevant.

Writing a business plan for investors can be a challenging but rewarding experience. It forces you to think critically about your business, its goals, and its strategies. Embrace the process and enjoy the journey. After all, as Tim Ferris would say, "Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."

Writing a business plan for investors may seem daunting, but with the right approach and attention to detail, you can create a persuasive and informative plan that will captivate potential investors. Keep the unique requirements of investors in mind and make sure your plan addresses their concerns. By following these steps, you'll be well on your way to securing the funding you need to make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality. So, what are you waiting for? Start writing, and go conquer the world!

  • Writing Your Business Plan
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What Do Investors Look for in a Business Plan?

Picture of Brent Butler

This is the first in a series of posts that will elaborate on the specific answer to the question: What do investors look for in a business plan?

If you've tried to raise money or researched the business plan presentation for potential investors, you already see that there's a wide range of opinions and demands. In the end, investors are just as diverse and dynamic as the enterprises and entrepreneurs they invest in.

For example, some invest their own money (Angels) while others manage a fund (Venture Capitalists). Some invest in series pre-seed (commonly referred to as the idea stage) or series seed (commonly referred to as the MVP or prototype stage), and some invest in later stages such as series A or series B.

But there's one thing all investors have in common: the desire to grow their money. As simple as it may sound, one of the most common mistakes novice entrepreneurs make is failing to address how the investor will see a return on their investment (ROI).

However, before you begin to discuss the investor's return, you need to develop context and create a persuasive argument for your business, which you do by properly addressing these five essential topics in your business plan:

  • Define the problem you're solving or the trend you're capitalizing upon
  • Clearly convey the opportunity (this can be tricky, and I plan to devote several future posts to this topic alone)
  • Communicate why now is the right time to enter or expand in your market (i.e. why is it the right time to invest)
  • Explain how your solution is the best at solving the aforementioned problem
  • Demonstrate how customers will find benefit by using or switching to your solution

To be clear, this is not a series devoted to your pitch deck, style or format, or pitching skills; these might vary as much as the investors you intend to target. This series is about analyzing the content of your business plan or investor materials and, if you are not well prepared, what to do about it.

Defining the Problem or Trend

Stated problems.

In most cases, investors wish to comprehend the problems you're addressing or the trend you're capitalizing on. It can be helpful for you to hear from prospective customers about their problems. You can also learn about problems by surveying customers of competitors in your field or by reading social media posts or technical forum threads that highlight their frustrations. These types of direct reports from customers are known as stated problems.

Implied Problems

However, stated problems are usually only a small piece of the picture and, in my experience, do not contribute significantly to innovation. To elaborate on this, my favorite quote that hits the nail on the head dates back to the invention of the Model T by the grandfather of manufacturing:

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” - Henry Ford

Henry Ford understood a concept known as implied problems. The implied problems of his day? Horses are slow, require excessive maintenance (stables, hay, oats, grooming, etc.), and defecate in the streets. He recognized instinctively that there was a better way.

As an entrepreneur, you must also recognize implied problems the same way Henry Ford did, and concisely and effectively explain your logic and rationale about your target customers’ implied problems in such a way that the investor has an aha moment.

Due to the nature of trends, they are considerably easier to recognize. Generally, there is a social awareness and associated empirical data (research) that something is happening in a market or environment. The shift toward remote work is a prime example of a recent trend, and many businesses have positioned themselves to capitalize. In contrast, numerous businesses have been negatively affected by this trend.

Pro Tip: you may or may not have picked up on the fact that trends can, and often do, create problems, either stated or implied. Lean into this. Also, if you find the trends section of your brainstorming wall looking like that of a true crime detective, it’s probably not a trend. Trends should be easily explained, the investor should say, “yeah, I’ve heard about that.”

If your industry trend looks like a police case bulletin board, it's not a trend!

Clearly Convey the Opportunity

Now, novices frequently confuse opportunity with market size, so let's clear that up first. Opportunities are not always synonymous with market size; in fact, some opportunities generate previously unknown new markets. And understanding opportunities will help you position your product and brand, so it's pretty darn important. Suppose, for instance, you’re developing your business plan for angel investors and you have invented a novel, patented insert for coolers that keeps sandwiches and beverages organized and out of the water that collects at the bottom. And your product is well designed, well built, and expensive. You could spend thousands of dollars on gated (paid) research, which is crucial but only relays part of the facts. Why? Because market data tends to favor combined totals, which is significant, don't get me wrong, however, it only provides a partial picture of the opportunity. Accordingly, in the example of our cooler insert, it is essential that we understand the size and trends of the camping cooler market in the U.S.:

camping-cooler-market

This information from Statista is valuable knowledge, showing that the market is substantial and continually expanding. However, it does not assist you in creating a strong narrative for your particular opportunity. Instead, utilize one or more opportunity lenses to allow you to get more specific. For example, you may use the complementary product opportunity lens which would have you focus your research on growth within a certain segment of the industry that corresponds with your product's intended customers (e.g., premium cooler customers). And information about the market leader in this segment may prove more compelling.  

Since 2015, the compound annual growth rate for YETI, the global leader in premium brand coolers, has been greater than 18%. In fact, YETI's cooler and equipment sales totaled $552 million in 2021.

This type of information will help indicate that you have a strategic, targeted approach to the opportunity and that you are tying data from a complementary premium category to your premium offering (i.e., cheap coolers are also lumped in with the broad market data and irrelevant to your product). This type of opportunity analysis frequently influences design decisions, market entry point, and marketing techniques. Wouldn't it be great if you reached an agreement with REI and Cabela's to place your cooler insert display next to the YETI display?

I cannot overstate the importance of focusing on the strategy outlined in your business plan or investor materials with one or more opportunity analysis lenses. Here is a list of the most common opportunity analysis lenses:

  • Consumer segmentation opportunity analysis
  • Direct competition opportunity analysis
  • Indirect competition opportunity analysis
  • Other industries’ opportunity analysis
  • Complimentary product opportunity analysis
  • Environment opportunity analysis

You may be wondering, aren’t opportunities the ‘O’ in a SWOT analysis and why aren’t you talking about that? Well, two reasons. First, this post is focused on startups and early-stage companies and they tend to be a little light on strengths, their weaknesses are, well … everything, and the same with threats. Second, remember how I started this post? You’re trying to convince investors, usually in about 5 to 20 minutes, that your business is worth investing in, and that it has the potential to create a return. They aren’t going to cut a check right away and you're focusing on getting a second meeting. Trust me, as you begin to forge a relationship with an investor (if they are any good) there will be plenty of time to get into the threats you both see on the horizon and what to do about them. So, for now, spend your energy, time, and resources on using the lenses to analyze potential opportunities. I’ll get into more detail on each specific lens and how they are utilized in a separate post, which I’ll link back to here. 

One of the most frequent questions investors ask our clients is, "Why is now the ideal moment to launch this product/company/brand?" This question can throw off an inexperienced or ill-prepared entrepreneur. After all, you don’t have a crystal ball. Or do you?

Trick question. You don’t. No one does.

In lieu of a crystal ball, though, you have facts and logic, which are much more powerful. Timing is all about capitalizing on the knowledge gained via research and analysis (see above). Typically, it is not rocket science, and if it is, you had best ensure that your investors are also rocket scientists (hint: investors are not rocket scientists). I recommend that you attempt to anticipate this issue and provide a response in your materials. What trends are you noticing or market events have transpired to indicate now is the optimum moment to enter your market? And be honest with yourself; if you're opening a specialty grocer in a growing suburb, has the population reached its optimal level, or are you too early? If you're too early, are you ready to burn cash by operating in the red to prevent a future competitor from entering the local market? If you're an app developer and you detect a certain trend that your competition hasn't addressed, is it the proper moment to deliver your solution to the customer? In general, your market timing assertion is a logical inference. However, you need also to be familiar with two distinct concepts: the first mover and fast follower.

Do you know if Google was a first mover or a fast follower? And don’t cheat by Googling it (whoa, this just got meta). 

I’ll get into the concept of first-move and fast-follower in another post and how investors tend to consider you when claiming to be either.

Proposed Solution

Why do I wait until now to discuss how fantastic my solution is? Don't investors want to know that my product satisfies every requirement and desire of customers? 

In all but a few instances, I highly encourage you to wait. Unless, of course, you’ve solved nuclear fusion and the world's dirty energy problems, or you have built a safe and cost-effective teleportation system. Essentially, if you've invented something that has been in the Sci-Fi zeitgeist for decades, if you merely demonstrate the solution, investors will be clamoring to invest in your company. However, for the rest of us, we must first grasp the problems, trends, and opportunities for ourselves and our company, and then be able to contextualize the situation for the investor. Without this context, the investor cannot even begin to determine if there is any meat on the bones of your solution. 

Lastly, your proposed solution does not depict your product, its features, or its benefits. Your proposed solution is the solution itself. Customer X has problem Y, for which our solution is Z. That's it. Going back to Henry Ford, he might have said something like this: Our target customer is any red-blooded American who travels more than three miles per day on horseback, is sick and tired of boarding fees, a sore butt, and feces-covered streets, and we will deliver him an inexpensive, fast, and reliable motorized carriage which will solve all these problems and more. Notice, Mr. Ford did not say anything about the Model T or its features (e.g. how many people it would carry, or how far it could go on a tank of gas).  

Pro Tip: One thing to keep in mind is that you likely began creating your prototype, sketching the schematics for your new retail concept, or developing the UX/UI of your app by anticipating and predicting the market's needs. I call this the entrepreneur’s intuition. I love working with entrepreneurs because they have the unique ability to predict when something will be in vogue or needed. However, when you do these exercises, make sure you are not merely searching for evidence to support your argument (confirmation bias). If you only look for information to confirm your assumptions, you will likely miss the chance to evolve or redesign your product or model based on those findings, thereby making your business plan even stronger; or you will be unprepared to defend your position when, inevitably, the investor asks the dreaded "but what about ________________?" You should search for evidence to both support and refute your assertion. Only then can well-informed reactions, positioning statements, and plans be formulated.

Again, resist the urge to dive into the product itself and all of its innovative features at this stage. Customers purchase products based on two questions: 1) Does this product solve my problem/pain (or do the job I hired it for)? and 2) What are the benefits I will receive by purchasing this product? Logic suggests that if this is how customers think, investors will want to know this because it will further convince them that their money is safe with your company. 

Benefits are, if you will, an additional lens that assesses and explains how your product will touch the lives of your customers. There are six benefit categories:

  • Functional benefits
  • Operational benefits 
  • Emotional benefits
  • Quality benefits
  • Social benefits
  • Financial benefits

It would be nice if customers were these tidy, little creatures, responding to a single benefit. However, most people, consciously or unconsciously, seek multiple types of benefits from the product they purchase. Kind of a two (or three) birds, one stone approach. Can you guess which types of benefits your favorite brands are communicating? I’ll give you a hint - even simple products, like candy bars, focus on more than one benefit. I will devote another post to defining and explaining each.  

snickers

Unless you've been meticulous in your business planning or investor materials development, you're probably feeling quite overwhelmed at this stage. I acknowledge that these are challenging topics and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If it were simple, everyone would do it. However, I am convinced that one of two outcomes will occur if you abandon confirmation bias, roll up your sleeves, and utilize this method to develop your model, strategy, and materials. Either you'll conclude that the idea you're working on is not as innovative and investor-worthy as you originally believed (which is good, as it saves you money, time, heartache, a bruised ego, and relationships, and allows you to move on to your next idea), or you'll be better equipped to help your investors realize that you’re a good bet, thereby facilitating the launch, growth, and success of your company.

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How to Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (+ Template and Examples)

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Every successful business has one thing in common, a good and well-executed business plan. A business plan is more than a document, it is a complete guide that outlines the goals your business wants to achieve, including its financial goals . It helps you analyze results, make strategic decisions, show your business operations and growth.

If you want to start a business or already have one and need to pitch it to investors for funding, writing a good business plan improves your chances of attracting financiers. As a startup, if you want to secure loans from financial institutions, part of the requirements involve submitting your business plan.

Writing a business plan does not have to be a complicated or time-consuming process. In this article, you will learn the step-by-step process for writing a successful business plan.

You will also learn what you need a business plan for, tips and strategies for writing a convincing business plan, business plan examples and templates that will save you tons of time, and the alternatives to the traditional business plan.

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What Do You Need A Business Plan For?

Businesses create business plans for different purposes such as to secure funds, monitor business growth, measure your marketing strategies, and measure your business success.

1. Secure Funds

One of the primary reasons for writing a business plan is to secure funds, either from financial institutions/agencies or investors.

For you to effectively acquire funds, your business plan must contain the key elements of your business plan . For example, your business plan should include your growth plans, goals you want to achieve, and milestones you have recorded.

A business plan can also attract new business partners that are willing to contribute financially and intellectually. If you are writing a business plan to a bank, your project must show your traction , that is, the proof that you can pay back any loan borrowed.

Also, if you are writing to an investor, your plan must contain evidence that you can effectively utilize the funds you want them to invest in your business. Here, you are using your business plan to persuade a group or an individual that your business is a source of a good investment.

2. Monitor Business Growth

A business plan can help you track cash flows in your business. It steers your business to greater heights. A business plan capable of tracking business growth should contain:

  • The business goals
  • Methods to achieve the goals
  • Time-frame for attaining those goals

A good business plan should guide you through every step in achieving your goals. It can also track the allocation of assets to every aspect of the business. You can tell when you are spending more than you should on a project.

You can compare a business plan to a written GPS. It helps you manage your business and hints at the right time to expand your business.

3. Measure Business Success

A business plan can help you measure your business success rate. Some small-scale businesses are thriving better than more prominent companies because of their track record of success.

Right from the onset of your business operation, set goals and work towards them. Write a plan to guide you through your procedures. Use your plan to measure how much you have achieved and how much is left to attain.

You can also weigh your success by monitoring the position of your brand relative to competitors. On the other hand, a business plan can also show you why you have not achieved a goal. It can tell if you have elapsed the time frame you set to attain a goal.

4. Document Your Marketing Strategies

You can use a business plan to document your marketing plans. Every business should have an effective marketing plan.

Competition mandates every business owner to go the extraordinary mile to remain relevant in the market. Your business plan should contain your marketing strategies that work. You can measure the success rate of your marketing plans.

In your business plan, your marketing strategy must answer the questions:

  • How do you want to reach your target audience?
  • How do you plan to retain your customers?
  • What is/are your pricing plans?
  • What is your budget for marketing?

Business Plan Infographic

How to Write a Business Plan Step-by-Step

1. create your executive summary.

The executive summary is a snapshot of your business or a high-level overview of your business purposes and plans . Although the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, most people write it last. The length of the executive summary is not more than two pages.

Executive Summary of the business plan

Generally, there are nine sections in a business plan, the executive summary should condense essential ideas from the other eight sections.

A good executive summary should do the following:

  • A Snapshot of Growth Potential. Briefly inform the reader about your company and why it will be successful)
  • Contain your Mission Statement which explains what the main objective or focus of your business is.
  • Product Description and Differentiation. Brief description of your products or services and why it is different from other solutions in the market.
  • The Team. Basic information about your company’s leadership team and employees
  • Business Concept. A solid description of what your business does.
  • Target Market. The customers you plan to sell to.
  • Marketing Strategy. Your plans on reaching and selling to your customers
  • Current Financial State. Brief information about what revenue your business currently generates.
  • Projected Financial State. Brief information about what you foresee your business revenue to be in the future.

The executive summary is the make-or-break section of your business plan. If your summary cannot in less than two pages cannot clearly describe how your business will solve a particular problem of your target audience and make a profit, your business plan is set on a faulty foundation.

Avoid using the executive summary to hype your business, instead, focus on helping the reader understand the what and how of your plan.

View the executive summary as an opportunity to introduce your vision for your company. You know your executive summary is powerful when it can answer these key questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What sector or industry are you in?
  • What are your products and services?
  • What is the future of your industry?
  • Is your company scaleable?
  • Who are the owners and leaders of your company? What are their backgrounds and experience levels?
  • What is the motivation for starting your company?
  • What are the next steps?

Writing the executive summary last although it is the most important section of your business plan is an excellent idea. The reason why is because it is a high-level overview of your business plan. It is the section that determines whether potential investors and lenders will read further or not.

The executive summary can be a stand-alone document that covers everything in your business plan. It is not uncommon for investors to request only the executive summary when evaluating your business. If the information in the executive summary impresses them, they will ask for the complete business plan.

If you are writing your business plan for your planning purposes, you do not need to write the executive summary.

2. Add Your Company Overview

The company overview or description is the next section in your business plan after the executive summary. It describes what your business does.

Adding your company overview can be tricky especially when your business is still in the planning stages. Existing businesses can easily summarize their current operations but may encounter difficulties trying to explain what they plan to become.

Your company overview should contain the following:

  • What products and services you will provide
  • Geographical markets and locations your company have a presence
  • What you need to run your business
  • Who your target audience or customers are
  • Who will service your customers
  • Your company’s purpose, mission, and vision
  • Information about your company’s founders
  • Who the founders are
  • Notable achievements of your company so far

When creating a company overview, you have to focus on three basics: identifying your industry, identifying your customer, and explaining the problem you solve.

If you are stuck when creating your company overview, try to answer some of these questions that pertain to you.

  • Who are you targeting? (The answer is not everyone)
  • What pain point does your product or service solve for your customers that they will be willing to spend money on resolving?
  • How does your product or service overcome that pain point?
  • Where is the location of your business?
  • What products, equipment, and services do you need to run your business?
  • How is your company’s product or service different from your competition in the eyes of your customers?
  • How many employees do you need and what skills do you require them to have?

After answering some or all of these questions, you will get more than enough information you need to write your company overview or description section. When writing this section, describe what your company does for your customers.

It describes what your business does

The company description or overview section contains three elements: mission statement, history, and objectives.

  • Mission Statement

The mission statement refers to the reason why your business or company is existing. It goes beyond what you do or sell, it is about the ‘why’. A good mission statement should be emotional and inspirational.

Your mission statement should follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid). For example, Shopify’s mission statement is “Make commerce better for everyone.”

When describing your company’s history, make it simple and avoid the temptation of tying it to a defensive narrative. Write it in the manner you would a profile. Your company’s history should include the following information:

  • Founding Date
  • Major Milestones
  • Location(s)
  • Flagship Products or Services
  • Number of Employees
  • Executive Leadership Roles

When you fill in this information, you use it to write one or two paragraphs about your company’s history.

Business Objectives

Your business objective must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.) Failure to clearly identify your business objectives does not inspire confidence and makes it hard for your team members to work towards a common purpose.

3. Perform Market and Competitive Analyses to Proof a Big Enough Business Opportunity

The third step in writing a business plan is the market and competitive analysis section. Every business, no matter the size, needs to perform comprehensive market and competitive analyses before it enters into a market.

Performing market and competitive analyses are critical for the success of your business. It helps you avoid entering the right market with the wrong product, or vice versa. Anyone reading your business plans, especially financiers and financial institutions will want to see proof that there is a big enough business opportunity you are targeting.

This section is where you describe the market and industry you want to operate in and show the big opportunities in the market that your business can leverage to make a profit. If you noticed any unique trends when doing your research, show them in this section.

Market analysis alone is not enough, you have to add competitive analysis to strengthen this section. There are already businesses in the industry or market, how do you plan to take a share of the market from them?

You have to clearly illustrate the competitive landscape in your business plan. Are there areas your competitors are doing well? Are there areas where they are not doing so well? Show it.

Make it clear in this section why you are moving into the industry and what weaknesses are present there that you plan to explain. How are your competitors going to react to your market entry? How do you plan to get customers? Do you plan on taking your competitors' competitors, tap into other sources for customers, or both?

Illustrate the competitive landscape as well. What are your competitors doing well and not so well?

Answering these questions and thoughts will aid your market and competitive analysis of the opportunities in your space. Depending on how sophisticated your industry is, or the expectations of your financiers, you may need to carry out a more comprehensive market and competitive analysis to prove that big business opportunity.

