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Blog Business

How to Write a Business Plan Outline [Examples + Templates] 

By Letícia Fonseca , Aug 11, 2023

business plan outline

When venturing into crafting a business plan, the initial hurdle often lies in taking that first step.

So, how can you evade those prolonged hours of staring at a blank page? Initiate your journey with the aid of a business plan outline.

As with any endeavor, an outline serves as the beacon of clarity, illuminating the path to confront even the most formidable tasks. This holds particularly true when composing pivotal documents vital to your triumph, much like a business plan.

Nonetheless, I understand the enormity of a business plan’s scope, which might make the task of outlining it seem daunting. This is precisely why I’ve compiled all the requisite information to facilitate the creation of a business plan outline. No need to break a sweat!

And if you’re seeking further assistance, a business plan maker and readily available business plan templates can offer valuable support in shaping your comprehensive plan.

Read on for answers to all your business plan outline questions or jump ahead for some handy templates. 

Click to jump ahead:

What is a business plan outline (and why do you need one), what format should you choose for your business plan outline, what are the key components of a business plan outline.

  • Business plan template examples
  • Writing tips to ace your outline 

A business plan outline is the backbone of your business plan. It contains all the most important information you’ll want to expand on in your full-length plan. 

Think of it this way: your outline is a frame for your plan. It provides a high-level idea of what the final plan should look like, what it will include and how all the information will be organized. 

Why would you do this extra step? Beyond saving you from blank page syndrome, an outline ensures you don’t leave any essential information out of your plan — you can see all the most important points at a glance and quickly identify any content gaps. 

It also serves as a writing guide. Once you know all the sections you want in your plan, you just need to expand on them. Suddenly, you’re “filling in the blanks” as opposed to writing a plan from scratch!

Incidentally, using a business plan template like this one gives you a running head start, too: 

business plan outline

Perhaps most importantly, a business plan outline keeps you focused on the essential parts of your document. (Not to mention what matters most to stakeholders and investors.)  With an outline, you’ll spend less time worrying about structure or organization and more time perfecting the actual content of your document. 

If you’re looking for more general advice, you can read about  how to create a business plan here . But if you’re working on outlining your plan, stick with me.

Return to Table of Contents

Most business plans fit into one of two formats. 

The format you choose largely depends on three factors: (1) the stage of your business, (2) if you’re presenting the plan to investors and (3) what you want to achieve with your business plan. 

Let’s have a closer look at these two formats and why you might choose one over the other.

Traditional format

Traditional business plans  are typically long, detailed documents. In many cases, they take up to 50-60 pages, but it’s not uncommon to see plans spanning 100+ pages. 

Traditional plans are long because they cover  every aspect  of your business. They leave nothing out. You’ll find a traditional business plan template with sections like executive summary, company description, target market, market analysis, marketing plan, financial plan, and more. Basically: the more information the merrier.

This business plan template isn’t of a traditional format, but you could expand it into one by duplicating pages:

business plan outline

Due to their high level of detail, traditional formats are the best way to sell your business. They show you’re reliable and have a clear vision for your business’s future. 

If you’re planning on presenting your plan to investors and stakeholders, you’ll want to go with a traditional plan format. The more information you include, the fewer doubts and questions you’ll get when you present your plan, so don’t hold back. 

Traditional business plans require more detailed outlines before drafting since there’s a lot of information to cover. You’ll want to list all the sections and include bullet points describing what each section should cover. 

It’s also a good idea to include all external resources and visuals in your outline, so you don’t have to gather them later. 

Lean format

Lean business plan formats are high level and quick to write. They’re often only one or two pages. Similar to a  business plan infographic , they’re scannable and quick to digest, like this template: 

business plan outline

This format is often referred to as a “startup” format due to (you guessed it!) many startups using it. 

Lean business plans require less detailed outlines. You can include high-level sections and a few lines in each section covering the basics. Since the final plan will only be a page or two, you don’t need to over prepare. Nor will you need a ton of external resources. 

Lean plans don’t answer all the questions investors and stakeholders may ask, so if you go this route, make sure it’s the right choice for your business . Companies not yet ready to present to investors will typically use a lean/startup business plan format to get their rough plan on paper and share it internally with their management team. 

Here’s another example of a lean business plan format in the form of a financial plan: 

business plan outline

Your business plan outline should include all the following sections. The level of detail you choose to go into will depend on your intentions for your plan (sharing with stakeholders vs. internal use), but you’ll want every section to be clear and to the point. 

1. Executive summary

The executive summary gives a high-level description of your company, product or service. This section should include a mission statement, your company description, your business’s primary goal, and the problem it aims to solve. You’ll want to state how your business can solve the problem and briefly explain what makes you stand out (your competitive advantage).

Having an executive summary is essential to selling your business to stakeholders , so it should be as clear and concise as possible. Summarize your business in a few sentences in a way that will hook the reader (or audience) and get them invested in what you have to say next. In other words, this is your elevator pitch.

business plan outline

2. Product and services description

This is where you should go into more detail about your product or service. Your product is the heart of your business, so it’s essential this section is easy to grasp. After all, if people don’t know what you’re selling, you’ll have a hard time keeping them engaged!

Expand on your description in the executive summary, going into detail about the problem your customers face and how your product/service will solve it. If you have various products or services, go through all of them in equal detail. 

business plan outline

3. Target market and/or Market analysis

A market analysis is crucial for placing your business in a larger context and showing investors you know your industry. This section should include market research on your prospective customer demographic including location, age range, goals and motivations. 

You can even  include detailed customer personas  as a visual aid — these are especially useful if you have several target demographics. You want to showcase your knowledge of your customer, who exactly you’re selling to and how you can fulfill their needs.

Be sure to include information on the overall target market for your product, including direct and indirect competitors and how your industry is performing. If your competitors have strengths you want to mimic or weaknesses you want to exploit, this is the place to record that information. 

business plan outline

4. Organization and management

You can think of this as a “meet the team” section — this is where you should go into depth on your business’s structure from management to legal and HR. If there are people bringing unique skills or experience to the table (I’m sure there are!), you should highlight them in this section. 

The goal here is to showcase why your team is the best to run your business. Investors want to know you’re unified, organized and reliable. This is also a potential opportunity to bring more humanity to your business plan and showcase the faces behind the ideas and product. 

business plan outline

5. Marketing and sales

Now that you’ve introduced your product and team, you need to explain how you’re going to sell it. Give a detailed explanation of your sales and marketing strategy, including pricing, timelines for launching your product and advertising.

This is a major section of your plan and can even live as a separate document for your marketing and sales teams. Here are some  marketing plan templates to help you get started .

Make sure you have research or analysis to back up your decisions — if you want to do paid ads on LinkedIn to advertise your product, include a brief explanation as to why that is the best channel for your business. 

business plan outline

6. Financial projections and funding request

The end of your plan is where you’ll look to the future and how you think your business will perform financially. Your financial plan should include results from your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow projections. 

State your funding requirements and what you need to realize the business. Be extremely clear about how you plan to use the funding and when you expect investors will see returns.

If you aren’t presenting to potential investors, you can skip this part, but it’s something to keep in mind should you seek funding in the future. Covering financial projections and the previous five components is essential at the stage of business formation to ensure everything goes smoothly moving forward.

business plan outline

7. Appendix

Any extra visual aids, receipts, paperwork or charts will live here. Anything that may be relevant to your plan should be included as reference e.g. your cash flow statement (or other financial statements). You can format your appendix in whatever way you think is best — as long as it’s easy for readers to find what they’re looking for, you’ve done your job!

Typically, the best way to start your outline is to list all these high-level sections. Then, you can add bullet points outlining what will go in each section and the resources you’ll need to write them. This should give you a solid starting point for your full-length plan.

Business plan outline templates

Looking for a shortcut? Our  business plan templates  are basically outlines in a box! 

While your outline likely won’t go into as much detail, these templates are great examples of how to organize your sections.

Traditional format templates

A strong template can turn your long, dense business plan into an engaging, easy-to-read document. There are lots to choose from, but here are just a few ideas to inspire you… 

You can duplicate pages and use these styles for a traditional outline, or start with a lean outline as you build your business plan out over time:

business plan outline

Lean format templates

For lean format outlines, a simpler ‘ mind map ’ style is a good bet. With this style, you can get ideas down fast and quickly turn them into one or two-page plans. Plus, because they’re shorter, they’re easy to share with your team.

business plan outline

Writing tips to ace your business plan outline

Business plans are complex documents, so if you’re still not sure how to write your outline, don’t worry! Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when drafting your business plan outline:

  • Ask yourself why you’re writing an outline. Having a clear goal for your outline can help keep you on track as you write. Everything you include in your plan should contribute to your goal. If it doesn’t, it probably doesn’t need to be in there.
  • Keep it clear and concise. Whether you’re writing a traditional or lean format business plan, your outline should be easy to understand. Choose your words wisely and avoid unnecessary preambles or padding language. The faster you get to the point, the easier your plan will be to read.
  • Add visual aids. No one likes reading huge walls of text! Make room in your outline for visuals, data and charts. This keeps your audience engaged and helps those who are more visual learners. Psst,  infographics  are great for this.
  • Make it collaborative. Have someone (or several someones) look it over before finalizing your outline. If you have an established marketing / sales / finance team, have them look it over too. Getting feedback at the outline stage can help you avoid rewrites and wasted time down the line.

If this is your first time writing a business plan outline, don’t be too hard on yourself. You might not get it 100% right on the first try, but with these tips and the key components listed above, you’ll have a strong foundation. Remember, done is better than perfect. 

Create a winning business plan by starting with a detailed, actionable outline

The best way to learn is by doing. So go ahead, get started on your business plan outline. As you develop your plan, you’ll no doubt learn more about your business and what’s important for success along the way. 

A clean, compelling template is a great way to get a head start on your outline. After all, the sections are already separated and defined for you! 

Explore Venngage’s business plan templates  for one that suits your needs. Many are free to use and there are premium templates available for a small monthly fee. Happy outlining!

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

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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

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

What Is a Business Plan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Plan Steps

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

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

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

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

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

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

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

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

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

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

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

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

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

Step 1: Executive Summary

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

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

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

Step 2: Description of Business

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

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

Step 3: Market Analysis

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

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

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

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

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

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

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

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

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

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

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

Step 7: Marketing Plan

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

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

Step 8: Sales Plan

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

Start by answering the following questions:

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

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

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

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

Step 10: Financial Projections

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

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

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

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

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

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

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

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

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

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

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

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

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

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

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

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

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

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

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

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

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

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

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

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

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

Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change. 

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

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

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

Rosalie Murphy

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

What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.

Bizee

A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

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

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

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

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

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

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

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

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

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

business plan outline advice

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

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

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

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

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

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

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

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

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

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

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

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

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

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

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

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

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

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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Use This Simple Business Plan Outline to Organize Your Plan

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

12 min. read

Updated October 27, 2023

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

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

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

  • What is a business plan outline?

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

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

  • Why is a business plan outline important?

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

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

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

  • 10 key sections in a standard business plan outline

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

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

1. Executive summary

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

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

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

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2. Products and services

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

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

3. Market analysis 

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

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

4. Competition

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

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

5. Marketing and sales

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

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

6. Operations

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

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

7. Milestones and metrics

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

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

8. Company overview and team

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

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

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

9. Financial plan and forecasts

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

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

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

10. Appendix

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

  • Detailed business plan outline

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

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

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

Executive summary

Company purpose / mission statement.

