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business plan series review

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Creating Business Plans (HBR 20-Minute Manager Series)

By Harvard Business Review

( 23 ratings )

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About this ebook

A well-crafted business plan generates enthusiasm for your idea and boosts your odds of success--whether you're proposing a new initiative within your organization or starting an entirely new company. Creating Business Plans quickly walks you through the basics. You'll learn to:

  • Present your idea clearly
  • Develop sound financial plans
  • Project risks--and rewards
  • Anticipate and address your audience's concerns

Don't have much time? Get up to speed fast on the most essential business skills with HBR's 20-Minute Manager series. Whether you need a crash course or a brief refresher, each book in the series is a concise, practical primer that will help you brush up on a key management topic. Advice you can quickly read and apply, for ambitious professionals and aspiring executives--from the most trusted source in business. Also available as an ebook.

Strategic Planning

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Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Review es sin lugar a dudas la referencia más influyente en el sector editorial en temas de gestión y desarrollo de personas y de organizaciones. En sus publicaciones participan investigadores de reconocimiento y prestigio internacional, lo que hace que su catálogo incluya una gran cantidad de obras que se han convertido en best-sellers traducidos a múltiples idiomas.

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HBR's 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself (with bonus article "How Will You Measure Your Life?" by Clayton M. Christensen)

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HBR's 10 Must Reads on Leadership (with featured article "What Makes an Effective Executive," by Peter F. Drucker)

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HBR's 10 Must Reads on Strategic Marketing (with featured article "Marketing Myopia," by Theodore Levitt)

Managing Projects (HBR 20-Minute Manager Series)

Harvard Business Review on Rebuilding Your Business Model

Running Meetings (HBR 20-Minute Manager Series)

Managing Up (HBR 20-Minute Manager Series)

Authentic Leadership (HBR Emotional Intelligence Series)

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HBR Guide to Project Management (HBR Guide Series)

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Reviews for Creating Business Plans (HBR 20-Minute Manager Series)

23 ratings 2 reviews

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  • ravikumar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 3/5 Good starter guide for a startup venture. Provides basic help in writing Business Plan Read more
  • İsmail Ercüment UZ Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5/5 A handy book on preparing business plans. Written precisely. Not a very detailed one, since it contains less than 100 pages excluding index, quiz, reference and further reading, but still it is one of the best step-by-step guides. Strongly recommend it. But it will be useful if you have some prior information and experience. You cannot make a BP from scratch just following the chapters of this book. Read more

Book preview

Creating business plans (hbr 20-minute manager series) - harvard business review, creating business plans.

Get up to speed fast on essential business skills. Whether you’re looking for a crash course or a brief refresher, you’ll find just what you need in HBR’s 20-Minute Manager series—foundational reading for ambitious professionals and aspiring executives. Each book is a concise, practical primer, so you’ll have time to brush up on a variety of key management topics.

Advice you can quickly read and apply, from the most trusted source in business.

Titles include:


Delegating Work


Finance Basics


Managing Projects


Managing Time


Managing Up




Running Meetings


Gather your resources

Describe the opportunity


Boston, Massachusetts

HBR Press Quantity Sales Discounts

Harvard Business Review Press titles are available at significant quantity discounts when purchased in bulk for client gifts, sales promotions, and premiums. Special editions, including books with corporate logos, customized covers, and letters from the company or CEO printed in the front matter, as well as excerpts of existing books, can also be created in large quantities for special needs.

For details and discount information for both print and ebook formats, contact [email protected], tel. 800-988-0886, or www.hbr.org/bulksales.

Copyright 2014 Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Requests for permission should be directed to [email protected], or mailed to Permissions, Harvard Business School Publishing, 60 Harvard Way, Boston, Massachusetts 02163.

The web addresses referenced in this book were live and correct at the time of the book’s publication but may be subject to change.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Creating business plans.

      pages cm. — (20-minute manager series)

   Includes index.

   ISBN 978-1-62527-222-5

1. Business planning.

   HD30.28.C7325 2014



eISBN: 978-1-62527-227-0

Writing a business plan is an important first step in starting any new venture. Your goal is to provide a detailed description of your new product or service and a concrete strategy for making it a success, while also conveying a hearty dose of enthusiasm that inspires investors and other supporters to want to be involved with your project. This book walks you through the basics:

• Articulating your business idea

• Communicating your goals

• Analyzing the industry

• Introducing your management team

• Distinguishing your business from rivals

• Developing a compelling marketing plan

• Describing your business’s daily activities

• Providing sound financial projections

• Anticipating potential stumbling blocks

Why Write a Business Plan?