Instead of looking at the market and competitive analyses as one entity, separating them will make the research even more comprehensive.

Market Analysis

Market analysis, boarding speaking, refers to research a business carried out on its industry, market, and competitors. It helps businesses gain a good understanding of their target market and the outlook of their industry. Before starting a company, it is vital to carry out market research to find out if the market is viable.

Market Analysis for Online Business

The market analysis section is a key part of the business plan. It is the section where you identify who your best clients or customers are. You cannot omit this section, without it your business plan is incomplete.

A good market analysis will tell your readers how you fit into the existing market and what makes you stand out. This section requires in-depth research, it will probably be the most time-consuming part of the business plan to write.

  • Market Research

To create a compelling market analysis that will win over investors and financial institutions, you have to carry out thorough market research . Your market research should be targeted at your primary target market for your products or services. Here is what you want to find out about your target market.

  • Your target market’s needs or pain points
  • The existing solutions for their pain points
  • Geographic Location
  • Demographics

The purpose of carrying out a marketing analysis is to get all the information you need to show that you have a solid and thorough understanding of your target audience.

Only after you have fully understood the people you plan to sell your products or services to, can you evaluate correctly if your target market will be interested in your products or services.

You can easily convince interested parties to invest in your business if you can show them you thoroughly understand the market and show them that there is a market for your products or services.

How to Quantify Your Target Market

One of the goals of your marketing research is to understand who your ideal customers are and their purchasing power. To quantify your target market, you have to determine the following:

  • Your Potential Customers: They are the people you plan to target. For example, if you sell accounting software for small businesses , then anyone who runs an enterprise or large business is unlikely to be your customers. Also, individuals who do not have a business will most likely not be interested in your product.
  • Total Households: If you are selling household products such as heating and air conditioning systems, determining the number of total households is more important than finding out the total population in the area you want to sell to. The logic is simple, people buy the product but it is the household that uses it.
  • Median Income: You need to know the median income of your target market. If you target a market that cannot afford to buy your products and services, your business will not last long.
  • Income by Demographics: If your potential customers belong to a certain age group or gender, determining income levels by demographics is necessary. For example, if you sell men's clothes, your target audience is men.

What Does a Good Market Analysis Entail?

Your business does not exist on its own, it can only flourish within an industry and alongside competitors. Market analysis takes into consideration your industry, target market, and competitors. Understanding these three entities will drastically improve your company’s chances of success.

Market Analysis Steps

You can view your market analysis as an examination of the market you want to break into and an education on the emerging trends and themes in that market. Good market analyses include the following:

  • Industry Description. You find out about the history of your industry, the current and future market size, and who the largest players/companies are in your industry.
  • Overview of Target Market. You research your target market and its characteristics. Who are you targeting? Note, it cannot be everyone, it has to be a specific group. You also have to find out all information possible about your customers that can help you understand how and why they make buying decisions.
  • Size of Target Market: You need to know the size of your target market, how frequently they buy, and the expected quantity they buy so you do not risk overproducing and having lots of bad inventory. Researching the size of your target market will help you determine if it is big enough for sustained business or not.
  • Growth Potential: Before picking a target market, you want to be sure there are lots of potential for future growth. You want to avoid going for an industry that is declining slowly or rapidly with almost zero growth potential.
  • Market Share Potential: Does your business stand a good chance of taking a good share of the market?
  • Market Pricing and Promotional Strategies: Your market analysis should give you an idea of the price point you can expect to charge for your products and services. Researching your target market will also give you ideas of pricing strategies you can implement to break into the market or to enjoy maximum profits.
  • Potential Barriers to Entry: One of the biggest benefits of conducting market analysis is that it shows you every potential barrier to entry your business will likely encounter. It is a good idea to discuss potential barriers to entry such as changing technology. It informs readers of your business plan that you understand the market.
  • Research on Competitors: You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and how you can exploit them for the benefit of your business. Find patterns and trends among your competitors that make them successful, discover what works and what doesn’t, and see what you can do better.

The market analysis section is not just for talking about your target market, industry, and competitors. You also have to explain how your company can fill the hole you have identified in the market.

Here are some questions you can answer that can help you position your product or service in a positive light to your readers.

  • Is your product or service of superior quality?
  • What additional features do you offer that your competitors do not offer?
  • Are you targeting a ‘new’ market?

Basically, your market analysis should include an analysis of what already exists in the market and an explanation of how your company fits into the market.

Competitive Analysis

In the competitive analysis section, y ou have to understand who your direct and indirect competitions are, and how successful they are in the marketplace. It is the section where you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, the advantage(s) they possess in the market and show the unique features or qualities that make you different from your competitors.

Four Steps to Create a Competitive Marketing Analysis

Many businesses do market analysis and competitive analysis together. However, to fully understand what the competitive analysis entails, it is essential to separate it from the market analysis.

Competitive analysis for your business can also include analysis on how to overcome barriers to entry in your target market.

The primary goal of conducting a competitive analysis is to distinguish your business from your competitors. A strong competitive analysis is essential if you want to convince potential funding sources to invest in your business. You have to show potential investors and lenders that your business has what it takes to compete in the marketplace successfully.

Competitive analysis will s how you what the strengths of your competition are and what they are doing to maintain that advantage.

When doing your competitive research, you first have to identify your competitor and then get all the information you can about them. The idea of spending time to identify your competitor and learn everything about them may seem daunting but it is well worth it.

Find answers to the following questions after you have identified who your competitors are.

  • What are your successful competitors doing?
  • Why is what they are doing working?
  • Can your business do it better?
  • What are the weaknesses of your successful competitors?
  • What are they not doing well?
  • Can your business turn its weaknesses into strengths?
  • How good is your competitors’ customer service?
  • Where do your competitors invest in advertising?
  • What sales and pricing strategies are they using?
  • What marketing strategies are they using?
  • What kind of press coverage do they get?
  • What are their customers saying about your competitors (both the positive and negative)?

If your competitors have a website, it is a good idea to visit their websites for more competitors’ research. Check their “About Us” page for more information.

How to Perform Competitive Analysis

If you are presenting your business plan to investors, you need to clearly distinguish yourself from your competitors. Investors can easily tell when you have not properly researched your competitors.

Take time to think about what unique qualities or features set you apart from your competitors. If you do not have any direct competition offering your product to the market, it does not mean you leave out the competitor analysis section blank. Instead research on other companies that are providing a similar product, or whose product is solving the problem your product solves.

The next step is to create a table listing the top competitors you want to include in your business plan. Ensure you list your business as the last and on the right. What you just created is known as the competitor analysis table.

Direct vs Indirect Competition

You cannot know if your product or service will be a fit for your target market if you have not understood your business and the competitive landscape.

There is no market you want to target where you will not encounter competition, even if your product is innovative. Including competitive analysis in your business plan is essential.

If you are entering an established market, you need to explain how you plan to differentiate your products from the available options in the market. Also, include a list of few companies that you view as your direct competitors The competition you face in an established market is your direct competition.

In situations where you are entering a market with no direct competition, it does not mean there is no competition there. Consider your indirect competition that offers substitutes for the products or services you offer.

For example, if you sell an innovative SaaS product, let us say a project management software , a company offering time management software is your indirect competition.

There is an easy way to find out who your indirect competitors are in the absence of no direct competitors. You simply have to research how your potential customers are solving the problems that your product or service seeks to solve. That is your direct competition.

Factors that Differentiate Your Business from the Competition

There are three main factors that any business can use to differentiate itself from its competition. They are cost leadership, product differentiation, and market segmentation.

1. Cost Leadership

A strategy you can impose to maximize your profits and gain an edge over your competitors. It involves offering lower prices than what the majority of your competitors are offering.

A common practice among businesses looking to enter into a market where there are dominant players is to use free trials or pricing to attract as many customers as possible to their offer.

2. Product Differentiation

Your product or service should have a unique selling proposition (USP) that your competitors do not have or do not stress in their marketing.

Part of the marketing strategy should involve making your products unique and different from your competitors. It does not have to be different from your competitors, it can be the addition to a feature or benefit that your competitors do not currently have.

3. Market Segmentation

As a new business seeking to break into an industry, you will gain more success from focusing on a specific niche or target market, and not the whole industry.

If your competitors are focused on a general need or target market, you can differentiate yourself from them by having a small and hyper-targeted audience. For example, if your competitors are selling men’s clothes in their online stores , you can sell hoodies for men.

4. Define Your Business and Management Structure

The next step in your business plan is your business and management structure. It is the section where you describe the legal structure of your business and the team running it.

Your business is only as good as the management team that runs it, while the management team can only strive when there is a proper business and management structure in place.

If your company is a sole proprietor or a limited liability company (LLC), a general or limited partnership, or a C or an S corporation, state it clearly in this section.

Use an organizational chart to show the management structure in your business. Clearly show who is in charge of what area in your company. It is where you show how each key manager or team leader’s unique experience can contribute immensely to the success of your company. You can also opt to add the resumes and CVs of the key players in your company.

The business and management structure section should show who the owner is, and other owners of the businesses (if the business has other owners). For businesses or companies with multiple owners, include the percent ownership of the various owners and clearly show the extent of each others’ involvement in the company.

Investors want to know who is behind the company and the team running it to determine if it has the right management to achieve its set goals.

Management Team

The management team section is where you show that you have the right team in place to successfully execute the business operations and ideas. Take time to create the management structure for your business. Think about all the important roles and responsibilities that you need managers for to grow your business.

Include brief bios of each key team member and ensure you highlight only the relevant information that is needed. If your team members have background industry experience or have held top positions for other companies and achieved success while filling that role, highlight it in this section.

Create Management Team For Business Plan

A common mistake that many startups make is assigning C-level titles such as (CMO and CEO) to everyone on their team. It is unrealistic for a small business to have those titles. While it may look good on paper for the ego of your team members, it can prevent investors from investing in your business.

Instead of building an unrealistic management structure that does not fit your business reality, it is best to allow business titles to grow as the business grows. Starting everyone at the top leaves no room for future change or growth, which is bad for productivity.

Your management team does not have to be complete before you start writing your business plan. You can have a complete business plan even when there are managerial positions that are empty and need filling.

If you have management gaps in your team, simply show the gaps and indicate you are searching for the right candidates for the role(s). Investors do not expect you to have a full management team when you are just starting your business.

Key Questions to Answer When Structuring Your Management Team

  • Who are the key leaders?
  • What experiences, skills, and educational backgrounds do you expect your key leaders to have?
  • Do your key leaders have industry experience?
  • What positions will they fill and what duties will they perform in those positions?
  • What level of authority do the key leaders have and what are their responsibilities?
  • What is the salary for the various management positions that will attract the ideal candidates?

Additional Tips for Writing the Management Structure Section

1. Avoid Adding ‘Ghost’ Names to Your Management Team

There is always that temptation to include a ‘ghost’ name to your management team to attract and influence investors to invest in your business. Although the presence of these celebrity management team members may attract the attention of investors, it can cause your business to lose any credibility if you get found out.

Seasoned investors will investigate further the members of your management team before committing fully to your business If they find out that the celebrity name used does not play any actual role in your business, they will not invest and may write you off as dishonest.

2. Focus on Credentials But Pay Extra Attention to the Roles

Investors want to know the experience that your key team members have to determine if they can successfully reach the company’s growth and financial goals.

While it is an excellent boost for your key management team to have the right credentials, you also want to pay extra attention to the roles they will play in your company.

Organizational Chart

Organizational chart Infographic

Adding an organizational chart in this section of your business plan is not necessary, you can do it in your business plan’s appendix.

If you are exploring funding options, it is not uncommon to get asked for your organizational chart. The function of an organizational chart goes beyond raising money, you can also use it as a useful planning tool for your business.

An organizational chart can help you identify how best to structure your management team for maximum productivity and point you towards key roles you need to fill in the future.

You can use the organizational chart to show your company’s internal management structure such as the roles and responsibilities of your management team, and relationships that exist between them.

5. Describe Your Product and Service Offering

In your business plan, you have to describe what you sell or the service you plan to offer. It is the next step after defining your business and management structure. The products and services section is where you sell the benefits of your business.

Here you have to explain how your product or service will benefit your customers and describe your product lifecycle. It is also the section where you write down your plans for intellectual property like patent filings and copyrighting.

The research and development that you are undertaking for your product or service need to be explained in detail in this section. However, do not get too technical, sell the general idea and its benefits.

If you have any diagrams or intricate designs of your product or service, do not include them in the products and services section. Instead, leave them for the addendum page. Also, if you are leaving out diagrams or designs for the addendum, ensure you add this phrase “For more detail, visit the addendum Page #.”

Your product and service section in your business plan should include the following:

  • A detailed explanation that clearly shows how your product or service works.
  • The pricing model for your product or service.
  • Your business’ sales and distribution strategy.
  • The ideal customers that want your product or service.
  • The benefits of your products and services.
  • Reason(s) why your product or service is a better alternative to what your competitors are currently offering in the market.
  • Plans for filling the orders you receive
  • If you have current or pending patents, copyrights, and trademarks for your product or service, you can also discuss them in this section.

What to Focus On When Describing the Benefits, Lifecycle, and Production Process of Your Products or Services

In the products and services section, you have to distill the benefits, lifecycle, and production process of your products and services.

When describing the benefits of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Unique features
  • Translating the unique features into benefits
  • The emotional, psychological, and practical payoffs to attract customers
  • Intellectual property rights or any patents

When describing the product life cycle of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Upsells, cross-sells, and down-sells
  • Time between purchases
  • Plans for research and development.

When describing the production process for your products or services, you need to think about the following:

  • The creation of new or existing products and services.
  • The sources for the raw materials or components you need for production.
  • Assembling the products
  • Maintaining quality control
  • Supply-chain logistics (receiving the raw materials and delivering the finished products)
  • The day-to-day management of the production processes, bookkeeping, and inventory.

Tips for Writing the Products or Services Section of Your Business Plan

1. Avoid Technical Descriptions and Industry Buzzwords

The products and services section of your business plan should clearly describe the products and services that your company provides. However, it is not a section to include technical jargons that anyone outside your industry will not understand.

A good practice is to remove highly detailed or technical descriptions in favor of simple terms. Industry buzzwords are not necessary, if there are simpler terms you can use, then use them. If you plan to use your business plan to source funds, making the product or service section so technical will do you no favors.

2. Describe How Your Products or Services Differ from Your Competitors

When potential investors look at your business plan, they want to know how the products and services you are offering differ from that of your competition. Differentiating your products or services from your competition in a way that makes your solution more attractive is critical.

If you are going the innovative path and there is no market currently for your product or service, you need to describe in this section why the market needs your product or service.

For example, overnight delivery was a niche business that only a few companies were participating in. Federal Express (FedEx) had to show in its business plan that there was a large opportunity for that service and they justified why the market needed that service.

3. Long or Short Products or Services Section

Should your products or services section be short? Does the long products or services section attract more investors?

There are no straightforward answers to these questions. Whether your products or services section should be long or relatively short depends on the nature of your business.

If your business is product-focused, then automatically you need to use more space to describe the details of your products. However, if the product your business sells is a commodity item that relies on competitive pricing or other pricing strategies, you do not have to use up so much space to provide significant details about the product.

Likewise, if you are selling a commodity that is available in numerous outlets, then you do not have to spend time on writing a long products or services section.

The key to the success of your business is most likely the effectiveness of your marketing strategies compared to your competitors. Use more space to address that section.

If you are creating a new product or service that the market does not know about, your products or services section can be lengthy. The reason why is because you need to explain everything about the product or service such as the nature of the product, its use case, and values.

A short products or services section for an innovative product or service will not give the readers enough information to properly evaluate your business.

4. Describe Your Relationships with Vendors or Suppliers

Your business will rely on vendors or suppliers to supply raw materials or the components needed to make your products. In your products and services section, describe your relationships with your vendors and suppliers fully.

Avoid the mistake of relying on only one supplier or vendor. If that supplier or vendor fails to supply or goes out of business, you can easily face supply problems and struggle to meet your demands. Plan to set up multiple vendor or supplier relationships for better business stability.

5. Your Primary Goal Is to Convince Your Readers

The primary goal of your business plan is to convince your readers that your business is viable and to create a guide for your business to follow. It applies to the products and services section.

When drafting this section, think like the reader. See your reader as someone who has no idea about your products and services. You are using the products and services section to provide the needed information to help your reader understand your products and services. As a result, you have to be clear and to the point.

While you want to educate your readers about your products or services, you also do not want to bore them with lots of technical details. Show your products and services and not your fancy choice of words.

Your products and services section should provide the answer to the “what” question for your business. You and your management team may run the business, but it is your products and services that are the lifeblood of the business.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing your Products and Services Section

Answering these questions can help you write your products and services section quickly and in a way that will appeal to your readers.

  • Are your products existing on the market or are they still in the development stage?
  • What is your timeline for adding new products and services to the market?
  • What are the positives that make your products and services different from your competitors?
  • Do your products and services have any competitive advantage that your competitors’ products and services do not currently have?
  • Do your products or services have any competitive disadvantages that you need to overcome to compete with your competitors? If your answer is yes, state how you plan to overcome them,
  • How much does it cost to produce your products or services? How much do you plan to sell it for?
  • What is the price for your products and services compared to your competitors? Is pricing an issue?
  • What are your operating costs and will it be low enough for you to compete with your competitors and still take home a reasonable profit margin?
  • What is your plan for acquiring your products? Are you involved in the production of your products or services?
  • Are you the manufacturer and produce all the components you need to create your products? Do you assemble your products by using components supplied by other manufacturers? Do you purchase your products directly from suppliers or wholesalers?
  • Do you have a steady supply of products that you need to start your business? (If your business is yet to kick-off)
  • How do you plan to distribute your products or services to the market?

You can also hint at the marketing or promotion plans you have for your products or services such as how you plan to build awareness or retain customers. The next section is where you can go fully into details about your business’s marketing and sales plan.

6. Show and Explain Your Marketing and Sales Plan

Providing great products and services is wonderful, but it means nothing if you do not have a marketing and sales plan to inform your customers about them. Your marketing and sales plan is critical to the success of your business.

The sales and marketing section is where you show and offer a detailed explanation of your marketing and sales plan and how you plan to execute it. It covers your pricing plan, proposed advertising and promotion activities, activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success, and the benefits of your products and services.

There are several ways you can approach your marketing and sales strategy. Ideally, your marketing and sales strategy has to fit the unique needs of your business.

In this section, you describe how the plans your business has for attracting and retaining customers, and the exact process for making a sale happen. It is essential to thoroughly describe your complete marketing and sales plans because you are still going to reference this section when you are making financial projections for your business.

Outline Your Business’ Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

The sales and marketing section is where you outline your business’s unique selling proposition (USP). When you are developing your unique selling proposition, think about the strongest reasons why people should buy from you over your competition. That reason(s) is most likely a good fit to serve as your unique selling proposition (USP).

Target Market and Target Audience

Plans on how to get your products or services to your target market and how to get your target audience to buy them go into this section. You also highlight the strengths of your business here, particularly what sets them apart from your competition.

Target Market Vs Target Audience

Before you start writing your marketing and sales plan, you need to have properly defined your target audience and fleshed out your buyer persona. If you do not first understand the individual you are marketing to, your marketing and sales plan will lack any substance and easily fall.

Creating a Smart Marketing and Sales Plan

Marketing your products and services is an investment that requires you to spend money. Like any other investment, you have to generate a good return on investment (ROI) to justify using that marketing and sales plan. Good marketing and sales plans bring in high sales and profits to your company.

Avoid spending money on unproductive marketing channels. Do your research and find out the best marketing and sales plan that works best for your company.

Your marketing and sales plan can be broken into different parts: your positioning statement, pricing, promotion, packaging, advertising, public relations, content marketing, social media, and strategic alliances.

Your Positioning Statement

Your positioning statement is the first part of your marketing and sales plan. It refers to the way you present your company to your customers.

Are you the premium solution, the low-price solution, or are you the intermediary between the two extremes in the market? What do you offer that your competitors do not that can give you leverage in the market?