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

Problem We Solve

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

Our Solution

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

Target Market

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

Briefly describe who is behind the business.

Financial Summary

A short overview of revenue goals and profitability timeline.

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

Funding Needed*

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

Products & Services

Problem worth solving.

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

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

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

Intellectual Property/Patents*

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

Regulatory Requirements*

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

Future Products and Services*

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

Market Size & Segments

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

Market Trends*

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

Market Growth*

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

Industry Analysis*

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

Key Customers*

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

Future Markets*

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

Competition 

Current alternatives.

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

Our Advantages

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

Barriers to Entry*

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

Marketing & Sales

Market positioning.

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

Unique value proposition*

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

Marketing Plan

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

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

Pricing Strategy*

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

Distribution*

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

SWOT Analysis*

Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Location & Facilities

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

What technology is crucial for your business success?

Equipment & Tools

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

Sourcing and fulfillment*

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

Partners and Resources*

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

Milestones and metrics

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

Key metrics

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

Company overview and team

Organizational structure.

An overview of the legal structure of your business. 

Company history and ownership

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

Management team

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

Management team gaps

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

Financial plan and forecast

Projected profit and loss.

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

Projected cash flow

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

Projected balance sheet

Expected balances for business assets, liabilities, and equity.

Use of funds

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

Exit strategy

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

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

Business plan outline FAQ

How do you organize your business plan?

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

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

Should you include tables and charts in your business plan?

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

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

How long should your business plan be?

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

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

Content Author: Tim Berry

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

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How to Write a Business Plan in 2023: The Ultimate Guide for Every Entrepreneur

Are you starting a new business or trying to get a loan for your existing venture? If so, you’re going to need to know how to write a business plan. Business plans give entrepreneurs the opportunity to formally analyze and define every aspect of their business idea .

In this post, you’ll learn how to put together a business plan and find the best resources to help you along the way.

business plan outline advice

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business plan outline advice

What is a Business Plan? 

A business plan is a formal document that outlines your business’s goals and how you will achieve those goals. Entrepreneurs who start out with business plans are 16 percent more likely to build successful companies , according to the Harvard Business Review.  Developing a business plan ensures sustainable success, guiding you as you grow your business, legitimizing your venture, and helping you secure funding (among countless other benefits). 

What Are the Main Purposes of a Business Plan?

Most financial institutions and service providers require you to submit a detailed business plan to obtain funding for your business. Online businesses will likely have a low overhead to start, so they may not need funding and therefore may not feel the need to write a business plan. That said, writing a business plan is still a good idea as it can help you secure a drastic increase limit on your credit card as your business grows or open a business account. This varies per bank.

If you’re growing your business, use it to help you raise expansion capital, create a growth strategy, find opportunities, and mitigate risks.Palo Alto software found that companies who make business plans are twice as likely to secure funding . .

→ Click Here to Launch Your Online Business with Shopify

If you’re just starting your business, making a business plan can help you  identify your strengths and weaknesses, communicate your vision to others, and develop accurate forecasts.

business plan format

How to Make a Business Plan: The Prerequisites 

Here are the prerequisites to creating a solid business plan:

  • Establish goals
  • Understand your audience
  • Determine your business plan format
  • Get to writing! 

Establish Goals

There are two key questions to ask here: 

  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business plan?

Approaching your business plan through that lens will help you focus on the end goal throughout the writing process. These also provide metrics to measure success against. 

Before writing your business plan, gather the content and data needed to inform what goes in it. This includes researching your market and industry – spanning everything from customer research to legalities you’ll need to consider. It’s a lot easier to start with the information already in front of you instead of researching each section individually as you go. 

Turn to guides, samples, and small business plan templates to help. Many countries have an official administration or service dedicated to providing information, resources, and tools to help entrepreneurs and store owners plan, launch, manage, and grow their businesses. 

The following will take you to online business plan guides and templates for specific countries.

  • United States Small Business Administration (SBA) – The “write your business plan page” includes traditional and lean startup business plan formats, three downloadable sample business plans, a template, and a step-by-step build a business plan tool.
  • Australian Government – The “business plan template” page includes a downloadable template, guide, and business plan creation app.
  • UK Government Business and Self-Employed – The “write a business plan” page includes links to a downloadable business plan template and resources from trusted UK businesses. .
  • Canada Business Network – The “writing your business plan” page includes a detailed guide to writing your business plan and links to business plan templates from Canadian business development organizations and banks.

These business resource sites also offer a wealth of valuable information for entrepreneurs including local and regional regulations, structuring, tax obligations, funding programs, market research data, and much more. Visit the sites above or do the following Google searches to find official local business resources in your area:

  • your country government business services
  • your state/province government business services
  • your city government business services

Some Chamber of Commerce websites offer resources for business owners, including business plan guides and templates. Check your local chapter to see if they have any.

Banks that offer business funding also often have a resource section for entrepreneurs. Do a Google search to find banks that offer business funding as well as business plan advice to see the business plans that get funding. If your bank doesn’t offer any advice, search for the largest banks in your area:

  • business plan guide bank name
  • business plan samples bank name
  • business plan template bank name

If you’re looking for more sample business plans, Bplans has over 500 free business plan samples organized by business type as well as a business plan template. Their collection includes 116 business plans for retail and online stores. Shopify also offers business plan templates intended to help small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs identify functional areas of a business they may not have considered.

business plan outline advice

Understand Your Audience

Because business plans serve different purposes, you’re not always presenting it to the same audience. It’s important to understand who’s going to be reading your business plan, what you’re trying to convince them to do, and what hesitations they might have. 

That way, you can adapt your business plan accordingly. As such, your audience also determines which type of business plan format you use. Which brings us to our next point…

Which Business Plan Format Should You Use? 

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) presents two business plan formats: 

  • The traditional business plan format is for entrepreneurs who want to create a detailed plan for themselves or for business funding. 
  • The lean startup business plan format, on the other hand, is for business owners that want to create a condensed, single-page business plan.

If the business plan is just for you and internal folks, draft a lean startup business plan or a customized version of the traditional business plan with only the sections you need. If you need it for business funding or other official purposes, choose the formal business plan and thoroughly complete the required sections while paying extra attention to financial projections.

If your business operates outside the U.S., clarify the preferred format with your bank.

How to Create a Business Plan: Questions to Ask Yourself

As you write a business plan, take time to not only analyze your business idea, but yourself as well. Ask the following questions to help you analyze your business idea along the way:

  • Why do I want to start or expand my business?
  • Do my goals (personal and professional) and values align with my business idea?
  • What income do I need to generate for myself?
  • What education, experience, and skills do I bring to my business?

business plan outline advice

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

According to the business plan template created by SCORE, Deluxe, and the SBA , a traditional business plan encompasses the following sections. 

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Products & services
  • Market analysis
  • Marketing & sales
  • Management & organization
  • Funding request
  • Financial projections
  • SWOT analysis

Since not everyone is aware of the key details to include in each section, we’ve listed information you can copy to fill in your business plan outline. Here’s how to build a business plan step by step.  

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is the first part of your business plan, so this is where you need to hook readers in. Every business plan starts this way — even a simple business plan template should kick off with the Executive Summary. Summarize your entire business plan in a single page, highlighting details about your business that will excite potential investors and lenders. 

Explain what your business has to offer, your target market , what separates you from the competition, a little bit about yourself and the core people behind your business, and realistic projections about your business’ success.

While this is the first section of your business plan, write it after you’ve completed the rest of your business plan. It’s a lot easier because you can pull from the sections you’ve already written, and it’s easier to identify the best parts of your business plan to include on the first page.

Company Description

In the Company Description, share 411 about your business. Include basic details like: 

  • Legal structure (sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, etc.)
  • Business and tax ID numbers
  • When the business started
  • Ownership information
  • Number of employees

Your mission statement , philosophy and values, vision, short- and long-term goals, and milestones along with a brief overview of your industry, market, outlook, and competitors should also be in the Company Description.

Pro tip: These are the details you’ll use each time you create a business profile, whether that's on social media, business directories, or other networks. Keep your information consistent to reduce confusion and instill more confidence in potential customers. 

Products & Services

The Products & Services section details what you plan to sell to customers. For a dropshipping business , this section should explain which trending products you’re going to sell, the pain points your products solve for customers, how you’ll price your products compared to your competitors, expected profit margin, and production and delivery details.

Remember to include any unique selling points for specific products or product groupings, such as low overhead, exclusive agreements with vendors, the ability to obtain products that are in short supply / high demand based on your connections, personalized customer service, or other advantages.

For dropshipping businesses selling hundreds or even thousands of products, detail the main categories of products and the number of products you plan to offer within each category. By doing this, it’s easier to visualize your business offerings as a whole to determine if you need more products in one category to fully flesh out your online store.

Market Analysis

The Market Analysis section of your business plan allows you to share the research you have done to learn about your target audience — the potential buyers of your products. People requesting a business plan will want to know that you have a solid understanding of your industry, the competitive landscape, who’s most likely to become your customers. It’s important to demonstrate that  there’s a large enough market for your product to make it profitable and/or to make a strong return on investment .

To complete the Market Analysis component of your business plan, check out the following resources for industry, market, and local economic research:

  • U.S. Embassy websites in most countries have a business section with information for people who want to sell abroad. Business sections include a basic “getting started” guide, links to economic and data reports, trade events, and additional useful business links for a particular region.
  • IBISWorld is a provider of free and paid industry research and procurement research reports for the United States , United Kingdom , Australia , and New Zealand .  
  • Statista offers free and paid statistics and studies from over 18,000 sources including industry reports, country reports, market studies, outlook reports, and consumer market reports.   

Use these websites and others to learn about the projected growth of your industry and your potential profitability. You can also use social media tools like Facebook Audience Insights to estimate the size of your target market on the largest social network

Another way to research your market and products is through Google Trends . This free tool will allow you to see how often people search for the products your business offers over time. Be sure to explain how your business plans to capitalize on increasing and decreasing search trends accordingly.

Marketing & Sales

Knowing your target market is half the battle. In the Marketing & Sales section, share how you plan to reach and sell products to your target market. Outline the marketing and advertising strategies you intend to use to market your product to potential customers – search marketing , social media marketing , email marketing , and influencer marketing methods .

If you’re unsure how to market your business’ products, analyze your competitors for some inspiration. Discovering your competition’s marketing tactics will help you customize your own strategy for building a customer base and ultimately taking your business to the next level. 

Do a Google search for your competitor’s business name to find the websites, social accounts, and content they’ve created to market their products. Look at the ways your competitor uses each online entity to drive new customers to their website and product pages.

Then come up with a plan to convert a similar audience with your marketing and advertising messages. For dropshipping businesses, conversions will typically take place on your website as people purchase your products and/or by phone if you take orders over the phone. 

Management & Organization

In the Management & Organization piece of your business plan, describe the structure of your business. In terms of legal structure and incorporation, most businesses are classified as sole proprietorships (one owner), partnerships (two or more owners), corporations, or S corporations.

Draft a condensed resume for each of the key members of your business. If you’re a solopreneur , include how your past education and work experience will help you run each aspect of your business. If you have one or more partner(s) and employee(s), include their relevant education and experience as well.

Think of this as a great way to evaluate the strengths of each individual running your business. When self-evaluating, you’ll be able to identify the aspects of your business that’ll be easier to manage and which ones to delegate to freelancers, contractors, employees, and third-party services. This also makes it easier to find the best way to utilize their strengths for business growth.