Getting started

The structure of a business plan

Describing the Opportunity

Presenting your idea

Executive summary

Business description

Analyzing the business environment

Industry background

Competitive analysis

Market analysis

Introducing Your Management Team

Highlighting qualifications

Presenting the team as a unit

Bringing Your Product to Market

Operations plan: Articulating day-to-day business

Marketing plan: Promoting your value proposition

Projecting Financial Risk and Reward

Preparing your financial plan

Anticipating readers’ concerns

Attachments and Milestones

Supplemental information

Test Yourself

So you’ve got a brilliant idea for a new product or service. You feel energized, inspired, and ready to forge ahead. Your first challenge: Write a business plan.

You may be thinking: Why should I bother taking the time to draft a formal plan? Shouldn’t I just get going already? If you’re working at a large company and your boss asks you to put together a plan before you move forward with a new product extension, you may feel equally frustrated. What’s the point of this busywork?, you might think. Why can’t I just take the plunge?

Don’t fall into this trap. Writing a business plan for internal or external ventures is beneficial in a variety of ways, including gaining buy-in and generating enthusiasm for your idea, improving your odds of successfully creating a new product or service, establishing a company, raising capital, generating sales, and sustaining your business over time.

Whether you’re planning to build a new company from scratch, expand an existing firm, spin off from a parent corporation, or even start an initiative within an established organization, writing a business plan gives you an opportunity to thoroughly evaluate your idea. It’s

Discover the winners for the best books of the year in the 2023 Goodreads Choice Awards

Bankable Business Plans

Edward g. rogoff , jeff bezos  ( foreword ).

258 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 2003

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Business Plan Review

Jump to section, legal subscription plans.

ContractsCounsel made it very easy to find a lawyer to help our company with its legal needs.

A business plan review is an in-depth examination of your business plan and its viability. It can be conducted by a single expert, a panel of experts, or you and your colleagues.

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is essential for any company wishing to start or expand its operations. It provides a framework for decision-making and helps to make sure that all sections of the organization are working together towards common goals. A good business plan can also help attract investors or obtain loans from banks or other lending institutions.

The main purpose of a business plan is to provide investors with information about the opportunities and challenges facing your company so they can make informed decisions about whether or not they want to invest in it. If they decide to invest, they'll know how much money they are likely to make and what risks might arise during their investment term (usually between five years and ten years).

Of course, not all startups need a full-blown business plan — but if you seek outside funding or investment, it's best to start developing yours as early as possible. And even if you don't seek outside funding, it's still smart to develop a comprehensive plan for your business to clearly define what success looks like and how you'll get there.

What Is a Business Plan Review?

A business plan review should be conducted before you begin your venture, at least once during its life cycle (preferably after you have experienced some success), and when it comes time for you to close up shop. The objective is to identify strengths and weaknesses in your plan so that you can take steps toward improving those areas.

The purpose of a business plan review is not to evaluate the likelihood of success for a given project or company but rather to determine whether the project has been adequately researched and whether the information presented is accurate and comprehensive enough for investors or other stakeholders to make an informed decision about investing in it.

Why Should You Have Your Business Plan Reviewed?

Your business plan is a living document. Over time, it will change as you grow and learn more about your business, market and competition.

But even when the plan isn't changing, it's important to review it regularly to ensure that you're still on track. Here are seven reasons why:

A good review will give you an unbiased look at your plan, highlighting areas where more information is required or gaps in your thinking. This can help ensure that your plan contains everything it needs to, which makes it easier to manage and gives investors confidence in your business.

A business plan is a blueprint for reaching your long-term goals. But a good review will help you see how well your current strategy aligns with those goals and whether there are any holes in the plan. If there are gaps, the reviewer can help you identify what needs to be changed and where resources must be allocated to achieve those goals.

Having someone look over your plan from an objective point of view can help you see potential problems before they become major issues. You might find that something is missing from your strategy or that too many steps are involved in achieving your goals. It could also reveal other important information that will help improve the overall quality of your plan.

Business plans don't just cover what's happened so far — they also forecast what's going to happen next year, six months from now and beyond. So if things change along the way, they may not be reflected in the plan written today. A review can help keep your focus on where you want to go in the future by reviewing your progress each month and adjusting accordingly if needed.

A good consultant will give you constructive feedback about areas where your business plan falls short. This is invaluable when it comes time to revise your plan to more accurately reflect the reality of what's happening in your company, whether due to external factors or internal mistakes. A comprehensive review will also show you where there are holes in your strategy and suggest how they can be filled to strengthen your company's position in its marketplace.

Looking at how your business has performed over time, you can identify areas of concern before they become serious problems.

For example, if sales are declining or profits are shrinking, these trends might be due to temporary factors that can be corrected with better marketing or product development. If sales continue to fall despite these efforts, however, there could be deeper-rooted problems that need addressing.