Before you start writing your positioning statement, you need to spend some time evaluating the current market conditions. Here are some questions that can help you to evaluate the market

  • What are the unique features or benefits that you offer that your competitors lack?
  • What are your customers’ primary needs and wants?
  • Why should a customer choose you over your competition? How do you plan to differentiate yourself from the competition?
  • How does your company’s solution compare with other solutions in the market?

After answering these questions, then you can start writing your positioning statement. Your positioning statement does not have to be in-depth or too long.

All you need to explain with your positioning statement are two focus areas. The first is the position of your company within the competitive landscape. The other focus area is the core value proposition that sets your company apart from other alternatives that your ideal customer might consider.

Here is a simple template you can use to develop a positioning statement.

For [description of target market] who [need of target market], [product or service] [how it meets the need]. Unlike [top competition], it [most essential distinguishing feature].

For example, let’s create the positioning statement for fictional accounting software and QuickBooks alternative , TBooks.

“For small business owners who need accounting services, TBooks is an accounting software that helps small businesses handle their small business bookkeeping basics quickly and easily. Unlike Wave, TBooks gives small businesses access to live sessions with top accountants.”

You can edit this positioning statement sample and fill it with your business details.

After writing your positioning statement, the next step is the pricing of your offerings. The overall positioning strategy you set in your positioning statement will often determine how you price your products or services.

Pricing is a powerful tool that sends a strong message to your customers. Failure to get your pricing strategy right can make or mar your business. If you are targeting a low-income audience, setting a premium price can result in low sales.

You can use pricing to communicate your positioning to your customers. For example, if you are offering a product at a premium price, you are sending a message to your customers that the product belongs to the premium category.

Basic Rules to Follow When Pricing Your Offering

Setting a price for your offering involves more than just putting a price tag on it. Deciding on the right pricing for your offering requires following some basic rules. They include covering your costs, primary and secondary profit center pricing, and matching the market rate.

  • Covering Your Costs: The price you set for your products or service should be more than it costs you to produce and deliver them. Every business has the same goal, to make a profit. Depending on the strategy you want to use, there are exceptions to this rule. However, the vast majority of businesses follow this rule.
  • Primary and Secondary Profit Center Pricing: When a company sets its price above the cost of production, it is making that product its primary profit center. A company can also decide not to make its initial price its primary profit center by selling below or at even with its production cost. It rather depends on the support product or even maintenance that is associated with the initial purchase to make its profit. The initial price thus became its secondary profit center.
  • Matching the Market Rate: A good rule to follow when pricing your products or services is to match your pricing with consumer demand and expectations. If you price your products or services beyond the price your customer perceives as the ideal price range, you may end up with no customers. Pricing your products too low below what your customer perceives as the ideal price range may lead to them undervaluing your offering.

Pricing Strategy

Your pricing strategy influences the price of your offering. There are several pricing strategies available for you to choose from when examining the right pricing strategy for your business. They include cost-plus pricing, market-based pricing, value pricing, and more.

Pricing strategy influences the price of offering

  • Cost-plus Pricing: This strategy is one of the simplest and oldest pricing strategies. Here you consider the cost of producing a unit of your product and then add a profit to it to arrive at your market price. It is an effective pricing strategy for manufacturers because it helps them cover their initial costs. Another name for the cost-plus pricing strategy is the markup pricing strategy.
  • Market-based Pricing: This pricing strategy analyses the market including competitors’ pricing and then sets a price based on what the market is expecting. With this pricing strategy, you can either set your price at the low-end or high-end of the market.
  • Value Pricing: This pricing strategy involves setting a price based on the value you are providing to your customer. When adopting a value-based pricing strategy, you have to set a price that your customers are willing to pay. Service-based businesses such as small business insurance providers , luxury goods sellers, and the fashion industry use this pricing strategy.

After carefully sorting out your positioning statement and pricing, the next item to look at is your promotional strategy. Your promotional strategy explains how you plan on communicating with your customers and prospects.

As a business, you must measure all your costs, including the cost of your promotions. You also want to measure how much sales your promotions bring for your business to determine its usefulness. Promotional strategies or programs that do not lead to profit need to be removed.

There are different types of promotional strategies you can adopt for your business, they include advertising, public relations, and content marketing.

Advertising

Your business plan should include your advertising plan which can be found in the marketing and sales plan section. You need to include an overview of your advertising plans such as the areas you plan to spend money on to advertise your business and offers.

Ensure that you make it clear in this section if your business will be advertising online or using the more traditional offline media, or the combination of both online and offline media. You can also include the advertising medium you want to use to raise awareness about your business and offers.

Some common online advertising mediums you can use include social media ads, landing pages, sales pages, SEO, Pay-Per-Click, emails, Google Ads, and others. Some common traditional and offline advertising mediums include word of mouth, radios, direct mail, televisions, flyers, billboards, posters, and others.

A key component of your advertising strategy is how you plan to measure the effectiveness and success of your advertising campaign. There is no point in sticking with an advertising plan or medium that does not produce results for your business in the long run.

Public Relations

A great way to reach your customers is to get the media to cover your business or product. Publicity, especially good ones, should be a part of your marketing and sales plan. In this section, show your plans for getting prominent reviews of your product from reputable publications and sources.

Your business needs that exposure to grow. If public relations is a crucial part of your promotional strategy, provide details about your public relations plan here.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a popular promotional strategy used by businesses to inform and attract their customers. It is about teaching and educating your prospects on various topics of interest in your niche, it does not just involve informing them about the benefits and features of the products and services you have,

The Benefits of Content Marketing

Businesses publish content usually for free where they provide useful information, tips, and advice so that their target market can be made aware of the importance of their products and services. Content marketing strategies seek to nurture prospects into buyers over time by simply providing value.

Your company can create a blog where it will be publishing content for its target market. You will need to use the best website builder such as Wix and Squarespace and the best web hosting services such as Bluehost, Hostinger, and other Bluehost alternatives to create a functional blog or website.

If content marketing is a crucial part of your promotional strategy (as it should be), detail your plans under promotions.

Including high-quality images of the packaging of your product in your business plan is a lovely idea. You can add the images of the packaging of that product in the marketing and sales plan section. If you are not selling a product, then you do not need to include any worry about the physical packaging of your product.

When organizing the packaging section of your business plan, you can answer the following questions to make maximum use of this section.

  • Is your choice of packaging consistent with your positioning strategy?
  • What key value proposition does your packaging communicate? (It should reflect the key value proposition of your business)
  • How does your packaging compare to that of your competitors?

Social Media

Your 21st-century business needs to have a good social media presence. Not having one is leaving out opportunities for growth and reaching out to your prospect.

You do not have to join the thousands of social media platforms out there. What you need to do is join the ones that your customers are active on and be active there.

Most popular social media platforms

Businesses use social media to provide information about their products such as promotions, discounts, the benefits of their products, and content on their blogs.

Social media is also a platform for engaging with your customers and getting feedback about your products or services. Make no mistake, more and more of your prospects are using social media channels to find more information about companies.

You need to consider the social media channels you want to prioritize your business (prioritize the ones your customers are active in) and your branding plans in this section.

Choosing the right social media platform

Strategic Alliances

If your company plans to work closely with other companies as part of your sales and marketing plan, include it in this section. Prove details about those partnerships in your business plan if you have already established them.

Strategic alliances can be beneficial for all parties involved including your company. Working closely with another company in the form of a partnership can provide access to a different target market segment for your company.

The company you are partnering with may also gain access to your target market or simply offer a new product or service (that of your company) to its customers.

Mutually beneficial partnerships can cover the weaknesses of one company with the strength of another. You should consider strategic alliances with companies that sell complimentary products to yours. For example, if you provide printers, you can partner with a company that produces ink since the customers that buy printers from you will also need inks for printing.

Steps Involved in Creating a Marketing and Sales Plan

1. Focus on Your Target Market

Identify who your customers are, the market you want to target. Then determine the best ways to get your products or services to your potential customers.

2. Evaluate Your Competition

One of the goals of having a marketing plan is to distinguish yourself from your competition. You cannot stand out from them without first knowing them in and out.

You can know your competitors by gathering information about their products, pricing, service, and advertising campaigns.

These questions can help you know your competition.

  • What makes your competition successful?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • What are customers saying about your competition?

3. Consider Your Brand

Customers' perception of your brand has a strong impact on your sales. Your marketing and sales plan should seek to bolster the image of your brand. Before you start marketing your business, think about the message you want to pass across about your business and your products and services.

4. Focus on Benefits

The majority of your customers do not view your product in terms of features, what they want to know is the benefits and solutions your product offers. Think about the problems your product solves and the benefits it delivers, and use it to create the right sales and marketing message.

Your marketing plan should focus on what you want your customer to get instead of what you provide. Identify those benefits in your marketing and sales plan.

5. Focus on Differentiation

Your marketing and sales plan should look for a unique angle they can take that differentiates your business from the competition, even if the products offered are similar. Some good areas of differentiation you can use are your benefits, pricing, and features.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing Your Marketing and Sales Plan

  • What is your company’s budget for sales and marketing campaigns?
  • What key metrics will you use to determine if your marketing plans are successful?
  • What are your alternatives if your initial marketing efforts do not succeed?
  • Who are the sales representatives you need to promote your products or services?
  • What are the marketing and sales channels you plan to use? How do you plan to get your products in front of your ideal customers?
  • Where will you sell your products?

You may want to include samples of marketing materials you plan to use such as print ads, website descriptions, and social media ads. While it is not compulsory to include these samples, it can help you better communicate your marketing and sales plan and objectives.

The purpose of the marketing and sales section is to answer this question “How will you reach your customers?” If you cannot convincingly provide an answer to this question, you need to rework your marketing and sales section.

7. Clearly Show Your Funding Request

If you are writing your business plan to ask for funding from investors or financial institutions, the funding request section is where you will outline your funding requirements. The funding request section should answer the question ‘How much money will your business need in the near future (3 to 5 years)?’

A good funding request section will clearly outline and explain the amount of funding your business needs over the next five years. You need to know the amount of money your business needs to make an accurate funding request.

Also, when writing your funding request, provide details of how the funds will be used over the period. Specify if you want to use the funds to buy raw materials or machinery, pay salaries, pay for advertisements, and cover specific bills such as rent and electricity.

In addition to explaining what you want to use the funds requested for, you need to clearly state the projected return on investment (ROI) . Investors and creditors want to know if your business can generate profit for them if they put funds into it.

Ensure you do not inflate the figures and stay as realistic as possible. Investors and financial institutions you are seeking funds from will do their research before investing money in your business.

If you are not sure of an exact number to request from, you can use some range of numbers as rough estimates. Add a best-case scenario and a work-case scenario to your funding request. Also, include a description of your strategic future financial plans such as selling your business or paying off debts.

Funding Request: Debt or Equity?

When making your funding request, specify the type of funding you want. Do you want debt or equity? Draw out the terms that will be applicable for the funding, and the length of time the funding request will cover.

Case for Equity

If your new business has not yet started generating profits, you are most likely preparing to sell equity in your business to raise capital at the early stage. Equity here refers to ownership. In this case, you are selling a portion of your company to raise capital.

Although this method of raising capital for your business does not put your business in debt, keep in mind that an equity owner may expect to play a key role in company decisions even if he does not hold a major stake in the company.

Most equity sales for startups are usually private transactions . If you are making a funding request by offering equity in exchange for funding, let the investor know that they will be paid a dividend (a share of the company’s profit). Also, let the investor know the process for selling their equity in your business.

Case for Debt

You may decide not to offer equity in exchange for funds, instead, you make a funding request with the promise to pay back the money borrowed at the agreed time frame.

When making a funding request with an agreement to pay back, note that you will have to repay your creditors both the principal amount borrowed and the interest on it. Financial institutions offer this type of funding for businesses.

Large companies combine both equity and debt in their capital structure. When drafting your business plan, decide if you want to offer both or one over the other.

Before you sell equity in exchange for funding in your business, consider if you are willing to accept not being in total control of your business. Also, before you seek loans in your funding request section, ensure that the terms of repayment are favorable.

You should set a clear timeline in your funding request so that potential investors and creditors can know what you are expecting. Some investors and creditors may agree to your funding request and then delay payment for longer than 30 days, meanwhile, your business needs an immediate cash injection to operate efficiently.

Additional Tips for Writing the Funding Request Section of your Business Plan

The funding request section is not necessary for every business, it is only needed by businesses who plan to use their business plan to secure funding.

If you are adding the funding request section to your business plan, provide an itemized summary of how you plan to use the funds requested. Hiring a lawyer, accountant, or other professionals may be necessary for the proper development of this section.

You should also gather and use financial statements that add credibility and support to your funding requests. Ensure that the financial statements you use should include your projected financial data such as projected cash flows, forecast statements, and expenditure budgets.

If you are an existing business, include all historical financial statements such as cash flow statements, balance sheets and income statements .

Provide monthly and quarterly financial statements for a year. If your business has records that date back beyond the one-year mark, add the yearly statements of those years. These documents are for the appendix section of your business plan.

8. Detail Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projections

If you used the funding request section in your business plan, supplement it with a financial plan, metrics, and projections. This section paints a picture of the past performance of your business and then goes ahead to make an informed projection about its future.

The goal of this section is to convince readers that your business is going to be a financial success. It outlines your business plan to generate enough profit to repay the loan (with interest if applicable) and to generate a decent return on investment for investors.

If you have an existing business already in operation, use this section to demonstrate stability through finance. This section should include your cash flow statements, balance sheets, and income statements covering the last three to five years. If your business has some acceptable collateral that you can use to acquire loans, list it in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

Apart from current financial statements, this section should also contain a prospective financial outlook that spans the next five years. Include forecasted income statements, cash flow statements, balance sheets, and capital expenditure budget.

If your business is new and is not yet generating profit, use clear and realistic projections to show the potentials of your business.

When drafting this section, research industry norms and the performance of comparable businesses. Your financial projections should cover at least five years. State the logic behind your financial projections. Remember you can always make adjustments to this section as the variables change.

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section create a baseline which your business can either exceed or fail to reach. If your business fails to reach your projections in this section, you need to understand why it failed.

Investors and loan managers spend a lot of time going through the financial plan, metrics, and projection section compared to other parts of the business plan. Ensure you spend time creating credible financial analyses for your business in this section.

Many entrepreneurs find this section daunting to write. You do not need a business degree to create a solid financial forecast for your business. Business finances, especially for startups, are not as complicated as they seem. There are several online tools and templates that make writing this section so much easier.

Use Graphs and Charts

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section is a great place to use graphs and charts to tell the financial story of your business. Charts and images make it easier to communicate your finances.

Accuracy in this section is key, ensure you carefully analyze your past financial statements properly before making financial projects.

Address the Risk Factors and Show Realistic Financial Projections

Keep your financial plan, metrics, and projection realistic. It is okay to be optimistic in your financial projection, however, you have to justify it.

You should also address the various risk factors associated with your business in this section. Investors want to know the potential risks involved, show them. You should also show your plans for mitigating those risks.

What You Should In The Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection Section of Your Business Plan

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section of your business plan should have monthly sales and revenue forecasts for the first year. It should also include annual projections that cover 3 to 5 years.

A three-year projection is a basic requirement to have in your business plan. However, some investors may request a five-year forecast.

Your business plan should include the following financial statements: sales forecast, personnel plan, income statement, income statement, cash flow statement, balance sheet, and an exit strategy.

1. Sales Forecast

Sales forecast refers to your projections about the number of sales your business is going to record over the next few years. It is typically broken into several rows, with each row assigned to a core product or service that your business is offering.

One common mistake people make in their business plan is to break down the sales forecast section into long details. A sales forecast should forecast the high-level details.

For example, if you are forecasting sales for a payroll software provider, you could break down your forecast into target market segments or subscription categories.

Benefits of Sales Forecasting

Your sales forecast section should also have a corresponding row for each sales row to cover the direct cost or Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). The objective of these rows is to show the expenses that your business incurs in making and delivering your product or service.

Note that your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) should only cover those direct costs incurred when making your products. Other indirect expenses such as insurance, salaries, payroll tax, and rent should not be included.

For example, the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) for a restaurant is the cost of ingredients while for a consulting company it will be the cost of paper and other presentation materials.

Factors that affect sales forecasting

2. Personnel Plan

The personnel plan section is where you provide details about the payment plan for your employees. For a small business, you can easily list every position in your company and how much you plan to pay in the personnel plan.

However, for larger businesses, you have to break the personnel plan into functional groups such as sales and marketing.

The personnel plan will also include the cost of an employee beyond salary, commonly referred to as the employee burden. These costs include insurance, payroll taxes , and other essential costs incurred monthly as a result of having employees on your payroll.

True HR Cost Infographic

3. Income Statement

The income statement section shows if your business is making a profit or taking a loss. Another name for the income statement is the profit and loss (P&L). It takes data from your sales forecast and personnel plan and adds other ongoing expenses you incur while running your business.

The income statement section

Every business plan should have an income statement. It subtracts your business expenses from its earnings to show if your business is generating profit or incurring losses.

The income statement has the following items: sales, Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), gross margin, operating expenses, total operating expenses, operating income , total expenses, and net profit.

  • Sales refer to the revenue your business generates from selling its products or services. Other names for sales are income or revenue.
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) refers to the total cost of selling your products. Other names for COGS are direct costs or cost of sales. Manufacturing businesses use the Costs of Goods Manufactured (COGM) .
  • Gross Margin is the figure you get when you subtract your COGS from your sales. In your income statement, you can express it as a percentage of total sales (Gross margin / Sales = Gross Margin Percent).
  • Operating Expenses refer to all the expenses you incur from running your business. It exempts the COGS because it stands alone as a core part of your income statement. You also have to exclude taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Your operating expenses include salaries, marketing expenses, research and development (R&D) expenses, and other expenses.
  • Total Operating Expenses refers to the sum of all your operating expenses including those exemptions named above under operating expenses.
  • Operating Income refers to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. It is simply known as the acronym EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Calculating your operating income is simple, all you need to do is to subtract your COGS and total operating expenses from your sales.
  • Total Expenses refer to the sum of your operating expenses and your business’ interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.
  • Net profit shows whether your business has made a profit or taken a loss during a given timeframe.

4. Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement tracks the money you have in the bank at any given point. It is often confused with the income statement or the profit and loss statement. They are both different types of financial statements. The income statement calculates your profits and losses while the cash flow statement shows you how much you have in the bank.

Cash Flow Statement Example

5. Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is a financial statement that provides an overview of the financial health of your business. It contains information about the assets and liabilities of your company, and owner’s or shareholders’ equity.

You can get the net worth of your company by subtracting your company’s liabilities from its assets.

Balance sheet Formula

6. Exit Strategy

The exit strategy refers to a probable plan for selling your business either to the public in an IPO or to another company. It is the last thing you include in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

You can choose to omit the exit strategy from your business plan if you plan to maintain full ownership of your business and do not plan on seeking angel investment or virtual capitalist (VC) funding.

Investors may want to know what your exit plan is. They invest in your business to get a good return on investment.

Your exit strategy does not have to include long and boring details. Ensure you identify some interested parties who may be interested in buying the company if it becomes a success.

Exit Strategy Section of Business Plan Infographic

Key Questions to Answer with Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection

Your financial plan, metrics, and projection section helps investors, creditors, or your internal managers to understand what your expenses are, the amount of cash you need, and what it takes to make your company profitable. It also shows what you will be doing with any funding.

You do not need to show actual financial data if you do not have one. Adding forecasts and projections to your financial statements is added proof that your strategy is feasible and shows investors you have planned properly.

Here are some key questions to answer to help you develop this section.

  • What is your sales forecast for the next year?
  • When will your company achieve a positive cash flow?
  • What are the core expenses you need to operate?
  • How much money do you need upfront to operate or grow your company?
  • How will you use the loans or investments?

9. Add an Appendix to Your Business Plan

Adding an appendix to your business plan is optional. It is a useful place to put any charts, tables, legal notes, definitions, permits, résumés, and other critical information that do not fit into other sections of your business plan.