Funding Request

Chances are, you don’t have a funding request for a startup dropshipping business since the appeal to dropshipping is the low upfront investment . If you’re looking for a loan, however, this would be the section where you outline the dollar amount you need, what you plan to invest in, and how you see the return on your investment.

Another way to use this section is to analyze the investment you have or plan to make when starting or growing your business. This should include everything from the computer you use to run your website to the monthly fee for business services.

Financial Projections

In Financial Projections, share your projected revenue and expenses for the first or next five years of your business. The idea here is to demonstrate that the revenue you’re anticipating will easily lead to a return on any investment, whether from your personal finances or a capital lending service.

business plan outline advice

If you’re looking for funding, you’ll need to go into detail with projected income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and capital expenditure budgets. If you aren’t looking for funding, it won’t hurt to create these types of financial projections so you can realistically plan for the future of your business.

The Appendix of your business plan includes any supplemental documents needed throughout the sections of your business plan. These may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Credit histories
  • Product brochures
  • Legal forms
  • Supplier contracts

If you’re submitting your business plan for funding, contact the lender to see what documentation they want included with your funding request.

SWOT Analysis

In addition to the above sections, some business plans also include a SWOT Analysis. This is a one-page summary of your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The strengths and weaknesses you include will be internal, whereas opportunities and threats you include will be external. 

Depending on the revelations of this section, you may or may not want to make a SWOT analysis when submitting your business plan formally unless it is requested.

business plan outline advice

Summary: How to Create a Business Plan

As you can see, creating a business plan for your dropshipping business is a great way to validate your business idea , discover your business’s strengths and weaknesses, and make a blueprint for your business's future.

In summary, here are the sections you will need to write for your business plan, step by step:

  • SWOT analysis (Optional)

If you haven’t already, take the time to create a business plan to launch or grow your business in 2023!

Want to Learn More?

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Business Plan Outline: Everything You Need To Know

A business plan outline is the structure you should follow and each business plan should contain specific information that details your operations. 3 min read updated on February 01, 2023

A business plan outline is the structure you should follow for this important document. Each business plan should contain specific information that details your operations, budget, marketing plan, staffing, and other key elements.

Executive Summary

Although this section will come first for readers of your business plan, you should write it last. It should pull together the highlights from each section of the plan and provide a quick summary that engages lenders, investors, and stakeholders. Your main points should be covered in two to three pages.

Business and Industry Overview

This section provides background information about your industry, including market trends, major competitors, and estimated sales. Is this industry declining, stable, or growing? What do experts predict the future holds in this industry? You should also provide information about how your company will fit into the industry.

Market Analysis

This section should cover your target market, including demographics, location, and needs and how those needs are currently met (or go unmet). The market analysis must demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of your target customers so that you can make accurate predictions about whether they will purchase your products and/or services. Your market analysis should be specific. For example, you aren't targeting all teenage girls; you're targeting all teenage girls who take dance lessons in a specific geographic region.

Competitive Analysis

This section should provide information about both your direct and indirect competitors. Evaluate their market advantage, and discuss your strategies to overcome barriers to market entry. You should also explain how your business will distinguish itself from competitors in order to succeed.

Sales and Marketing Plan

This should comprise a thorough discussion of your sales and marketing strategy , including promotional activities, pricing, and benefits of your products and services. You must create a unique selling proposition for your business that indicates the attraction for customers.

Your pricing strategy, which is included in the section, should:

  • Provide a suggested price for your products or services.
  • Offer comparison with competitor pricing.
  • Explain the rationale behind your pricing.
  • Show how this price will create profit.

Justifying a higher price for similar products offered by competitors can be challenging in a price-driven market.

One common pricing strategy is cost-plus pricing , in which you add a percentage margin to the cost of your product or service. This allows you to earn a guaranteed margin on every sale but could place your prices outside the range your target customers are willing to pay.

With benefit-driven pricing, you estimate the amount the customer will gain by using your product or service and set your price as a percentage of this gain. This is easiest when the product or service has a measurable benefit. This strategy allows you to maximize your pricing, but it can be challenging to find the right market price.

Ownership and Management Plan

This section details your executive and management team as well as the legal structure of your business. This should include both internal and external needs and resources as well as other human resource needs. If you plan to seek funding, make sure you have indicated the need for an advisory board.

Operating Plan

Here, you'll describe the physical location of your business, facilities, and equipment. This should also include the staffing needs, inventory requirements and suppliers, details about the manufacturing process, and other pertinent operations information.

Financial Plan

You'll need to comprehensively describe your business's funding requirements and provide complete financial statements and analysis. This includes your business's three main financial documents:

  • Cash flow statement
  • Income statement
  • Balance sheet

Appendices and Exhibits

You should also append any other information that will lend credibility to your business idea. This includes:

  • Marketing studies
  • Patent applications
  • Legal agreements
  • Product photographs

Business cards, product packaging samples, floor plans, and other branding materials are also appropriate.

Finishing Touches

Your business plan should look like a formal, professional document. This is especially important if you are presenting the plan to potential lenders and investors. Make sure you proofread for grammar and spelling and use appropriate formatting and margins. If you provide paper copies of the plan, have them professionally printed and bound.

If you need help with your business plan outline, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.

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Blog / Small business tips / How to create a business plan: A complete guide to writing your company roadmap

business plan outline advice

How to create a business plan: A complete guide to writing your company roadmap

A business plan is a roadmap that outlines what your business does, how it’s going to work and how you’re going to achieve your goals. 

According to Bplans , who worked with the University of Oregon to analyse academic research around planning, entrepreneurs who take the time to create a plan for their business idea are 152% more likely to start that business.

Further, 129% are more likely to push forward with it beyond the start-up phase. And companies that strategically plan grow 30% faster than those that don’t. 

In this guide, we’re going to walk you through how to write a business plan that helps your company start, build and achieve success.   

Table of contents

What is a business plan and why do you need one, the nine key components of a business plan and how to write them.

  • Five top tips for writing a compelling business plan

📹 Masterclass video: How to write the perfect business plan

Wrapping up.

A business plan is a document that guides you through the various stages of building, launching and running your business. Essentially, it helps you put the building blocks in place to make your company a success.

If you’re bringing a new small business to market, a business plan will be crucial in:

  • Securing funding or loans
  • Achieving investment or raising venture capital
  • Attracting talent or business partners
  • Guiding your go-to-market strategy

All banks and most investors and venture capitalists will only invest in a business if they can see that they’ll get their money back. They want to know that you have the business idea, team, scalability and planned sales growth to succeed. A business plan gives financiers the details they need to make informed decisions. 

Similarly, for talent or prospective partners, a business plan is your assurance to them that your business matches their short and long-term career ambitions. 

A business plan also keeps you focused on what you need to do to accomplish your goals. If you’re not meeting your targets, you can turn to your business plan to help guide you on changes that need to be made. It’s the drawing board you can always go back to. 

Because of this, having a business plan is as important for existing businesses as it is for start-ups. 

Top Tip: Business plans also apply to side hustles. Even if you have a full-time job or already run a small business, a side hustle can be a great way to pull in extra income or capitalise on a hobby. But just because it doesn’t take up all of your time doesn’t mean it should lack structure. To learn more about how to effectively run a side business, read our guide to 5 side businesses you can start quickly and affordably 💡

How long should a business plan be?

According to Growthink surveys, 15 to 25 pages is the optimum business plan length. But the number of pages isn’t the ideal way to measure length. 

As Bplans points out: “A 20-page business plan with dense text and no graphics is much longer than a 35-page plan broken up into readable bullet points, useful illustrations of locations or products, and business charts to illustrate important projections.”

Instead, Bplans says that your business plan should: 

  • Take no longer than 15 minutes to skim read . Make sure that key information in each section is easy for readers to find.
  • Mirror the length of its audience . The length is directly tied to the intent. If the purpose is for outsiders who know nothing about your business to gain a deeper understanding, it must include detailed executive summaries and team descriptions. If the intent is to procure investment, it must be built to withstand legal scrutiny and include any information a bank would look for in a business loan application. Know your audience, and work backwards to create the ideal business plan to match that scenario (we’ll dive into exactly how to do this in a later section).

How to present your business plan?

Your business plan is designed to evolve as your business grows. It’s a living document that should be consistently tweaked to match the health and goals of your company. Because of this, it’s best to keep your plan as a digital document that can be easily updated and sent to third parties as a PDF. 

That said, there may be times when your plan needs to be presented to investors or bank managers in person, so it should always be print-ready with a front cover that includes your:

  • Company name
  • Company logo and colour scheme
  • Business name and date
  • Contact information

It should also have a contents page, with numbered pages and sections so that readers can easily find what they’re looking for.

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A business plan features nine main sections related to your business operations, structure and finances: 

  • Executive summary
  • Company description

Market analysis

  • Management and company structure
  • Service or product information
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Funding information
  • Financial projections

Let’s take a closer look at each. 

1. Executive summary

The executive summary is a top-level look at your business that summarises the detailed information found in the rest of the sections.

It’s also your elevator pitch—a chance for you to immediately captivate the reader by portraying your mission, vision, goals, product, leadership, finance information and growth plans.

Picture yourself in a lift for 45 seconds with a potential investor. How would you sell your business? Think about that when writing this section. Be concise and compelling with your words.

Because it is a summary, it’s often easier to write this section last after you’ve fleshed out the finer details of your business plan .

Writing your executive summary

Start with the basic information:

  • Your company name
  • Company address
  • Names of all owners and partners

Then, get into the business information. 

  • Value proposition . Describe in one sentence what your company does and why it’s great. This is your value proposition. For example, Uber’s value proposition is “The smartest way to get around”. For email marketing platform MailChimp it’s “Send Better Email”. For Dollar Shave Club it’s “A great shave for a few bucks a month”.
  • Problem and solution . In a paragraph, briefly explain the problem customers are facing and how your product or service solves it.
  • Target customers. Who is your ideal customer? Be extremely specific. For example, if you’re selling men’s suits, your audience won’t simply be every man because every man wears suits. That doesn’t hold true. It’s more likely to be targeted towards ‘fashion-conscious men’ or ‘businessmen’.
  • Competitors . List other companies that are solving the same problems you are and how they’re solving them.
  • Team . A sentence or two on why your team is the best team to bring your product or service to market.
  • Finances . Focus on the key aspects of your financial plan–your planned costs and how you will make money.
  • Funding . Details of your start-up costs and how much you need to raise to get your business off the ground. 
  • Milestones . Briefly mention what you’ve achieved so far and what goals you plan to achieve. This lets potential investors, talent or partners know how serious you are in building a successful business. 

As mentioned above, before you can write this section you have to flesh out all of your company details, including who you are, who you’re selling to, how you’re going to sell your product or service, what your financial goals are, how you will reach those financial goals, and so on. 

The rest of this article will inform you on how to do just that. 

2. Company description

The company description is your story. It digs deeper into your value proposition, looking at how you came to be and what you intend to achieve.

Break your description down into three sections: 

Mission statement

Company profile, business objectives.

An example of a target, mission, and values

Your mission statement is a sentence or short paragraph that describes why your business exists.

To create your mission statement, answer the following questions:

  • What does my business do?
  • How do we do it?
  • Who do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing to customers?

For example, Patagonia’s mission statement is “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

In a single sentence, they get across their aims and ambitions, their value to the market (safe, quality products) and their value to people and the world (helping the environment). 