A good business plan will give you an idea of what your company can accomplish in the short term and over time.

A good business plan also helps potential investors understand what your business is about and why it has the potential for success. This means that if they invest in your company, they can be more confident that they're making a smart choice that will make them money.

business plan series review

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business plan series review

  • Business Strategy: Planning a company's strategic direction and goals. The business strategy consists of setting a business's vision and mission, identifying its strengths and weaknesses, and evaluating growth opportunities.
  • Business Forecast: A business forecast predicts how well the company's revenue and expenses will fare for the next few years. It typically includes financial statements for the current year, estimates for the following year, and projections for two or three subsequent years.
  • Bank-Ready Business Plan: A business plan that has been carefully prepared to meet all criteria set by banks when applying for a loan. The bank will want financial projections showing how your business can repay the loan and reasonable evidence that you have identified all costs associated with starting and operating your new business.

Hire the best lawyers for a business plan review through Contracts Counsel where you can find many qualified and vetted lawyers to help you go over your business plan.

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Jason has been providing legal insight and business expertise since 2001. He is admitted to both the Virginia Bar and the Texas State Bar, and also proud of his membership to the Fellowship of Ministers and Churches. Having served many people, companies and organizations with legal and business needs, his peers and clients know him to be a high-performing and skilled attorney who genuinely cares about his clients. In addition to being a trusted legal advisor, he is a keen business advisor for executive leadership and senior leadership teams on corporate legal and regulatory matters. His personal mission is to take a genuine interest in his clients, and serve as a primary resource to them.

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Steven Stark has more than 35 years of experience in business and commercial law representing start-ups as well as large and small companies spanning a wide variety of industries. Steven has provided winning strategies, valuable advice, and highly effective counsel on legal issues in the areas of Business Entity Formation and Organization, Drafting Key Business Contracts, Trademark and Copyright Registration, Independent Contractor Relationships, and Website Compliance, including Terms and Privacy Policies. Steven has also served as General Counsel for companies providing software development, financial services, digital marketing, and eCommerce platforms. Steven’s tactical business and client focused approach to drafting contracts, polices and corporate documents results in favorable outcomes at a fraction of the typical legal cost to his clients. Steven received his Juris Doctor degree at New York Law School and his Bachelor of Business Administration degree at Hofstra University.

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Tim advises small businesses, entrepreneurs, and start-ups on a wide range of legal matters. He has experience with company formation and restructuring, capital and equity planning, tax planning and tax controversy, contract drafting, and employment law issues. His clients range from side gig sole proprietors to companies recognized by Inc. magazine.

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Legal services cost too much, and are often of low quality. I have devoted my law practice to providing the best work at the most affordable price—in everything from defending small businesses against patent trolls to advising multinational corporations on regulatory compliance to steering couples through a divorce.

Jo Ann J. on ContractsCounsel

Jo Ann has been practicing for over 20 years, working primarily with high growth companies from inception through exit and all points in between. She is skilled in Mergers & Acquisitions, Contractual Agreements (including founders agreements, voting agreements, licensing agreements, terms of service, privacy policies, stockholder agreements, operating agreements, equity incentive plans, employment agreements, vendor agreements and other commercial agreements), Corporate Governance and Due Diligence.

Meghan P. on ContractsCounsel

I am a licensed attorney and a member of the California Bar. I graduated from the University of Dayton School of Law's Program in Law and Technology. I love IP, tech transfers, licensing, and how the internet and developing technology is changing the legal landscape. I've interned at both corporations and boutique firms, and I've taken extensive specialized classes in intellectual property and technology law.

Charlotte L. on ContractsCounsel

Charlotte L.

I hold a B.S. in Accounting and a B.A. in Philosophy from Virginia Tech (2009). I received my J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2012. I am an associate member of the Virginia Bar and an active member of the DC bar. Currently, I am working as a self-employed legal consultant and attorney. Primarily my clients are start-up companies for which I perform various types of legal work, including negotiating and drafting settlement, preparing operating agreements and partnership agreements, assisting in moving companies to incorporate in new states and setting up companies to become registered in a state, assisting with employment matters, drafting non-disclosure agreements, assisting with private placement offerings, and researching issues on intellectual property, local regulations, privacy laws, corporate governance, and many other facets of the law, as the need arises. I have previously practiced as an attorney at a small DC securities law firm and worked at Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLC. My work experience is dynamic and includes many short-term and long term experience that span across areas such as maintaining my own blog, freelance writing, and dog walking. My diverse background has provided me with a stong skill set that can be easily adapted for new areas of work and indicates my ability to quickly learn for a wide array of clients.