The appendix section is where you would want to include details of a patent or patent-pending if you have one. You can always add illustrations or images of your products here. It is the last section of your business plan.

When writing your business plan, there are details you cut short or remove to prevent the entire section from becoming too lengthy. There are also details you want to include in the business plan but are not a good fit for any of the previous sections. You can add that additional information to the appendix section.

Businesses also use the appendix section to include supporting documents or other materials specially requested by investors or lenders.

You can include just about any information that supports the assumptions and statements you made in the business plan under the appendix. It is the one place in the business plan where unrelated data and information can coexist amicably.

If your appendix section is lengthy, try organizing it by adding a table of contents at the beginning of the appendix section. It is also advisable to group similar information to make it easier for the reader to access them.

A well-organized appendix section makes it easier to share your information clearly and concisely. Add footnotes throughout the rest of the business plan or make references in the plan to the documents in the appendix.

The appendix section is usually only necessary if you are seeking funding from investors or lenders, or hoping to attract partners.

People reading business plans do not want to spend time going through a heap of backup information, numbers, and charts. Keep these documents or information in the Appendix section in case the reader wants to dig deeper.

Common Items to Include in the Appendix Section of Your Business Plan

The appendix section includes documents that supplement or support the information or claims given in other sections of the business plans. Common items you can include in the appendix section include:

  • Additional data about the process of manufacturing or creation
  • Additional description of products or services such as product schematics
  • Additional financial documents or projections
  • Articles of incorporation and status
  • Backup for market research or competitive analysis
  • Bank statements
  • Business registries
  • Client testimonials (if your business is already running)
  • Copies of insurances
  • Credit histories (personal or/and business)
  • Deeds and permits
  • Equipment leases
  • Examples of marketing and advertising collateral
  • Industry associations and memberships
  • Images of product
  • Intellectual property
  • Key customer contracts
  • Legal documents and other contracts
  • Letters of reference
  • Links to references
  • Market research data
  • Organizational charts
  • Photographs of potential facilities
  • Professional licenses pertaining to your legal structure or type of business
  • Purchase orders
  • Resumes of the founder(s) and key managers
  • State and federal identification numbers or codes
  • Trademarks or patents’ registrations

Avoid using the appendix section as a place to dump any document or information you feel like adding. Only add documents or information that you support or increase the credibility of your business plan.

Tips and Strategies for Writing a Convincing Business Plan

To achieve a perfect business plan, you need to consider some key tips and strategies. These tips will raise the efficiency of your business plan above average.

1. Know Your Audience

When writing a business plan, you need to know your audience . Business owners write business plans for different reasons. Your business plan has to be specific. For example, you can write business plans to potential investors, banks, and even fellow board members of the company.

The audience you are writing to determines the structure of the business plan. As a business owner, you have to know your audience. Not everyone will be your audience. Knowing your audience will help you to narrow the scope of your business plan.

Consider what your audience wants to see in your projects, the likely questions they might ask, and what interests them.

  • A business plan used to address a company's board members will center on its employment schemes, internal affairs, projects, stakeholders, etc.
  • A business plan for financial institutions will talk about the size of your market and the chances for you to pay back any loans you demand.
  • A business plan for investors will show proof that you can return the investment capital within a specific time. In addition, it discusses your financial projections, tractions, and market size.

2. Get Inspiration from People

Writing a business plan from scratch as an entrepreneur can be daunting. That is why you need the right inspiration to push you to write one. You can gain inspiration from the successful business plans of other businesses. Look at their business plans, the style they use, the structure of the project, etc.

To make your business plan easier to create, search companies related to your business to get an exact copy of what you need to create an effective business plan. You can also make references while citing examples in your business plans.

When drafting your business plan, get as much help from others as you possibly can. By getting inspiration from people, you can create something better than what they have.

3. Avoid Being Over Optimistic

Many business owners make use of strong adjectives to qualify their content. One of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make when preparing a business plan is promising too much.

The use of superlatives and over-optimistic claims can prepare the audience for more than you can offer. In the end, you disappoint the confidence they have in you.

In most cases, the best option is to be realistic with your claims and statistics. Most of the investors can sense a bit of incompetency from the overuse of superlatives. As a new entrepreneur, do not be tempted to over-promise to get the interests of investors.

The concept of entrepreneurship centers on risks, nothing is certain when you make future analyses. What separates the best is the ability to do careful research and work towards achieving that, not promising more than you can achieve.

To make an excellent first impression as an entrepreneur, replace superlatives with compelling data-driven content. In this way, you are more specific than someone promising a huge ROI from an investment.

4. Keep it Simple and Short

When writing business plans, ensure you keep them simple throughout. Irrespective of the purpose of the business plan, your goal is to convince the audience.

One way to achieve this goal is to make them understand your proposal. Therefore, it would be best if you avoid the use of complex grammar to express yourself. It would be a huge turn-off if the people you want to convince are not familiar with your use of words.

Another thing to note is the length of your business plan. It would be best if you made it as brief as possible.

You hardly see investors or agencies that read through an extremely long document. In that case, if your first few pages can’t convince them, then you have lost it. The more pages you write, the higher the chances of you derailing from the essential contents.

To ensure your business plan has a high conversion rate, you need to dispose of every unnecessary information. For example, if you have a strategy that you are not sure of, it would be best to leave it out of the plan.

5. Make an Outline and Follow Through

A perfect business plan must have touched every part needed to convince the audience. Business owners get easily tempted to concentrate more on their products than on other sections. Doing this can be detrimental to the efficiency of the business plan.

For example, imagine you talking about a product but omitting or providing very little information about the target audience. You will leave your clients confused.

To ensure that your business plan communicates your full business model to readers, you have to input all the necessary information in it. One of the best ways to achieve this is to design a structure and stick to it.

This structure is what guides you throughout the writing. To make your work easier, you can assign an estimated word count or page limit to every section to avoid making it too bulky for easy reading. As a guide, the necessary things your business plan must contain are:

  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Product or service description
  • Target audience
  • Market size
  • Competition analysis
  • Financial projections

Some specific businesses can include some other essential sections, but these are the key sections that must be in every business plan.

6. Ask a Professional to Proofread

When writing a business plan, you must tie all loose ends to get a perfect result. When you are done with writing, call a professional to go through the document for you. You are bound to make mistakes, and the way to correct them is to get external help.

You should get a professional in your field who can relate to every section of your business plan. It would be easier for the professional to notice the inner flaws in the document than an editor with no knowledge of your business.

In addition to getting a professional to proofread, get an editor to proofread and edit your document. The editor will help you identify grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and inappropriate writing styles.

Writing a business plan can be daunting, but you can surmount that obstacle and get the best out of it with these tips.

Business Plan Examples and Templates That’ll Save You Tons of Time

1. hubspot's one-page business plan.

HubSpot's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan template by HubSpot is the perfect guide for businesses of any size, irrespective of their business strategy. Although the template is condensed into a page, your final business plan should not be a page long! The template is designed to ask helpful questions that can help you develop your business plan.

Hubspot’s one-page business plan template is divided into nine fields:

  • Business opportunity
  • Company description
  • Industry analysis
  • Target market
  • Implementation timeline
  • Marketing plan
  • Financial summary
  • Funding required

2. Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplans' free business plan template is investor-approved. It is a rich template used by prestigious educational institutions such as Babson College and Princeton University to teach entrepreneurs how to create a business plan.

The template has six sections: the executive summary, opportunity, execution, company, financial plan, and appendix. There is a step-by-step guide for writing every little detail in the business plan. Follow the instructions each step of the way and you will create a business plan that impresses investors or lenders easily.

3. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot’s downloadable business plan template is a more comprehensive option compared to the one-page business template by HubSpot. This free and downloadable business plan template is designed for entrepreneurs.

The template is a comprehensive guide and checklist for business owners just starting their businesses. It tells you everything you need to fill in each section of the business plan and how to do it.

There are nine sections in this business plan template: an executive summary, company and business description, product and services line, market analysis, marketing plan, sales plan, legal notes, financial considerations, and appendix.

4. Business Plan by My Own Business Institute

The Business Profile

My Own Business Institute (MOBI) which is a part of Santa Clara University's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers a free business plan template. You can either copy the free business template from the link provided above or download it as a Word document.

The comprehensive template consists of a whopping 15 sections.

  • The Business Profile
  • The Vision and the People
  • Home-Based Business and Freelance Business Opportunities
  • Organization
  • Licenses and Permits
  • Business Insurance
  • Communication Tools
  • Acquisitions
  • Location and Leasing
  • Accounting and Cash Flow
  • Opening and Marketing
  • Managing Employees
  • Expanding and Handling Problems

There are lots of helpful tips on how to fill each section in the free business plan template by MOBI.

5. Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score is an American nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs build successful companies. This business plan template for startups by Score is available for free download. The business plan template asks a whooping 150 generic questions that help entrepreneurs from different fields to set up the perfect business plan.

The business plan template for startups contains clear instructions and worksheets, all you have to do is answer the questions and fill the worksheets.

There are nine sections in the business plan template: executive summary, company description, products and services, marketing plan, operational plan, management and organization, startup expenses and capitalization, financial plan, and appendices.

The ‘refining the plan’ resource contains instructions that help you modify your business plan to suit your specific needs, industry, and target audience. After you have completed Score’s business plan template, you can work with a SCORE mentor for expert advice in business planning.

6. Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

The minimalist architecture business plan template is a simple template by Venngage that you can customize to suit your business needs .

There are five sections in the template: an executive summary, statement of problem, approach and methodology, qualifications, and schedule and benchmark. The business plan template has instructions that guide users on what to fill in each section.

7. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers two free business plan templates, filled with practical real-life examples that you can model to create your business plan. Both free business plan templates are written by fictional business owners: Rebecca who owns a consulting firm, and Andrew who owns a toy company.

There are five sections in the two SBA’s free business plan templates.

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Service Line
  • Marketing and Sales

8. The $100 Startup's One-Page Business Plan

The $100 Startup's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan by the $100 startup is a simple business plan template for entrepreneurs who do not want to create a long and complicated plan . You can include more details in the appendices for funders who want more information beyond what you can put in the one-page business plan.

There are five sections in the one-page business plan such as overview, ka-ching, hustling, success, and obstacles or challenges or open questions. You can answer all the questions using one or two sentences.

9. PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

The free business plan template by PandaDoc is a comprehensive 15-page document that describes the information you should include in every section.

There are 11 sections in PandaDoc’s free business plan template.

  • Executive summary
  • Business description
  • Products and services
  • Operations plan
  • Management organization
  • Financial plan
  • Conclusion / Call to action
  • Confidentiality statement

You have to sign up for its 14-day free trial to access the template. You will find different business plan templates on PandaDoc once you sign up (including templates for general businesses and specific businesses such as bakeries, startups, restaurants, salons, hotels, and coffee shops)

PandaDoc allows you to customize its business plan templates to fit the needs of your business. After editing the template, you can send it to interested parties and track opens and views through PandaDoc.

10. Invoiceberry Templates for Word, Open Office, Excel, or PPT

Invoiceberry Templates Business Concept

InvoiceBerry is a U.K based online invoicing and tracking platform that offers free business plan templates in .docx, .odt, .xlsx, and .pptx formats for freelancers and small businesses.

Before you can download the free business plan template, it will ask you to give it your email address. After you complete the little task, it will send the download link to your inbox for you to download. It also provides a business plan checklist in .xlsx file format that ensures you add the right information to the business plan.

Alternatives to the Traditional Business Plan

A business plan is very important in mapping out how one expects their business to grow over a set number of years, particularly when they need external investment in their business. However, many investors do not have the time to watch you present your business plan. It is a long and boring read.

Luckily, there are three alternatives to the traditional business plan (the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck). These alternatives are less laborious and easier and quicker to present to investors.

Business Model Canvas (BMC)

The business model canvas is a business tool used to present all the important components of setting up a business, such as customers, route to market, value proposition, and finance in a single sheet. It provides a very focused blueprint that defines your business initially which you can later expand on if needed.

Business Model Canvas (BMC) Infographic

The sheet is divided mainly into company, industry, and consumer models that are interconnected in how they find problems and proffer solutions.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

The business model canvas was developed by founder Alexander Osterwalder to answer important business questions. It contains nine segments.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

  • Key Partners: Who will be occupying important executive positions in your business? What do they bring to the table? Will there be a third party involved with the company?
  • Key Activities: What important activities will production entail? What activities will be carried out to ensure the smooth running of the company?
  • The Product’s Value Propositions: What does your product do? How will it be different from other products?
  • Customer Segments: What demography of consumers are you targeting? What are the habits of these consumers? Who are the MVPs of your target consumers?
  • Customer Relationships: How will the team support and work with its customer base? How do you intend to build and maintain trust with the customer?
  • Key Resources: What type of personnel and tools will be needed? What size of the budget will they need access to?
  • Channels: How do you plan to create awareness of your products? How do you intend to transport your product to the customer?
  • Cost Structure: What is the estimated cost of production? How much will distribution cost?
  • Revenue Streams: For what value are customers willing to pay? How do they prefer to pay for the product? Are there any external revenues attached apart from the main source? How do the revenue streams contribute to the overall revenue?

Lean Canvas

The lean canvas is a problem-oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas. It was proposed by Ash Maurya, creator of Lean Stack as a development of the business model generation. It uses a more problem-focused approach and it majorly targets entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

The lean canvas is a problem oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas

Lean Canvas uses the same 9 blocks concept as the business model canvas, however, they have been modified slightly to suit the needs and purpose of a small startup. The key partners, key activities, customer relationships, and key resources are replaced by new segments which are:

  • Problem: Simple and straightforward number of problems you have identified, ideally three.
  • Solution: The solutions to each problem.
  • Unfair Advantage: Something you possess that can't be easily bought or replicated.
  • Key Metrics: Important numbers that will tell how your business is doing.

Startup Pitch Deck

While the business model canvas compresses into a factual sheet, startup pitch decks expand flamboyantly.

Pitch decks, through slides, convey your business plan, often through graphs and images used to emphasize estimations and observations in your presentation. Entrepreneurs often use pitch decks to fully convince their target audience of their plans before discussing funding arrangements.

Startup Pitch Deck Presentation

Considering the likelihood of it being used in a small time frame, a good startup pitch deck should ideally contain 20 slides or less to have enough time to answer questions from the audience.

Unlike the standard and lean business model canvases, a pitch deck doesn't have a set template on how to present your business plan but there are still important components to it. These components often mirror those of the business model canvas except that they are in slide form and contain more details.

Airbnb Pitch Deck

Using Airbnb (one of the most successful start-ups in recent history) for reference, the important components of a good slide are listed below.

  • Cover/Introduction Slide: Here, you should include your company's name and mission statement. Your mission statement should be a very catchy tagline. Also, include personal information and contact details to provide an easy link for potential investors.
  • Problem Slide: This slide requires you to create a connection with the audience or the investor that you are pitching. For example in their pitch, Airbnb summarized the most important problems it would solve in three brief points – pricing of hotels, disconnection from city culture, and connection problems for local bookings.
  • Solution Slide: This slide includes your core value proposition. List simple and direct solutions to the problems you have mentioned
  • Customer Analysis: Here you will provide information on the customers you will be offering your service to. The identity of your customers plays an important part in fundraising as well as the long-run viability of the business.
  • Market Validation: Use competitive analysis to show numbers that prove the presence of a market for your product, industry behavior in the present and the long run, as well as the percentage of the market you aim to attract. It shows that you understand your competitors and customers and convinces investors of the opportunities presented in the market.
  • Business Model: Your business model is the hook of your presentation. It may vary in complexity but it should generally include a pricing system informed by your market analysis. The goal of the slide is to confirm your business model is easy to implement.
  • Marketing Strategy: This slide should summarize a few customer acquisition methods that you plan to use to grow the business.
  • Competitive Advantage: What this slide will do is provide information on what will set you apart and make you a more attractive option to customers. It could be the possession of technology that is not widely known in the market.
  • Team Slide: Here you will give a brief description of your team. Include your key management personnel here and their specific roles in the company. Include their educational background, job history, and skillsets. Also, talk about their accomplishments in their careers so far to build investors' confidence in members of your team.
  • Traction Slide: This validates the company’s business model by showing growth through early sales and support. The slide aims to reduce any lingering fears in potential investors by showing realistic periodic milestones and profit margins. It can include current sales, growth, valuable customers, pre-orders, or data from surveys outlining current consumer interest.
  • Funding Slide: This slide is popularly referred to as ‘the ask'. Here you will include important details like how much is needed to get your business off the ground and how the funding will be spent to help the company reach its goals.
  • Appendix Slides: Your pitch deck appendix should always be included alongside a standard pitch presentation. It consists of additional slides you could not show in the pitch deck but you need to complement your presentation.

It is important to support your calculations with pictorial renditions. Infographics, such as pie charts or bar graphs, will be more effective in presenting the information than just listing numbers. For example, a six-month graph that shows rising profit margins will easily look more impressive than merely writing it.

Lastly, since a pitch deck is primarily used to secure meetings and you may be sharing your pitch with several investors, it is advisable to keep a separate public version that doesn't include financials. Only disclose the one with projections once you have secured a link with an investor.

Advantages of the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck over the Traditional Business Plan

  • Time-Saving: Writing a detailed traditional business plan could take weeks or months. On the other hand, all three alternatives can be done in a few days or even one night of brainstorming if you have a comprehensive understanding of your business.
  • Easier to Understand: Since the information presented is almost entirely factual, it puts focus on what is most important in running the business. They cut away the excess pages of fillers in a traditional business plan and allow investors to see what is driving the business and what is getting in the way.
  • Easy to Update: Businesses typically present their business plans to many potential investors before they secure funding. What this means is that you may regularly have to amend your presentation to update statistics or adjust to audience-specific needs. For a traditional business plan, this could mean rewriting a whole section of your plan. For the three alternatives, updating is much easier because they are not voluminous.
  • Guide for a More In-depth Business Plan: All three alternatives have the added benefit of being able to double as a sketch of your business plan if the need to create one arises in the future.

Business Plan FAQ

Business plans are important for any entrepreneur who is looking for a framework to run their company over some time or seeking external support. Although they are essential for new businesses, every company should ideally have a business plan to track their growth from time to time.  They can be used by startups seeking investments or loans to convey their business ideas or an employee to convince his boss of the feasibility of starting a new project. They can also be used by companies seeking to recruit high-profile employee targets into key positions or trying to secure partnerships with other firms.

Business plans often vary depending on your target audience, the scope, and the goals for the plan. Startup plans are the most common among the different types of business plans.  A start-up plan is used by a new business to present all the necessary information to help get the business up and running. They are usually used by entrepreneurs who are seeking funding from investors or bank loans. The established company alternative to a start-up plan is a feasibility plan. A feasibility plan is often used by an established company looking for new business opportunities. They are used to show the upsides of creating a new product for a consumer base. Because the audience is usually company people, it requires less company analysis. The third type of business plan is the lean business plan. A lean business plan is a brief, straight-to-the-point breakdown of your ideas and analysis for your business. It does not contain details of your proposal and can be written on one page. Finally, you have the what-if plan. As it implies, a what-if plan is a preparation for the worst-case scenario. You must always be prepared for the possibility of your original plan being rejected. A good what-if plan will serve as a good plan B to the original.