Use this as inspiration to come up with a statement that captures the heart and soul of your business.

Top Tip: Your company description will also help to inform your business culture. You will carry these core values throughout all of your business behaviours and they will also influence how you make future business decisions. Because of this, it’s crucial to devote the necessary time and energy to get this right. To learn exactly how to do that, read our guide on why business culture matters & how to get it right from the start ☀️

In a paragraph or two, your company profile should detail your: 

  • Founding date
  • Company location
  • Products or services
  • Number of employees
  • Details of company leaders and their roles
  • Company milestones

The information is the most important thing here, so approach it like a business profile and stick to the facts and figures.

In a paragraph or two explain what you want to achieve as a business. This needs to be a realistic aim that investors can get behind and your team members can work towards. 

The SMART goals method can help you to ensure your goals are practical.

SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. 

Infographic describing SMART goals

Use graphs to add weight to your objectives. For example, if you aim to increase revenue from £100,000 in year one to £500,000 by year five, create a chart that plots your growth. The visual aspect helps to grab attention whilst providing readers with key information they may miss if skim reading. 

This chart from an example business plan does just that:

Example of 5 year net revenue projections

You’re immediately drawn to the planned-growth projections and want to learn about how they’ll reach such high goals. We will get into the specifics of how to create accurate sales and revenue forecasts in a later section.

Top Tip: To learn more about how to establish practical SMART goals that will inform your business strategy and help you effectively market your brand, read our beginners guide to digital marketing strategy . 

3. Market analysis

Marketing analysis focuses on three areas:

  • Your target market (the industry your selling in)
  • Your customers (who you’re selling to)
  • Your competitors (who you’re selling against)

By detailing information about the themes and trends within your industry, you’ll be able to show that the appetite for your product or service exists. Outlining information about your ideal customer helps you to identify the marketing and sales tactics you can use to attract them. And highlighting your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses gives you a chance to showcase what you do better than the rest. 

Market analysis should identify the market as a whole, as well as your addressable market and your share of the market. From this information, you can begin to get an idea of your target market, which informs your messaging, positioning and unique selling point (USP).

Venn diagram demonstrating how to find your USP

Start by researching the current state of your industry and where the market is heading in terms of size, trends and projected growth.

Your approach here will depend on your business. For example, if you’re opening a small local shop, you should assess the market around your shop. If you’re starting an ecommerce business and selling UK-wide, you’ll need to analyse the market at a national level. 

When estimating market size, look at:

  • Volume . The number of potential customers
  • Value . The value of the market

You can find this information by searching for publicly available data or by commissioning a market research report. If you’re searching on a national level, you may find figures published online. On a local level, data might not be as easy to come by, which is where you’ll need to carry out your own research. 

Top Tip: Conducting market research takes time, but it’s important that you get a full picture of your audience to ensure your message and USP resonates. To learn more, read our detailed guide on how to conduct market research for your business idea ⚡️

Once you have the information, you can use TAM SAM SOM to work out your business’ relationship to the market size.

  • TAM stands for Total Addressable Market
  • SAM stands for Serviceable Addressable Market
  • SOM stands for Serviceable Obtainable Market

Infographic describing TAM SAM SOM

  • To calculate your TAM, work out how many people have a need for your business. For example, let’s say you’re opening a shop selling custom-designed women’s clothes in a town of 100,000 people. Market research shows that 50% (50,000) of residents are women. Your total addressable market would be 50,000 people. 
  • To calculate your SAM, take your TAM and discount all the people that fall outside of your target market. Let’s say your target market is women between 18 and 35, with disposable income. This discounts 30,000 people, which means your serviceable addressable market is 40% (20,000) of your total addressable market. 
  • To calculate your SOM, work out how many of your SAM you can realistically serve. Your shop offers a measuring service and design consultation but only to people in a five-mile radius, which means you can serve 200 people a month. That would mean serving 2,400 people a year, which makes your SOM around 12% of your SAM.

Ideal customer

Your ideal customer is the person your product or service is aimed at. In the above example of the women’s clothes shop, the ideal customer is between 18 and 35, with disposable income. 

Customer analysis digs deeper than this, looking at your target customers’ education, income, job, relationship, buying concerns, interests and more.

You’ll find methods to help you discover your ideal customer and create customer personas in our guide on how to create a go-to-market strategy . 

Competitors

Competitive analysis is the process of identifying gaps in the market that your product or service can fill. It’s about finding out what the competition does so you gain a competitive advantage. 

In our guide on how to run a competitive analysis , we walk you through the process of analysing the finer details of your rivals in five steps:

Step 1: Identify & segment your competitors

Step 2: Analyse their market positioning

Step 3: Review their content & social media

Step 4: Check out what their customers are saying

Step 5: Walk through their customer journey

Use this information to show potential investors and talent that your business is going places. Our competitive analysis matrix template is a great starting point.

Screenshot showing competitor analysis matrix template with examples

Once complete, take it a step further and create a simple visual that clearly shows where your company outperforms the competition. Here is a basic example of how to build out this visual.

Example competitive analysis matrix

It’s hard to ignore a chart that checks all of the boxes. 

4. Management and company structure

This section goes into detail on how your company is structured and who is running it. 

The structure here means two different things:

Team structure

Company structure.

First, you need to show your management structure: what each leader’s role is within the company. 

The simplest way to show your company hierarchy is with an organisational chart like this example:

Example organisational chart

For each member of your team, give details on their background and credentials with a bio that includes their:

  • Professional background
  • Achievements

Including this information gives readers assurances that the team you have in place is well-positioned to take the company forward. 

If there are any roles yet to be filled, give details on those positions.

Company structure is your legal structure. For example, limited company or sole trader.

Top Tip: If you’re yet to decide on a business structure, you can weigh up the pros and cons for setting up as a sole trader or limited company in our sole trader vs limited company guide.

business plan outline advice

If you plan on changing the structure of your company in the future, include details on this as well. For example, you may start as a private limited company (Ltd), but grow to become a public limited company with shares offered to members of the public. 

5. Service or product information

Here is where you get to wax lyrical about your offer and why it’s better than anything currently on the market. 

This section should include: 

  • A description of your product or service . Details on what it is and what it does.
  • How your product or service will be priced . Do you offer tiered pricing or a subscription model, for example.

Top Tip: Choosing the right pricing strategy is another key part of your go-to-market strategy. Will you price higher, lower, or similar to your competitors? What does the market demand? How does your pricing strategy reflect the value of your products and services? To learn more about how to answer these questions, read our 6-step guide on how to price a product and achieve profitable markups 💷

  • How your products compare to competitors . List several competitor products along with their pros and cons.
  • The production process . Details on how your products are created, how your source materials, quality control management, supply chain, inventory and bookkeeping.
  • Product lifecycle . Details on upsells and cross-sells, research and development plans and time between purchases.
  • Orders . Details on how you process and fulfil orders.
  • Legal aspects . Details on any intellectual property or trademarks you own.
  • Future products or services . If you plan on expanding your offer, give details on the offer and any research and development plans.

While there are formal and practical details to get across, the main point of this section is to get the reader excited about your product. To do this:

  • Focus on the benefits . Describe how features give value to the customer. Here are some examples of features turned into benefits:
  • Highlight your features. Get across what features your product or service has that the competition doesn’t. For example, your product might be the cheapest on the market or your turnaround time might be quicker or your expertise might allow you to offer a better level of service. 
  • Get across why you’re needed . Shine the light on why your product or service is important to the market. This will be especially crucial if your startup is bringing a new invention to the market, or you’re creating an entirely new market. 

6. Marketing and sales strategy

If your business is going to be a success, you need a marketing strategy and sales plan that takes customers on a journey from awareness to purchase.

Diagram of the marketing funnel from awareness stage to advocacy

This section of your business plan should include:

  • Your target market . Reiterating the information from the market analysis section.
  • Which marketing channels you’ll use and which you’ll prioritise . For example, social media, word of mouth, Google Ads, print or radio advertising, exhibition stands or fairs, or referrals.
  • Your plan to attract customers at launch . For example, you might run an opening discount offer to people who share your post on social media. Or give a voucher to every customer who refers a friend.
  • Your plan to retain customers . For example, you may offer reward programs that allow customers to collect points for every purchase that can be redeemed for free or discounted products.
  • Your expected results . What you hope to achieve from your marketing and how it will help you grow your business in terms of sales and visibility. If you’ve already started marketing your business, give details on what you’ve done and how it’s benefited the business.

7. Funding information 

Funding information is all about how much money you need to start your business, why you need it and how you’ll use any capital. 

The most critical part of this is your startup costs, which detail:

  • The cost of producing your product or service
  • Your fixed outgoings
  • The cost of equipment, premises, supplies, insurance and other necessities required to run your business

Top Tip: If you’re yet to work out how much capital you need, check out our guide on how much it costs to start a business in the UK 📌

If you have the figures in place, you can set out presenting them. 

This section should be broken down into three parts: 

Current and future funding requirements

How funds will be used, current and future financial plans.

Include how much money you need to get your business off the ground, along with any funding you’ll need in the foreseeable future (up to five years). Be clear about why you’re requesting a loan or investment and outline what your needs are based on in your financial forecasts (we’ll get onto those soon). 

If you’re offering equity in exchange for investment, provide details on how an investor will be paid, as well as how and when they can cash out. For most small businesses, investors are paid in dividends (a share of company profits).

This part should explain how you plan to use the funds so that investors can determine if your business is a worthwhile investment. If you plan on using capital for several things, list and provide costs for each.

Again, putting these numbers into a visual format will help to more clearly outline your vision.

Example funding allocation

Finally, if applicable, provide information on any current investments and/or outstanding loan repayment plans. 

If you’re seeking investment or a loan for the first time, most lenders will have their own repayment schedules. However, you should detail any factors that may affect lenders, such as any plans to relocate or sell the business. 

Unlike other sections, funding information will need to be tailored to each financier. Investors will be interested in return on investment (ROI), whereas lenders will be interested in loan repayments. Create separate reports so that information is relevant to the reader. 

Top Tip: Investors and banks will also be interested in your business credit report (if you have one). To learn more about why your business credit score is important and how it’s determined, read our guide to everything you need to know about your business credit score (and how to improve it) 🙌

8. Financial projections

Financial projections supplement your funding information by showing potential lenders and investors that your business has a positive financial outlook.

This section should include the following key information: 

  • Sales forecast. The amount of money you expect to raise from sales.
  • Cash flow statement. Your cash flow balance and monthly cash flow patterns–how much is coming in and going out of your business every month.
  • Balance sheet. An overview of the financial health of your business.
  • Profit and loss statement . Your profit level and how much you expect to make based on projected sales, minus the cost of overheads and providing goods or services. 

Top Tip: Unless you’re an accountant, this part of the business plan can be overwhelming. To learn more about the fundamentals of accounting and how to create each of the aforementioned statements, read our complete guide to accounting for startups 📣 

If your business is already established, you’ll need to include financial figures from the last three years (or however long you’ve been trading if it’s less than three years) for all of the above, other than your sales forecast. 

If you’re a new business, your financial figures need to be predicted.

We’ve built several spreadsheet templates to help you generate the below financial reports:

  • Three main financial statements (balance sheet, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement)
  • Cash flow forecast
  • Estimated sales

Forecasting your finances

Sales forecast.