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Lean Business Planning

Business Plan Review Schedule

Calendar date book

The most important single component of any real business plan – lean plan, traditional plan, or any kind of plan – is a review schedule. This sets the plan into the context of management. Everybody involved (even if that’s just you) needs to review the plan regularly and revise as needed. Make a plan review schedule and keep it. This makes the plan a live management tool, not something to be put away on a shelf and forgotten.

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For example, in Palo Alto Software, we had the business plan review schedule standardized, on the third Thursday of every month as the “plan review meeting” day. In the old days, we brought in lunch and took over the conference room. It wasn’t a big deal. Usually we finished in 90 minutes. But we scheduled all the meetings as part of the next year’s plan, and key team members knew they should attend, and wanted to be there. Absences happened, but only when they were unavoidable.

If your plan review process includes specific responsibilities assigned, managers committed, budgets, dates, and measurability, then the review meetings become easier to manage and attend. Include predetermined by the milestones coming due soon, and milestones recently due. Managers review and discuss plan vs. actual results, explaining and analyzing the differences.

Even if it’s just you in your business, you should still do a monthly review. We all benefit from the discipline of a scheduled time to take a step back from the day to day, review progress, analyze results, and make changes. Use the business plan review schedule to manage and steer your business.

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Review Your Business Plan

Your business is up and running, but you’re ready to take things to the next level or simply looking to enhance your current practices, streamline your operations, and increase efficiency..

Before you start making changes or put anything into action, the first step is to revisit your business plan. This has been the roadmap that brought your business to where it is now. It’s a living document that should change and adapt as your business grows and matures over time. Take a full look at the plan to make adjustments and develop a strategy for future growth and the direction in which you wish to take your business. Even if you do not have a business plan, take time to review each aspect of your business.

Here are some tips and thoughts to help guide you through that process.

When to review your plan:.

It’s recommended that you review and update your plan at least once a year to help determine if you’re on the path you intended or if adjustments need to be made.

Sometimes, reviewing your plan becomes necessary after your business sees some changes take place, such as:

  • a shift in the economy
  • competition from other businesses
  • changes in contracts and vendors
  • regulatory changes
  • loss of a key staff member which affects productivity

If it’s been more than a year, some of the above changes may have taken place, or if you’re in a position to take your business to the next level, a review of your business plan is definitely in order.

Key things to review in your plan

Reviewing your business plan periodically is necessary as your business grows. There are aspects of the plan that may need review more than others. It is likely you won’t have to rework your entire plan, just the key parts that need updating to allow for the growth or change you are seeking. That being said, there are a few key areas you should always review.

Your financial/

 budget plan.

Taking the time to reevaluate your budgeting plan helps streamline your business for future growth and likely saves you time and money. It also may prompt you to address problems that you’ve been aware of or hadn’t recognized before. Here are four things to consider when reviewing your financial plan.

  • Take a deep dive into your budget. Understand how it’s working and determine where you’d like to see improvements (i.e., cash flow, unexpected expenses, cost-cutting, etc.).
  • Conduct forward planning and projecting. Always plan for unexpected expenses or events, and make sure your budget has the capacity to handle it. Alternatively, if you’re planning on making a change that needs investment, make sure your business can handle it financially without sacrificing critical business operations. Preparing monthly reports and knowing that you have a plan for the future are key in helping your business to grow.
  • Determine if you need additional assistance. This could come in the form of hiring an accountant or financial advisor, or by investing in new tools . Make sure you do the research and know whether a monetary investment in this area is the right option for your business.
  • Plan for necessary expenses. Ensure that your business has the funds it needs to operate at a basic level. Your business won’t be able to grow, let alone stay open, if you don’t have the ability to cover the basics. Make sure you're prioritizing anything that’s necessary to keep the lights on before making other adjustments.

Your business operations are the key to keeping your business running and moving forward. There are two key things to consider when reviewing your operations plan for your business.

  • Your operational plan should cover all aspects of the day-to-day work of your business. Be sure to think about any changes you’ve made since the last review of your business plan or changes that will be necessary to take your business to the next level.
  • Your organizational structure should also be reviewed. Have you made any staff changes or do you plan to make some changes in order to grow? Be sure to keep your organizational chart up to date.

If you want to update or make changes to your plan, take a look at our Marketing Tactics page to learn best practices on how to improve your marketing strategy. The success of your business is only as strong as your marketing plan. Taking time to review, adjust, and implement new marketing tactics helps your business reach new customers and grow.

  • Have another set of eyes take a look at your plan. Sometimes it’s good to have someone else review your plan. Consider having your business mentor, a business coach, counselor, or someone you trust review and give feedback on your business plan. 

Your business plan is your vehicle for success. Like your car, it may need a tune-up periodically. Make sure to review your plan annually. You’ll be thankful that you took the time.

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