A good business plan has 10 key components. They include an executive plan, product analysis, desired customer base, company analysis, industry analysis, marketing strategy, sales strategy, financial projection, funding, and appendix. Executive Plan Your business should begin with your executive plan. An executive plan will provide early insight into what you are planning to achieve with your business. It should include your mission statement and highlight some of the important points which you will explain later. Product Analysis The next component of your business plan is your product analysis. A key part of this section is explaining the type of item or service you are going to offer as well as the market problems your product will solve. Desired Consumer Base Your product analysis should be supplemented with a detailed breakdown of your desired consumer base. Investors are always interested in knowing the economic power of your market as well as potential MVP customers. Company Analysis The next component of your business plan is your company analysis. Here, you explain how you want to run your business. It will include your operational strategy, an insight into the workforce needed to keep the company running, and important executive positions. It will also provide a calculation of expected operational costs.  Industry Analysis A good business plan should also contain well laid out industry analysis. It is important to convince potential investors you know the companies you will be competing with, as well as your plans to gain an edge on the competition. Marketing Strategy Your business plan should also include your marketing strategy. This is how you intend to spread awareness of your product. It should include a detailed explanation of the company brand as well as your advertising methods. Sales Strategy Your sales strategy comes after the market strategy. Here you give an overview of your company's pricing strategy and how you aim to maximize profits. You can also explain how your prices will adapt to market behaviors. Financial Projection The financial projection is the next component of your business plan. It explains your company's expected running cost and revenue earned during the tenure of the business plan. Financial projection gives a clear idea of how your company will develop in the future. Funding The next component of your business plan is funding. You have to detail how much external investment you need to get your business idea off the ground here. Appendix The last component of your plan is the appendix. This is where you put licenses, graphs, or key information that does not fit in any of the other components.

The business model canvas is a business management tool used to quickly define your business idea and model. It is often used when investors need you to pitch your business idea during a brief window.

A pitch deck is similar to a business model canvas except that it makes use of slides in its presentation. A pitch is not primarily used to secure funding, rather its main purpose is to entice potential investors by selling a very optimistic outlook on the business.

Business plan competitions help you evaluate the strength of your business plan. By participating in business plan competitions, you are improving your experience. The experience provides you with a degree of validation while practicing important skills. The main motivation for entering into the competitions is often to secure funding by finishing in podium positions. There is also the chance that you may catch the eye of a casual observer outside of the competition. These competitions also provide good networking opportunities. You could meet mentors who will take a keen interest in guiding you in your business journey. You also have the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs whose ideas can complement yours.

Exlore Further

  • 12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)
  • 13 Sources of Business Finance For Companies & Sole Traders
  • 5 Common Types of Business Structures (+ Pros & Cons)
  • How to Buy a Business in 8 Steps (+ Due Diligence Checklist)

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Business Plan Roadmap: Building Your Path to Business Success

Published: 31 December, 2023

Social Share:

Stefan F.Dieffenbacher

Table of Contents

In today’s fast-paced entrepreneurial landscape, a meticulously crafted business plan functions as the guiding star for your venture’s journey toward success. Whether you’re an experienced entrepreneur or a budding startup creator, possessing a comprehensive business plan is indispensable, serving as the key to securing funding, making well-informed decisions, and effectively navigating the ever-evolving business environment.

Within the confines of this article, we will embark on a comprehensive exploration of the art of crafting an engaging and impactful business plan . We shall dissect critical components, including in-depth market research, meticulous financial projections, savvy marketing strategies, and effective operational blueprints. Additionally, we will unveil a plethora of tips and best practices designed to elevate your business plan above the competition, rendering it a value proposition for those seeking to invest in or collaborate with your enterprise.

What is a Business Plan

A business plan definition is a written document that outlines the goals, strategies, and detailed operational and financial plans of a business. It serves as a roadmap for the business, providing a clear direction for its growth and development. A typical business plan includes information about the company’s mission and vision, its products or services, market analysis, competition, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, organizational structure, financial projections, and funding requirements. Business plans are commonly used to secure funding from investors or lenders, guide the company’s operations, and communicate its vision and strategy to stakeholders.

what is a business plan

A conventional business plan typically divides into two primary segments:

  • The Explanatory Segment: This portion encompasses written content that serves the business purpose of providing a detailed description of the business idea and/or the company. It covers elements such as the executive summary, company overview, market analysis, product or service particulars, marketing and sales strategies, organizational structure, operational blueprints, and funding needs.
  • The Financial Segment: Within this section, you’ll discover financial data and projections, encompassing income statements, balance sheets, cash flow forecasts, and detailed information regarding financing prerequisites and potential sources. This segment offers a quantitative view of the business’s financial situation and future expectations.

Components of a Business Plan: What is Included in a Business Plan

Crafting a thorough and compelling business plan is a fundamental step for entrepreneurs and business leaders seeking to chart a successful course for their ventures. A well-structured business plan not only serves as a roadmap for your business’s growth but also communicates your vision, strategy, and potential to investors, partners, and stakeholders. The key components of a business plan make up a robust business plan, offering valuable insights and practical tips to help you create a document that inspires confidence and aligns your team with a shared vision. Each key element plays a critical role in constructing a business plan that not only secures financial support but also guides your organization toward sustainable success. Let’s delve deeper into these components, adding depth and clarity to your business plan ‘s narrative.

  • Executive Summary: This should succinctly encapsulate the essence of your business plan . It should briefly touch on the market opportunity, your unique value proposition, revenue projections, funding requirements, and the overarching goals of the business.
  • Company Description: Elaborate on your company’s history, including significant milestones and achievements. Clearly define your mission, vision, and values, providing insight into what drives the company’s culture and decisions.
  • Market Analysis: Delve into the market’s nuances by discussing not only its size but also its growth rate, trends, and dynamics. Highlight specific target market segments, customer personas, and pain points that your business aims to address. Include a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to showcase your understanding of the competitive landscape.
  • Products or Services: Offer a detailed explanation of your offerings, emphasizing their key features and benefits. Describe how these offerings fulfill specific customer needs or solve problems, and explain any proprietary technology or intellectual property.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy: Provide a comprehensive overview of your marketing and sales plans. Discuss your pricing strategy in depth, outlining how it aligns with market dynamics. Explain your distribution channels and marketing tactics, including digital and traditional methods.
  • Organizational Structure: Present bios of key team members, underscoring their relevant experience, expertise, and roles within the organization. Include an organizational chart to illustrate reporting relationships and the structure’s scalability.
  • Operational Plan: Go into detail about your daily operations, covering everything from production processes and supply chain management to facility requirements and technology utilization. Discuss quality control measures and scalability strategies.
  • Financial Projections: Provide a thorough breakdown of financial forecasts, including monthly or quarterly projections for at least three to five years. Explain the assumptions behind these numbers, including factors such as market growth rates and pricing strategies. Highlight critical financial metrics like burn rate, customer acquisition costs, and return on investment.
  • Funding Requirements: Specify the exact amount of capital you’re seeking, the purpose of the funds, and how the investment will be utilized to achieve specific milestones. Outline potential sources of funding, such as equity investment, loans, or grants. Clarify the expected terms and conditions.
  • Appendix: In the appendix, include supplementary materials that reinforce your business plan’s credibility and depth. This can encompass market research reports, letters of intent, prototypes, patents, legal contracts, and any other relevant documentation that adds value to your case.

Business Model Canvas Template

Your download is now available!

You can now access the complete Business Model Canvas Package, including a full presentation, related models and instructions for use.

The UNITE Business Model Canvas

Creating a business plan essential steps.

Creating a business plan is a crucial step in launching or growing a business. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you create an effective business plan :

1- Draft an Executive Summary:

  • Write a concise overview of your business, including the mission, vision, and goals.
  • Summarize the business concept, target market, and unique value proposition.
  • Keep it brief but compelling to grab the reader’s attention.

2- Compose a Business Description:

  • Provide detailed information about your business, industry, and the problem or need your product/service addresses.
  • Explain your mission, vision, and core values.
  • Describe the legal structure of your business (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation).

3- Conduct a Market Analysis:

  • Conduct thorough market research to understand your industry, target market, and competitors.
  • Define your target audience and demonstrate a clear understanding of market trends.
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).

4- Outline Organization and Management:

  • Outline the organizational structure of your business.
  • Introduce key team members and their roles, highlighting their relevant experience.
  • Provide an overview of your advisory board or external support.

5- Detail the Product or Service Line:

  • Describe your products or services in detail.
  • Highlight the features, benefits, and unique selling points.
  • Explain how your offerings meet the needs of your target market.

6- Develop a Marketing and Sales Strategy:

  • Develop a comprehensive marketing strategy to reach your target audience.
  • Outline your sales process, distribution channels , and pricing strategy.
  • Include a sales forecast and customer acquisition plan.

7- Specify Funding Request (if applicable):

  • Specify the amount of funding you are seeking (if any) and how you plan to use it.
  • Justify the funding request with clear financial projections and a solid business case.

8- Prepare Financial Projections:

  • Prepare detailed financial statements, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements.
  • Provide assumptions and methodologies used for financial forecasts.
  • Demonstrate your business’s profitability and financial viability.

9- Include an Appendix:

  • Include supplementary materials such as resumes, permits, contracts, market research, or any other relevant documents.
  • Keep this section optional but use it to provide additional context.

10- Review and Revise:

  • Review your business plan thoroughly for clarity, consistency, and completeness.
  • Seek feedback from mentors, advisors, or potential investors.
  • Revise the plan based on feedback and ensure it aligns with your business goals.

Remember, a business plan is a dynamic document that should be revisited and updated regularly to reflect changes in your business environment. It serves as a roadmap for your business and a valuable tool for communicating your vision to others.

Types of Business Plans

Startup business plan:.

A comprehensive document crafted by entrepreneurs to outline the vision, mission, target market, competition analysis, financial projections, and strategies for launching and operating a new business.

Feasibility Business Plan:

A plan designed to assess the viability of a business idea or project by analyzing market demand, potential challenges, financial feasibility, and overall sustainability before committing resources.

One-Page Business Plan:

A condensed version of a traditional business plan, focusing on key elements such as the business concept, target market, value proposition, marketing strategy, and financial projections—all presented on a single page.

What-If Business Plan:

A flexible and dynamic plan that explores various scenarios and outcomes based on changing factors or assumptions. It helps businesses anticipate challenges and adjust strategies accordingly.

Growth Business Plan:

Tailored for businesses aiming to expand, this plan outlines strategies for scaling operations, entering new markets, launching products or services, and includes financial projections to support growth initiatives.

Operations Business Plan:

Geared towards day-to-day activities, this plan details operational procedures, resource allocation, supply chain management, and other aspects essential for the smooth functioning of the business.

Strategic Business Plan:

A long-term plan outlining the organization’s mission, vision, core values, and strategic initiatives. It guides decision-making, sets priorities, and aligns the company toward achieving overarching objectives.

The purpose of a business plan

A business plan is not a static document with a limited shelf life; rather, it evolves alongside the company it represents. It serves as a dynamic tool that adapts to changing market conditions, emerging opportunities, and evolving strategic priorities. Here’s a closer look at its continuous relevance:

  • Guiding the Business ( Business Concept/Business Idea and Strategy ) : A business plan serves as an internal guide that helps entrepreneurs and management teams set clear objectives, develop business strategies, and make informed decisions. It provides a framework for prioritizing tasks, allocating resources, and monitoring progress toward achieving business goals.
  • Securing Financing: One of the primary reasons for creating a business plan is to secure financing from lenders, investors, or banks. A well-prepared plan presents a compelling case for why the business is a viable and profitable investment. It includes financial projections, market research, and a clear explanation of how the funds will be used to achieve growth.
  • Attracting Investors: For startups and early-stage companies, attracting equity investors is often crucial for rapid growth. A comprehensive business plan not only showcases the business opportunity but also outlines how investors can potentially realize significant returns on their investment. It highlights the company’s unique value proposition and competitive advantage.
  • Setting Goals and Objectives: Business plan s articulate both short-term and long-term objectives for the company. Specific, measurable, and time-bound goals are essential for motivating employees, aligning efforts, and tracking progress. Objectives can encompass revenue targets, market share goals, expansion plans, and more.
  • Managing Operations: Business plans include detailed operational plans, covering aspects such as production processes, supply chain management, inventory control, quality assurance, and logistics. These operational details ensure that the business runs smoothly and efficiently.
  • Market Analysis: Comprehensive market research within the business plan helps the company understand its target market, customer demographics, and competitive landscape. This knowledge enables the business to adapt to changing market conditions and identify opportunities for growth, product development, or market expansion.
  • Communicating the Vision: A well-crafted business plan communicates the company’s mission, vision, and values to both internal and external stakeholders. This clarity fosters a shared sense of purpose among employees and resonates with customers and partners.
  • Risk Management: Business plans identify potential risks and challenges that the company may encounter. By acknowledging these risks upfront, the plan can outline strategies for risk mitigation or contingency plans. This proactive approach helps the business better navigate unforeseen challenges.
  • Measuring Progress: A business plan serves as a benchmark for assessing the company’s performance and growth. By comparing actual results to the plan’s projections, the business can identify areas where it is excelling and areas that require adjustment. Regularly measuring progress is crucial for making data-driven decisions.
  • Exit Strategy: In some cases, especially for entrepreneurs and investors, a business plan includes an exit strategy. This strategy outlines how the business owners plan to realize their investment, whether through selling the company, going public, or transitioning leadership to others.
  • Competitive Adaptation: In the face of a constantly changing competitive landscape, a well-maintained business plan allows a company to regularly assess its competitive position. It aids in identifying emerging competitors, market shifts, and areas where the business can gain a competitive edge.
  • Performance Measurement: By providing a baseline for projected financials and key performance indicators (KPIs), a business plan becomes a tool for measuring actual performance against expectations. This ongoing evaluation enables the organization to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
  • Resource Allocation: As a company grows, it often requires additional resources such as capital, personnel, or technology. The business plan assists in rationalizing and justifying resource allocation decisions to support expansion or address operational challenges.
  • Innovation and Adaptation: In today’s rapidly changing business environment, adaptation and innovation are essential. A business plan encourages a culture of adaptability by fostering discussions on new opportunities and strategies for staying ahead of industry trends.
  • External Engagement: Externally, the business plan remains a valuable tool for engaging with investors, partners, lenders, and other stakeholders. It provides a transparent and comprehensive view of the company’s past performance and future potential.

Important External Tasks of a Business Plan

A business plan holds significance beyond its internal utility, as it acts as the company’s calling card in external contexts. Primarily, it serves as a persuasive tool for potential investors, bolstering the chances of securing essential financing, whether during startup or later stages for marketing initiatives or product development. Additionally, a well-crafted business plan proves valuable in negotiation discussions with potential key partners and regulatory bodies, enhancing the stability of current and future business relationships with customers and suppliers alike.

Here are some significant external tasks associated with a business plan:

  • Securing Financial Support: One of the primary external objectives of a business plan is to attract external financing from investors or lenders. A well-prepared plan should clearly communicate the company’s financial requirements and how those funds will be utilized to achieve its objectives.
  • Presenting to Investors: If you are seeking investment from angel investors, venture capitalists, or private equity firms, you must effectively present your business plan . This entails pitching your business to potential investors, highlighting key aspects of your plan, and addressing their inquiries and concerns.
  • Applying for Financing or Grants: If you intend to secure loans or grants to fund your business, your business plan will be a crucial component of your application. It should demonstrate your capacity to repay loans or meet grant criteria, as well as how the funds will drive growth.
  • Negotiating Partnerships and Collaborations: When pursuing partnerships, joint ventures, or alliances with other businesses, a business plan can outline the strategic advantages and potential outcomes of the collaboration. This is vital for persuading potential partners of the value of working together.
  • Ensuring Regulatory Compliance: Depending on your industry and location, you may need to submit your business plan to regulatory agencies for approval or compliance. This is particularly common in sectors like healthcare, finance, and energy.
  • Obtaining Licenses and Permits: If your business requires specific licenses or permits to operate, your business plan may be requested during the application process to demonstrate your readiness and compliance with regulations.
  • Facilitating Mergers and Acquisitions: In mergers or acquisitions, both the acquiring and target companies may need to provide business plans to potential investors or lenders involved in the transaction. This aids in evaluating the financial viability and strategic fit of the merger or acquisition.
  • Attracting Strategic Partners: In addition to traditional investors, you may seek to attract strategic partners who can offer resources, expertise, or distribution channels. You r business plan should compellingly illustrate why potential partners should collaborate with your company.
  • Preparing for an IPO (Initial Public Offering): If your long-term strategy includes taking your company public, a comprehensive business plan is essential to attract public market investors. It must provide a detailed view of your company’s financial health, growth potential, and market position.
  • Undergoing Due Diligence: When external parties consider investing in or partnering with your company, they often conduct due diligence. Your business plan should be precise and comprehensive to withstand scrutiny during this process.

When is a Business Plan Needed

When starting a new business, it makes sense to write a business plan . A strong business concept helps you find investors and convince big business figures, investors, or banks of your business idea.

In addition, a business plan forces a start-up to confront the strengths but also weaknesses of its business idea. However, an already existing company can equally benefit from a business plan. Many companies often lack a clearly recognizable strategy or guidelines against which success can be measured.

A business plan also leads to more transparency in entrepreneurial decisions and is necessary for an already existing company when raising outside capital and investors. An increasing number of investors and capital providers demand the submission of such a plan, thus making a strong business concept so important.

  • Startup Phase : A business plan is essential when starting a new venture as it helps define your business concept, target market, and competitive strategy. It outlines your initial funding requirements, revenue projections, and expected milestones, providing a roadmap for the early stages of your business.
  • Securing Financing : Whether you’re seeking a bank loan, angel investment, venture capital, or crowdfunding, a detailed business plan is a prerequisite. It should include financial forecasts, an analysis of your industry and competitors, and a clear description of how the funds will be used to grow the business.
  • Strategic Planning : Regularly updating your business plan is crucial for strategic planning . It allows you to assess your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis) and adjust your strategies accordingly. It provides a long-term vision and helps align the organization’s efforts toward common goals.
  • New Product or Service Launch : Before launching a new offering, a business plan helps you research the market, understand underserved customer needs, and determine the product’s unique selling points. It outlines your marketing and sales strategy, pricing structure, and expected return on investment.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions : In mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions, a business plan is used to evaluate the financial viability and strategic fit of the deal. It provides insights into the target company’s operations, revenue streams , and potential synergies with the acquiring company.
  • Partnerships and Alliances : When exploring collaborations with other businesses, a business plan outlines the mutual benefits and objectives of the partnership. It clarifies roles and responsibilities, risk-sharing arrangements, and how the partnership aligns with each party’s strategic goals.
  • Regulatory Compliance : Certain industries, like healthcare, finance, and energy, require businesses to submit comprehensive business plans to regulatory authorities. These plans demonstrate compliance with industry-specific regulations and provide transparency in operations.
  • Licensing and Permits : When applying for licenses or permits, particularly in regulated industries such as food service, healthcare, or construction, a business plan may be necessary to prove that your operations meet safety, health, and environmental standards.
  • IPO (Initial Public Offering) : Making a company public is a complex process. A thorough business plan is crucial to attract public investors. It should provide historical financial performance, future growth prospects, and a clear value proposition for potential shareholders.
  • Crisis Management : In times of financial distress or operational challenges, businesses may develop a crisis management or turnaround plan. This specialized business plan outlines the steps needed to stabilize the company’s finances, restructure operations, and restore profitability.

Example of Business Plan Structure

Generally, there are no fixed guidelines as to how a business plan should be structured. Business concepts heavily depend on the recipient of the business plan and the orientation and structure of the company. The following bullet points are therefore only to be understood as basic building blocks that must be adapted to the individual situation.

1. Business Concept/Business Idea and Strategy:

  • Illustrate your business concept, including the idea and methods for successful implementation.
  • Include a timeline for implementing the concept.
  • Optionally, provide information about your company and headquarters.

2. Company Description:

  • Provide detailed information about your company, including its name, location, legal structure, and history.
  • Explain your business’s purpose and the problems it aims to solve.
  • Describe your target market and your business’s role within it.

3. Target Market:

  • Market volume and potential.
  • Growth potential.
  • Barriers to entry and market restrictions.
  • Supplier positioning.
  • Relevant laws and regulations.
  • Competitor analysis (strengths, weaknesses, product range).
  • Identifying potential customers.

4- Operational Plan:

  • Describe your business’s day-to-day operations, including location, facilities, equipment, and technology.
  • Explain your supply chain, production processes, and quality control.
  • Address any regulatory or compliance requirements.