Use your market analysis and knowledge of industry trends to estimate your future sales. For the first year, break these figures down into monthly sales, detailing what you’re selling, price points and how much you expect to sell. Moving into the second and third year of business, reduce forecasting to quarterly sales.

Cash flow statement

As a startup, your cash flow statement becomes a cash flow forecast based on your sales forecast, minus your expenses. Your expenses are the: 

  • Fixed costs . Expenses that are the same or close the same every month (e.g. rent, insurance and utilities).
  • Variable costs . Expenses that vary every month depending on demand (e.g.costs for raw materials, production costs, shipping and advertising).

Provide monthly cash flow patterns for the first 36 months. Keep in mind that, depending on your business, you may need to account for a lag in revenue. For example, if you provide a service to a client, their payment terms might dictate the invoice is paid 60 days after being sent.

Top Tip: To learn more about the various types of expenses and how to manage them, read our guide to small business expense management 🙌

Balance sheet

Create a balance sheet by calculating company assets, minus company liabilities.  

Company assets include:

  • Property you own
  • Equipment you own
  • Unsold inventory
  • Company vehicles you own
  • Outstanding invoices

Company liabilities include:

  • The amount you owe on a business loan
  • The amount you owe unpaid invoices

Your balance is the difference between your assets total and your liabilities total.

Profit and loss statement

Use the figures from your sales forecast, expenses and cash flow statement to forecast how much you expect in profit and losses for your first three years in business. 

Your statement needs profit and loss projections for each year, as well as a total figure for the three years and should include a breakdown of:

  • Sales . Based on figures from your sales forecast.
  • Cost of goods sold (COGS) . The total cost of selling your product or service. If you need help with this, check out our guide on everything you need to know about cost of sales .
  • Gross margin . Your sales minus your COGS. This is usually listed as a percentage, which you can calculate as: 

Gross margin (total revenue – COGS / total revenue x 100

For example, £500,000 total revenue, minus £300,000 leaves a gross margin of £200,000. 

£200,000 / £500,000 x 100 = 40%

  • Operating expenses . A list of all your expenses, minus COGS (which you’ve already included), tax, amortisation and depreciation. List each expense individually and include a total sum. 
  • Operating income statement . Your total operating expenses minus your COGS, before interest, tax, amortisation and depreciation.
  • Total expenses . Your expenses including interest, tax, amortisation and depreciation.
  • Net profit . Your monthly and yearly bottom line.

List financial figures using bullet points and include graphs to show how you predict your business will grow over your first three years of trading.

9. Appendix 

The appendix is the place to include any supporting documents. If a lender or investor hasn’t requested additional documentation, you can choose to leave this section out. But it’s a good place to strengthen your business plan, by including: 

  • Reference letters
  • Credit reports
  • Permits and licences
  • Client contracts or customer purchase orders
  • Legal documents
  • Associations and memberships  

Format the appendix with a clear table of contents and sections that correspond to the business plan section.

5 top tips for writing a compelling business plan 

  • Keep it concise . Say what you need to say using simple language (no jargon) in as few words as possible. Your business plan only needs to get the key information across. The intricacies can come later. 
  • Make it easy on the eye . Most lenders and investors will skim read your business plan, picking out relevant information as they go. Use headings to define sections and make key data stand out on each page by using bullet points for lists, bolding important sentences and using graphs and charts to add weight to financial figures. 
  • Think about your audience . Consider who your business plan is aimed at and write with them in mind. If it’s an internal plan, think about what your team would want to gain from reading the document. If it’s for a lender or investor, think about the questions they might ask and which information is of particular interest to them. 
  • Get the figures right. If you’re forecasting costs, sales and expenses, numbers will never be 100% accurate and it’s better to overestimate than underestimate. However, figures must be realistic and they must add up. Expect lenders and investors to scrutinise your calculations. Always double and triple check the numbers. 
  • Proofread and proofread again . Don’t let your hard work be undone by something as simple as a typo or grammar mistake. Proofread your document from start to finish and then finish to start. Have someone you trust look over it too.

You now know what goes into a strong business plan, but you might be wondering what tools and frameworks you can use to bring it to life.

In this Tide Masterclass, our Events Manager Cuan Hawker is joined by Tom Horbye , Head of Campaigns Development at Seedrs .

Seedrs connects investors and businesses. They help startups raise capital and grow a supportive community. As they put it, it’s “equity crowdfunding done properly”. It’s unlikely anyone has seen and improved more business plans than Tom!

Tom will explain:

  • Why you need a business plan 📘
  • How to structure your plan 📃 Two tried-and-tested structures that work.
  • What to include in your plan 📋 And what to leave out.
  • Tools, help and next steps 🛠

This Masterclass is useful for anyone thinking about starting their own business in the UK.

A business plan is the cornerstone of your company. By clearly detailing your business objectives, strategies, marketing and sales plans, and financial forecasts you’ll be able to set out your business goals and keep track of your progress. 

Use this guide to complete the key components and put together a plan that a) brings clarity to your team, and b) provides assurances to lenders and investors that your business is a safe bet.

Set up your business with Tide for free

Photo by William Ivan, published on Unsplash

Valentine Hutchings

Valentine Hutchings

Head of Community and small business enthusiast

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How to Write a Business Plan Learn the essential elements of writing a business plan, including advice and resources for how to write and conduct each section of your business plan.

No business can be successful without a solid business plan. In fact, a business plan could be the thing that makes or breaks your entrepreneurial enterprise, especially if you haven't started a successful business in the past.

Let's break down what a business plan is, why it's important, and a step-by-step guide on how to write one in detail.

What Is a Business Plan?

Put simply, a business plan is a detailed outline explaining what a business will be, how it will work, and how it will bring in money. Business plans can range heavily in terms of length and complexity, but they all include an explanation of what the business will do and how it will turn a profit, dealing with everything from financial statements and pricing to potential customer segments and business development.

Think of business plans as the guiding documents for for-profit organizations. A business plan guides business owners and employees or other executives at existing businesses and helps inspire investor confidence when seeking financing in the earliest days of a business's life. There are a few types of business plans, but they all do the same things.

Related: An Introduction to Business Plans

Why Is a Business Plan Important?

A small business plan is important for any new enterprise, regardless of industry or niche. Why?

By far, the most crucial thing a good business plan does is improve investor confidence. When an entrepreneur or startup executive needs to secure funding and business loans, they have to convince investors that their business is worth investing in. It's impossible to do that without a solid business plan explaining:

  • What the business will provide or make
  • How the business will make money (i.e., financial projections for a new business)
  • Who the business will advertise to
  • And similar forecasts or discussions lenders need to see

By looking through a business plan, investors (both individuals and large firms) can tell whether a business owner (or would-be entrepreneur) has a good idea or is merely flailing in the wind.

In addition, a business plan is important since it will help guide your actions as a business owner and executive. With a business plan to keep your head on straight, you'll know what to do, how to scale your business, and what objectives you need to meet in order to achieve the goals outlined in your business plan.

Elements of a Traditional Business Plan

Business plans are usually comprised of several key elements. These include:

  • A title page , which breaks down a rough overview of the startup business and its name
  • An executive summary, which essentially describes what you want the business to achieve as its owner
  • The business description, which describes the business, its structure, what it sells or produces, and related information. It should also include the value proposition and any intellectual property you have for your business idea
  • Market research and strategies, which will help convince potential investors that you know how you will market and sell your products to your target audience
  • Management and personnel, which should outline your projections for the employees or labor force you'll need to achieve your business goals. If you plan to hire team members, don't worry about stating too much about them here
  • Financial documents, including any capital you have already raised, the funding you need to get your business off the ground, and so on. This can include a balance sheet or cash flow statements if you already have a financial plan or have operated your business for some time
  • A competitive analysis page , breaking down the status of your competitors in the same industry. This can include company descriptions or business models based on what you know
  • A design and development plan, exploring how you will design and develop your business for ultimate success. Think of this as a roadmap or mission statement for how your brand will hit milestones and gain a competitive advantage over other brands
  • An operations and management plan , which should explore and explain how you will run and operate your business as its owner or chief executive

With each section of your business plan, an investor or venture capitalist can determine the viability of your sole proprietorship, LLC, or other business.

Related: How to Write a Business Plan

Now that you understand why you need a business plan and you've spent some time doing your homework gathering the information you need to create one, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get everything down on paper. The following pages will describe in detail the seven essential sections of a business plan: what you should include, what you shouldn't include, how to work the numbers and additional resources you can turn to for help. With that in mind, jump right in.

Executive Summary

Within the overall outline of the business plan, the executive summary will follow the title page. The summary should tell the reader what you want. This is very important. All too often, what the business owner desires is buried on page eight. Clearly state what you're asking for in the summary.

Related: How to Start a Business With (Almost) No Money

Business Description

The business description usually begins with a short description of the industry. When describing the industry, discuss the present outlook as well as future possibilities. You should also provide information on all the various markets within the industry, including any new products or developments that will benefit or adversely affect your business.

Business Plan Guide "

Before writing your plan.

  • How Long Should Your Plan Be?
  • When Should You Write It?
  • Who Needs A Business Plan?
  • Why Should You Write A Business Plan?
  • Determine Your Goals and Objectives
  • Outline Your Financing Needs
  • Plan What You'll Do With Your Plan
  • Don't Forget About Marketing

Writing Your Business Plan

  • How To Write A Business Plan
  • The Ingredients of a Marketing Plan
  • Updating Your Business Plan
  • Enhancing Your Business Plan

Business Plan Tools

  • Business Plan Software
  • Books and How-to Manuals

Business Plan Templates

  • Sample Business Plans

Market Strategies

Market strategies are the result of a meticulous market analysis. A market analysis forces the entrepreneur to become familiar with all aspects of the market so that the target market can be defined and the company can be positioned in order to garner its share of sales.

Competitive Analysis

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

Design & Development Plan

The purpose of the design and development plan section is to provide investors with a description of the product's design, chart its development within the context of production, marketing and the company itself, and create a development budget that will enable the company to reach its goals.

Operations & Management Plan

The operations and management plan is designed to describe just how the business functions on a continuing basis. The operations plan will highlight the logistics of the organization such as the various responsibilities of the management team, the tasks assigned to each division within the company, and capital and expense requirements related to the operations of the business.

Financial Factors

Financial data is always at the back of the business plan, but that doesn't mean it's any less important than up-front material such as the business concept and the management team.

Want to see some of these principles in action? You can check out business plan templates in this detailed guide . Feel free to use some of these templates when drawing up business plans for your organization in the future!

As you can see, business plans aren't as complex as you may have initially thought. Furthermore, they are important parts of any business enterprise. Don't forget to write a business plan for your upcoming endeavor before seeking funding!

For more guides, resources, and information, check out Entrepreneur !

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How to write a business plan in 9 steps

Robert Bruce

Bryce Colburn

Bryce Colburn

“Verified by an expert” means that this article has been thoroughly reviewed and evaluated for accuracy.

Published 7:54 a.m. UTC Jan. 2, 2024

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Starting a business is a risky venture. 

Even the smartest of entrepreneurs have many questions to consider as they develop and execute their business idea. One of the best outlets for creating a successful company is having a business plan in place before you launch on day one. 

A solid business plan will provide a game plan for your company, both now and in the future. It should guide all of your decisions and allow you to navigate difficult times by providing a resource by which you operate and strategize. 

A business plan is a vital part of any successful company. 

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What is a business plan?