5. Products and Services:

  • Describe your products or services, highlighting how they differentiate from competitors.
  • Unique Selling Proposition.
  • Customer Benefits.
  • Competitive Advantages.
  • Innovation or optimization of existing products.
  • Patent or property rights.

6. Marketing and Sales Planning:

  • Outline your marketing strategy and timetable.
  • Specify market entry plans.
  • Set company goals related to market leadership, market share, revenue, and brand awareness.
  • Discuss sales policy, pricing policy, and communication policy & advertising.
  • Address sales methods, future developments, and pricing strategy justification.

7. Management, Employees, and Organization:

  • Highlight management skills, qualifications, and key team members.
  • Emphasize industry knowledge, social skills, previous successes, and professional experience.
  • Mention personnel development strategies.
  • Describe the organizational structure , focusing on procurement, development, production, sales, and administration.

8. Opportunities and Risks:

  • In the ‘Opportunities’ section, showcase the potential of your business idea and the conditions for exploiting that potential.
  • Address risks comprehensively, demonstrating a detailed and critical approach.
  • Include potential risk scenarios and proposed solutions.

9. Financial Planning:

  • Present concrete financial figures derived from previous analyses and plans.
  • Profit Planning: Include a profit and loss statement (P&L).
  • Balance Sheet: Provide an overview of assets, liabilities, and equity.
  • Liquidity Plan: Compare expenditures with available funds.

10. Appendix:

  • Include necessary documents like commercial register excerpts, business registrations, shareholder agreements, and legal forms.
  • Attach CVs and references of key team members.
  • Include relevant financial spreadsheets, patents, permits, licenses, brochures, leaflets, and organizational charts or graphs.

Reasons for Business Plan Failures

  • Lack of Market Research: Failing to thoroughly understand the target market and its needs can lead to products or services that don’t resonate with customers.
  • Inflexibility: A rigid plan that doesn’t adapt to changing market conditions or feedback from customers can become obsolete quickly.
  • Overly Optimistic Projections: Unrealistic financial projections can mislead investors and hinder the business’s ability to meet expectations.
  • Poor Execution: Even the best plan will fail without proper execution. A lack of skilled team members, resources, or a clear execution strategy can doom a business.
  • Ignoring Competition: Ignoring or underestimating competitors can lead to a business being unprepared for market competition.
  • Insufficient Funding: Underestimating the capital required to launch and sustain the business can lead to financial troubles.
  • Inadequate Marketing: Without effective marketing, even great products or services may go unnoticed by potential customers.
  • Ignoring Customer Feedback: Not listening to customer feedback and adjusting the business accordingly can result in products or services that don’t meet market needs.

Connecting The Dots: Importance of Business Model Canvas in Business Plan

Integrating the Business Model Canvas (BMC) into a traditional business plan is a pivotal process in crafting a comprehensive and highly effective business strategy . The Business Model Canvas , with its visual and succinct approach, offers a distinctive viewpoint on your business model. It functions as a complementary tool to the in-depth components of a traditional plan, strengthening your strategic capabilities. You can download it now.

The synergy between these two strategic instruments not only facilitates communication but also empowers you to analyze and adjust your business strategy with precision, ultimately fostering a pathway to success. In the following discussion, we delve into the significance of bridging the gap between these two potent tools within the domain of business planning. Here’s why the Business Model Canvas is essential within the context of a business plan:

  • Visual Representation: The Business Model Canvas provides a visual framework that allows you to quickly grasp and convey the fundamental elements of your business model. This visual clarity is especially valuable when presenting your business concept to potential investors, partners, or team members.
  • Concise Overview: While a traditional business plan can be lengthy and detailed, the BMC offers a concise summary of key components, including customer segments, value propositions, channels, revenue streams, and cost structures . It distills complex business concepts into a simplified format, making it easier to communicate and understand.
  • Iterative Planning: The BMC encourages an iterative approach to business strategic planning . It enables you to experiment with different business model hypotheses and make adjustments as you gather feedback and insights. This agility is vital, especially for startups and businesses in rapidly evolving markets.
  • Focus on Value: The Business Model Canvas places a strong emphasis on understanding customer needs and value creation . It prompts you to identify your unique value propositions and how they address customer pain points, aligning your strategy with customer-centric principles.
  • Holistic View: By using the BMC, you’re prompted to consider all aspects of your business model, from customer acquisition to revenue generation and cost management. This holistic perspective helps identify potential gaps, dependencies, and opportunities that might be overlooked in a traditional plan.
  • Alignment and Coordination: The BMC fosters alignment among team members and stakeholders. It’s a collaborative tool that encourages discussions about the business model, ensuring that everyone shares a common understanding and vision. This alignment is critical for execution.
  • Integration with Traditional Plan: While the BMC is an excellent starting point, it can be seamlessly integrated into a traditional business plan. The insights and clarity gained from the BMC can inform and enrich the sections of the plan related to products/services, target market, marketing strategy, and financial projections.
  • Efficiency: The BMC saves time and resources, particularly in the early stages of planning when you’re exploring different business model scenarios. It allows you to focus on the most critical aspects of your strategy before diving into the details.
  • Adaptability: In a rapidly changing business environment, having a flexible and adaptable business model is essential. The BMC’s modular structure makes it easier to pivot or adapt your strategy in response to market shifts, competitive pressures, or emerging opportunities.

In summary, a business plan is a multifaceted and indispensable tool for businesses at every stage of their journey. It serves as a compass, guiding strategic decisions, securing essential financing, and attracting potential investors. Its ongoing relevance is a testament to its adaptability, enabling businesses to measure performance, allocate resources, and manage risks effectively. Beyond its practical utility, a business plan is a communication tool, conveying a company’s vision and objectives to both internal teams and external stakeholders. It is a dynamic and ever-evolving document that empowers businesses to navigate uncertainties, foster innovation, and drive sustainable growth, making it an indispensable companion in the pursuit of business success.

Frequently Asked Questions

1- how does a business plan relate to business strategy.

A business plan is closely intertwined with a company’s business strategy. The plan lays out the specific actions and tactics required to achieve the strategic goals of the business. It provides a roadmap for implementing the chosen strategy, outlining how resources will be allocated, what markets will be targeted, and how the business will position itself in the competitive landscape.

2- Is a business plan necessary if I already have a solid business strategy?

Yes, a business plan is still essential, even if you have a well-defined strategy. It serves as the detailed execution plan for your strategy, providing clarity on how you will achieve your strategic objectives. It also helps you anticipate challenges, manage risks, and secure financing or investments by demonstrating the viability of your strategy.

3- Can I use the Business Model Canvas in place of a business plan for a startup?

While the Business Model Canvas is an excellent tool for conceptualizing and validating your business model, it is often not a substitute for a comprehensive business plan , especially when seeking financing or investments. Startups may begin with Canvas to clarify their model but should eventually develop a full business plan to provide in-depth financial projections, market analysis, and operational details.

4- How often should I update my business plan to align with my evolving strategy?

It’s advisable to review and update your business plan regularly, typically at least once a year. However, major changes in your business environment, such as shifts in market conditions or strategic pivots, may require more frequent updates. Keeping your plan current ensures it remains a relevant and effective tool for guiding your business.

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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 ]

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

Purposes of a Business Plan

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

1. Securing financing from investors.

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

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

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

2. Documenting a company's strategy and goals.

A business plan should leave no stone unturned.

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

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

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

why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

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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

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

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

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

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

4. Strategic Business Plan

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

These types of business plans may include:

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

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

5. Business Acquisition Plan

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

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

A business plan for an existing company will explain:

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

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

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

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

6. Business Repositioning Plan

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

This plan will:

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

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

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

7. Expansion or Growth Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Started With Your Business Plan

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

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

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

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11.4 The Business Plan

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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20 Reasons Why You Need a Business Plan in 2024

Written by Dave Lavinsky

20 Reasons Why you need a business plan

What is the Purpose of a Business Plan?

The purpose of a business plan is to provide a clear roadmap for the company’s future. It outlines the vision, goals, and strategies of the business, guiding entrepreneurs and stakeholders in understanding its operations and objectives. A business plan template helps attract investors and funding by showcasing the potential for profitability and growth.

Top 20 Reasons Why you Need a Business Plan

1. to prove that you’re serious about your business.

A formal business plan is necessary to show all interested parties — employees, investors, partners and yourself — that you are committed to building the business. Creating your plan forces you to think through and select the strategies that will propel your growth.

2. To Establish Business Milestones

The business plan should clearly lay out the long-term milestones that are most important to the success of your business. To paraphrase Guy Kawasaki, a milestone is something significant enough to come home and tell your spouse about (without boring him or her to death). Would you tell your spouse that you tweaked the company brochure? Probably not. But you’d certainly share the news that you launched your new website or reached $1M in annual revenues.

3. To Better Understand Your Competition

Creating the business plan forces you to analyze the competition. All companies have competition in the form of either direct or indirect competitors, and it is critical to understand your company’s competitive advantages. And if you don’t currently have competitive advantages, to figure out what you must do to gain them.

Finish Your Business Plan Today!

Quickly & easily complete your business plan: Download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template and finish your business plan & financial model in hours.

4. To Better Understand Your Customer

Why do they buy when they buy? Why don’t they when they don’t? An in-depth customer analysis is essential to an effective business plan and to a successful business. Understanding your customers will not only allow you to create better products and services for them, but will allow you to more cost-effectively reach them via advertising and promotions.

5. To Enunciate Previously Unstated Assumptions

The process of actually writing the business plan helps to bring previously “hidden” assumptions to the foreground. By writing them down and assessing them, you can test them and analyze their validity. For example, you might have assumed that local retailers would carry your product; in your business plan, you could assess the results of the scenario in which this didn’t occur.

6. To Assess the Feasibility of Your Venture

How good is this opportunity? The business plan process involves researching your target market, as well as the competitive landscape, and serves as a feasibility study for the success of your venture. In some cases, the result of your planning will be to table the venture. And it might be to go forward with a different venture that may have a better chance of success.

7. To Document Your Revenue Model

How exactly will your business make money? This is a critical question to answer in writing, for yourself and your investors. Documenting the revenue model helps to address challenges and assumptions associated with the model. And upon reading your plan, others may suggest additional revenue streams to consider.

8. To Determine Your Financial Needs

Does your business need to raise capital? How much? One of the purposes of a business plan is to help you to determine exactly how much capital you need and what you will use it for. This process is essential for raising capital for business and for effectively employing the capital. It will also enable you to plan ahead, particularly if you need to raise additional funding in the future.

9. To Attract Investors

A formal business plan is the basis for financing proposals. The business plan answers investors’ questions such as: Is there a need for this product/service? What are the financial projections? What is the company’s exit strategy? While investors will generally want to meet you in person before writing you a check, in nearly all cases, they will also thoroughly review your business plan.

10. To Reduce the Risk of Pursuing the Wrong Opportunity

The process of creating the business plan helps to minimize opportunity costs. Writing the business plan helps you assess the attractiveness of this particular opportunity, versus other opportunities. So you make the best decisions.

11. To Force You to Research and Really Know Your Market

What are the most important trends in your industry? What are the greatest threats to your industry? Is the market growing or shrinking? What is the size of the target market for your product/service? Creating the business plan will help you to gain a wider, deeper, and more nuanced understanding of your marketplace. And it will allow you to use this knowledge to make decisions to improve your company’s success.

12. To Attract Employees and a Management Team

To attract and retain top quality talent, a business plan is necessary. The business plan inspires employees and management that the idea is sound and that the business is poised to achieve its strategic goals. Importantly, as you grow your company, your employees and not you will do most of the work. So getting them aligned and motivated will be key to your success.

13. To Plot Your Course and Focus Your Efforts

The business plan provides a roadmap from which to operate, and to look to for direction in times of doubt. Without a business plan, you may shift your short-term strategies constantly without a view to your long-term milestones. You wouldn’t go on a long driving trip without a map; think of your business plan as your map.

14. To attract partners

Partners also want to see a business plan, in order to determine whether it is worth partnering with your business. Establishing partnerships often requires time and capital, and companies will be more likely to partner with your venture if they can read a detailed explanation of your company.

15. To Position Your Brand

Creating the business plan helps to define your company’s role in the marketplace. This definition allows you to succinctly describe the business and position the brand to customers, investors, and partners. With the industry, customer and competitive insight you gain during the business planning process, you can best determine how to position your brand.

16. To Judge the Success of Your Business

A formal business plan allows you to compare actual operational results versus the business plan itself. In this way, it allows you to clearly see whether you have achieved your strategic, financing, and operational goals (and why you have or have not).

17. To Reposition Your Business to Deal with Changing Conditions

For example, during difficult economic conditions, if your current sales and operational models aren’t working, you can rewrite your business plan to define, try, and validate new ideas and strategies.

18. To Document Your Marketing Plan

How are you going to reach your customers? How will you retain them? What is your advertising budget? What price will you charge? A well-documented marketing plan is essential to the growth of a business. And the marketing strategies and tactics you use will evolve each year, so revisiting your marketing plan at least annually is critical.

19. To Understand and Forecast Your Company’s Staffing Needs

After completing your business plan, you will not be surprised when you are suddenly short-handed. Rather, your business plan provides a roadmap for your staffing needs, and thus helps to ensure smoother expansion. Importantly your plan can not only help you understand your staffing needs, but ensure your timing is right as it takes time to recruit and train great employees.

20. To Uncover New Opportunities

Through the process of brainstorming, white-boarding and creative interviewing, you will likely see your business in a different light. As a result, you will often come up with new ideas for marketing your product/service and running your business. It’s coming up with these ideas and executing on them which is often the difference between a business that fails or just survives and one that thrives.

Business Plan FAQs

What is a business plan.

A business plan is a document that details your business concept and strategy for growth.

A business plan helps guide your company's efforts and, if applicable, gives investors and lenders the information they need to decide whether or not to fund your company. A business plan template helps you to most easily complete your plan.

Why Do You Need a Business Plan?

A business plan provides details about your company, competition, customers and industry so that you make the best possible decisions to grow your company.

What is the Importance of a Business Plan?

The 3 most important purposes of a business plan are 1) to create an effective strategy for growth, 2) to determine your future financial needs, and 3) to attract investors (including angel investors and VC funding ) and lenders.

Why is a Business Plan Important to an Entrepreneur?

Business plans help entrepreneurs take their visions and turn them into tangible action plans for success.

Need help with your business plan? 

  • Speak with a professional business plan consultant from our team.
  • Use our simple business plan template .
  • Check out our business plan examples .
  • Or, if you’re creating your own PPM, you can save time and money with Growthink’s private placement memorandum template .
  • Learn more about us via our Growthink Business Plan Review page

The World’s #1 Business Plan Template

Would you like to know the quickest and easiest way to create a winning business plan?

And how to use it to raise funding, improve your strategy, or both?

Well, we’ve developed the ultimate business plan template to help you do this. Simply click below to learn more.

Business plan template

Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

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Our guide for founders: how to write a business plan successfully

Post Cover  Mustard Accounting Business Plan

Adventurers don’t embark on a journey without charting a path first, nor should you as an entrepreneur found a startup without a business plan. Your business plan is your map, and a  solid business foundation is your destination.  Creating a business plan has many components. You’ll need to decide what kind suits your goals, before laying out the steps required to reach completion. To guide you through these high seas, we’ve put together a guide on how to write a business plan successfully, for you to consult so you can chart your path confidently.  Read on to fully understand what a business plan is and why you should create one, which type is right for you, and how to put it together step by step.  

What is a business plan?

Your business plan is a document that creates a picture of your business. In it you will clarify the kinds of products or services you offer, who is on your leadership board and staff, how you will finance your business, what your daily operations will be, and anything else key to your success.  Visually, you will have the freedom to design your own business plan. Like CVs, there is no one template for a business plan. That being said, There are components you will need to include in the document, and displaying them clearly on the page will inevitably force some recognisable structure into your document. 

Inside s  Mint Trend News Business plan

Why write a business plan?

There are two groups of people for whom you will create your business plan: 1. You and your staff, and 2. Your investors. 

For you and your staff

Whether or not you’ll have a staff will not influence your need for a business plan. It just changes how many eyes there will be on it. For yourself, a business plan will lay out in plain terms, soberly and backed up with financial data, all the big plans you have about your venture’s success.  As you begin to put down on paper what you hope to achieve, interrogating it with influencing factors, you will begin to understand both the likelihood of completing your goals and the things required for you to do so. 

For your investors 

Think of your business plan like an argument you will need to present to win the case of financing your venture. All entrepreneurs, even the ones with a huge cache of money saved before they begin, will need to approach investors to finance their companies.  In the early stages before you’ve accrued many customers or made many sales, your business plan is the strongest piece of evidence in your case. It not only shows you have planned ahead and thought of all the potential roadblocks, but it demonstrates how the investors themselves would benefit from getting involved with you, ultimately securing funding for your business .  

What are the business plan formats?

Before putting together your business plan, you’ll need to determine what kind will serve you best. Business plan formats differ in length and content, depending on the size and type of company you plan to run. Typical business plan formats are:

  • Traditional business plans
  • Lean business plans
  • Nonprofit business plans

Traditional business plan

The traditional business plan format is the most common and most comprehensive type. They often reach around 40 pages and are suited to entrepreneurs with long-term, large growth plans for their ventures, reaching investors they hope to convince to invest heavily in their businesses.  Approach the traditional format like you would a comprehensive blueprint of your business’s future. You want to cover as much as possible, to have already answered the majority of questions that might come up when someone takes a look at your business plan.  Below, we’ll lay out the steps to creating a traditional business plan, including how to draft these necessary components: 

  • Executive summary
  • Business description and strategy
  • Industry analysis
  • Market analysis
  • Organisation and management
  • Financial projections
  • Financing request

Lean business plan 

This is the kind of business plan that works for a startup. If you’re keen to get started quickly and don’t need a huge amount of resources right at the beginning, a lean startup might be the way to go. While it’s a concern that you might opt for a lean startup plan when a more comprehensive one would serve you better, it’s conversely true that spending too much time on a business plan when a lean one will suffice is detrimental too. Not only do you waste time and resources putting one together, but without a staff or management board involved, or many investors needed, you’re simply expending effort that need not be expended.  Putting together a lean startup plan, you won’t need to include as strict a list of components as the traditional model requires. Lean business plans are more about general subheadings denoting what to include.

  • Identifying a problem
  • Proposing your solution
  • Presenting your key metrics
  • Describing your unique value proposition
  • Explaining your marketing strategy
  • Estimating your target market
  • Laying out your cost structure
  • Listing your revenue streams

Nonprofit business plan

Crafting a nonprofit business plan will mean focusing on appealing to donors rather than investors. Therefore, your chief concern will be appealing to a problem and providing a solution to it.  Beyond this, the basic structure of a nonprofit business plan will be the same as a traditional one, or lean business plan depending on the size of your venture. Our steps below can be used for this kind of business plan. 

How to write a business plan in 8 steps

Inside s  Photo Trend News Business Plan

Creating a business plan can seem like huge task. But if you break it down to just a few simple steps, it quickly become a quite manageable affair:

  • Business description

Step 1: Executive summary

Here is where you lay out the contents of your ensuing business plan. Use it to highlight the most important parts of your plan, which will depend on the kind of business you will be running. If you are running a nonprofit business, emphasise the urgency of the problem you plan to solve, through data and figures which help to clarify the need for donors.  It’s with the executive summary that you want to capture the reader’s attention and then explain in brief terms what your business stands for and what you are going to do. You can think of the executive summary like a microcosm of the overall business plan.  Be sure to include: 

  • Objective of your business
  • Target market you intend to reach
  • Products and services you aim to provide
  • Marketing and sales strategies you will employ
  • Analysis of competitors in your chosen market
  • Funding and budget allocation for strategies and operations
  • Number of employees you will hire
  • How you will implement your business plan

Lean business plans should also include the above components in an executive summary. Ideally, you will present them in a shorter form, through bullet points rather than explanatory paragraphs. 

Step 2: Business description

With the business description, you can make clear what makes your business unique among the others in your market.  Answer these questions when putting together your business description:  What do I do that my competitors don’t? Analyse your main competitors’ websites and mission statements. What services do they provide that match yours? How will you offer yours differently? How do they manufacture their products in ways you could improve upon? What is my company philosophy? Also called your mission statement or brand identity, your philosophy is the driving purpose for which you created your company. Brand identity is more common today with companies aligning themselves with causes, making this part of your business description equally important whether you are profit- or donation-based.  Who are my target customers? Demonstrate a clear understanding of who you wish to reach with your product or services. Consider demographic, region, wealth status, occupations, and age when outlining your potential customer base.  What are my goals? Finally, what do you hope to achieve with your business venture? Investors and donors want to see ambition, but they also want to see realism. Counter your ambitious goals with expectations that situate them in the realm of possibility without eliminating the possibility to do something great. 

Step 3: Industry analysis

Ideally, you should know what industry you’re getting into before you start putting together your business plan. Industry analysis in a business plan is about presenting to interested parties a thorough understanding of more than just your competitors—it’s also about the historical developments and influencing factors within your industry: what has formed it and what might continue to shape it in the future.  Include in your industry analysis things like: 

  • The influencing factors in your industry: what causes the competition to intensify/decrease, how customers’ needs have changed/are changing, what technological innovations have/will change your industry, how globalisation affects your industry, which government bodies will regulate your industry.
  • The current attractiveness of the industry: whether or not now is the right time to be in your chosen industry, what are the challenges/advantages of entering this industry now, how does the trajectory of this industry look when forecasting its future.

It’s also important to clarify where in that industry you stand, and to be realistic about your competition. For example, if you’re opening a film studio, it may be accurate to say that your industry includes Disney and Netflix, but it would be unrealistic to assume you can compete with them. Instead, further break down your industry competitors by finding ones more similar to you: what kind of films might your studio produce? What will the general budget of those films be? Who are the other studios with similar budget margins and output type?

Step 4: Market analysis

Market analysis and industry analysis may seem like the same thing, however they have a crucially different focus: where industry analysis focuses on your competitors, market analysis is focused on your customer base.  To return to the film studio example, the market will have to be more narrow than ‘people who watch movies’. Instead, it would be better to appeal to demographic by genre, censorship rating, style, etc. Gathering data on such a demographic will be too broad and impossible to determine any useful metrics or trends.  Sharpen your market analysis by introducing factors that will drain the pool a bit: 

  • Customer age/location/family status etc.
  • Customer shopping habits
  • Potential number of buyers/subscribers
  • Amount customers are willing to spend

Keep your analysis broad enough to ensure growth if your venture is successful, but remember that at the business planning stage, accuracy and realistic expectations are key. 

Step 5: Organisation and management

Less relevant for startups putting lean business plans together, this section will lay out the structure of your staff and board of directors. In other words, who is involved and what are they doing?  Divide this section into two sections:

  • Business structure and people involved
  • Management team or board of directors

Business structure

Usually displayed visually, your business structure will lay out the hierarchy of your company. In the form of the chart, position the founders, management teams, and staff in whatever structure best suits you. 

Management team

Here, bring a personal element to your organisational structure. Describe what each member (incl. yourself) of your management team brings to the company, with all of or a selection of these details: 

  • Ownership percentage
  • Involvement level
  • Ownership type (stocks, general partner, etc.)
  • Company position
  • Educational background
  • Relevant skills and experience
  • Relevant employment history
  • Awards received
  • Compensation

Step 6: Financial projections

Two year financial projections will help readers of your business plan understand your cash flow, loan repayment schedules—ultimately what you plan to do with your money and how. Similar to your business budget .  Here are the key elements of the financial projections section of your business plan:

  • Spending and sales: daily operations like rent, utilities, production materials; one time purchases such as vehicles, software; countered with projected sales revenue for the month
  • Financial projections: monthly expenses and revenue cash flow demonstrating cash flow for the first twelve months of business operations; determine projected annual income with statements and balance sheet predictions
  • Contingency plan: demonstrate plan for unexpected expenses via financial projections and cash flows; how you plan to handle sudden events; present in the form of a cash reserve

Plan for your business and your finances accordingly–with Qonto's digital business account.

Step 7: Financing request

Towards the end of your financial projections section is where you ask for funding from readers. Having presented a detailed and thorough understanding of your business operations and cash flows you can now make your case for corporate financing .  You will need to include in your financing request:

  • Amount required
  • Future financial plans
  • Financial history
  • Loan repayment terms

When filling in these requirements keep these things in mind:

  • Who is my audience for this report? Your readers are your financiers. How will you reach them? Appealing for a profit-based vs nonprofit business will require a different kind of approach in this section, as you are speaking to donors vs people who are hoping to profit through their investments to you.
  • Have I been accurate in my presentation? Make sure the information you have provided previously matches the funding request you are about to make. The ending of your business plan should be like the ending of a good movie: it makes sense considering the events that preceded it.
  • Is my request reasonable? What you are asking for should be a balance between what you need and what you hope to receive. Asking too low will cause you to seek more financing later on, and asking too high might be met with scepticism or outright rejections.

Step 8: Appendix

The final section of your report will provide any supporting documents that have been requested by your readers.  This could be:

  • Credit history report
  • Product pictures
  • Reference letters

Writing the best business plan: tips and common mistakes

Understanding how to write your business plan most successfully means keeping several things in mind while putting together all the components. A good business plan is the product of a forward-thinking and logical business owner who knows what they want and how to deliver it clearly.  Keep these concepts in mind when putting your business plan together: 

How long does your business plan need to be? Long-winded business plans that provide too much information when it isn’t needed. We tend to glaze over when looking at a document providing more than the necessary information. You don’t want potential investors glazing over your report. 

A business plan might not seem like the right medium in which to convey passion, but this is misleading and potentially dangerous. Too many business reports are dry documents. Investors and donors want to see a business owner who believes in what they do, who sees a bright future ahead for themselves and the people who work with them. Use your opening section and business description to communicate what makes your business more than just a business—it’s your passion.

Know exactly who you’re speaking to. Keep your audience in mind at all times when crafting your document so that you only put in information relevant to those readers. A business plan that appeals too broadly will only harm your potential to convince. 

There are a lot of components to a good business plan. Whether lean or traditional, you will have to consider your venture from many different angles and back up a lot of your proposals with research. But the more effort you put into this stage of business formation, the stronger foundation on which you’ll start your business, increasing the likelihood of a long term career.  Hopefully, our extensive guide on how to write a business plan has provided some useful pointers on getting started with your business plan. 

  • A business plan is a document which a founder presents to potential investors and interested parties, to demonstrate the financing and operations of their business venture
  • Business plans are useful to both staff and founders, as well as potential investors
  • Business plans come in three types: traditional, lean, and nonprofit
  • Write your business plan by first putting together and executive summary and business description to establish what you do
  • Market and industry analyses will demonstrate your understanding of the competition and potential customer base
  • Organisation and management lays out the structure of your business and staff
  • Financial projections and funding request sections clarify your financial standing and what kind of financing you require from readers
  • The appendix includes any extra documents requested by the reader
  • Keep in mind length, audience, and passion when writing your business plan

Post Cover  Peach VAT Product Card

What is a Business Plan? Definition and Resources

Clipboard with paper, calculator, compass, and other similar tools laid out on a table. Represents the basics of what is a business plan.

9 min. read

Updated May 10, 2024

If you’ve ever jotted down a business idea on a napkin with a few tasks you need to accomplish, you’ve written a business plan — or at least the very basic components of one.

The origin of formal business plans is murky. But they certainly go back centuries. And when you consider that 20% of new businesses fail in year 1 , and half fail within 5 years, the importance of thorough planning and research should be clear.

But just what is a business plan? And what’s required to move from a series of ideas to a formal plan? Here we’ll answer that question and explain why you need one to be a successful business owner.

  • What is a business plan?

Definition: Business plan is a description of a company's strategies, goals, and plans for achieving them.

A business plan lays out a strategic roadmap for any new or growing business.

Any entrepreneur with a great idea for a business needs to conduct market research , analyze their competitors , validate their idea by talking to potential customers, and define their unique value proposition .

The business plan captures that opportunity you see for your company: it describes your product or service and business model , and the target market you’ll serve. 

It also includes details on how you’ll execute your plan: how you’ll price and market your solution and your financial projections .

Reasons for writing a business plan

If you’re asking yourself, ‘Do I really need to write a business plan?’ consider this fact: 

Companies that commit to planning grow 30% faster than those that don’t.

Creating a business plan is crucial for businesses of any size or stage. It helps you develop a working business and avoid consequences that could stop you before you ever start.

If you plan to raise funds for your business through a traditional bank loan or SBA loan , none of them will want to move forward without seeing your business plan. Venture capital firms may or may not ask for one, but you’ll still need to do thorough planning to create a pitch that makes them want to invest.

But it’s more than just a means of getting your business funded . The plan is also your roadmap to identify and address potential risks. 

It’s not a one-time document. Your business plan is a living guide to ensure your business stays on course.

Related: 14 of the top reasons why you need a business plan

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What research shows about business plans

Numerous studies have established that planning improves business performance:

  • 71% of fast-growing companies have business plans that include budgets, sales goals, and marketing and sales strategies.
  • Companies that clearly define their value proposition are more successful than those that can’t.
  • Companies or startups with a business plan are more likely to get funding than those without one.
  • Starting the business planning process before investing in marketing reduces the likelihood of business failure.

The planning process significantly impacts business growth for existing companies and startups alike.

Read More: Research-backed reasons why writing a business plan matters

When should you write a business plan?

No two business plans are alike. 

Yet there are similar questions for anyone considering writing a plan to answer. One basic but important question is when to start writing it.

A Harvard Business Review study found that the ideal time to write a business plan is between 6 and 12 months after deciding to start a business. 

But the reality can be more nuanced – it depends on the stage a business is in, or the type of business plan being written.

Ideal times to write a business plan include:

  • When you have an idea for a business
  • When you’re starting a business
  • When you’re preparing to buy (or sell)
  • When you’re trying to get funding
  • When business conditions change
  • When you’re growing or scaling your business

Read More: The best times to write or update your business plan

How often should you update your business plan?

As is often the case, how often a business plan should be updated depends on your circumstances.

A business plan isn’t a homework assignment to complete and forget about. At the same time, no one wants to get so bogged down in the details that they lose sight of day-to-day goals. 

But it should cover new opportunities and threats that a business owner surfaces, and incorporate feedback they get from customers. So it can’t be a static document.

Related Reading: 5 fundamental principles of business planning

For an entrepreneur at the ideation stage, writing and checking back on their business plan will help them determine if they can turn that idea into a profitable business .

And for owners of up-and-running businesses, updating the plan (or rewriting it) will help them respond to market shifts they wouldn’t be prepared for otherwise. 

It also lets them compare their forecasts and budgets to actual financial results. This invaluable process surfaces where a business might be out-performing expectations and where weak performance may require a prompt strategy change. 

The planning process is what uncovers those insights.

Related Reading: 10 prompts to help you write a business plan with AI

  • How long should your business plan be?

Thinking about a business plan strictly in terms of page length can risk overlooking more important factors, like the level of detail or clarity in the plan. 

Not all of the plan consists of writing – there are also financial tables, graphs, and product illustrations to include.

But there are a few general rules to consider about a plan’s length:

  • Your business plan shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to skim.
  • Business plans for internal use (not for a bank loan or outside investment) can be as short as 5 to 10 pages.

A good practice is to write your business plan to match the expectations of your audience. 

If you’re walking into a bank looking for a loan, your plan should match the formal, professional style that a loan officer would expect . But if you’re writing it for stakeholders on your own team—shorter and less formal (even just a few pages) could be the better way to go.

The length of your plan may also depend on the stage your business is in. 

For instance, a startup plan won’t have nearly as much financial information to include as a plan written for an established company will.

Read More: How long should your business plan be?  

What information is included in a business plan?

The contents of a plan business plan will vary depending on the industry the business is in. 

After all, someone opening a new restaurant will have different customers, inventory needs, and marketing tactics to consider than someone bringing a new medical device to the market. 

But there are some common elements that most business plans include:

  • Executive summary: An overview of the business operation, strategy, and goals. The executive summary should be written last, despite being the first thing anyone will read.
  • Products and services: A description of the solution that a business is bringing to the market, emphasizing how it solves the problem customers are facing.
  • Market analysis: An examination of the demographic and psychographic attributes of likely customers, resulting in the profile of an ideal customer for the business.
  • Competitive analysis: Documenting the competitors a business will face in the market, and their strengths and weaknesses relative to those competitors.
  • Marketing and sales plan: Summarizing a business’s tactics to position their product or service favorably in the market, attract customers, and generate revenue.
  • Operational plan: Detailing the requirements to run the business day-to-day, including staffing, equipment, inventory, and facility needs.
  • Organization and management structure: A listing of the departments and position breakdown of the business, as well as descriptions of the backgrounds and qualifications of the leadership team.
  • Key milestones: Laying out the key dates that a business is projected to reach certain milestones , such as revenue, break-even, or customer acquisition goals.
  • Financial plan: Balance sheets, cash flow forecast , and sales and expense forecasts with forward-looking financial projections, listing assumptions and potential risks that could affect the accuracy of the plan.
  • Appendix: All of the supporting information that doesn’t fit into specific sections of the business plan, such as data and charts.

Read More: Use this business plan outline to organize your plan

  • Different types of business plans

A business plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all document. There are numerous ways to create an effective business plan that fits entrepreneurs’ or established business owners’ needs. 

Here are a few of the most common types of business plans for small businesses:

  • One-page plan : Outlining all of the most important information about a business into an adaptable one-page plan.
  • Growth plan : An ongoing business management plan that ensures business tactics and strategies are aligned as a business scales up.
  • Internal plan : A shorter version of a full business plan to be shared with internal stakeholders – ideal for established companies considering strategic shifts.

Business plan vs. operational plan vs. strategic plan

  • What questions are you trying to answer? 
  • Are you trying to lay out a plan for the actual running of your business?
  • Is your focus on how you will meet short or long-term goals? 

Since your objective will ultimately inform your plan, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you start writing.

While a business plan provides the foundation for a business, other types of plans support this guiding document.

An operational plan sets short-term goals for the business by laying out where it plans to focus energy and investments and when it plans to hit key milestones.

Then there is the strategic plan , which examines longer-range opportunities for the business, and how to meet those larger goals over time.

Read More: How to use a business plan for strategic development and operations

  • Business plan vs. business model

If a business plan describes the tactics an entrepreneur will use to succeed in the market, then the business model represents how they will make money. 

The difference may seem subtle, but it’s important. 

Think of a business plan as the roadmap for how to exploit market opportunities and reach a state of sustainable growth. By contrast, the business model lays out how a business will operate and what it will look like once it has reached that growth phase.

Learn More: The differences between a business model and business plan

  • Moving from idea to business plan

Now that you understand what a business plan is, the next step is to start writing your business plan . 

The best way to start is by reviewing examples and downloading a business plan template. These resources will provide you with guidance and inspiration to help you write a plan.

We recommend starting with a simple one-page plan ; it streamlines the planning process and helps you organize your ideas. However, if one page doesn’t fit your needs, there are plenty of other great templates available that will put you well on your way to writing a useful business 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.

Grow 30% faster with the right business plan. Create your plan with LivePlan.

Table of Contents

  • Reasons to write a business plan
  • Business planning research
  • When to write a business plan
  • When to update a business plan
  • Information to include
  • Business vs. operational vs. strategic plans

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How to Present a Business Plan to Investors, a Bank or Boss

By: Author Tony Martins Ajaero

Home » Business Plans

Are you about pitching your business plan to raise money? If YES, here is how to successfully present a business plan to investors, bank loan officer or boss.

A business plan is generally referred to as a document on which a new business outlines its modus operandi. An effective business plan contains a detailed plan of how a company intends to achieve its goals over a period of time. It has been noted that the more detailed a business plan is, the better, because a business plan is not only a company’s blueprint, but also a determinant whether the company can get external funding or not.

A lot of businesses, at some point in their lives do seek funding in order to be able to stay afloat, or even to get started; and for you to gain the audience of an investor, lender or boss, your intended business ought to have a workable business plan.

Your ability to pitch your business plan to your target audience, be it a lender or an investor would make the difference on whether you would get the funding you seek or not.

With a lot of entrepreneurs constantly churning out business ideas, investors and lenders (banks) are now getting more critical on who to fund, and for your business to get the green light, then you have to bring on your A game because you wouldn’t want a poor pitch to impede your ability to score financing for your business.

When writing your business plan, it is best to keep the audience you want to target for funding in mind, because the different business financiers or investors expect to see different things in your business plan.

How to Adequately Prepare Yourself to Pitch your Business Plan

1. prepare yourself first.

It is worthy of note that investors invest first in the entrepreneur before the business plan. Investors will want to see that you are fast, thoughtful and efficient, and can sustain the project through its conception and growth.

No matter how good your business plan is, if you lack strong presentation skills, you may not be getting as much attention from the investors as you actually should. So, as a matter of necessity, you should learn how to pitch business plans as a professional.

2. Prepare your pitch

To be able to catch your audience, you need to prepare a brief, compelling presentation that tells your story, describes your business and explains how you will fulfill a customer want, need or desire. Tell them what you have achieved and why it is a good idea to invest with you.

3. Pepper your presentation with facts and figures

While carrying out your presentation, you need to use facts and figures to support every conclusion and claim with research from third-party sources. If you mention trends or evaluate your market potential, make sure you have done the research to back your claims.

4. Be clear and concise

To achieve a good presentation, you need to make sure you outline your facts in a clear and concise format. Your banker or potential investor probably isn’t an expert in your field, so avoid industry jargon, acronyms and technical details.

5. Be realistic

To be effective, your forecasts should clearly show how your business or project will be profitable for both you and your boss or investor. These forecasts must be rational and backed up by solid data. Be careful about making bogus and unsubstantial claims.

6. Do your research

You have to, of necessity show that you have looked at your project from every angle and prepared contingency plans. Discuss how your previous experience and achievements will help you run a better business.

7. Stick to business

To be able to get the funding you need, you need to make your case watertight. You should put on your salesman cap and give it your best. It is good to be passionate about your business, but it is your facts and figures that will get you the money.

8. Practice makes perfect

When preparing to make your pitch to investors and lenders, you should never leave anything to chance. So practice your pitch and presentation in front of family, friends, business associates, etc. and get feedback on how to improve it.

Tips for Presenting your Business Plan to a Bank (Lender) and Get the Money You Need

It is common knowledge that banks are lenders, and anyone seeking to approach a bank for business financing is basically looking for a loan. Lenders are more concerned with risk and the return of their money with interest.

For a business plan to ever gain the attention of a bank for it to give it a loan, the entrepreneur has to emphasize certain succinct facts like revenue, expenses, and other cash flow issues in its business plan. In addition, you also have to play by the following rules;

a. Show your experience

We have said it before that banks are lenders and as such they are always careful to make profitable deals. Banks generally believe that you have more credibility if you have had experience in business and in the field you are entering.

As such, they mostly make deals with entrepreneurs with sufficient business experience. In writing a business plan that is targeted to a bank, be sure to carefully outline whatever previous business experiences you have had, and equally outline how each of them would help you in your present business endeavour.

b. Give complete background of the management team

Banks also believe that the kind of management team a business has would determine its success or failure. As such, your business plan should describe your management team and short biographies of main managers should equally be included. Note that you need to have an experienced management team in order to up your chances of landing a loan.

c. The business financial projections

Bankers expect to see three main statements in your business plan and they include; income, balance, and cash flow. They should be projected monthly for the first year, and annually for a couple of years after that. Cash flow is the most important part of your plan as far as banks are concerned.

d. How real are your financial projections?

As astute financial houses, bankers will compare your financial projections to similar industry reports. If your financial margins way better than industry averages, you will need to explain why and how you are going to accomplish that.