A business plan is simply an outline of a company’s future goals and how it plans to achieve those goals. A solid business plan will guide a company’s strategy and decision-making and help it navigate through any unforeseen obstacles. 

Companies of all sizes can benefit from a business plan. Smaller-sized companies can use this plan to develop a strategy for growth, development and investor strategy. Larger, more established companies can use a business plan to expand, explore other profit possibilities and stay on track with its original vision. 

Business plans are also important when it comes to funding, as many investors will want to see your plan before funding your project or company. 

How to write a business plan

One of the most important parts of writing a business plan is the realization you need one in the first place. If that’s you, congratulations on overcoming that initial obstacle. 

Now that you understand why a business plan is important let’s take a look at the steps you’ll need to follow to create a successful one. 

1. Write an executive summary

Think of your executive summary as a Cliffs Notes for your business plan. This summary will condense the entire business plan that follows into one easy-to-follow package. It should contain all the highlights while giving a solid overview of the entire plan. 

The plan should also briefly offer key company information, such as business goals and vision, product descriptions, marketing strategy and current financials — as well as other relevant information like leadership, employees and location.

In addition to offering a brief overview of your business strategy, the executive summary is a useful tool to give to potential investors who might not have the time to read the entire plan. 

2. Draft a company description

This section simply covers the basics of your company — what you do, how you separate yourself in your industry, what makes the services and/or products you provide worthwhile and why your company would be a smart investment. 

You should also include information like your business’s mission statement, its structure, short- and long-term goals, business history and other similar facts. This is also a good place to list your company’s core values. 

A lot of these issues should be well thought out before you draft a company description or business plan. By this point, you should be able to easily articulate all of this. If not, take a breath and meet with your team to go back through this to make sure you have all your bases covered.  

3. Include a description of your products and services

This is where you outline what you sell and why your target market should care. You should outline key specs like price, size and material quality. If you provide a service, you should offer information about availability, quality and durability. 

Give a brief overview of the multiple products you offer, as well as those that are a part of your future plans. 

4. Consider your company goals and objectives

You’ve already briefly mentioned your goals and objectives in prior sections, but this section allows you to go a little more in-depth. 

Here, expand on your mission statement and why it’s important to your company. You might talk about the thought process behind the statement and how it came to be. Who was involved in crafting it, and what were the important elements they wanted to include?

Then, begin going more in-depth on your specific business goals — both short-term and long-term. What are some of your priorities for the next year? Five years? Decade? Listing out these objectives shows you not only have a good grasp of your company’s current situation but also of where it is headed. 

5. Perform market research and competitor analysis

Performing market research and competitive analysis is an extremely important part of your business plan. Getting familiar with other businesses in your market will help you see what works and what doesn’t. 

You should be able to list out the size of your market and who might be interested in your products or services, how you fit into that market and what other competitors are doing. Along those lines, what is your brand’s differentiation with that market — what sets you apart?

Knowing your market and how you approach it strategically can make or break your business. 

6. Create a marketing plan

Who is your ideal customer? And, strategically, how do you plan on reaching them? This is the foundation of your marketing plan. 

How much money and effort do you plan on putting into marketing, or will you rely more heavily on sales? With your marketing, this is where you’ll outline the platforms you plan on using to reach your audience — whether that’s through social media, online ads, television or radio commercials.

Ultimately, this section will provide the details on your product or service, how much it will cost, how you plan to promote it and where you plan on selling it. 

7. Define your operating procedures

This section explains the framework of your organization and how you operate. 

You’ll outline your leadership structure with an organizational chart if you have one. Explain some of the key members of your team and how they make your business run successfully. You might consider including resumes or CVs. 

This is where you’ll lay out the legal structure of your company as well. Do you plan on incorporating, or are you a limited liability company (LLC) or sole proprietor ?

In terms of operations, outline who your suppliers will be, how your production process will work, which facilities and equipment you’ll use to develop your products, how you plan on shipping and the amount of inventory you’ll keep on hand. 

8. Create a financial plan

Obviously, your financials are the backbone of your business. With a solid financial plan, your company will thrive. Without one, it may whither. The basics of your financial plan will include a balance sheet, income statement and cash-flow statement. 

The balance sheet shows your total assets and liabilities. The income statement will show your revenue and expenses — the two main factors that ultimately reveal your business’s profit or loss. The cash-flow statement shows how much cash your business will have available at any given time — based on when you pay your bills and deposit revenue.

9. Set a timeline for progress and goals

In this section, you’ll set the timeline for your company’s progress. You’ll break down different milestones and when you expect to reach them, as well as what progress will look like for your business. 

Be specific. List out the exact amount of profit you hope to have over a certain time frame. This should be as detailed as possible. So when writing out your goals, don’t use generalized phrases like “increase revenue.” Instead, go into the specifics of those goals. 

Additional business planning resources

In addition to a business plan, you definitely want to make sure you have other aspects of your business covered. Some business planning topics to think about include:

  • Business structures: Starting out, will you form your business structure as a limited liability company (LLC), which protects you from your company’s debts and liabilities in the event of a lawsuit? Or are you forming a partnership or sole proprietorship ? 
  • Business licenses: Most businesses will require a business license , which may be needed at the county, state and federal level, depending on the type of business you operate.
  • Business taxes: The type of business you have will dictate how you pay taxes. You may be required to pay income tax, payroll tax, self-employment tax, employment taxes and excise tax. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

You don’t necessarily need a business plan to start your business, but creating one will put you at a great advantage. 

A business plan communicates your vision and mission to your company as well as potential investors. It also allows you to get buy-in from your current employees and how you plan to build your business into the future.

A solid business plan will include the following:

  • Executive summary: A quick overview of the entire business plan. 
  • Company description: A description of your company and what it does.
  • Products and services description: A description of the products and services your company offers.
  • Company goals and objectives: An outline of your company’s future goals. 
  • Market research: Who are your competitors and how do you fit into the industry?
  • Marketing plan: Details about how you plan to reach your ideal customer. 
  • Operating procedures: Outline the framework of your organization and how it operates. 
  • Financial plan: Provide details about your balance sheet, income statement and cash-flow statement.
  • Progress and goals: A breakdown of company milestones and your timeline for reaching them. 

A business plan allows you to precisely define the basic information and values of your company, as well as its viability, vision, mission, marketing strategy and future goals. A solid plan will outline all the above while explaining, in detail, how you plan to make these ideas a reality.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy . The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Robert Bruce

Robert Bruce has been a full-time writer for nearly 20 years. His work has been featured in US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, The Penny Hoarder, The Money Manual, WGN Chicago, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, among others.

Bryce Colburn is a USA TODAY Blueprint small business editor with a history of helping startups and small firms nationwide grow their business. He has worked as a freelance writer, digital marketing professional and business-to-business (B2B) editor at U.S. News and World Report, gaining a strong understanding of the challenges businesses face. Bryce is enthusiastic about helping businesses make the best decisions for their company and specializes in reviewing business software and services. His expertise includes topics such as credit card processing companies, payroll software, company formation services and virtual private networks (VPNs).

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write a business plan outline

Imagine this: You have a brilliant business idea. You scribble it down and get to the research immediately. Once you have identified competitors and completed the market research. It is time to reach the right investors with a compelling plan based on an effective business plan outline.

You are all flared up to start a business requirement document. But that is when a question like “how do I start writing?” becomes the roadblock.

This is not just a challenge you face alone; many with the same flare to start a business are subject to the same bottleneck.

The question is, “How do you start building a business plan without a hitch?”

It is simple, you need an outline that helps you create a business plan in the most engaging way possible for investors. To help you create your business plan outline, we’ve laid out a few steps.

But first, let’s understand what it is and why you need to have a business plan outline.

Table of Contents

What is a business plan outline, why write a business plan outline, how to write a business plan outline, build a complete business plan outline now.

A business plan outline is a framework that helps you cover the essential information around your business idea. Your outline helps define the results of your market analysis, competitor analysis, products/services, etc.

The outline also helps you plan out the best ways to present your idea and to-be-used resources in front of the investors. Briefly, a business plan outline enables you to present your ideas convincingly.

The most effective way to convince any investor about your business idea is to help them get answers to these three critical questions:

  • What does your business stand for?
  • How is your idea unique compared to competitors?
  • What is in it for them?

Your business plan can help you answer these questions.

To avoid such adverse reactions, it is important that you create an outline first. Further, add your researched information in that format to better present your idea to investors.

Now that it is clear why an outline is crucial to writing a business plan, it is time we see what it should cover. Most experts online will encourage you to start with a table of contents or an index. But you can skip this step if you are using a knowledge base.

With Knowledge base software, you can display a table of contents throughout the plan. They can access any point in question at any time. Except, if you are not planning to make your outline virtually using an internal knowledge base solution, it is advised to create an index first.

An index will help you list all the pointers you aim to cover in your business plan. It makes it easier for investors to go back and refer to the data they’ve already read during the review process.

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1. Create an Engaging Executive Summary

Create an Engaging Executive Summary

First impressions are lasting impressions

No one wishes to take this expression lightly. But here is a fact: there is no way investors will continue reading your business plan if it fails to create an impact that encourages them to read the plan further.

Your executive summary is a critical factor for investors to decide if your project is worth financing or not.

What is an executive summary?

The executive summary is mostly written once you are done writing your entire plan. That’s because it summarizes and offers an introduction to your plan.

Here’s a list of questions your executive summary must answer:

  • Who is your target audience ?
  • What do you plan to sell?
  • How will your offerings evolve over time?
  • How much should investors expect to gain post-financing your business?
  • What is the initial investment you seek to get your business started?

With these questions answered, it will be easier for investors to read through the entire plan.

2. Describe Your Business with a Detailed Description

Describe Your Business with a Detailed Description

The business plan is incomplete without a detailed description. It is similar to an “about us” section. Explain what your business is and why you decided to take up the project. The more detailed it gets the better.

However, it is recommended that you cover sections like:

  • Company background & history: Explain what factors compelled you to start this business. Also, explore when you thought of this idea and what was the source of its inspiration.
  • Structure & ownership: Let your investors learn about other shareholders who plan to help you gain the necessary resources to build the planned product or service. Let investors know where your company is registered and if you have any legal structure in place. This will help them check your eligibility as a potential business investment.
  • Location: Help investors know where you plan to open the office. Make sure to include a map that helps them understand where the location is and what could be the possible expenses to get the needed resources to the location.
  • Experience: It is not about your experience and credibility in the market. You also need to stress the experience of those who will help you execute your plan. Let the investors understand that you are backed by experienced individuals in the sector. Also, do not hesitate to share skill gap-related concerns. The sooner they are tackled the better.
  • Initiatives & cause: If there is any initiative you wish to support through your business, let your investors learn about it fast. You must stand by a cause that you wish to donate to or support through your business. While this will help you build a positive impression on investors, it is good for branding as well.

3. Bring Together Your Market Analysis

Bring Together Your Market Analysis

Market analysis is quite complex. You need to figure out and confirm a lot of factors before you settle on a business plan. To help you get started with the outline of your market analysis section, we’ve listed a few points below.