For example, if the average boutique store has a 30 percent gross margin, don’t show a banker a plan with a 70 percent margin because you would have to explain it, and your explanations had better be good.

e. Align your financials

You have to make sure that the amount you ask to borrow should match the financials in your plan. For example, don’t try to show that you need less money than you actually do, because you wouldn’t need to be borrowing if you actually need less.

On the flipside, don’t show that you need much more money than you can afford to borrow. Your cash flow should be realistic, and it should show how much money you need and why you need it.

f. Present a complete plan

While management team and financials are very important, a good banker will also expect to see a readable plan, from the executive summary through to the end. It should cover what you sell, your market, company background, and specific dates and activities.

Asides all these facts, banks would want to know if your product is priced right for its market niche, if your company management can control expenses, if the company would be able to withstand risks and market fluctuations and if the company would be able to pay back the loan it is asking for.

You will have to demonstrate you have the experience, skills, determination and self-confidence to successfully build your company or carry out the project for which you’re borrowing money.

Tips for Presenting your Business Plan to an Investor

Investors are business people, just like the entrepreneur. They are more concerned with your profit projections and they eagerly look into the future to a time when they can cash in, hopefully at a higher multiple to their initial investment.

Therefore, investors are mostly concerned with your businesses’ ability to grow and stabilize. In order to be able to get funding from investors, be it angels, venture capitalists or others, your business plan has to contain the following;

i. Target market

The size of the target market often determines the success of a business, and investors also know this. When writing a business plan to pitch to investors, you have presented a great detail of your target market. You might be surprised to find that the size of the market may not be as large as you had anticipated.

ii. Problems you want to solve

Again, investors are also interested in the anticipated problem you want to solve. Would the solution which your startup has come up with actually solve the issues in the target group? What are the benefits that target customers will gain from your innovation? Is the problem worth the business stress?

iii. Revenue

Your business plan should be able to explain how your business intends to generate revenue. You need to explicitly outline how your fees would be charged and if the fees you charge would lead to profit for the business, and with what margin.

iv. Competitors

Since there are very few businesses that are still undiscovered, investors would like to know how you intend to deal with the competition. You should outline what would make you stand out from them as well as your competitive advantage.

v. Growth strategy

You would have to show that your business has the ability to grow and expand in the future. A business that has no growth strategy is simply not worth investing in because it has no future, and no investor would want to put his or her money in a sinking ship.

vi. Your team

Any and every investor would want to know who you are running the business with and their qualifications, so you have to write a brief outline of your management team in your business plan.

vii. Exit strategy

Investors are very interested in your exit strategy so you had better include that if you want to attract investors. Many investors tire after about seven years with a company and look around for new opportunities. You have to determine if you are going to sell all your shares to a new entrepreneur, go public with the company or sell to venture capitalists etc.

Tips for Presenting your Business Plan to your Boss

Unlike what most people would think, but yes, a lot of bosses have funded business startups of their employees. This has been made possible because more companies are encouraging entrepreneurial thinking from within–something that is known as intrapreneurship.

In order to succeed in using your employer’s hunger for innovation to support your own business, you have to ensure that your ideas are in line with the company’s Business model. Ensure that your business idea can easily be integrated into the company’s objectives, this is an easier way for you to get funded by your boss.

You also have to ensure that you state all these while pitching your business plan to your boss. Remember, pitching your business plan to your boss is like pitching to any other investor; you need to look at the cost-benefit analysis from your boss’ perspective.

For you to present a business plan that can easily get funding from your boss, you have to observe the following rules:

1. Ensure your business idea is in line with the company’s interests

This is perhaps one of the most important points to consider when pitching your business plan to a boss. Bosses are entrepreneurs who are only interested in what would boost their business revenue.

You have to convince them that funding your business would be to their interest before they can even listen to you talk more of giving you the nod. You need to show your employers the ways your ideas would improve the company or contribute to the achievement of the company’s vision and mission.

2. Research

The worst you can do is to present an unresearched business plan. During your pitch, a lot of questions would be asked, and not having answers to such questions would mean that you are not ready. You have to know your market really well and be quite familiar with your target consumers.

3. Offer value

Your pitch, of necessity needs to offer information with value. If you are expecting the CEO of your company fund your business idea, then you have to make sure that they would get something out of it. If it is just you who will be benefiting from the proposal, then most likely you will hear a No for the proposal.

4. Thoroughly study your audience

Knowing what you’ll say in your pitch is only half the battle, you also need to know how to say it. You have to know the likes, dislikes and mannerisms of who are presenting to. When pitching to a time-strapped boss, you have to get to the point in the first 60 seconds.

If you are talking to a person who believes in figures, you have to rely heavily on charts and graphics to illustrate your business concept, market and revenue model, rather than plunking a 30- to 50-page business plan on his or her desk. Of course it won’t get touched.

5. Be credible

The fact here is that if your boss doesn’t have faith in your work, judgment or time-management skills, he or she is not going to let you launch a new product, service or company division no matter how good your business plan is. Before you polish your pitch, make sure you are the model staff.

You cannot be on the list of worst employee of the month for six consecutive months and then suddenly have ideas and expect your boss to take you serious.

6. Start with the summary

There’s something called an executive summary in business plan writing. Although it is the last part to be written in any business plan, but it is the most important part when pitching to your boss as it contains all information about the project summarized into a page. This executive summary helps anybody reading your business plan to understand what it is all about easily.

You should adopt this strategy too when presenting your ideas to your boss; let them know what you are driving at early into the presentation because most people form opinions and decisions in their minds few minutes into the conversation.

7. Think of costs

You have to make plain all the financial involvements of your business if you are planning to get funding from your boss. If there are any financial or non-financial resources that would have to go into accomplishing the ideas, you should ensure that your employer is aware of it.

8. Time factor

The introduction of any new project obviously means additional demands on your time. So, the first thing you will want to assure your boss of is that it won’t distract you from all of the work already on your plate.

So, the best approach is to explain how the new project fits into the cycle of your workload—for example, how it dovetails perfectly with you regular task, and how you are going to manage your time effectively so your regular job would not suffer.

You also need to beware of some key points when you are delivering your presentation. They include;

  • Don’t memorize the presentation: you have to know your business plan like the back of your hand, after all you are expected to have put a lot of time into it. You should be able to give your presentation fluidly.
  • Avoid PowerPoint failures: the formal business plan pitch is usually accompanied by a presentation, most often a slideshow, which you should also hand out to attendees at the pitch presentation. Ensure your PowerPoint is working effectively so as not to get stuck in the middle of the road.
  • Keep your investors in mind: your investors would always be on the lookout for what’s in it for them in your pitch. You need to clearly describe what benefits you would offer to specific investors and how that will make your investors’ money

In conclusion, it is very important to be versatile and to be able to deliver your pitch in a variety of different media. These days, a growing number of businesses take to YouTube to deliver their business pitch and some angel investors have taken to reviewing some of the YouTube pitches before scheduling a face-to-face meeting with an entrepreneur.

It helps investors to analyze entrepreneurs and their business ideas from a distance. Being versatile gives you an edge in the quest to get funding.

Related Posts:

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Why Are Business Plans Used for Potential Investors and Banks?

A business plan is a detailed document that outlines your business goals, strategies, and financial projections for the future. It is a crucial document for both potential investors and banks who are considering investing money in your business. In this article, we will discuss why business plans are necessary for potential investors and banks.

1. To Understand Your Business Idea

A business plan provides an in-depth analysis of your business idea, including your products or services, target market, and competitors. This information helps potential investors and banks to understand your business idea and evaluate its potential for success. A well-written business plan clearly outlines the unique selling points of your business and demonstrates how it is different from its competitors.

2. To Evaluate Your Business’s Viability

Before investing money in your business, potential investors and banks need to evaluate its viability. A business plan provides a detailed analysis of the financial viability of your business, including projected revenue, expenses, and profits. This information helps investors and banks to determine whether your business is worth investing in.

3. To Assess the Risks Involved

Every business comes with a certain level of risk. A business plan helps investors and banks to assess the risks involved in your business and evaluate the potential returns on investment. A well-written business plan includes a risk analysis that identifies potential challenges and how you plan to overcome them.

4. To Understand Your Financial Needs

A business plan clearly outlines your financial needs, including how much money you need to start and operate your business. This information helps potential investors and banks to determine whether they can provide the necessary funding and support for your business.

5. To Evaluate Your Management Team

A business plan provides an overview of your management team, including their qualifications and experience. This information helps potential investors and banks to evaluate the expertise and experience of your team and determine whether they can effectively manage your business.

6. To Make Informed Decisions

A business plan provides potential investors and banks with all the information they need to make informed decisions about investing in your business. It helps them evaluate the potential risks and returns and determine whether your business is a worthwhile investment.

7. To Secure Funding

A business plan is essential for securing funding from potential investors and banks. It provides them with all the information they need to evaluate your business and determine whether they want to invest in it.

8. To Communicate Your Vision

A business plan is a written document that communicates your vision and goals for your business. It helps potential investors and banks to understand your business’s purpose and how you plan to achieve your goals.

9. To Monitor Your Progress

A business plan is not just a document for potential investors and banks. It is also a tool for monitoring your progress and tracking your business’s performance over time. It helps you to stay focused on your goals and make necessary adjustments to your business strategy.

10. To Plan for the Future

A well-written business plan includes a detailed financial forecast for the future. It helps you to plan for the future and make informed decisions about your business’s growth and expansion. It also helps potential investors and banks to evaluate your long-term potential and determine whether they want to invest in your business.

In conclusion, a well-written business plan is essential for potential investors and banks. It provides them with all the information they need to evaluate your business and determine whether it is a worthwhile investment. A business plan is also a valuable tool for monitoring your progress and planning for the future of your business.

Frequently Asked Questions

Business plans are essential when seeking funding from potential investors and banks. They provide a blueprint for the company’s future and demonstrate the potential for growth and profitability. Here are some commonly asked questions about the use of business plans for potential investors and banks.

What is a business plan and why is it important for investors and banks?

A business plan is a document that outlines a company’s goals, strategies, and financial projections. It is important for investors and banks because it provides insight into the company’s potential for success. A well-written business plan can demonstrate the company’s understanding of the market, its competitive advantages, and its ability to generate revenue and profits. This information is critical for investors and banks when deciding whether to provide funding.

Additionally, a business plan can help investors and banks assess the risks associated with investing in the company. By outlining potential challenges and how the company plans to address them, a business plan can show that the company has considered the potential obstacles and has a plan in place to overcome them.

What are the key components of a business plan?

A business plan typically includes several key components, including an executive summary, a company overview, a market analysis, a description of products or services, a marketing and sales strategy, financial projections, and a management plan. Each of these sections provides critical information for investors and banks, helping them evaluate the company’s potential for success.

For example, the market analysis section outlines the company’s target market and its competitors, providing insight into the potential demand for the company’s products or services. The financial projections section provides estimates of revenue and expenses, helping investors and banks assess the company’s profitability and potential for growth. And the management plan outlines the company’s organizational structure and leadership, demonstrating the team’s experience and ability to execute the business plan.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a business plan for investors and banks?

One common mistake is failing to provide enough detail in the business plan. Investors and banks need a thorough understanding of the company’s goals, strategies, and financial projections to make an informed decision about funding. Another mistake is overestimating the potential for success or underestimating the risks and challenges the company may face.

It is also important to tailor the business plan to the specific needs of the investors or banks being approached. For example, a bank may be more interested in the company’s ability to generate cash flow and repay loans, while an angel investor may be more interested in the company’s potential for growth and exit opportunities.

How can a business plan help a company secure funding?

A well-written business plan can help a company secure funding by providing investors and banks with a clear understanding of the company’s potential for success. The business plan should outline the company’s goals, strategies, and financial projections, and demonstrate the company’s understanding of the market and competitive landscape.

Additionally, a business plan can help build credibility and trust with potential investors and banks. By demonstrating that the company has a solid plan in place, has considered potential risks and challenges, and has a team with the necessary experience to execute the plan, the business plan can instill confidence in investors and banks and increase the likelihood of securing funding.

How often should a business plan be updated?

A business plan should be updated regularly to reflect changes in the market, the company’s goals and strategies, and other factors that may impact the company’s potential for success. This may include updating financial projections, revising marketing and sales strategies, or adjusting the management plan to reflect changes in leadership.

At a minimum, a business plan should be reviewed and updated annually. However, companies should also be prepared to update the plan on an as-needed basis if significant changes occur, such as a shift in the market or a change in leadership.

In conclusion, business plans are essential tools for potential investors and banks because they provide a comprehensive overview of a company’s goals, objectives, and strategies. They highlight the company’s strengths and weaknesses, and help potential investors and banks evaluate the viability of the business. When a business plan is well-written and properly presented, it can increase the chances of securing funding and support from investors and banks.

Moreover, business plans help entrepreneurs to think critically about their business by analyzing the market, identifying competitors, and determining the financial needs of the company. A business plan also serves as a roadmap for the business, outlining the steps needed to achieve success and the milestones that need to be achieved along the way.

Ultimately, a business plan is a vital document for any entrepreneur seeking to start or grow a business. It is a powerful tool that can help secure funding, attract investors, and guide the company towards success. By taking the time to develop a well-written and comprehensive business plan, entrepreneurs can increase their chances of achieving their business goals and turning their dreams into reality.

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Jonah E. Bromwich covers criminal justice in New York, with a focus on the Manhattan district attorney’s office and state criminal courts in Manhattan. More about Jonah E. Bromwich

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IMAGES

  1. Write a Business Plan for Investors

    why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

  2. What Are Investor's Looking For?

    why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

  3. 16 Writing Simple Business Plan Examples & 30 Free Template

    why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

  4. Business Plan for Investors

    why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

  5. 4 primary uses of a business plan to get you started

    why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

  6. Financial Planning for Business Owners

    why are business plan used for potential investors and banks

VIDEO

  1. 1.2 Why create a business plan?

  2. ENT300 Chapter 8

  3. 📚 Entrepreneur's Business Plan guide🏅

  4. Why Business Plan Is Important For Business Loan? The Definitive Guide

  5. Why BUSINESS PLAN is a MUST for your RESTAURANT?

  6. What is financial planning and why should I create a plan?

COMMENTS

  1. 7 Things Investors Are Looking for in a Business Plan

    The primary purpose of a business plan is to convince banks and/or investors to loan you money, but there are several other benefits. Business plans help create accountability within an organization, offer a holistic view of the company, and can repeatedly be used as a frame of reference. Ultimately, a business plan mitigates risk.

  2. How to Write a Business Plan That Attracts Investors

    2. Cuttles. Cuttles helps entrepreneurs and business owners plan and grow their businesses using a fully interactive and guided business plan software. The software provides features and guides to create a startup pitch, write a business plan, define a startup team, and do budgets and financial projections.

  3. Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One

    Business Plan: A business plan is a written document that describes in detail how a business, usually a new one, is going to achieve its goals. A business plan lays out a written plan from a ...

  4. How to Write a Business Plan That Investors Will Like

    Although business plans can vary greatly, there are a few essential elements. Here are eight sections that a business plan should include: Executive Summary: This is an overview of the rest of your business plan. It will summarize things like your mission statement, plans, goals, structure, and financial needs.

  5. 14 Critical Reasons Why You Need a Business Plan

    Here's every reason why you need a business plan. 1. Business planning is proven to help you grow 30 percent faster. Writing a business plan isn't about producing a document that accurately predicts the future of your company. The process of writing your plan is what's important. Writing your plan and reviewing it regularly gives you a ...

  6. Business Planning: Ultimate Guide to Writing a Business Plan for Investors

    You will essentially create two plans. The first is known as the internal or initial start-up business plan. This plan includes your company's mission statement, product/service description, marketing strategy plan and initial start-up goals. Most importantly, the initial plan will also include a market analysis.

  7. How To Write A Business Plan (2024 Guide)

    Describe Your Services or Products. The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you're offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit ...

  8. What You Need to Know to Write a Business Plan for Investors

    A strong financial plan is critical to attracting investors. You'll need to provide financial projections, including: Profit and Loss statements (for at least three years) Cash flow projections (for at least three years) Balance sheets (for at least three years) Breakeven analysis. A list of assumptions and explanations for your financial ...

  9. How to Write a Convincing Business Plan for Investors

    Financial forecasts. Investors will inevitably want to see your financial forecasts. You'll need a sales forecast, expense budget, cash flow forecast, profit and loss, and balance sheet. If you have historical results, you should plan on sharing those too as well as any other key metrics about your business.

  10. What Do Investors Look for in a Business Plan?

    If you've tried to raise money or researched the business plan presentation for potential investors, you already see that there's a wide range of opinions and demands. In the end, investors are just as diverse and dynamic as the enterprises and entrepreneurs they invest in.

  11. Why Is A Business Plan Important To Potential Investors?

    Why a Business Plan is Important to Potential Investors: Explained. 1. Provides a Clear Roadmap. A business plan is a blueprint for any company's success. It outlines the company's goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics. By creating a well-written business plan, entrepreneurs can provide potential investors with a clear roadmap of their ...

  12. How to Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (+ Template and Examples)

    1. Create Your Executive Summary. The executive summary is a snapshot of your business or a high-level overview of your business purposes and plans. Although the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, most people write it last. The length of the executive summary is not more than two pages.

  13. Business Plan Roadmap: Building Your Path to Business Success

    A well-structured business plan not only serves as a roadmap for your business's growth but also communicates your vision, strategy, and potential to investors, partners, and stakeholders. The key components of a business plan make up a robust business plan, offering valuable insights and practical tips to help you create a document that ...

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

    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 ...

  15. Why You Need A Written Business Plan

    Whether this comes in the form of investors or securing a business loan from your bank, you likely won't see a penny without showing a well-thought-out business plan. Bankers and investors alike ...

  16. Why write a business plan?

    The information you provide to Business Angels and private equity investors will be . the same as for a bank, but you will also need to provide a significantly expanded business plan. Financial forecasts will now be required up to five years ahead. Potential investors will want to examine the details supporting the business plan,

  17. 11.4 The Business Plan

    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 ...

  18. 20 Reasons Why You Need a Business Plan in 2024

    1. To Prove That You're Serious About Your Business. A formal business plan is necessary to show all interested parties — employees, investors, partners and yourself — that you are committed to building the business. Creating your plan forces you to think through and select the strategies that will propel your growth. 2.

  19. How to Write a Business Plan: Our Guide for Founders

    Business plans come in three types: traditional, lean, and nonprofit. Write your business plan by first putting together and executive summary and business description to establish what you do. Market and industry analyses will demonstrate your understanding of the competition and potential customer base.

  20. What is a Business Plan? Definition + Resources

    A business plan lays out a strategic roadmap for any new or growing business. Any entrepreneur with a great idea for a business needs to conduct market research, analyze their competitors, validate their idea by talking to potential customers, and define their unique value proposition.

  21. 5 things banks look for in a business plan

    Here are five things banks look for in a business plan. 1. Background. Banks want to know who you are, what you've done, and what your company has been doing. They look for tangible and ...

  22. How to Present a Business Plan to Investors, a Bank or Boss

    5. Be realistic. To be effective, your forecasts should clearly show how your business or project will be profitable for both you and your boss or investor. These forecasts must be rational and backed up by solid data. Be careful about making bogus and unsubstantial claims. 6. Do your research.

  23. Why Are Business Plans Used For Potential Investors And Banks?

    When starting a business, one of the most crucial steps is creating a business plan. This document outlines the company's goals, strategies, and financial projections. But have you ever wondered why…

  24. A Plan to Remake the Middle East

    Hosted by Michael Barbaro. Featuring Michael Crowley. Produced by Nina Feldman , Clare Toeniskoetter and Rikki Novetsky. Edited by Liz O. Baylen. Original music by Marion Lozano , Elisheba Ittoop ...

  25. Stormy Daniels Takes the Stand

    On today's episode. Jonah E. Bromwich, who covers criminal justice in New York for The New York Times. Stormy Daniels leaving court on Thursday, after a second day of cross-examination in the ...