  • Target audience: This is no doubt the first aspect that investors would be interested in learning about. Therefore, it would be a great idea to discuss your target audience first when you start with the market analysis section. As you explain the target audience, make sure you explain why you aim to target them and how will this audience benefit from your offerings.
  • Demographics: Share details about the specific demographic you wish to target. These details can be inclusive of age group, location, gender, and more. With a detailed insight into the demographics, they can confirm if you are going to target the right audience or not.
  • Segmentation: Once done describing the details on demographics, it will be easier for you to explain which segment you plan to target. You can also segment this audience further into groups of potential buyers and those who will bring more value to your sales.
  • The Need: Explain how your products and services will match the growing need of the customers. You also need to explain the possible reasons that encourage customers to make the purchase and if it is something that they will need regularly.
  • Market Regulations: Another factor that will need to be discussed at length is market regulation. If you identify which market regulation applies to your business, it will be easier for investors to understand the possible ways you will comply with them.

4. Identify Your Market Competitors with a Competitive Analysis

Identify Your Market Competitors with a Competitive Analysis

Let investors know that you are not behind in your competitive analysis. This section will be a terrific way to introduce your direct and indirect competitors. Elaborate about their strengths, weaknesses, and the USP that helps them stand out in the market.

Other than these crucial factors, you should not miss answering questions like:

  • Who is this competitor ? (Name, brand visibility, and where they are located)
  • How big is this competitor? (Number of employees, rough customer count, and more)
  • Who is their target audience? (Demographics and segmentation)
  • What do they offer? (Discuss unique characteristics, services, products, pricing, and more)

With this detailed outline, you can give a stand on how your brand will be positioned in the market. Concisely, it will help you show investors how different you are from the competitors.

5. Build an Actionable Sales & Marketing Plan

Build an Actionable Sales & Marketing Plan

This is a dedicated section to display your numbers. Here is a list of things you can add.

  • Milestones: It would be a good start if you show investors the goals plan to achieve . Remember that if they are relevant, achievable, and measurable according to the resources you plan to locate in the business process, the easier it will be to convince investors of your business.
  • Risks & Mitigations: Both you and the investors can anticipate risks or roadblocks you may face while bringing the business plan to life. While you do share the possible risks your business might get subjected to in the future, make sure to identify the best ways to overcome them. This will help you increase the investor’s confidence in your idea and foresight.
  • Marketing plan: USP is indeed a crucial aspect of any marketing plan. However, that is not the only thing you need to focus on when trying to reach out to your audience. Marketing is about the reach you have once you start as a brand. It is also about identifying the best channels to help you reach as many potential customers as possible. You also need to show what your competitors are doing as they take a step forward to become a brand. More importantly, you need to decide on the marketing initiatives and their stakeholders who will help you implement them successfully.
  • Profits: Predicting your sales target is important for any investor. By predicting how many sales you make in a week, month, or quarter, investors can get an idea of when you will start making profits. To predict profits, you need to arrive at the right pricing that gives you a competitive edge over others while being rational about it.

6. Inform Investors About Operations Plan

Inform Investors About Operations Plan

In this part of the business plan outline, you need to help investors understand how your organization is planning to function. Here is what you need to include in this section.

  • Employment plan: Share your employment plan which is divided into phases. Let investors know how many people you plan to hire in the first phase of your business. Initially, you cannot go all out. Decide task priorities and the resources needed to build a base for your business. Also, highlight the possibility of increasing the workforce as your business grows.
  • Suppliers: Let us not forget the suppliers in the operation plan . Give details about the suppliers you plan to work with. Investors can check if the suppliers are reliable sources or not.
  • Assets: It is also important that you inform investors about the assets you plan to use or that are crucial for the functioning of your business. Be specific about these assets and explain how they will play a role in the development of your products and services. On top of that, explain how you aim to protect assets or intellectual property that streamlines the functioning of the business.

7. Show a Realistic Financial Plan

Show a Realistic Financial Plan

A financial plan plays a crucial role in the decision-making process. Investors need to understand how they plan to allocate the capital received. As you give a bifurcation of the capital in the financial plan, here is a list of things you can start focusing on.

  • An Initial/Start-up funding : The first thing you need to cover in this outline is the initial funding you will require to give your business a kick-start. Explain the fund’s allocation and how shareholders may benefit from this initial funding.
  • Cost Structure: Your cost structure needs to identify operational risks that a business may potentially face. You can use both breakeven and operating leverage that will allow investors to evaluate operational risks hassle-free.
  • Financial Assumptions: Let us not take investors’ assumptions about your financial plan lightly. If you are proposing a business plan for starting your app, the development cost may keep as you grow the app. However, this assumption may not be true in the case of all app-based business ideas. Make sure you identify the assumptions around the revenue you may earn and the cost of implementation. By doing this, you can clarify a lot of doubts that investors may have about the funds you may require to keep the business running.
  • Forecast: Another important aspect of your financial plan is to bring the sales forecast to light. You need to include all the key aspects of your business plan outlines like competitor analysis, marketing strategy, sales plan, and more. These crucial factors will help investors understand why you are projecting a certain number of sales and profits in the plan. You can share a forecast for the next three to five years with them.

8. Prove Why Your Business is a Credible Investment

Prove Why Your Business is a Credible Investment

This is a popular section that goes by the name ‘Appendix.’ This section is your savior. There are a lot of things that you cannot add to other sections of the plan.

But no worries, the Appendix is one section where you can add the additional details of your plan to make sure you have not left anything out from your research. You can share additional information like office layout plans, stakeholder agreements, credit histories, and more.

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Creating your business plan outline can be confusing, especially if you are making one for the first time. Sadly, a lot of business ideas get rejected by investors because they fail to deliver the right message, or they feel lacking in presentation.

But fret not. Our business plan outline will allow you to bring your idea to life. This detailed and well-structured approach helps you expand on your business values, what you know about the market and your competitors, and more. That is not all.

You can even find ways to add all the additional information you have found during the research and ideation process that helps investors arrive at the right decision.

Concisely, it will work as a guide that will help investors know your idea better and assist your team to align with your direction of work.

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Upmetrics is the #1 business planning software that helps entrepreneurs and business owners create investment-ready business plans using AI. We regularly share business planning insights on our blog. Check out the Upmetrics blog for such interesting reads. Read more

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Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Writing > Writing and Formatting a Successful Business Plan

Writing and Formatting a Successful Business Plan

Whether you’re an experienced business person or a first-time entrepreneur, a business plan presents an important opportunity to showcase your unique business ideas and make a plan for how it will it function and operate.

Because of its importance, it can sometimes appear to be an overwhelming task. However, with some guidance on business plan formatting and a breakdown of the plan’s most essential components, you can make the task more manageable and more easily get started on your own plan—bringing the possibility of your grand opening ever closer.

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What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan usually serves either or both of two purposes: Sometimes it’s used to court potential investors in a business. Other times, it sets out guidelines and a strategy for initial members of a business’s team to follow as they get things up and running. In either case, this formal document maps out the purpose, goals, finances, and future plans of a new or existing business.

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Formatting Your Business Plan

Before you get started on writing your business plan, it’s useful to understand the formatting of a typical business plan. Not only will this help you make sure you ultimately deliver the information that potential investors or teammates are expecting, but it will also help you see where you might need to do more research or spend more time.

Typically, all business plans contain each of the following parts:

Executive Summary

Company description, business goals, market and opportunity analysis, competitive analysis, execution plan, marketing plan, financial analysis and projections.

Below, we sum up what these sections entail to help you craft each of them according to your own business’s needs.

Business plans usually open with what’s called an executive summary. Typically taking up no more than about half of a page, this summary should include the most essential information about your business and highlights from the plan that follows, including:

  • Your organization’s mission statement
  • A description of the products and services your business offers
  • The purpose of your business plan
  • Any major achievements your business has made so far
  • An overview of your business’s financial health

A company description should include both basic information about your organization—its registered name, physical location, and a short history of the company—as well as more detailed info about how your business intends to succeed. In other words, once you’ve touched on the very basics, this is your chance to hook readers of your business plan. To do so, it can be helpful to set the stage for your readers: consider the answers to questions like, “Why did you start this business?”, “What unique problems does your business solve?”, and “What makes your company different from others like it?”

Sometimes referred to as an “objective statement,” this section of your business plan should clearly outline your company’s goals—over both the short and long term. If you’re making an appeal to investors, this is also your chance to include some persuasive writing and describe to them how their investments are critical to helping you meet these goals.

This section requires keen research skills: Bring in all of your knowledge of the market your business is working in to show investors and potential partners where the opportunity lies. Show that you have an understanding of the market’s past, present, and future—and understand the unique risks that businesses in this space face. Additionally, you will want to show what typical types of customers in this market are like with information on key demographics and customer behaviors that your business will market itself to.

Moving past the broad view of the overall market, your business plan should include an analysis of the business models or examples of your closest competitors in the space. Showing how these other organizations operate, how they’ve fared over their histories, and how they market themselves to customers can help you make the case for how your business will do these things both differently and successfully.

The execution plan section should provide a window into how your business will operate behind the scenes: How will you and your employees be organized? Who will handle what tasks? Why are they the right people to do so? Answer these questions by providing thorough details on who will be doing the work and how they will be structured while getting it done.

Every business needs to have a plan on how they position and promote their offerings, as well as attract and retain customers. With this section of your business plan, explain to potential stakeholders and financiers what your initial marketing strategy is and how it will change and scale over time.

Especially for business owners seeking additional financing and investment, the financial portion of your business plan is critical in showing how your business has generated and managed income, plus deliver insight into how it will continue doing so.

This section should include a breakdown of your organization’s sales, expenses, and profits. If you’re applying for a loan or seeking investment, include an overview of what your company’s financials would look like over the next period of years if you were to receive that financial backing. In addition, you should outline a clear plan for how and when you will pay back these creditors.

Crafting a Business Plan That Succeeds

While the particulars of every business plan will be different, there are some aspects that should be common to all business plans:

  • Be Concise: The writing in a business plan needs to be persuasive for its intended audience, but it needs to do so efficiently. Use clear and concise writing that communicates your ideas and plans effectively.
  • Use Data for Support: Even if your writing is persuasive, it won’t be as effective as it can be without relevant data and hard numbers that back up your insights.
  • Get Rid of Errors: In most cases, your audience is only going to read your business plan once. Make sure you present a tidy image of your business through your business plan writing by catching and fixing all of your typos and grammatical errors. Use a digital writing assistant like Microsoft Editor to help spot these mistakes, along with any slips in the formal tone that a business plan requires.
  • Keep It Real: Avoid exaggeration, whether it’s in your sales projections, market opportunity, or elsewhere.

Creating a successful business plan requires pulling together a lot of disparate information, which takes a diverse set of skills to pull off. Whether you’re new to new businesses or this is just your latest and greatest project, this can always be a tall order.

Make it easier on yourself by using all of the tools you have at your disposal to help. In addition to the guidelines above, explore a wide range of business plan templates available from Microsoft 365, including everything from complete business plans to individual components like revenue forecasts .

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

Clifford Chi

Published: February 06, 2024

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

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

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

Table of Contents

Business Plan Format

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

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

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

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

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

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

You're all set!

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Fill out the form to get your free template.

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

1. Executive Summary

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

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

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

Company Description

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

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

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

Products and Services

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

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

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

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

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

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example

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

Business plans examples: Executive Summary

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Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

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

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

2. Market Opportunity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Market Opportunity

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

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

3. Competitive Landscape

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

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

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

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

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Competitive Landscape

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

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

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

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

4. Target Audience

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

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

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

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

Target Audience Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Target Audience

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

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

5. Marketing Strategy

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

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

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

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

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

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

Business plans examples: Marketing Strategy

Tips for Writing Your Marketing Strategy

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

6. Key Features and Benefits

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

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

Key Features and Benefits Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Key Features and Benefits

Tips for Writing Your Key Features and Benefits

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

7. Pricing and Revenue

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

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

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

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Pricing and Revenue

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

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

8. Financials

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

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

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

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

Financials Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Financials

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

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

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

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

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

1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas.

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

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

2. Feasibility Studies

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

3. Internal Use

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

4. Strategic Initiatives

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

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

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

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

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

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

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

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

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

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

Why I Like It

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

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

We also created a business plan template for entrepreneurs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sample Business Plan: LiveFLow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. ThoughtCo’s Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: ThoughtCo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

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

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

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

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

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

8. Panda Doc’s Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Panda Doc

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

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

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

9. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Small Business Administration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s take a look.

1. LiveFlow

business plan example: liveflow

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Vesta Home Automation

business plan example: Vesta executive summary

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

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

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

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

5. NALB Creative Center

business plan examples: nalb creative center

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

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

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

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

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

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

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

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

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

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

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

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

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

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

8. Plum Sample Business Plan

Sample business plan: Plum

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Politics latest: Speaker fights to stay in post as 58 MPs sign no-confidence motion

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is under big pressure over his handling of the SNP's motion for a ceasefire in Gaza. His decision to allow a vote on a Labour amendment saw Tory and SNP MPs storm out - and dozens of them have signed a motion declaring they have no confidence in him.

Thursday 22 February 2024 11:33, UK

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

  • 58 MPs sign no confidence motion in Speaker  |  Full list of signatories
  • Explained: What happened in the Commons last night  |  Why MPs are angry
  • How MPs can force Speaker out
  • 'Fuming' SNP demands Speaker reveals details of any talks with Starmer and Labour
  • Beth Rigby:  Anger on Conservative benches is intense
  • Sam Coates:  No-confidence motion only going one way
  • Live reporting by Charlotte Chelsom-Pill

News is moving fast here in Westminster as the Speaker faces pressure after yesterday's chaos in the Commons over the Gaza ceasefire votes.

This post has the very latest figure for how many MPs have signed a no-confidence motion in Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Context: It's important to note this early day motion won't necessarily force Sir Lindsay out.

He is not bound to resign if a certain number of MPs back it and there is unlikely to be a debate on it.

Rather, the EDM is being used as a mechanism by his critics to show the strength of feeling in parliament after what happened yesterday with the Gaza ceasefire votes.

Sir Lindsay sparked outrage among SNP and Tory MPs when he selected a Labour amendment to the SNP's motion.

Convention dictates that only the government can amend an opposition motion, but Sir Lindsay opted to choose Labour's amendment as well as the government's.

Scroll down for more detailed updates the latest reaction and analysis from our team of correspondents.

Our previous post outlines why one Conservative MP is among a growing number who have signed a motion of no confidence in Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. 

Former defence secretary Ben Wallace, however, is backing the Speaker.

He has posted that Sir Lindsay is "head and shoulders" above previous Speakers he has served under and has his "full support".

More than 50 MPs have signed the no-confidence motion after chaos in the Commons yesterday over the Gaza ceasefire votes (see post at 10.40am).

As the number of MPs who have signed a motion of no confidence in House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle quickly climbs, we are getting reaction from individual MPs about his future. 

Danny Kruger is among dozens of Conservative MPs who have added their names to the motion. 

He describes Sir Lindsay as a "decent man". 

But he claims the Speaker "allowed Labour to use the Islamist threat to change the way our democracy works". 

"This is unacceptable," he says.

One of the issues yesterday's vote on the Gaza ceasefire has thrown up is around MPs' safety.

Sky News understands Sir Lindsay Hoyle had MPs' safety at the forefront of his mind when he decided to take the unusual decision to select amendments tabled by both Labour and the government to the SNP's Gaza ceasefire motion.  

Convention dictates that only the government can amend an opposition motion.

In selecting the Labour amendment, Sir Lindsay sparked outrage among SNP and Tory MPs.

Speaking to  political reporter Faye Brown  earlier ,  Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood told her safety is "an issue MPs on all sides are increasingly worried about (see post at 10.09am)".

"But it's totally wrong for the Speaker to start making judgements about parliamentary motions on this basis," he added.

Political editor Beth Rigby has been hitting the phones and speaking with those in the know in Westminster to get a sense of where things stand with the future of the Speaker.

A senior Labour source tells her they don't think Sir Lindsay Hoyle will go - on the basis that the government will not try to force him out and neither will Labour. 

A former Conservative cabinet minister tells her they "doubt he'll go at the moment", but adds the "anger on the Conservative benches is intense".

They've told her: "Tory MPs backed him to be different from Bercow. And he's done a Bercow. 

"I hope it blows over. Maybe after the weekend will be better."

John Bercow was Sir Lindsay's predecessor as Speaker and was a controversial holder of the role.

He irked a lot of MPs by making what they saw as politically-motivated interventions against Brexit.

Beth says the Speaker has his work cut out in the coming days not to lose the House.

But she says there is sympathy too from some MPs who genuinely believe he was trying to do the right thing and not stoke more tensions for MPs over the difficult and divisive matter of the Israel-Gaza war.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is back in the Commons this morning as more MPs add their names to a motion of no confidence in him (see post at 10.40).

An urgent question is asked about the Post Office Horizon scandal. 

The question asks about the status of compensation for subpostmasters relating to the scandal.

Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake says his appetite for compensation for postmasters is "undiminished".

But he says: "I accept we need to increase the pace of the delivery of compensation claims. 

He says as of this month,  £160m has been paid in financial compensation to more than 2,700 victims.

He adds that 102 convictions have been overturned. 

The Post Office scandal saw hundreds of subpostmasters wrongly prosecuted after faulty software recorded shortfalls in what is considered the widest miscarriage of justice in British history.

The SNP wants the Speaker to "make a personal statement" detailing all of his meetings and communications with Sir Keir Starmer and Labour ahead of his decision on yesterday's Gaza ceasefire motion, political editor Beth Rigby reports.

It comes after SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn told Beth he believed there was "stitch up" between Speaker and Labour over what amendments were selected.

Labour has denied the party put pressure on Sir Lindsay to accept the party's amendment.

The Speaker went against convention and selected Labour's amendment to the SNP's motion on a Gaza ceasefire, sparking fury from the SNP and the Conservatives. 

Westminster's third largest party is "still fuming" over yesterday's events, Beth adds.

By Faye Brown , political reporter

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is being urged to "come clean" about whether Labour tried to influence his handling of a debate on Gaza which descended into chaos.

Sir Lindsay, who is facing calls to resign, is meeting with Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt and party chief whips later today in a bid to smooth things over.

The number of MPs who have signed a no-confidence motion has now reached more than 50.

The row broke out on Wednesday night after he allowed a vote on a Labour amendment to an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Opposition parties are not usually able to amend opposition motions, only the government, so some Tory MPs saw the decision as unfair given Sir Keir Starmer was expected to face a significant rebellion had his party's amendment not been chosen.

The SNP was also left furious that Labour's amendment was chosen to be voted on first - leading to accusations Sir Lindsay had allowed the debate to be "hijacked" by Labour and resulting in Conservative and SNP MPs storming out of the chamber.

Health minister Maria Caulfield told Sky News "the rumours are that Labour were going to lose quite heavily and they tried to influence the Speaker with that".

"He needs to come clean about what discussions were had," she added.

Labour has denied this and suggested the Tories boycotted the proceedings because they were worried about a rebellion on their own side.

Read more here:

The number of MPs who have signed a motion of no confidence in Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is still climbing.

It now stands at 57.

It comes amid fury at the Speaker over his handling of the Gaza ceasefire vote yesterday evening.

The motion reads: "That this House has no confidence in Mr Speaker".

Our  deputy political editor  Sam Coates   has said it seems the motion is "only going one way" (see post at 10.05am).

This motion won't necessarily force Sir Lindsay out - he is not bound to resign if a certain number of MPs back it and there is unlikely to be a debate on it.

We're speaking to MPs this morning to get their thoughts on last night's events in the Commons - and the future of the Speaker.

One of the issues the events have thrown up is around MPs' safety.

Speaking to political reporter Faye Brown,  Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood told her: "It’s an issue MPs on all sides are increasingly worried about. 

"But it's totally wrong for the speaker to start making judgements about parliamentary motions on this basis."

Our  deputy political editor Sam Coates   has been giving his take on the news that more than 50 MPs have now signed a motion of no confidence the Commons Speaker (see post at 09.37am). 

He says it seems the motion is "only going one way".

"I know there are people who haven't signed the motion who believe in it," he says.

"It just smells really bad."

Sir Lindsay sparked outrage among SNP and Tory MPs yesterday when he selected a Labour amendment to the SNP's motion on a ceasefire in Gaza.

Sam Coates says looking at the names of the MPs who have signed the motion, including chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady and the number of SNP MPs, makes this "increasingly ominous" for Sir Lindsay.

"It appears that he is losing the confidence of the third biggest party in Westminster, the SNP, and the rump of Tory backbenchers. 

"If you lose just those two groups alone, then it is really, really hard to continue to oversee the Commons. Something you can only really do with the consent of the Commons."

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  4. Writing a business plan

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COMMENTS

  1. How To Write A Business Plan (2024 Guide)

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

    You understand that planning helps you: Raise money Grow strategically Keep your business on the right track As you start to write your plan, it's useful to zoom out and remember what a business plan is. At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to.

  4. How to Write a Business Plan Outline [Examples + Templates]

    By Letícia Fonseca, Aug 11, 2023 When venturing into crafting a business plan, the initial hurdle often lies in taking that first step. So, how can you evade those prolonged hours of staring at a blank page? Initiate your journey with the aid of a business plan outline.

  5. How to Write a Simple Business Plan

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

  6. Simple Business Plan Template (2024)

    Whether you want to launch a side gig, a solo operation or a small business, you need a simple business plan template to guide you. Forbes Advisor offers you a comprehensive and easy-to-follow ...

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    7. Perform a business financial analysis. 8. Make financial projections. 9. Add additional information to an appendix. Business plan tips and resources. MORE LIKE THIS Small Business. A business ...

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

    Tim Berry 12 min. read Updated October 27, 2023 Download Now: Free Business Plan Template When starting a business, having a well-thought-out business plan prepared is necessary for success. It helps guide your strategy and prepares you to overcome the obstacles and risks associated with entrepreneurship.

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

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

  10. How to Write a Business Plan in 2023: Step by Step Guide

    The following will take you to online business plan guides and templates for specific countries. United States Small Business Administration (SBA) - The "write your business plan page" includes traditional and lean startup business plan formats, three downloadable sample business plans, a template, and a step-by-step build a business plan ...

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

    Let's take a closer look at the business plan outline from earlier. Step 1: Executive Summary. Your executive summary is the first chapter of your business plan. It should be between one and two pages in length, and it's one of the most crucial parts of learning how to write a business plan. A basic executive summary format includes:

  12. How To Write A Business Plan: A Comprehensive Guide

    1. Investors Are Short On Time If your chief goal is using your business plan to secure funding, then it means you intend on getting it in front of an investor. And if there's one thing investors are, it's busy. So keep this in mind throughout writing a business plan. Investors wade through hundreds of business plans a year.

  13. How to Write a Great Business Plan

    Advice for small businesses on what it takes to create a solid business plan, including forming an outline, integrating financial specifics, and spelling out your marketing strategy logo Newsletters

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